In Episode 5, Mary discussed Growth Strategies to Advance Your Career with Richard Taylor, who is the VP of Employee Experience at Nasdaq. Throughout the episode, they highlighted how to take control of your career, who can help you advance, promotions, unconscious bias, and personal branding. Rich shares below some additional thoughts about his personal career story.
Rich, tell us about your background and your current role; it sounds cool!
I’m currently the VP of Employee Experience at Nasdaq, where we are essentially focused on transforming people’s relationship with work. My team and I are re-imagining everything from company values & culture, leadership, recognition, and careers, and we are intent on elevating the day-to-day work environment and enriching the experience for all employees.
Prior to this role at Nasdaq, I held HR leadership roles at Palo Alto Networks, LinkedIn, Applied Materials, Reuters, and several startups as I navigated my career.
I earned my Master’s in Divinity at Harvard and then studied for a PhD at Berkeley in Buddhism.
Throughout my career, every role has been focused on learning and development in some aspect. I have always believed we all need to have a learner’s mindset and continuously develop ourselves towards our highest self and aspirations throughout our career journeys.
Do you think your studies in Divinity and/or Buddhism have had an impact on your career or what you do today?
I think there is definitely a connection. It may not be obvious at first, but both of the areas I studied are humanities, so they’re very much about human beings and how we are amazing, different, and diverse all around the world. I’m now in employee experience at Nasdaq, which is similar to talent management, though more from the employee perspective than from the company perspective. The employee experience focuses on the employee, so it’s very human-centered work, and my job is to put human beings first. Many people in the company focus on making money and that’s important or running a great company and that’s important, but I really focus on the people: how they’re doing, what’s going well, what’s holding them back, and making sure that that experience is as great as that can be.
What is something you learned that served you well?
The number one thing that has helped my career is to “challenge the process” (a phrase that is well explained in The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes and Posner.) No matter what work you do in any organization, there are always things that could be better. If you can diplomatically point this out and offer a better approach, you will add value and earn respect.
Another thing that I’ve learned is to always use data in my contributions. In one of my earliest roles, I would share my many opinions with my manager. Finally, he said “you know, opinions are like elbows, everybody has them.” Actually, he used less polite language, but I got the message: my opinions aren’t convincing to anyone else unless I can bring some data into the conversation. This may take more effort, but it’s much, much more compelling and successful.
I will admit, I didn’t get the hang of this right away. I remember one morning when I found myself alone in the elevator with my CEO, who didn’t know me. A bit nervously, I struck up a conversation: “Hey, I’m excited to share with you that we just completed a global training program, it was 2 days long and reached almost 500 people.” But he replied “Wow, that sounds expensive” as he stepped out of the elevator. Kudos to “young me” for trying to use some data, but I had failed to speak the language of the business and show the value. What I’ve since learned is to frame the problem we’re trying to solve (example: our customers are unhappy with X, we’re 10 points below our closest competitor) and then share what we’re doing about it (revamping our support system, speeding up our response time, etc.). Since then, for me that has been a winning formula.