How did you hear about GumGum and what attracted you most to the role/company?
I was introduced to Phil from someone at Upfront Ventures. What’s nice about how that all worked out is, I met Megan at Upfront at a networking event. I was trying to keep a pulse on what was going on in the market across the LA area. Megan led me to Phil and learning about GumGum. A series of conversations led me to this role.
There’s a ton of great things going on at GumGum and a ton of opportunity. I’m someone who loves challenges, I like to learn, I like to grow. The company was ready and hungry to take people operations to the next level and look at it more strategically. The People Ops team seemed excited for a leader to take it to the next level. The culture is attractive and people are excited about what they’re doing. The cutting-edge technology, the growth. As an HR leader, I find it fun and interesting to lead people through change in a company where it can feel a little disorienting. For me personally, it was a good fit for what I was looking for in my own personal career development. I am from Seattle, so there were a lot of small and medium-sized technology companies that I worked at and then I had my large company days at Disney. I believe my experience is a nice marriage of what I’ve gained along the way.
Can you talk about your career journey before joining GumGum?
I’ve been in HR for many years. I graduated with a BA in sociology—a degree in something that interested me, versus something that I’d specialize in. Through a series of networking conversations and informational interviews, I ended up in HR at an exciting time in Seattle’s history. During this time, a lot of the dotcom companies were starting, and there was room for startups, potential and growth. My career took off quickly because companies were in need of HR teams to grow those business, to attract talent and create innovative cultures. In Seattle, during those years, I worked at baby startups and midsized companies, but always in the technology and digital space. I moved with Razorfish to the Austin office and built that team from the ground up. For me it was about getting out of my comfort zone. I knew very little about Austin. I thought I was going to be in Austin the whole time. Love brought me to LA 11 years ago. When I came here I started my coaching business—it was very rewarding and very successful, but also high burnout. I ended up at Disney through someone I used to work with in Seattle. It was very serendipitous. What I loved about my experience at Disney, in HR, was that I got to advance my knowledge of business, strategy, consulting and influencing. That was one of the advantages of working at a large company, you can really specialize.
Coming from such a huge company like Disney, what are the key areas that you can help contribute to GumGum's growth and employee development?
Focusing on the full employee life cycle experience and how we want to be with employees, from when they reach out to us to their exit. All the different stages of that person’s career along the way. Everyone has different needs at different stages in that employee’s journey. If we are doing our job well as a company, we can look at those different stages for people and enhance their experience along the way. Looking at it holistically, and not a “one size fits all” approach. Also, at Disney, they do a great job of leadership development and I’ve heard GumGum say that’s something they need and want more of. In terms of evolving People Ops, I want to have a balance of proactive strategy and answering the questions of managers—helping the people operations evolve with more of a strategy from day to day. One more: Disney was good at encouraging their employees to talk about their career development and not just their performance. I think that’s something we could do here at GumGum. We could do more of it!
How do you balance work and personal life? Any hobbies to share?
Work-life balance is something we are all striving for. I am not sure anyone really achieves it when they have chosen the corporate path within a competitive industry. All you can do is set goals for yourself to make sure you are in balance. This is something that I really learned at Disney. Disney puts a very high demand on your energy; you have to be on your game constantly. And so what I learned there was executive stamina and self-care. When you don’t have self-care, you can’t have executive stamina. Which means you can’t be a good leader of people when you don’t have self-care. I know now when I’m out of balance—I can feel it—because I learned those tools to help me be in the self-care zone. This is so I can be better for myself, for my team here, for the employees here and for my friends and family. I’m not sure you ever really find true work-life balance, it’s always in tweaking and adjusting. Self-care can look different for different people. A lot of executives are meditating, exercising (yoga or jogging, etc.), whatever brings you down from the demands of the job. For some people it’s cooking a meal, taking a walk (could be in the middle of the workday). You have to find what recharges you, your form of self-care and what works for you.
Can you share tips on building your personal brand?
YEAH! Great topic—I’d be curious if Women of GumGum would want to bring in a presenter. Be conscious of how you want to show up in the world and in the workplace. Ask yourself what’s your buzz. If you don’t know, ask people what’s your buzz. When I say “what’s your buzz,” I mean how do people perceive you, how do they describe you, how do people talk about you? A lot of times we think we are victim to that, but we aren’t. Our brand is largely formed by how we choose to show up in the world. Self-care, how you show up, personal brand, all of those things have to be in place and there has to be consciousness around it. We can craft it to be what we want it to be, and that it is authentic. Could I show up as the authentic Kelly in this work environment? My hunch told me that I could.
Any advice for Women of GumGum and future female leaders?
I’m very excited to be involved in Women of GumGum, as someone who thinks about people all day. I think what’s most important is to look at it as, “how can this group be a resource for women in their careers?” We want to be a support system for each other, we want to provide tools to help develop in our careers. We want to make sure we are a feedback channel, when appropriate, to leadership. There’s so many things that Women of GumGum can do, so I think we should pick a theme about financial success, personal brand, self-care or effective communication. Within those topics, you could pick a thousand topics. Internal conversation and external speakers. Ex: book circle or volunteer. Taking a group walk! Whenever possible, Women of GumGum should be more inclusive than not (if a man wants to participate, for example).