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4 questions with Vise's chief people officer Kelly Leyden

We're thrilled to have Kelly Leyden as our Chief People Officer. 

Kelly joins us from ShopKeep, a cloud-based point of sales system for small businesses, where she oversaw all people functions and facilitated the acquisition by Lightspeed. Before ShopKeep, Kelly led people teams at S'well, LearnVest, and eBay.

She comes to Vise at a critical juncture for the company. In the past year, we've added over 50 new employees, raised a Series C, and expanded the capabilities of our product. As we build on those successes, Kelly will play a critical role in fostering an inclusive culture and developing a sustainable framework for attracting and retaining top talent. 

To get to know her better, here is a quick Q&A with Kelly:

Why did you join Vise?

There were a few reasons. I had just wrapped up the acquisition of ShopKeep by Lightspeed and all the integration work that came with the sale. I wasn't sure what would come next, but I was confident that it wouldn't be another startup. 

That was until I met Samir and Runik, and I saw the opportunity at Vise. I had some exposure to fintech when I was at LearnVest, and I knew the space still had a lot of room to grow. So when Samir and Runik stressed that Vise would create financial freedom, I was intrigued. They knew the best way to achieve this vision was through our biggest asset, our people. They wanted Vise to be a place where everyone could do their best work, and my role would be to lay the strategic framework to make that happen.

Not only did Samir and Runik want to invest in talent acquisition, they wanted to focus on employee experience and development. You can't just bring in a ton of people and hope for the best. You have to develop them with great managers and leaders. 

How do you foster a culture that excites employees?

Culture is our identity and purpose. You can see it in our norms, behaviors, and how we run our business. Culture is what connects us to each other and how we want to show up to our customers and the world.

When you get culture right, it gives you the flexibility to change quickly. Change directions, change priorities, change behaviors. 

A strong organizational culture is only reinforced by the leadership team. I think about this link as the three Cs: communication, consistency, and context. Every leader in a company needs to embody each C in everything they do. They have to communicate well, provide  context for every decision, and be consistent at every stage. When your leaders do that well, your company's culture begins to fall into place. 

What's the most important career advice you've received?

Be yourself. 

Early in my career, I was assertive, confident, and ambitious—maybe more than people liked. I took on challenges that may have seemed out of reach for someone my age. When I was 29 and at eBay, I went  to Shanghai and reorganized the product and technology teams. There was no problem too big for me. I learned that when you try to change yourself to fit a mold, you become a less authentic version of yourself. 

I also worked for someone who saw the people function as strategic in nature. He stressed thinking outside of the box. I am an unorthodox thinker, so I took this advice to heart. If there was a better way to do something, or even just a different way, we should try it. 

All of this helped me carve out a space for myself as a people leader, and perhaps more importantly, advocate for people as a strategic function. It took a lot of influencing others to believe in my vision, and I don't think it would have worked if I simply aligned myself to the current way of thinking.

How do you empower your team to reach their potential?

I start with trust. I believe that everybody is good at something, and sometimes they just need help finding what that something is. 

One way to do that is to let my team explore different opportunities—like people operations, talent acquisition, and learning & development— and give them the latitude to fail. I also give my team ownership to figure out specific problems. There are a million ways to arrive at the same outcome, and my way isn't always the right one. But I'm always there to help if they need me.

September 30, 2021