Starting a Career in HR Tech: An Interview with Jacqueline Kuhn

 

Jacqueline Kuhn, HRIP, has more than 25 years’ experience in strategic planning, systems management, project management, services delivery, and general human resources. She has worked with organizations in all sectors global and domestic to create strategic plans around their human capital management systems, as well as leading selection and implementation projects for talent management, talent acquisition, and HRIS systems. At HRchitect, she oversees the HCM strategic consulting group, which includes HCM systems strategic planning and evaluation and selection practices.

Much of her time is spent with HCM vendors being briefed on their technology offerings, ensuring that HRchitect provides the most current information to our clients looking for a new solution. Jacqueline enjoys working with organizations to impact their HCM strategies through technology utilization. She is the author of HRchitect’s Guide to HCM Technology. In her leisure time, she enjoys dog training, and she is a classically trained pianist.

Learn more about her career in this interview.

Renee: Why Did You Enter the HR Tech Field?

Jacqueline: Back in the mid-80s, when I was working in HR, I was in employee relations and recruiting and I really did not like it. At the time, main frame-based HR systems were just starting to come onto the scene. The organization I was working for at the time was implementing modules and one happened to be more of an applicant tracking. Since I was doing recruiting, they asked if I wanted to do the project and I thought it sounded fun.

When it came time for me to find my next job after that, I was debating going the technology route or going the HR generalist route. In talking with my husband at the time and my dad about where I should be taking my career, they both advised me that technology was where the future was going and that I should be a part of that wave.

What Advice Would You Give a Recent Graduate Considering Entering HR Tech Tech?

You want to start by finding a job as an HR generalist in a smaller organization where you need to work closely with technology and processes, even process a small payroll – where you would get the feeling for all the areas of HR on a small scale. If you do not understand how HR works, it is hard to understand what the technology needs to do to support HR. So my advice would be to be an HR generalist for a little while, so you get what HR must do to keep track of employee records, compliance, and legislation. Make sure that the job has some component of working with an HR system to get that foundation.

What 3 Traits Would Be Beneficial for a Person to Be Successful in HR Tech?

The Ability to See the Big Picture and Pay Close Attention to Detail 

The strategic perspective helps you build out what you need an application or processes to do to meet the needs of the business, but you also need to dive into the details as well. You must be able to do both which is not easy, and that is why not a whole lot of people can be successful in the HR Technology field. People tend to be detailed and then they are good at analyst positions, or they are high level and then they’re good at leadership positions. But to do both, and to be able to consult and manage, is key.

Embrace Change at Warped Speed

The technology changes so often that the way you did things, the way you thought about things, you must be able to let it all go and accept that that is not the way it is anymore. If you cannot embrace change, you will really struggle. You constantly must think about how you can do things differently.

Keen Listening Skills

Whether you work for an organization or are a third-party consultant, you really need to listen to what your clients are saying that they need or want to do. You must listen for the outcome, not what they say they want. For example, someone in recruiting may say that they want to be able to see on one screen all candidate statuses for a requisition. Instead of just taking that as a requirement, which would be an exceedingly difficult requirement to meet because all that information will not fit on one screen, you turn it back to the client and ask, what would you do with that information? Why do you need it that way? They obviously have a specific intention, but you need to decipher what they are looking for, not just what they say. That requires listening, interpreting, and asking follow-up questions.

How Do You Determine Options for HR Tech Strategies? When Would You Recommend a Unified Solution vs. a Fully Integrated Solution?

When making recommendations for technology strategy options, the first step is to consider what the client believes will be a challenge for them and what is most important for them as an outcome. Then, consider the combinations of options that will help solve their critical challenges first. It is also common for different teams and departments to have different priorities. That is why, going into the process, it is important to collect the overall business’s strategies and priorities. You must keep the big picture priorities central to the strategy when considering tools to support the critical business needs.

Ideally, unless your company is in the Fortune 100, or maybe the Fortune 500, I would recommend avoiding integrations. The functions that are mission-critical for compliance should be all-in-one. The goal is really to be as efficient as possible in meeting compliance, as well as the goals of the business. Typically, talent suites, for example, can be integrated because real-time data is not as critical for compliance or business needs.

When we think of HR technology, it is not technology for HR; it is technology for the business. It is how the business manages its people assets. Therefore, it is crucial for business leadership to be in alignment with the HR technology strategy. If you are internal to an organization and you are pushing for something that business leaders do not want, you need to remember your goal: HR exists to support the business. If the business is not aligned with a process or technology that you personally think would be best, you will need to either build a strong enough business case to influence leaders or you will need to let your desires go and align with the business. It is important to know when to let go.

You Worked in the Industry Through the M&As of All the Big Players. How Would You Recommend Someone New to the Industry Get Updated?

Start by going to websites of the big players. Go to their newsrooms and begin pulling up their press releases. Create your own catalogue of the history of each vendor. They all have press releases that would talk about any event like that. As a second step, I would recommend researching the acquisitions you have found and look for articles others wrote about the event. It will give a unique perspective on the change and how it may impact the industry.

How Did You Start Building Connections With Vendors?

Being a member of IHRIM was where it started. Through their network and events, I made long-term connections. I also make sure to attend vendor and IHRIM competitor conferences and events. I would also hang in shared spaces where others would be. I find that some of the best connections I have made occurred after-hours. I would spend a night with club soda in my hand and go several rounds with people whose perspectives I was interested in and after a few hours they start trusting and confiding in you. Honestly, some of the longest relationships I have were built in social settings because you learn about them beyond just who they are professionally. That knowledge helps solidify a longer-term relationship so that, down the road, you can check back in and lead with the piece of information you know about them outside of work.

You also want to be someone people want to spend time with. Be friendly, have fun, put yourself out there. Be where the people you want to learn from or build connections with. Building connections is not the time to take yourself too seriously.

I am also careful to never burn a bridge. You never know when you might want to reopen a connection.

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Renee Schapiro, strategic services consultant at HRchitect. She is responsible for guiding clients through discovering their HR technology needs and facilitating their evaluation of human capital management systems. She has more than five years of experience in HR administration. Renee has a master’s degree in Music, Mind and Brain from Goldsmiths, University of London and a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Skidmore College. She can be reached at rschapiro@hrchitect.com.