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November 2016

Frederickson Pribula Li

Today’s HR Careers Are Constellations, Not Pyramids

The Pyramids Were Built 4700 Years Ago. Though They Still Stand Today, They’re Not Reflective of Modern Architecture.


I’ve been immersed in the high tech Human Resources world for more than two decades. For most of this time, and for most of my lifetime, there’s been one traditional HR career path: The Pyramid. It is tried and true, carefully planned, and extremely linear. It goes like this: HR professionals begin working in large companies as HR assistants or analysts, or on the TA side, as recruiting coordinators. After a few years, they get promoted to HR representatives or recruiters. After a few more years, they become managers, then directors. Then maybe Vice Presidents. A minute fraction eventually rise to the coveted SVP, EVP and/or CHRO level. And then some of them even achieve the pinnacle for an HR career: a directorship on a corporate board.

In this scenario, only a few emerge victorious.

In a Pyramid, height equals worth: the closer to the top, the greater the prestige. Correspondingly, the more direct reports the better.

There are practical issues with the Pyramid model:

1. Different people derive satisfaction from different factors, and ultimately satisfaction should equal worth.

In careers, as in much of life, one size does not fit all. Some HR professionals enjoy managing large teams. Others love practicing HR, but like to tackle challenges themselves in a hands-on fashion. Some HR pros revel in the impact and reach of large companies. Others want greater influence in a smaller pool.

2. A narrow definition of success for an industry of 500,000 professionals.

Only 500 companies comprise the Fortune 500, which means that only 0.00001% of all HR professionals in the US will lead HR for a Fortune 500 company at any given time. What about focusing on some meaningful goals for the other 499,500?

3. Old school patterns don’t reflect new world trends.

Seismic shifts in technology demand seismic upgrades to careers. Small 100-person companies can make products with global impact - and unseat long-established businesses. Today, many high market cap companies have small workforces, and in the traditional pyramid model, HR executives in these companies would not be considered successful because they have small teams and are quite hands on, yet I believe many of them deserve to be at the top of any pyramid.

Whether they lead HR for Fortune 500 organizations, pre-IPO unicorns, or a smaller company, strategic yet hands on HR executives are in greater demand than at any time in history. Leaders today are looking less for traditional Pyramid pedigrees. What’s replacing the old-school Pyramid path?

Introducing Valerie’s Career Constellation

HR/People/Employee Success careers are now a collection of stars, some brighter and dimmer than others, collectively forming the HR galaxy.

1. Constellations consist of multiple stars.

There are 88 constellations in the Zodiac, each containing 2 to 14 stars. You can shine bright in your career without having to be the only star - or even the biggest.

2. Sometimes it takes a lot of stars to connect the dots and form that constellation.

Think about the long-term: your career long-term. Today you may be an expert at strategic planning and talent acquisition, but taking a step back to become proficient in data and analytics may propel you forward faster.

3. Pyramids are measured by size, but each constellation has equal value.

In the pyramid structure, executives stick to big firms and big jobs. Today many of the most talented HR execs intentionally do both big and small, extracting different value from each. One of my favorite HR executives ran a division of HR for a top-tier large technology company of almost 10,000. From there he went way hands-on running HR for a small private equity play and practically printing his own offer letters. Then he did huge again. Another exec ran HR for a large global European powerhouse and now just took an offer at a 70-person startup. Just as small companies are now seeking HR execs with experience in high growth, HR execs with big company experience are often taking pay cuts to go smaller again and revitalize their careers.

My recommendation for navigating this new constellation-strewn universe: Don’t be afraid to chart your own course. You don’t need to climb a pyramid to get to the top of your career.

My advice to big company HR professionals:

Work or consult for a startup. You’ll get up-to-speed on the latest HR technologies. You’ll understand metrics at an intimate level, truly seeing how they impact business performance. You’ll become an expert at recruiting. And Retention. And Total Rewards. And Operations. You’ll be a more adept manager if you choose to return to a large firm because you’ll be more sympathetic and acquainted with the challenges facing your team. And, believe it or not, you’ll be more hirable back in the big companies, should you choose to return. They’ll see, by your willingness to roll up your sleeves and single-handedly run HR at a startup, that you can steer the ship but also row when it’s needed.

