094: Boston Speaks Up with Gabriela Serret-Campos of Chronosphere
Boston Speaks Up (BSU) is a podcast owned and operated by Value Creation Labs. (Editor’s note: this interview was one of three conducted during a special Boston Speaks Up live recording at Startup Boston Week 2023.)
Gabriela Serret-Campos is the Global Head of People Strategy and Talent at Chronosphere, a cloud company that raised $200 million on a $1+ billion valuation in 2021. She is a seasoned professional with a rich background in shaping organizational strategies and fostering talent to drive success.
As the modern workplace changes, Serret-Campos is an expert navigator of the evolving shifts and new challenges in recruiting and culture building. She possesses invaluable insights into how venture-backed companies can quickly scale a team with an emphasis on employee retention.
Prior to Chronosphere, Serret-Campos served as the SVP of People Operations at Drizly, where she played a pivotal role leading up to the company’s acquisition by Uber for $1.1 billion in 2021. Adjacent to her roles, she founded Lead by Design, an advisory consultancy specializing in leadership development, strategic planning, and DEI initiatives. Serret-Campos is a founding member of the POPS Advisory Board, championing a people-first approach and promoting the idea that employees deserve care and investment. She’s also a member of the Underscore VC Core Community. Her earlier experience included running boutique leadership development firm Intelligent.ly, which was focused on partnering with hyper growth tech companies to help them align their people to purpose to drive productivity. She did similar work at Infusionsoft and EDMC-OHE, highlighting her consistent dedication to fostering leadership development. She designed innovative programs and initiatives that helped emerging leaders thrive and succeed.
We were honored to sit down with Serret-Campos at Startup Boston Week to discuss all of her experiences and how they have shaped her ability to navigate the future of work.
Check out the highlights from the Boston Speaks Up podcast live at Startup Boston Week 2023:
Where did you grow up? And how would you describe your childhood? Who were your role models?
I moved around the greater Boston area until elementary school when we moved north of Boston. Daughter to immigrant parents, they were my first role models. Leaving everything you know and traveling to a new country with just a suitcase is risk taking, and similar to the risk taking you see with entrepreneurs. Childhood - loving, loud (1 of 7, 5 grew up together), complex in identity creation/development. Grew up primarily in a less diverse rural town north of Boston, to a very traditional hispanic family. Negotiating and reconciling these two vastly different worlds was the consistent theme throughout my childhood.
Where are you looking to get out of your time at Startup Boston Week?
It is about giving back time and space - if one person feels like they learned something or can be more effective, that is what it is all about. Grateful for the learnings and influences in my career, this is a way of sharing, learning, and connecting with others.
Your journey has spanned various roles, from sales to leadership to leading people operations. Could you share how these experiences shaped your approach to fostering talent?
People are messy. In each of my roles, even in hospitality in entry level roles, I have always worked on teams. Seeing and feeling the difference between a high performance team vs not, I started to understand that the dynamics amongst groups highly correlates to overall performance. I also made a lot of mistakes and tried to learn from them. We see this from a young age with teachers and coaches – why do some bring out the best and others the opposite? Why does this vary based on personalities? Leadership and talent development has also evolved in regards to the role organizations play.
As the Global Head of People & Talent at Chronosphere, what strategies do you find most effective for aligning individuals with a shared sense of purpose within the organization?
First, it is having a clearly articulated purpose for the organization. Answering the questions of 1) why as a company do we exist, 2) what is the big mission/the big outcome/BHAG that we are looking to achieve, 3) how do we show up day to day and what do we expect from our people, regardless of level – these things come together to craft a vision of who the company is and where they are going. Without this, we are already starting behind. Once you have this, it is imperative to discuss it – not once, not twice, but almost at nauseum. It has to become core to the culture and be embedded into the structure of the org.
Could you dive into how you've successfully attracted, developed, and retained top talent to build strong and engaged teams, especially in the context of a rapidly evolving industry like tech?
