The executive vice president and chief human resources officer of SAIC shares insights from her journey as an HR leader.
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Michelle O’Hara assumed the role of chief human resources officer at Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) in 2019, following 20 years of industry experience. She also leads marketing and communications, as well as corporate social responsibility for the company. Since joining SAIC in 2009, O’Hara has fostered an inclusive community and championed a diverse, supportive company culture. She prioritizes empathy in her management style and is committed to increasing the representation of women and minorities in leadership roles at SAIC. She also works diligently to implement programs to support employees in need.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN HR?
Early in my career, I stumbled into a job in talent acquisition. It was during the dot.com era, which was a great time to be a recruiter, and I never looked back. Eventually, I had opportunities to expand and rotate into other parts of HR, which gave me even more appreciation for our profession. I am tremendously proud to serve as an HR professional.
WHAT IS YOUR LEADERSHIP PHILOSOPHY?
I believe strongly in encouraging people to step out of their comfort zones. No great achievement comes without some amount of risk-taking, and experiencing both success and failure is a valuable way to grow as a person and a leader. If you make a mistake, know that it’s part of what makes you human, and learn from it.
WHAT ARE YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT?
I am passionate about strong leadership and continuous learning. Mentoring, whether formal or informal, is a great example of a way to nurture both of these things and make a difference in the lives of others. I encourage everyone to stay open to and be conscious of opportunities to learn and grow, professionally and personally—to think of learning as a continuous and organic activity that presents itself every single day. Curiosity, combined with empathy, can be a powerful combination that fosters learning and strengthens leadership.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY IN YOUR SPARE TIME?
My activities outside of work tend to be fairly simple…watching a movie with my two children, sharing a glass of wine with my husband…whatever the activity, I enjoy spending my spare time with my favorite people in the world—my family. My husband and children inspire me each and every day to be the best I can be, and they are also really fun to be around!
Photograph by The Annapolis Photographer.
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