My advice to serial startup junkies:

Give big companies a try. You may find that by working in large, specialized, data-driven environments you pick up some well thought-through best practices. You’ll be more valuable, because best practices experience is a great credential. Even if you take a future job at a 30-person company, the CEO will know that you have what it takes to grow with the firm.

By alternating between companies at different stages of development, from early to high-growth to mature, and from hands-on jobs to large management ones, you’ll illuminate your career constellation and unleash your full potential to shine.

Take care,

sig

Featured Executive Searches

HR Executive Searches

  • The role

  • Chief People Officer
  • The company

  • The world’s leading online marketplace for small business loans
  • The locations

  • San Francisco, CA (HQ), North America, EMEA
  • Top challenges

  • Support, mentor, and grow the existing People team in the US as well as over seas
  • Exciting note

  • By the year 2025, this company expects to create 3 million jobs through the loans they’ll provide
  • The role

  • Chief People Officer
  • The company

  • Global leader in webinar-based marketing solutions
  • The locations

  • San Francisco, CA (HQ), North America, APAC, AMEA
  • Top challenges

  • Create a cohesive company culture and employee experience while continuing to coach and mentor the executive team
  • Exciting note

  • By the end of 2017 this company will increase their users by roughly 50% and move towards an IPO
  • The role

  • Chief Human Resources Officer
  • The company

  • Social communication and collaboration platform providing business software solutions to mobile companies
  • The locations

  • Salt Lake City, UT (HQ), North America, EMEA
  • Top challenges

  • Be a visionary leader with expertise in leading the People function during times of great transformation and change
  • Exciting note

  • Established itself as one of the fastest growing vendors in the Social Business Software market
  • The role

  • Chief Human Resources Officer
  • The company

  • Location-based mobile advertising startup
  • The locations

  • New York City, NY (HQ) North America, EMEA
  • Top challenges

  • Find creative ways to promote and encourage a high performing, dynamic company culture by translating the vision for each employee group, clarifying roles and goals, and assisting with internal communications
  • Exciting note

  • Company has doubled their revenue year-on-year since their inception
  • The role

  • Chief Human Resources Officer
  • The company

  • A consumer tech service that helps people accomplish their personal projects by hiring experienced professionals
  • The locations

  • Atlanta, GA (HQ), North America, APAC, EMEA
  • Top challenges

  • Develop unique ways to create an attractive and dynamic company culture across offices
  • Exciting note

  • Company is experiencing a stage of hyper growth and is looking to double their employee population within the next year
  • The role

  • Executive Vice President of HR
  • The company

  • Enterprise company specializing in innovative hardware and software manufacturing
  • The locations

  • Los Angeles, CA (HQ), North America, EMEA
  • Top challenges

  • Rapid global growth in the hottest space this year
  • Exciting note

  • The most buzzed about SoCal tech startup in the last five years
  • The role

  • Senior Vice President of HR
  • The company

  • Leading enterprise software company for digital branding
  • The locations

  • Seattle, WA (HQ), APAC, EMEA, South America
  • Top challenges

  • Foster the culture and develop a thoughtful people strategy as goes through a time of profound change and growth
  • Exciting note

  • Company focuses exclusively on digital video currently, but has plans to attach the TV marketplace over the next several years
  • The role

  • Executive Vice President of HR
  • The company

  • B2B software company that utilizes big data marketing applications to translate demand into more relevant user experiences
  • The locations

  • Chicago, IL (HQ), North America, South America, APAC
  • Top challenges

  • Create a scalable people operations function and help usher the organization into an era of rapid growth
  • Exciting note

  • Voted one of the “Best Places to Work” in the Chicago area for two years running
  • The role

  • Executive Vice President of HR
  • The company

  • Video advertising software and solution provider that drives brand results
  • The locations

  • Brooklyn, NY (HQ), EMEA, South America
  • Top challenges

  • Support further international expansion, rapid headcount growth, and prepare for a public offering
  • Exciting note

  • Company plans on doubling total number of employees by 2017 as it prepares for imminent IPO
  • The role

  • Vice President of People
  • The company

  • Fin-tech company offering a simplified home-buying and refinancing platform
  • The locations

  • Irvine, CA (HQ), North America
  • Top challenges

  • Deliver hands-on Talent expertise while elevating the people function of a truly disruptive company
  • Exciting note

