Started from HR Now We Here: 3 Top-Level HR Veterans

February 19, 2014 at 5:12 AM by Rob Stevenson

Although the nature of talent acquisition and management remains absolutely crucial to the development of an organization, it is a sad fact that the HR department often gets overlooked when it comes time to select Senior Executives.

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This is not always the case, however, as there are a handful of high-level professionals who either cut their teeth in HR or found themselves managing aspects of it on the way up. Read on for several examples of top brass at huge companies with HR on their resumes.

Mary Barra, CEO at GMScreen Shot 2014-02-19 at 1.00.11 PM

The most recent example of upwards mobility in the HR realm is that of GM's new CEO, Mary Barra. Although she holds a background in engineering and an advanced degree in business, Barra's role as VP of HR was a crucial part of her learning the talent and compensation side of GM.

“Every CEO needs to be in some sense the chief HR person. In most corporations, the talent—and the care and feeding of the talent—really is the primary job of the CEO.”

-John Wood, vice chairman of the executive search firm Heidrick & Struggle

Samuel Allen, CEO at John Deere

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Prior to running John Deere, Allen served on Whirlpool's Human Resources Committee Charter, an organization which worked to regulate the compensation and benefits of employees, as well as implement incentive programs and set standards for performance reviews. Although carried out higher up the ladder, this type of work can be carried out by HR pros at all levels, so get these experiences under your belt early so that you might apply them to larger areas of your organization.


Lisa Weber, President at MetLife

Over a 10 year period at PaineWebber, Weber held a variety of HR positions ultimately culminating in EVP/Head of Human Resources. Commenting on the importance of augmenting HR experiences with other sides of the business, Weber had this to say:Screen Shot 2014-02-19 at 12.59.50 PM

“What is important is that you demonstrate that you can learn the business regardless of whether you’re in the business. Figure out how what you do every day connects to the bigger picture. If you do HR for HR’s sake, you’ll continue to keep working on those file cabinets.”

For more examples of HR Pros who worked their way up to the C-Level, check out this article by Villanova's piece, From HR to CEO.

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