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Kelley Steven-Waiss: “Do what you love and success will follow you”

I would start a movement to get women to support each other. Think about it…one small good deed for another woman every day for a year. Every day you wake up, you would determine something you could do for any woman in your life (personally or professionally) that would propel them in some way. These […]


I would start a movement to get women to support each other. Think about it…one small good deed for another woman every day for a year. Every day you wake up, you would determine something you could do for any woman in your life (personally or professionally) that would propel them in some way. These small deeds done all over the world would change the game.


Kelley Steven-Waiss is Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer at HERE Technologies and Founder of Hitch. While overseeing the company’s human resource management and talent strategy, Kelley started a software incubator to develop a talent mobility solution called Hitch. Hitch is a cloud-based SaaS software which uses machine learning and AI to match project-based opportunities to internal employee profiles based on visualization of employees’ skills. Prior to joining HERE, Kelley was EVP and CHRO of Extreme Networks, Integrated Device Technology (IDT) and PMC-Sierra and held several consulting positions in large global firms and public software and retail companies. Kelley has an MA in HR and OD from the University of San Francisco and a BA in Journalism from the University of Arizona. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for FormFactor, Inc. (NASDAQ: FORM) and as the Advisory Board Chair of SVEF, an education non-profit in Silicon Valley. She is married, the mother of four children and the co-author of “The Inside Gig,” which will be released in April 2020.


Thank you so much for joining us Kelley! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was fortunate to be exposed to many things as a child and always had so many interests. I was always encouraged to try new things and to follow my interests. That carried into my professional life and my “jungle gym career,” which spanned several disciplines, including retail management, instructional design, journalism, marketing, communications, and training. While on a consulting assignment with Genentech/Roche between CHRO roles, I ended up having a unicorn-type job that gave me a whole new perspective, stretched my thinking, and gave me the space to be creative. It was during that two-year period that I was exposed to so many disruptive techniques and ideas that I made the decision to find a way to drive innovation in HR. It was that enlightenment that ultimately led me to go from CHRO to technology visionary and founder of Hitch, a SaaS-based cloud solution for talent mobility.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

We are taking the old operating model and ways of working for organizations and leveraging technology to turn that model “inside out.” We do this by introducing a new talent operating model based on optimization of talent from the inside and what we call the “self-actualized enterprise.”

The reality is that our world is changing. One of the drivers of this change is process automation in the workplace — be it decision automation, design automation, test automation, or human/machine automation and beyond. Leading analyst organization, Forrester, recently released its “Future of Work” report wherein it they state:

“Automation promises to change the nature of what an organization is, what a company does, and how work is done. It will at the same time free humans from mundane tasks and enable more complex, fulfilling, and impactful work. It will also complicate economies, social order, and an individual’s ability to make a living. The global marketplace, labor dynamics, and how work is done shape the future of work. Apart from the apocalyptic scenarios that engender fear, the future of work has a sensible and systematic, yet acute, impact on the opportunities for customers, employees, and company leaders.”

Hitch answers this call-to-action and delivers the future of work today — enabling organizations to become adaptive as they face the powerful force of automation transformation.

The future of work isn’t something that happens to companies — it’s something leaders must create for their people and for their organizations. Adaptive enterprises will win by identifying future opportunities and proactively reconfiguring themselves and their business models in the face of changing customer and market demands. Becoming an adaptive enterprise requires significant investments in technology transformation, in culture building, and in setting up structures and processes. Hitch is the epitome of this transformation.

Hitch is built on the premise of motivating the enterprise workforce with a growth mindset as a way to accelerate performance — both human and organizational.

We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I have been blessed with some amazing mentors along the way, and many of them turned into great friends as well. The one thing they all had in common — they were straight shooters. Anita Sands was one such person whom I never expected would fill that role. She is a huge success in her own right — multiple boards, huge advocate for women, smart and savvy. She still took time to help me when I was struggling with pursuing the notion of becoming a founder and leader of a start-up. I remember the conversation well and her advice — ”Don’t hide behind your own fears. Go make it happen, be fearless, no excuses!” I took a good long look in the mirror and said to myself that she was right. Within six months of that conversation, it was all in motion.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

  1. Do what you love and success will follow you — great words of wisdom from my grandfather when I had trouble picking my major in college and stressed that everything rode on that one life decision.
  2. Know who you are, be who you are — When I was feeling the pressure to conform to an MO that “wasn’t me,” my teacher in middle school told me to be comfortable with who you are and then you will attract the right friends. I later recall saying that to myself and relating it to co-workers and (hopefully) a soulmate.
  3. Dress for the job you want, not the one you have — A good friend and mentor shared this with me when I was working at Gap and feeling like jeans were the uniform. I always dressed one step up from everyone else, often wearing more tailored clothes from Banana Republic and taking pride and care in how I looked every day. It actually worked; I took that advice and still practice it today.

How are you going to shake things up next?

Next stop is to disrupt traditional organizational boundaries by sharing talent across companies. So much of the world’s problems can’t be solved by us all working in silos and hoarding the world’s great people in those silos. I think if we share talent across organizations and find the BEST possible people to solve those big world issues (and, yes, even making money in the process with a “rising all tides strategy”), we can truly change the world.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

Marshall Goldsmith’s book — What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There. It’s an older book, but it’s a reference manual for me. Anyone who wants to take a look in the mirror and see how they show up in their personal and professional lives should read this book. It is by far one of the most important books for coaching — it’s my coaching bible as a leader.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would start a movement to get women to support each other. Think about it…one small good deed for another woman every day for a year. Every day you wake up, you would determine something you could do for any woman in your life (personally or professionally) that would propel them in some way. These small deeds done all over the world would change the game.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Limits are only those things that you set for yourself. What you believe, you can achieve.”

I think I spent a lot of time telling myself why I couldn’t do something or why I wasn’t worthy of that role, promotion or award. When I started to change that self-dialogue to “why wouldn’t I go for that?” and “there is no reason why I shouldn’t be able to achieve that,” it changed my life.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

https://www.linkedin.com/in/kelleystevenwaiss/

Twitter: @KStevenWaiss

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