  • Recent exponential growth has allowed this company to open offices in over a half-dozen new locations over the past six months
  • The role

  • Vice President of HR
  • The company

  • Fin-tech wealth management company
  • The locations

  • San Francisco, CA (HQ), North America
  • Top challenges

  • Develop a scalable and creative people strategy for hyper-growth
  • Exciting note

  • This company is positioning itself to truly disrupt the finance space
  • The role

  • Vice President of HR
  • The company

  • 100+ year old non-profit organization dedicated to providing abuse-prevention programs
  • The locations

  • Los Angeles, CA (HQ), North America
  • Top challenges

  • Create and implement a set of HR best practices from scratch
  • Exciting note

  • Great board of directors and you can really make a difference in many kids’ lives
  • The role

  • Vice President of HR
  • The company

  • 10,000+ employee, global technology conglomerate
  • The locations

  • Sunnyvale, CA (HQ), North America, South America, APAC, EMEA
  • Top challenges

  • Define and build your own HR team to help you support the quickest-pivoting business unit within this organization
  • Exciting note

  • With a newly released ‘Buy’ rating, this tech conglomerate is poised to revisit the high of its hey-day in short order
  • The role

  • Vice President of HR
  • The company

  • Private university specializing in art and design
  • The locations

  • Savannah, GA (main campus), North America, APAC, EMEA
  • Top challenges

  • Bring technology and innovation to the non-profit, education sphere
  • Exciting note

  • Support a group of dedicated professors as they inspire creative young minds
  • The role

  • Head of HR
  • The company

  • Dynamic fin-tech and investment firm
  • The locations

  • Chicago, IL (HQ), Seattle, Washington, North America
  • Top challenges

  • Build a scalable HR infrastructure, create and deliver competitive recruiting and rewards strategies
  • Exciting note

  • Tackle the challenge of building HR in a culture that straddles two very diverse worlds of engineering and Wall Street
  • The role

  • Head of HR
  • The company

  • A global leader in mobile and social gaming
  • The locations

  • Palo Alto, CA (HQ), North America, APAC, EMEA
  • Top challenges

  • Define the global HR strategy for one of the most disruptive gaming companies in the space
  • Exciting note

  • Exciting growth trajectory and targeting a doubling of headcount by the end of 2016
  • The role

  • Head of HR
  • The company

  • Big data startup using analytics to predict the future of IoT
  • The locations

  • San Francisco, CA (HQ), North America
  • Top challenges

  • Complete org assessment and redesign in anticipation of continued growth
  • Exciting note

  • Fresh off a major funding round, this company is building the first-ever IoT search engine
  • The role

  • Head of Global Talent Acquisition
  • The company

  • One of the fastest growing, most respected global SaaS companies
  • The locations

  • San Francisco, CA (HQ), North America, APAC, EMEA
  • Top challenges

  • Partner with the executive team to lead rapid growth trajectory and create a global best-in-class talent program
  • Exciting note

  • Define the talent globally for recent expansion to 11 offices around the world
  • The role

  • Head of Global Talent Acquisition
  • The company

  • Owner and operator of over 20 major online properties across the US
  • The locations

  • Los Angeles, CA (HQ), North America, EMEA
  • Top challenges

  • Build out a best-in-class staffing function while managing a steep ramp-up calendar
  • Exciting note

  • This company recently made a large donation to families affected by the attacks of September 11th, in addition to many other charitable organizations
  • The role

  • Head of Global Talent Acquisition
  • The company

  • Mobile-advertising startup
  • The locations

  • New York City, NY (HQ), North America, South America
  • Top challenges

  • Build out the staffing function while managing a steep ramp-up calendar
  • Exciting note

  • Doubling headcount in the next 6 months
  • The role

  • Head of Talent Acquisition
  • The company

  • Fin-tech investment company focused on financing world-changing products and ideas
  • The locations

  • New York City, NY (HQ), North America, EMEA, APAC
  • Top challenges

  • Develop and implement a comprehensive global talent acquisition strategy
  • Exciting note

  • Plans to double head count over next two years
  • The role

  • Senior Director of Global Talent Acquisition
  • The company

  • Cutting-edge, cloud-based company bringing the industrial internet to life
  • The locations

