How this tech enthusiast became an HR leader

The concept of a “dream job” may seem far-fetched for many, but according to Andy Valenzuela, that’s exactly what he’s landed. Valenzuela started his tenure as CHRO at HireVue in November, leading all people functions for the HR technology platform, which specializes in video interview software.

It’s a position that has brought his career full-circle. A self-described tech enthusiast, Valenzuela first worked in the tech sector before transitioning to business operations and later HR. He has since held HR leadership positions at Dell, SunPower Corp., SAP and CSDC Inc.

Joining HireVue at this point in time is especially exciting, Valenzuela says.

Related: Spring HR Tech is coming. Register here.

“As a company, we really try to mitigate bias and meet the candidates where they are—from scheduling with candidates to doing first-round interviews through the hiring process,” he explains. Demand for such services has exploded during the pandemic. Throughout the company’s history, it has facilitated 18.5 million video interviews—five million of which have happened in the last year.

“That shows the context of how fast we’re growing and, conceptually, how what we’re doing is making tremendous progress and growth in the market, which is incredibly exciting,” Valenzuela says. “We’ve seen massive movements of employees around the globe, so now we have to be thinking about how do you go out and leverage that talent and access all of those candidates. For me, HireVue is how you do that—and that’s what brought me here.”

Here’s what else Valenzuela recently had to say about his career journey, his new position and his outlook on HR technology trends.

Andy Valenzuela

HRE: What attracted you to HR?

Valenzuela: I’m not a career HR guy. I was in business first, and I ultimately saw what a tremendous difference great leadership and great strategy made for an organization. I had the opportunity to have great HR business partners early on in my career and that made me say, “Hey, I think I want to go and see what HR might be about.” I had a conversation with a CHRO—goodness, it was probably 13 or 14 years ago—and he was a huge advocate of getting business-minded people in the HR function. I was an operational and tech guy who went into HR and have never looked back. I’ve had the opportunity to connect with my peers in business for a real focus on employee experience—how to leverage technology to drive business outcomes. Employee experience really has been where my passion has been, so I’m now super-excited to do this in the HR tech space.

Read more Insights from a CHRO HERE.

HRE: How has it been onboarding during the pandemic?

Valenzuela: I have to give kudos to Kevin [Parker], our CEO. He is very interested in figuring out how to continue to grow outside of headquarters and to take advantage of the talent available. For him, the biggest signal to show that was to hire a CHRO who is remote. So, I’m not sitting at headquarters, which has given me the chance to experience what all of our talent experiences. It’s allowed me to be on a level playing field with everyone from the start. It’s more difficult not being able to witness the experience and what it was like culturally at the office, but I’m learning and understanding how we’ve recreated that culture and how we’re engaging with our employees in this remote environment. So, it’s probably been the best way for me to join at this time and in this way.

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HRE: Since you got your start in HR, what have been a few of the major changes to the HR role?

Valenzuela: There’s definitely the need for and focus around HR technology. The importance of employee experience and how it can enable business outcomes has also certainly changed over the years. And, of course, there’s the evolution from “Personnel” to HR being a real strategic advisory function for the company. Companies have seen what it’s like when you’ve got exceptional HR business partners engaged with the business and how HR can be a key component for delivering on business success; historically, people viewed HR as a compliance function, but I view it as a complete enabler to business success. Our job is to figure out how to enable the business to succeed and, at the same time, create a great employee experience that drives the right culture.

Related: Read more about HR technology here.

HRE: What do you think right now are some of the most important functions that technology can have when it comes to HR success?

Valenzuela: Anything that can allow you to identify, access and engage with candidates around the world. This is one of those critical times that companies have to be ahead of the game and able to leverage all of that talent, and technology can enable that. Technology can also help you redeploy your own resources internally. Jobs are forever changed, and when companies start to grow again, they need to be thinking about the roles they need to move forward and redeploy staff into those roles. So, technology that allows you to connect with those employees can help the company understand what those roles are and redeploy. Employee engagement technology is also super-important. How do you create community and how do you make employees aware of it? You can’t build community at the water cooler in the office anymore. Technology that enables that is going to be critical. Lastly, technology that allows HR and our leaders to listen to and capture employee sentiment. The leadup has been engagement surveys and pulse surveys and now we’ll be looking at technology to take that a step further, providing a real-time look at how employees are doing and how we can support them.

“There’s definitely the need for and focus around HR technology.” – Andy Valenzuela, HireView

HRE: What are some short- and long-term goals for your position with HireVue?

Valenzuela: They all center around employee engagement and experience. How can we make sure we’re investing the right way and allowing our employees to be successful in this new way of doing work today? That is certainly top of mind. DEI also has got to be top of mind for every company and now it’s about progressing what the company’s done to date and thinking through the actions we need to take moving forward to continue to advance it. Over time, I hope to also be a brand ambassador of our product with our peers and to educate people on how to leverage it and the value it can bring. Also over time, I’ll be constantly working on talent development: ensuring we have leaders who are great today and who will be ready for tomorrow and that we can develop our internal organization for the ever-changing world.

HRE: What was HR’s shining moment in 2020?

Valenzuela: I think I would be remiss if I didn’t say the response to COVID. In an instant, all eyes were on HR to figure it out and do something that had never been done before. We had never experienced anything like this before at this scale. It became the responsibility of HR organizations to figure out how to enable remote work on the turn of a dime, how to think about employee experience, work flexibility, health issues, how to teach leaders operating in today’s environment. It was great to see organizations really rely on the HR function to figure out how to make it all happen.

See also: 3 technologies HR should pay attention to in 2021

HRE: Outside of work, what are you passionate about?

Valenzuela: I have three kiddos, so I’m super-passionate about being a dad and having the opportunity to engage with my kids. They’re at fun ages where they’re getting into sports and activities that I can do with them. I’m also passionate about being on the lake. I live on the lake here in Austin and we’re a boating family. I picked up wake surfing a couple of years ago so that’s a great way for this old guy to engage with my kids and we all love it. I try to spend as much time as I can on the lake.

HRE: Do you have a personal motto or mantra that keeps you motivated?

Valenzuela: I don’t necessarily have a mantra, but I can tell you some of the things that are at my core. To me, leadership makes all the difference in the world. Every day, my goal is to try and be a great leader. The culture of an organization is defined by the actions of leadership every single day. And I’m also passionate about being able to build great leaders. One person at some point left a comment [on my LinkedIn profile] that said, “Andy leaves behind a wave of great leaders,” and that was tremendous to me.

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