Do Something that Matters, for Something that Matters in the World.

One simple piece of career advice I give lots of folks is to “do something that matters for something that matters in the world.” Throughout my career, I’ve tried to find roles that fit this simple framework. I’ve been attracted to hard and interesting problems at companies doing hard and interesting things. Qualtrics, for sure, fits that same mold for me.

My “Why Qualtrics” boils down to 4 key ideas: Our mission, my role, the people, and the stage.

  1. Mission – I’m highly sensitive to my organization’s mission. I can still recite from memory the mission of every organization I’ve worked for – from “locate, close with, and destroy the enemy…” of the US Marines to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” at Google. At Qualtrics, our mission in shorthand is to “close the gaps.” Meaning we close the gap between the intended experience that an organization wants, say, its customers or employees to have and the actual experience they are really having. For me, this means our company extracts human misery from the system. That feels like it really matters!
  2. My role – I’m the Vice President of People Operations (aka Human Resources to many, but I am not a fan of synonymizing “humans” with “resources.”). Lucky for me, Qualtrics is an unconventional company, and so our approach to People Ops in just as unconventional. In 2019 we are putting a heavy emphasis on 1) a world-class Employee Experience Program, 2) improving our people leaders against a very simple standard we call “Happy Results” – meaning that your job is to get results with a happy and engaged team, and 3) we have an aggressive diversity and inclusion target. We’re doing all of this with a tiny People Ops team, drawing help from the larger organization, and getting after these problems with a meaningfully different approach. As someone who borderline despises conventional wisdom, I can’t think of a better or more exciting place to work on people challenges!
  3. The People – I worked closely with Jared Smith (co-founder), Kim Scott (board member), and Bryan Schreier (board member) during my time at Google. These are special people that I adore. But there’s something more meaningful to me about these relationships – I can trust these people implicitly. In other words, I knew that with these kinds of people at the top of the company, I would never have to question this company’s ethics. Through my hiring process, I got to know Ryan Smith (CEO, co-founder, and brother of Jared), and a big percentage of his staff, and it was only clearer to me afterward that the ethics and decision making within the company would always remain beyond reproach. I’m a year in, I am happy to report that my assessment was spot on.
  4. The Stage – this is my 3rd time at this growth stage. At Google, I joined a bit after their IPO, at Twitter about a year before, and at Qualtrics about a year before our SAP acquisition. This stage of growth is awesome. A lot has been built – companies at this stage have product-market fit, often profitable businesses, beautiful facilities, and many maturing processes. But in companies at this growth stage, there is so much to do to scale the company to ultimate and predictable success. Having tried large and small, I’ve discovered that helping to guide a company through this massively interesting growth stage is where I’m personally at my best.

When I first got here, I wrote a brief post on LinkedIn called “Hot company, warm people.” I am happy to say that this is as true today as it was in my initial weeks. I’ve never been at a company that lives its #OneTeam value to such a great extent at Qualtrics. I feel lucky every day to have the role I have and work with these wonderful people.

 

Russ Laraway is the Vice President of People at Qualtrics. Prior to joining Qualtrics he held various roles at Google, Twitter, and was a Co-Founder and COO of Candor, Inc. He holds a Bachelors from the University of South Carolina and an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania – The Wharton School.