  • San Ramon, CA (HQ), North America, EMEA
  • Top challenges

  • Coach and mentor a young team of high-performing individuals while establishing and expanding a global TA function
  • Exciting note

  • This company expects their software to do for factories and plants what Apple's iOS did for cell phones
  • The role

  • Director of Talent Acquisition
  • The company

  • Specialty coffee roaster and retailer
  • The locations

  • Emeryville, CA (HQ), North America
  • Top challenges

  • Drive projects, design processes, and maximize tools to build a pipeline of quality talent
  • Exciting note

  • Company recently celebrated their 50th anniversary by announcing a pledge of $250,000 to fund a first-of-its-kind coffee research center
  • The role

  • Director of Talent Acquisition
  • The company

  • SaaS startup founded by the next generation of enterprise disrupters
  • The locations

  • Mountain View, CA (HQ), North America, EMEA
  • Top challenges

  • Create a scalable Talent Acquisition function and help usher the organization into an era of rapid growth
  • Exciting note

  • Company just won its second consecutive ‘Best Places to Work in Silicon Valley’ award
  • The role

  • Director of Talent Acquisition
  • The company

  • Biotechnology and biomedical sciences company focused on diagnostics
  • The locations

  • San Diego, CA (HQ), North America, South America, APAC, EMEA
  • Top challenges

  • Solve the war for talent for the fastest-growing business unit in this biotech
  • Exciting note

  • This role will have the opportunity to strategize with corporate on impending global growth plans in Latin and South America
  • The role

  • Head of Talent Management
  • The company

  • New York-based hedge fund with an approach rooted in fin-tech and innovation
  • The locations

  • New York City, NY (HQ), North America, EMEA, APAC
  • Top challenges

  • Hands on operation of the talent management function with a focus on creative ways to motivate a team of high performing individuals
  • Exciting note

  • Recent partnership with large-scale commercial insurer will allow a new focus on small to medium-sized enterprises
  • The role

  • Vice President of Total Rewards
  • The company

  • Big data, analytics and SaaS company
  • The locations

  • Redwood City, CA (HQ), North America, South America, APAC, EMEA
  • Top challenges

  • Develop and implement a comprehensive global total rewards strategy
  • Exciting note

  • This role will be pivotal to the integration efforts of several recent acquisitions
  • The role

  • Vice President of Total Rewards
  • The company

  • Delivers best enterprise healthcare through forward-focused technology
  • The locations

  • Chicago, IL (HQ), North America, APAC
  • Top challenges

  • Build out compensation and benefits structure and implement on a large-scale level
  • Exciting note

  • After recent IPO, company continues to deliver products to some of the most visionary businesses in the world
  • The role

  • Director of Total Rewards
  • The company

  • SaaS startup founded by the next generation of enterprise disrupters
  • The locations

  • Mountain View, CA (HQ), North America, EMEA
  • Top challenges

  • Create a scalable Total Rewards strategy and help usher the organization into an era of rapid growth
  • Exciting note

  • Company just won its second consecutive ‘Best Places to Work in Silicon Valley’ award
  • The role

  • Senior Compensation Analyst
  • The company

  • Fin-tech investment company focused on financing world-changing products and ideas
  • The locations

  • New York City, NY (HQ), North America, EMEA, APAC
  • Top challenges

  • Lead compensation strategy design and implementation for the market leader in this space
  • Exciting note

  • Doubling head count over next two years
  • The role

  • Senior Director of Total Rewards
  • The company

  • Billion-dollar global electronics and media conglomerate
  • The locations

  • Atlanta, GA (HQ), North America, APAC, EMEA
  • Top challenges

  • Lead total rewards strategy design and implementation for one of the most well-known brands
  • Exciting note

  • This brand is one of the most revolutionary in the electronics space
  • The role

  • Senior Director of Compensation, Benefits & HRIS
  • The company

  • Startup technology consulting firm with global reach
  • The locations

  • Seattle, WA (HQ), North America, EMEA, South America
  • Top challenges

  • Lead Total Rewards strategy design and implementation for the market leader in this space
  • Exciting note

  • Great career-move for a Director ready to take on leadership of the entire function
  • The role

