Many children grow up wanting to be an athlete, a dancer or a singer. Natalie Stute started out young on a totally different career path: human resources.
She was groomed from a young age. Every Saturday from seventh through 12th grade, Stute attended INROADS, a leadership development program for children of color. An early career assessment had her as the perfect fit for a teacher, minister or therapist. She discovered her actual career path in college when INROADS placed her in an HR internship at Travelers Insurance.
There, she got the opportunity to network with different HR professionals and learn what she wanted to do with her career. In college, she majored in chemistry and psychology because of her dual interests in behavior and analytics — a skillset prime for the current state of HR. After graduating, she went on to work for Best Buy, another stint at Travelers Insurance, and memorabilia manufacturer Jostens, where she became head of corporate human resources in 2011.
Stute attributes her successful ascent to the importance she places on relationships — a realization that perhaps came from gleaning networking skills and learning from seasoned professionals at such a young age.
“The thing he has consistently reminded me of throughout my career is: It’s all about the relationships you have. Because when you have solid, strong relationships at work you get so much done,” she said. “People trust you. People [know you’re] going to follow through and value what you’re bringing to the table.”
Having solid relationships is huge at both the personal and professional level, she added, because you can learn so much from others’ experiences and explore the many different ways to tackle an issue.
She also was willing to address seemingly negative feedback with a positive attitude. For example, at Jostens, she was being groomed to be the next head of HR, “running at 300 miles per hour,” when she was told to stop. Although most of the leaders supported her moving on to the role, a couple of colleagues who hadn’t worked with her weren’t sure. Stute asked a friend for advice.
“I [talked] to one of my friends who shared something with me: When someone tells her ‘no’, she hears, ‘not now.’ I took that as, I have to prove and earn and show that I can lead at that level. I have earned and do deserve to move to that next level,” said Stute.
The CEO put her in an interim role, and she developed professional relationships with the unconvinced stragglers. A year later, she had proven herself and officially got the position.
Currently, Stute is the CHRO of Consilio LLC in Washington, D.C., which provides e-discovery software and services to assist law firms and corporations involved in internal and external investigations. Here, she very much has to adapt to the “talent architect” role of HR.
HR leaders in general have to understand the intricate needs of their people, especially in the current talent economy. Stute herself is no exception. In the past year, Consilio acquired four companies, growing the team from 100 to 2,000 employees.
“What’s huge now is to calibrate who are we as an organization. What’s the DNA of Consilio? And what does that look like from an employee experience?” said Stute, 39. “As a CHRO, one of my primary roles is to define culture and [figure out] how do I embed that in everyday structure.”
Her vision for the future, along with her strategic gusto and people skills — developed and improved upon since the seventh grade — help her navigate this environment, mobilize people, and prioritize both the short-term and the long-term goals of the organization.
Andie Burjek is a Workforce associate editor. Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.