People of WePay: Kathy Ryan, VP People
Honestly, I was a passive candidate. I wasn’t looking for a change, I wasn’t looking to leave Google when a search firm contacted me about a brand new head of HR role at this company called WePay, working for a “dynamic CEO/Founder.” Having never worked for a small company before (the prior 25+ years I had worked for Levi Strauss, Sun Microsystems, Sony, Intel Security and Google), I was somewhat reluctant to accept the invite to an exploratory meeting with this CEO, named Bill Clerico. I drove past WePay on my way to Google and thought, why not, I have nothing to lose, and why not expand my network for the future by stopping by and just chatting. Well, about 2 months later I made the very difficult decision to leave Google and jump in feet first to this very different and cool opportunity. Here I am almost one year later!
What aspect of culture do you believe is most important for start up businesses?
I can’t speak about other start up businesses, as this is my first gig at a smaller firm, but what I can tell you is that one of the main reasons I made the decision to join WePay is because Bill (our CEO) has a deep passion for the ‘people’ side of the business and for the right reasons too; he understands the strong connection between an engaged workforce and the connection to stronger business outcomes. This was music to my ears! As for culture, it starts at the top. The leaders have to lead by example, role model the behaviors they want in support of the culture and values. This is the same regardless of the size of the company.
As for culture, it starts at the top. The leaders have to lead by example, role model the behaviors they want in support of the culture and values. This is the same regardless of the size of the company.
How do you approach making an impact at WePay and for our partners?
My focus during my time here so far has been primarily internal by building the people infrastructure and appropriate program and iinitiatives to help drive WePay’s growth. This includes initiatives focused on attracting, developing, engaging, and retaining the best talent in the industry and helping WePay to become an employer of choice. For my second year; I would like to spend more time meeting with my peers at some of our partners and to continue to build my acumen specific to FinTech and the Payments industry in general.
What advice can you offer startups and businesses working on growth?
Decide early on what your company vision is; the values; then ensure those values (and cultural attributes) are defined clearly so employees understand, behaviorally, what they look like in action. Integrate these values into the company’s processes, practices, people programs, etc. Ensure the reward systems are aligned to support these behaviors otherwise they will just be viewed as rhetoric or nice posters on the company walls.
Also, a company experiencing growth (or perhaps decline) is constantly experiencing significant amounts of change so there needs to be a focus on basic change management fundamentals. Always asking the following questions and be prepared to communicate to employees often: what are we doing, why are we doing it, who will be impacted, and how does this change affect me?
What tool or metrics do you use that helps you most in getting your job done?
I’m less interested in tools or metrics initially and more interested in getting the strategy, priorities and processes right that support a business opportunity or problem. Once that’s been done, I love tools and metrics as a way of measuring that we are getting the right return on investment or return on effectiveness that was defined early on in the strategy and design phases.
You’ve held HR leadership positions at larger companies in the past. From that aspect, what is something crucial to those larger businesses that don’t apply to startups, and vice versa?
There are many differences I’ve discovered but the one that stands out for me is that all of my prior roles before coming to WePay were global in scope. I worked with colleagues all over the globe; multiple time zones; multiple different cultures. I had managers and directly managed employees who were located across the U.S., across the globe. Seems like a lot of startups are mostly co-located.
Favorite team building exercise?
I don’t really have a favorite per se. As a Leadership and Teach Coach I’m certified in multiple tools and assessments and pull from that tool box depending on what the reason is for team development. And then ensure the activity or exercise supports that objective or goal. A team coaching session that I’ve used often is a session that combines the ‘Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Instrument (MBTI)’ with a ‘New Leader & Team Integration’ process. It’s a great way for individuals to better understand themselves and their preferences as well as to help the leader and team members work together more effectively and to have tools to work through conflict. Generally the session ends with the team and leader together defining and agreeing to a set of team working norms and values to hold themselves and each other accountable to. It’s quite a powerful half day and excellent for a new team who is still forming, as well as for teams that have been working together for a while.