  • Senior Manager, Benefits
  • The company

  • California’s largest gas and electricity provider
  • The locations

  • San Francisco, CA (HQ), North America
  • Top challenges

  • Develop and sustain an attractive benefits plan to help retain top talent for the future
  • Exciting note

  • Named one of the best places to work by the Human Rights Campaign for 10+ years
  • The role

  • Senior HR Business Partner
  • The company

  • Online real estate leader
  • The locations

  • Santa Clara, CA (HQ), North America
  • Top challenges

  • Support C-suite in leading strategic talent and people initiatives across the business
  • Exciting note

  • Over 12 million monthly visitors rely on this company’s website for rental and home financing assistance
  • The role

  • Senior HR Business Partner – Engineering
  • The company

  • New York-based hedge fund with an approach rooted in fin-tech and innovation
  • The locations

  • New York City, NY (HQ), North America, EMEA, APAC
  • Top challenges

  • Set strategic vision for the attraction and retention of top-level, global engineering talent
  • Exciting note

  • Recent partnership with large-scale commercial insurer will allow a new focus on small to medium-sized enterprises
  • The role

  • Director, HR Business Partner
  • The company

  • Fin-tech wealth management company
  • The locations

  • San Francisco, CA (HQ), North America
  • Top challenges

  • Partner with senior HR leadership to develop strategic programs for an innovative business unit
  • Exciting note

  • This company is positioning itself to truly disrupt the finance space
  • The role

  • Director, HR Business Partner
  • The company

  • Cutting-edge, cloud-based company bringing the industrial internet to life
  • The locations

  • San Ramon, CA (HQ), North America, EMEA
  • Top challenges

  • Help enter the internet of things (IoT) space as it anticipates a doubling in revenue over the next six months
  • Exciting note

  • This company plans to double their software engineer headcount by the end of 2016
  • The role

  • Director, HR
  • The company

  • A leading telecommunications company providing a suite of video, voice, and wireless internet
  • The locations

  • Greater Los Angeles Area, CA, Norwalk, CT (HQ), North America
  • Top challenges

  • Complete org assessment and support labor relations in anticipation of continued growth
  • Exciting note

  • Operating in over 25 states, this company is the largest communications company serving rural and small town locations across the U.S.
  • The role

  • Head of Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging
  • The company

  • Innovative technology company at the forefront of the innovation frontier
  • The locations

  • Bellevue, WA (HQ), North America, South America, APAC, EMEA
  • Top challenges

  • Implement and engrain a communal sense of diversity while building a TA program that reflects those values
  • Exciting note

  • This company is pushing the limits of technology and engineering to deliver some of the most incredible innovations of the future
  • The role

  • Head of Diversity & Inclusion
  • The company

  • Leading provider of online real estate and property management services
  • The locations

  • Austin, TX (HQ), North America, EMEA
  • Top challenges

  • Strategize on global diversity programs with a focus on talent acquisition, retention, and professional development
  • Exciting note

  • Define your own team and philosophy and leave a footprint for the future of the company
  • The role

  • Diversity Lead, Operations Strategist
  • The company

  • Leading social media company
  • The locations

  • Greater Bay Area, CA (HQ), North America, APAC, EMEA
  • Top challenges

  • Strategize on global diversity programs with a focus on talent acquisition
  • Exciting note

  • Be part of the team that truly redefines diversity for the tech and global business community as a whole

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HR Consultant & Contractor's Corner

Our hottest global HR contracting and consulting assignments include:

  • Providing Venture Capital and Private Equity Talent Partners with HR executive search, HR advisory, and compensation consulting expertise for their portfolio companies
  • Executive leadership mentoring and on-call support for CEO’s, CFO’s and HR managers at start-up companies in tech hubs that include San Francisco, San Mateo, Mountain View (Silicon Valley), Seattle, Chicago, New York, Salt Lake City, Boise, Washington DC, London, Berlin and Singapore
  • HR assessment for multiple startups ready to shore up their infrastructure before taking their businesses through a high growth stage or IPO
  • Coaching executive teams through strategic planning for their leadership development function including succession planning and creating career development paths and retention plans for high potentials
  • Interim Head of HR assignments with pre-IPO companies in software analytics, digital advertising, big data, biotech, and cloud-based service companies
  • HR advising for several European and Asian headquartered companies interested in relocating their global headquarters or building regional headquarters in San Francisco/Silicon Valley
  • Comprehensive review of compensation programs for post-IPO tech companies, including benchmarking and redesigning of short and long-term incentive plans
  • Customized, high-touch outplacement projects for pre-IPO and mid-sized companies in the midst of restructuring or integrating acquisitions

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Press

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Spotlight on...

