Back in March, pymetrics excitedly welcomed Jenn Perez, Chief People Officer, to our team. Jenn is an NYC-based talent acquisition and human resources leader with 20+ years of experience. She launched her HR career in financial services as a recruiter and HR program manager, and then joined Google in their NYC office in 2007. She spent 11 years in People Operations at Google (in NYC, London, and Mountain View, CA), and honed her skills in talent acquisition and human resources leadership. Post-Google, she’s led people functions at three start-ups, where she helped triple an employee population, implement HRIS systems, and build a diverse people team.
We virtually sat down with Jenn Perez to learn more about her initial interest in the HR space, how the emergence of technology has impacted her career and the decisions she’s made on the job, and ultimately the promise she sees in pymetrics as a seasoned HR professional. Read more about her reflections below:
You’ve been working in HR for 20 years-- what drew you to this area of business, and what’s kept you around since you started?
Like a lot of HR professionals, I didn’t realize that I wanted to be in HR! It was a good friend who suggested that perhaps my love of giving college campus tours to prospective students would be a great match for being a campus recruiter, and a lightbulb went off in my head. Once I was in an environment where I got exposure to all the different areas of HR, I became very interested in talent acquisition and coaching. That led to my first role as a HR business partner, and from that seat I gained experience in employee relations, investigations, performance management - pretty much all things HR. I never passed up an opportunity to move laterally or to learn new skills - I was always willing to take the internal transfer that no one wanted or try to solve the thorny problems. My ability to move from talent acquisition to business partner work and back again several times gave me a well rounded understanding of the whole field, and that has helped me immensely as I transitioned to a Chief People Officer role later in my career.
I think what keeps me around is seeing people - especially new people managers - learn how to support and grow their teams. It’s so gratifying to help people grow into that leadership role. That, and the notes of gratitude I’ve received over the years from employees, colleagues, and former team members, thanking me for helping them at some point in their career. HR can be tough emotionally and it’s so nice to hear you’ve made a difference for someone. My job is made up of a series of small moments of helping people be their best - I enjoy that.
What have you learned about employees as people through holding multiple leadership positions? What has been the most rewarding part of your job?
First off, people are all the same - we all want connection, understanding and empathy - and the higher up we get in our careers, the more we need those things, not less. We want to feel like we matter, and what we are doing matters to the world in some small (or big!) way. We want to be seen - not for what others think we are, but for what we think we are.
As an HR professional, I try really hard to meet employees and managers where they are, see them, listen to them, and provide support, ideas or feedback. Most employees are trying so hard to deliver for their employers, while also juggling a lot of priorities at home, too. Employees care about their jobs and want to do their absolute best - as HR, we just have to be honest with them and to help them do that. It seems easy on the surface, but giving people feedback and receiving it myself can be really difficult - it’s a learning experience every time I do it.
What role (if any) has AI/data played in your teams’ decision making processes previously? Where do you think it was or could have been most useful?
I spent 11 years of my career at Google, whose People Operations team under Laszlo Bock and, later, Eileen Naughton, was extremely focused on making HR decisions that were grounded in data. Data helps drive good HR, but one of the many lessons I learned at Google is that it’s only as good as the people collecting it, and that it had to be balanced with a strong focus on values, mission and culture. The People Analytics team at Google revolutionized the way HR teams and business leaders thought about employees through studies such as Project Aristotle (which studied hundreds of Google's teams to figure out why some stumbled while others soared). But they started out with one theory and landed somewhere very different in the end, and that lesson of being open to where the data leads, changing your mind if you need to, was very influential for me. Being wrong or changing your mind based on new data isn’t bad - it’s actually incredibly good and the sign of true intelligence.
For HR professionals, in the past five years or so there has been a massive wave of tools that help us collect good data about our companies - what we are missing now is the ability to turn that data into insights. I think this is one of the things that sets pymetrics apart - we’re able to take information from a company and help their HR team turn that information into practical actions that will lead to the business results they want.
What initially drew you to pymetrics? In your own words, what promise do you think pymetrics holds for transforming the future of work?
The underlying tenet of pymetrics - to help companies better understand their workforce while making better & fairer people decisions with behavioral science and ethical AI technology - is a goal that I have been trying to work towards my whole professional career. It’s a huge, hairy problem that no one has successfully cracked yet, but pymetrics is the closest thing to a solution that is out there right now.
I love so many things about the company - it’s founded by a brilliant, amazing woman who cares intensely about our mission. pymetrics believes in potential versus pedigree. Our customers are HR leaders, so that gives my role a whole added dimension of being able to provide our sales and product people with meaningful advice and feedback about what HR people need from a technology platform. I love knowing the lingo and understanding the industry that we are selling into. We also have experienced, tenured leaders who know what great HR looks like, so I don’t have to spend any time convincing them of the value of diversity, integrity, and treating employees well - they know how important those things are.
Furthermore, pymetrics as a product is critical right now - it’s important that AI driven platforms are as biased-free as possible, and pymetrics invests so much time and a ton of resources into ensuring that it’s games and models work and don’t have adverse impact. We are pushing people to think differently about hiring and open up their talent pipelines and internal mobility in a way that is truly transformative for organizations.
How has this new era of COVID created opportunities and challenges for HR professionals like you? What have the most dramatic shifts been?
Phew - it’s been a doozy of a few months for those of us in HR. The word unprecedented is overused right now but we’ve never seen a situation like this before. I was only 6 months into my first recruiting role in NYC when 9/11 happened, and it feels somewhat similar to that - everything is thrown off balance and we’re just trying to keep all the employees safe, productive and healthy - and we don’t know what we don’t know. I’m extremely grateful to the network of fellow HR professionals that I’ve developed over the years - we’ve been leaning on each other quite a bit and information and knowledge sharing is at an all time high. We know that we have to work together if we are going to help our companies get through this.
There are a few areas where I’ve seen dramatic shifts - vulnerability has been visible in spades, and it’s great to see that. Leaders are taking down their personal walls with their companies in a way that brings people together and reveals our common humanity. Recognition that people have lives (and kids, and dogs on the Zoom!) that are more important to them than their jobs is healthy and needed in our hustle-focused society. Another shift I’ve seen is the acknowledgement that for many people, working at home is just as productive, if not more so, than working in an office. People are embracing the idea that you don’t need to commute an hour + a day, and giving up the mentality that “if I cannot see my employees in their chairs, they aren’t working”. The reality is that many people are working effectively and collaboratively even though they aren’t in the same room. We will see remote working become the norm over the next few years, and it’s going to completely change where people live and work and how they balance their work and personal lives. I think it’s the beginning of a massive shift for the white collar workforce especially.
Anything else you’d like to share?
We’ll be ok if we stay in this together - wash your hands, wear a mask, and be kind and curious.
We are so grateful for the example of dedication and compassion that Jenn has set at pymetrics and look forward to continuing to learn from her expertise about ways to strengthen our team and better our platform.
If you would like to learn more about how other organizations have implemented pymetrics and the significant improvements they have consequently made, check out our Case Studies page here.