Multipronged approach - not a silver bullet.
Biggest thing is the previous answer - knowing and internalizing the Vision - purpose, mission, values. Then operationalizing this across the employee lifecycle. Ultimately, for me, it is not about being people first, but thinking as a business first that recognized people are its greatest assets. At a more tactical level, I look at key inflection points across the employee lifecycle and look for ways that we can increase output through intentional touchpoints, support and resources.
You've been a vocal advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion. How can organizations ensure that these values are deeply integrated into their culture rather than just superficially adopted?
Honestly, by doing just that – ensure they are engrained and are not just lip service. Time & money are two key resources. Look at your resource allocation - is DEI a topic around Pride, or WHM or a daily convo?
In your role as a DEI advisor and Executive Coach, what insights can you share for fostering an environment that truly values and champions diversity at every level?
Key pillars around DEI, IMO, awareness, alignment, education, and engagement.
With your involvement in the POPS Advisory Board, you've been at the forefront of emphasizing employees as humans who deserve care and investment. How can organizations shift their perspective to prioritize their people in this way?
It is a business decision and approach - do you see people as a liability or as your greatest assets? If the latter, then looking at how we can maximize the output and length of that ELC is paramount.
From Intelligent.ly to Chronosphere, what are some common threads you've noticed in successful leadership development initiatives that consistently drive positive change?
Space - true space to develop. It has been long proven that only 10% of professional development comes from the classroom, but many still see L&D as training. It is about alignment, commitment and prioritizing development and growth. It is also about allowing mistakes and a presumption of positive intent on both teh delivery and receiving ends. Truly embedded core values can be very helpful here.
In a world where remote work and hybrid models are becoming prevalent, how can leaders continue to foster a sense of connection, engagement, and belonging among their teams?
Many tried to recreate the in office culture in a remote world with tech. We cannot recreate it or it will always be lacking, we need to re envision what this looks like. Human connection is important, so recognizing that and being intentional about those touchpoints. Also, establishing and reassessing best practices, even around meetings and meeting etiquette can go a long way. Purpose/goal of meeting, engagement level, effectiveness - these things should be evaluated on a continuous cadence….
What strategies have you found most effective in empowering women leaders and driving change from the top-down in traditionally male-dominated fields?
Similar to DEI strategies and leadership dev strategies - it is awareness, alignment, and commitment. We also need to put in the practices and activities to achieve this - not just about the words but the actions.
Could you share a challenging moment in your career journey and how you navigated it to emerge stronger and wiser on the other side?
Less of a big moment, although the pandemic and swift shift to remote results in many learnings and best practices that we then shared with other companies. Truly it is more ongoing, small little shifts that are attributed that when it comes to people, regardless of role, everyone has an opinion, and outside of a few egregious things there are not many that are right v wrong. Most are nuanced and require opening someone to a diff perspective. Two key things: 1) act as a coach - don’t try to force your ideas, but really listen and start with getting someone to see other approaches - and this means being open to it yourself, and 2) internal marketing. People teams can be seen as ‘soft’ and often miss a unifying voice. Oftentimes there are a lot of programs with minimal utilization, or it feels like disparate activities/programming without people seeing the strategy and understanding why. On HR/people teams we need to think like marketers. All the effort in the world does not matter if people are not utilizing what you put out there.
FINAL QUESTION: We like the idea of ending our episodes with a challenge for the listeners/readers. Whether it be reaching out to an old friend, reading 5 pages a day from a book, creating a new healthy habit… What is one challenge you have for the listeners?
Taking 5-10 mins daily to reflect on your day and plan the next day. A simple practice that can lead to feeling more productive and focused. Time is a finite resource, and often we have things we want to accomplish, but do not create space for them. Having clarity on what activities today will get you to where you need to be by the end of the week, the month, the quarter, the year/, are helpful because it creates line of sight and focus. Being disciplined here makes a world of difference