…for any company that wants to scale and thrive, diversity of mindset is critical. If you want your company to grow, innovation is a vital component. Innovation comes from different points of view from challenging each other’s thinking to head towards the best possible strategy forward. And those different points of view typically come packaged in a variety of different genders, races, preferences, experiences, backgrounds, etc. This isn’t just a human “treat people fairly dynamic,” at the heart of it, it’s just smart business.
As a part of our series about “How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Christina Luconi. Christina is a People Strategy Executive for a variety of small and startup companies including @stake (now Symantec) and Sapient. She is currently Chief People Officer at Rapid7. She’s recognized as a visionary in her field, and truly believes a great company starts with the quality and leadership of people you have on the team…and the culture you build to scale the organization. Known for shunning the term “Human Resources,” for her belief that if you think of your people as “resources,” you are completely missing the point. She is passionate about what she does, and the companies she helps to build. Specialties: attracting and retaining stellar people in high growth companies. Helping executives to “hold the mirror up,” identify their strengths and weaknesses, and build the best possible culture for their business to excel. She is passionate about building amazing places to work that actually scale and thrive over time.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
I was a psych major in college but realized the therapy route wasn’t for me. I took the advice of my father, a serial entrepreneur, who suggested I look into “human resources” so I could apply my people experience in the business world. I ended up interning at a software company in Cambridge, MA that went public a few weeks into my time there. I thought, rather naively, this is amazing — smart people, good idea, company scaling — this is what I want to do! Because it’s that easy, right?! Ultimately, that is exactly what I did.
I found a passion in hypergrowth companies as they provided an opportunity to get an abundance of exposure, providing you had a great work ethic, a positive attitude and the aptitude to learn. I married that with an interest in the people side of the business, by starting to ask a lot of questions like “why is it called human resources? People aren’t resources; my printer is.” Luckily, I worked with a lot of people at the start of my career that allowed me to ask a lot of questions and encouraged me to explore new ways of thinking about what I ultimately thought of as “people strategy.”
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
I’ve spent an entire career in startups and hypergrowth companies. As a result, literally every day brings something both funny and something interesting! I have a number that are far too inappropriate to share, so I’ll choose the time a valued employee didn’t show up for work for a few days. This was totally uncharacteristic of him, so we called him to find out if everything was ok. Turns out, he had an infected mouth. He was afraid of the dentist, so he opted to remove his wisdom teeth himself with the aid of some Jack Daniel’s and a pair of pliers. Needless to say, he wasn’t successful, and snapped the teeth off above the gumline. Long story short, he ended up with an emergency trip to the dentist. I kept the picture of that panoramic view of his mouth with the snapped off teeth on my bulletin board for years. Most days, I feel like I’ve seen and heard it all, but there is always something that never fails to surprise me. I’ll never cease to be amazed by the choices people make; especially at work!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
So many things! Among the most notable, I think our core values, at the center of our culture, play a significant role in our ability to scale. They were created by our people, for our people. They don’t just serve to provide the roadmap for our behaviors with each other, but also connect to the bar we set for how our customers should expect to experience working with us as well. There are thousands of stories over the years of how these values support our company and incredible growth, but the most meaningful are when you see our people “challenge convention” to create a new solution to a problem, or create “impact together” by breaking down barriers between teams to deliver the best experience for a customer.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
We are thinking about diversity and inclusion at Rapid7 more and more — especially over the past year. We are fortunate to have Corey Thomas, an African American CEO, but still realize that diversity is an important area to focus on. That being said, we are thinking beyond just diversity and are centering on inclusion. We feel strongly that inclusion really helps define the values of the company and are trying to get creative with ways to get people from different cultures to connect. To that end, we recently launched a program called Coffee Insight enabling people all over the globe to meet virtually or in person to have a conversation. We are trying to break down barriers to help people understand more about each other’s worlds. We thought this would be a great way to get people together. It’s an opportunity for conversation. We ask employees to keep it casual — hey I thought I could learn from you and maybe you can make a little time.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Build around the culture first. Understand who you are, what your value set is and how you communicate that across the organization. Then tie it to every element of the employee lifecycle, including the first point of contact with the candidate, through people’s careers straight through to the day they leave your company. Everything should map back to your value set.
Also, for any company that wants to scale and thrive, diversity of mindset is critical. If you want your company to grow, innovation is a vital component. Innovation comes from different points of view from challenging each other’s thinking to head towards the best possible strategy forward. And those different points of view typically come packaged in a variety of different genders, races, preferences, experiences, backgrounds, etc. This isn’t just a human “treat people fairly dynamic,” at the heart of it, it’s just smart business.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Our jobs are crazy. Being a leader in a hypergrowth company is a recipe for a never-ending opportunity to constantly learn, grow, and push boundaries. As a result, however, it often leaves precious little time for those extra curriculars we all might want to pursue in our personal lives. As an answer to that, I’ve found a way to blur my personal and professional passions to a broader good. In my case, I care deeply about giving back to children, primarily through diversity, inclusion, and STEM efforts. I’ve woven this into work by both creating a global #rapid7givesback month where everyone in the company participates in a day (or more) of service during the month of October, which provides an opportunity to both contribute to the community, as well as partner with other people from their office they wouldn’t normally work with. Additionally, we created a rotation program for recent college graduates. One of the elements that drew students to the program was the ability to work with one of four local STEM partners. I love that I’ve been able to use my role to drive some good in the world for others — and our people.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
“When written in Chinese, the word “crisis” is comprised of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity”– John F. Kennedy, Jr. I am the kind of person who sees a small crack in a door and then kicks the door in to see what’s behind it. I am insatiably curious and tend not to see (or focus) on the “dangerous” side of anything. I view it all as an opportunity to learn or explore something new. Most of the best things in my life have come from this attitude and way of living.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
I believe there is learn something from almost everyone we interact with. I am grateful for all those people along the way. Single biggest shout out goes to our CEO, Corey Thomas, however. I was already “here” when I met him years ago, but he has challenged me to be a far more impactful leader. He’s the best partner someone in my role could ever hope to work with.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂
I try to ensure that at least once a month I share a meal with someone I don’t know well, just to gain perspective from a different point of view. I truly believe I can learn something from just about anyone in the world, so I would sit down with just about anyone. If I got to pick, however, I’d love to share a meal with Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey, or Brad Pitt.