HR Executive Career Development Series

In light of successful pilots in San Francisco, New York, Altanta and DC, FPL is now hosting monthly symposiums around emerging trends and ideas within the HR space. Recent discussion topics include: 'Compensation trends: Startups vs. Fortune 100s' and 'Positioning your HR career for an industry pivot'. If you are interested in learning more, email Kate Smalkin at katherine@fplpartners.com.

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About FPL

Frederickson Pribula Li (FPL) is the top global HR and strategic People Operations executive search and consulting firm in Silicon Valley. Founded in 1995 and headquartered in Menlo Park, our mission is to help our client’s succeed by elevating their people functions. Our HR executive search and consulting capabilities stretch worldwide with global hubs in San Francisco, Atlanta, Dallas, New York, Seattle, Paris and Hong Kong. Clients range from startups to the Fortune 100 across diverse industries.

Outplacement Practice

Re–evaluating your outplacement vendors? Require a higher utilization rate for your outplacement dollar? Need higher touch services and consistency across all markets? Since 1995, FPL is the outplacement firm of choice for sophisticated corporate buyers. Join the numerous Fortune 500 employers and small firms who have selected us over their previous vendor and are now enjoying the best of both worlds: each employee well taken care of, and consistency in every city.

Price shopping or need to customize a program? Contact our Corporate Outplacement Team at 650-614-0220 or email them at outplacement@fplpartners.com for more information on our outplacement services.

HR Consulting Practice

With the dramatic increase of global technology outsourcing and the continued geographic dispersion of corporate teams, the need for international human resources strategy, design, and project implementation has increased. Our global team of HR consultants has the specialized skills and breadth of expertise to develop and lead your initiatives—saving you time, money, and resources. We can manage the international recruiting function, help you hire key local managers or an entire startup team in an overseas market, and establish HR systems for global expansion.

Why clients choose FPL:
  • Results-driven, value-oriented. To keep your HR programs in line with your corporate direction, we provide HR strategy, cost-effective HR infrastructure, and pragmatic HR advice across all critical areas of human resource management.
  • Any size, any stage. We draw upon years of experience with startups, midsize firms and large global enterprises to guide our clients strategically through any stage of growth.
  • Work smarter, not harder. In survey after survey, CEO's say the number-one issue keeping them up at night is "people problems." We help you solve them so that you can get back to focusing on your business.
  • Contact our HR Consulting Team at 650.614.0220 or email them at consulting@fplpartners.com for more information on our HR consulting services
HR Executive Search Practice

Why clients choose FPL as their human resources-specialized executive search firm:

  • Prompt results. The average time from start of search to presentation of the winning HR candidate is 21 days. 50% of HR searches are completed in less than 45 days.
  • Superior results. More than 95% of HR executives placed by FPL are still with their companies five years following placement.
  • High client satisfaction. More than 90% of the firm's work is either repeat business or from referrals. A number of clients have been with FPL for more than a decade.

You get:

  • Access to the best global human resources executive talent available through extensive networks built upon long–term relationships with U.S. and global executives
  • Customized HR executive search solutions that fit your goals, budget and timeline
  • Interim HR management during the search process, followed by an assimilation period to ensure a smooth transition

Contact our human resources executive search team at 650.614.0220 or email us at executivesearch@fplpartners.com to learn how your organization can reap the benefits FPL can deliver: Improved performance and greater success through your most valuable asset—your people.

Diversity Statement

FPL welcomes and encourages all diversity candidates to contact us directly. We highly value the diversity of our FPL team, placement of diverse executives into our client companies and our diverse clients, candidates, and supplier partnerships. We want to help swing the pendulum the other way.

About Our Newsletter

The FPL newsletter, "FPL Partners In the Know," and FPL Executive Search Update are the intellectual property of Frederickson Pribula Li. They are a free resource to business professionals. To subscribe to this newsletter, email newsletter@fplpartners.com.

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