C-Suite Panelists Share Career Tips with HR Students

Kathy Gurchiek By Kathy Gurchiek June 24, 2022
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C-Suite Panelists Share Career Tips with HR Students

​From left: Daniel Horgan, Camille Chang Gilmore, Mary Dale, Subha Barry and Greg Flores are HR leaders who shared career advice with HR students at the SHRM Annual Conference & Expo 2022 in New Orleans. 

​You don't have to be the smartest person in the world, but you do need to be open to learning throughout your career.

This is one of several pieces of career advice 65-year-old Greg Flores, founder and owner of Sculpted Leaders, an executive leader consultancy in San Antonio, would give his 21-year-old self.

Flores was among a panel of C-suite executives sharing career advice in a June 14 concurrent session at the SHRM Annual Conference & Expo 2022 in New Orleans.

Joining Flores on the panel moderated by Daniel Horgan, CEO of CoLabL, a talent and networking accelerator based in Arlington, Va., were:

  • Camille Chang Gilmore, vice president of HR and global chief diversity officer at Boston Scientific, a medical equipment manufacturer in Marlborough, Mass.
  • Mary Dale, SHRM-CP, chief human resource officer at Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Convivial Brands. The company is made up of five brands, ranging from home decor to a greeting card wholesale company to a direct sales company. 
  • Subha Barry, president of Seramount, a strategic professional services firm with a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion based in New Hope, Pa.  

Among the advice they shared:

Understand the business.

Dale had no formal HR training when she entered the profession in her 20s as an HR department; six months later she was hiring other HR employees for the physicians group where she worked. She made a point, she said, to learn as much as she could about the business.

"Work with your leaders to truly understand what they need," she said. "Because I was in HR and working with all these physicians, I got myself involved in everybody's business," shadowing others to better understand their work needs.

She learned to recruit individuals who would complement the strengths of those they would be working with.

"When you understand the business and you see what's happening in your world, you're able to solve the business's needs," Dale said. "That's what transformed my career" and led to being named chief operations officer for one of the nation's largest orthopedic groups.

Chang Gilmore concurred.

"Knowing the business is so critical," she said. "Anyone who takes on the HR role and is new to the business, you should get out there, sit with and shadow people. That's the only way you're going to learn what the business is all about. It comes down to listening, learning and leading—in that order. If you're not an effective listener, you won't get to the level of the C-suite [and enjoy] true success."

Be involved.

"Be much more active," advised Flores, a self-described lifetime activist. "As an HR person, you advocate but you also are an activist."

The SHRM Foundation board member urged attendees to become involved with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and SHRM chapters. As a young man, he backed away from SHRM involvement, he said, thinking "they can't teach me anything. I knew it all."

He would now tell his younger self, "Greg, be cool. There's always something to learn. … It's not a sign of weakness."

Manage the 'noise.'

Figure out what is important.

"Not everything is urgent. Not everything deserves a response," Chang Gilmore advised. "Sometimes even taking a reflexive pause allows us to understand what the problem is."

Also, be a problem-solver and create a brand of consistency so others know what they can expect of you, whether it's contributing to strategy, thought leadership or some other strength.

Chang Gilmore's team knows not to bring her a problem, she said, "unless you have the solution for it so we can think it through."

Develop self-awareness.

Know your strengths and weaknesses. Work on self-development and "make sure you're spending the energy and asking where you need support," Barry said.

When developing employees, help them learn to lean on each other and become confident of their strengths.

"Developing others is a critical skill," Chang Gilmore said, adding that she makes a point of developing her assistants through stretch assignments and other opportunities to develop their "superpowers" so they advance into a new role in two years.

Her superpower, Chang Gilmore said, is the ability to stay in the moment "and saying what needs to be said."

She recalled her early days working as a labor negotiator for the Teamsters. At the bargaining table, she was repeatedly disregarded and ignored until she calmly and pointedly told the other party if he didn't direct his questions to her, it was the end of their conversations.

She was later told she gained respect at the bargaining table by how she handled herself.

Listen hard.

"Listen hard and keep questioning until you get to the core [of an issue]," Flores said. Get a feel for what's really being asked and put together a plan. Going slow doesn't mean dragging, he said; it means understanding what's happening and then moving forward and being very purposeful. 

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