DisruptHR Madison: Interview with Jillana Peterson

squareheadshotJillana Peterson attended the University of Wisconsin – Madison and learned about the tech industry through several years at the Division of Information Technology Help Desk before moving to Danish software company, Zendesk, in February 2013. During her time with the company, now headquartered in San Francisco, the Madison office grew from 5 to 170, went public, and launched the Zendesk Neighbor Foundation. Jill recently joined the Corporate Social Responsibility team to manage Foundation grants, volunteer opportunities for employees, and partnerships and projects with area nonprofits and startups.

HR Gazette: Why did you decide to be a speaker at DisruptHR Madison?

Jill: I have attended similar events in the past and love the format so I thought I would give it a try!

HR Gazette: What did you speak about at DisruptHR Madison?

Jill: The changing landscape of philanthropy. As our country and world are shaped by the Millennial workforce and young leaders, we need “philanthropy” to become more inclusive with a focus on community and relationship building rather than money. We’re seeing a demand for volunteerism and corporate social responsibility to be integrated into business practices as the constant connection and transparency the internet and smart devices bring to society make us more engaged citizens who want to see major change in the world.

HR Gazette: The DisruptHR format means you only get 5 minutes to speak to the audience. What unique challenges and opportunities did such a condensed speaking slot offer?

Jill: In the tech world, perfecting your “elevator pitch” is key. Condensing such a broad topic into 5 minutes posed an interesting challenge that I hope will made me more concise and deliberate when discussing my passions anywhere. The format forced me to get succinct and paint a very big picture with as few strokes as possible!

HR Gazette: How did DisruptHR provide you with a platform to talk about Talent, Tech and HR in new ways?

Jill: A format for providing quick, digestible information is what my generation – “Millennials” – has come to expect! It was definitely a challenge, but CSR is so important to me and many like-minded folks in my community and around the globe. As a burgeoning field and focus for companies, I hope to inspire others to leverage community programming to attract and retain great talent!

HR Gazette: You’re well known in the HR space. Please share 2 or 3 other ‘influencers’ in HR and Talent who you follow and tell us why.

Jill: I have always been inspired by our team at Zendesk – community has always been a major part of our culture as a tech company that focuses on building better customer relationships. Specifically, our SVP of Operations, Anne Raimondi, and VP of Public Policy and Social Impact, Tiffany Apczynski, both of whom were so supportive in the early days of our Madison, WI office and how we engaged with the community. They’re a constant inspiration and continue to uphold the core values that define Zendesk as we continue to grow and scale.

HR Gazette: The HR Gazette is a big believer in the shift from traditional thoughts of HR to embracing modern HR as part of ‘people and culture‘. What does ‘people and culture’ mean to you?

Jill: Everything! Much like traditional “philanthropy” I believe HR needs a similar overhaul, shifting the focus to holistic wellness of employees and the communities they are a part of, rather than viewing employees as numbers or strictly human capital. Our jobs should be a part of who we are and our greater identity, with a mission and values we agree with, or at least enjoy in some regard, and HR should reflect this along with any department.

HR Gazette: Name 2-3 HR tech tools you use regularly, e.g. for payroll, and tell us why you use them

Jill: I use a lot of Google spreadsheets and documents to manage our programs along with our Zendesk Help Center and Support software, but I am in a standalone Corporate Social Responsibility department that is outside of our People Operations team. I think Zendesk leverages internal surveys really well to get anonymous feedback from employees on a wide variety of topics, which helps us keep a pulse on our company culture across 11 global offices.

HR Gazette: Which other speakers did you enjoy meeting at DisruptHR Madison and why?

Jill: I’ve been a huge fan of Rebecca Ryan since I first heard her speak a couple years ago – I wanted to jump out of my seat and scream “Yes!!” She put into words what I had been feeling my whole life and, maybe it’s just the Wisconsin girl in me, but I can’t wait for winter to end 😉

HR Gazette: In 10 words or less tell us what Disrupting HR means to you.

Jill: Creating a more diverse, collaborative workforce that values humans for all their complexity and allows us to be our best selves while finding solutions for internal, local, and global issues.

HR Gazette: Finally.. if you could be a superhero, which superhero would you be and why?

Jill: Daenerys Targaryen – talk about girl power, even Wonder Woman could take notes from her… and I wouldn’t mind having dragons behind me to effect the change I want to see in the world, haha!

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