Tara Ataya is the Chief People and Diversity Officer at Hootsuite where she represents employee voices in the C-Suite and implements growing DE&I strategies company-wide.
Formerly VP of People at Hootsuite, Tara is a key member of Hootsuite’s executive team where she provides strategic direction and insight as Hootsuite continues to expand its reach globally, as the market leader in its space.
Tara is an experienced HR professional with a demonstrated history of working in SaaS and Professional Services. She is skilled in global Human Resources, M&As, people development, leadership, analytics, performance management, and HR technology.
Tara has nearly 15 years of experience having held several regional and global leadership roles. Prior to her role at Hootsuite, Tara was VP HR at Vision Critical, Canada’s leading CXM SaaS company based in Vancouver. There she oversaw their global people team along with the business technology team and the payroll team. Prior to that, she was in a leadership role at Sierra Systems, and spent time honing her craft at Deloitte.
Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your current role
I currently serve as Chief People and Diversity Officer at Hootsuite. I have been in the role for just over four months, prior to which I served as VP, People. My transition from VP of People to CPDO marks Hootsuite’s commitment to a new strategic business role beyond HR. This is a role that prioritizes our people and DEI as the most important pillar of a growing business and I’m thoroughly enjoying building this muscle and strengthening how we operate as an organization. Right now we’re shifting to a culture of accountability, where our people hold our leadership team accountable for our commitment to DEI—as we hone this at an executive level, we are creating a new lens through which we look at our business as a whole.
Previous to joining the company, my career has spanned human resources and people development, performance management and HR technology across a range of organizations, from Vision Critical to Deloitte.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
Growing up, I was told that I could be anything and do anything—my gender had nothing to do with my dreams. From a young age, I always knew I wanted to work with people and help make the world a kinder, more equal place. Early on I knew I loved deep meaningful longer-term connections, problem-solving and connecting dots for people, this naturally led me to work as an HR professional, and in my career, I have strived to leave every role that I’ve entered better than when I arrived.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
Like so many women experience, I have had to endure and breakthrough many biases along the way, as I strive to create new norms in the industry. Early on in my career, I’ll admit that I was less aware of the subtle biases and discriminatory actions of those around me. However, as I progressed, I was more exposed to them and realized they were often in plain sight and people did little to cover them up. An example that has always stuck with me was when I worked with a female leader that said, ‘avoid hiring women in their 20-30’s because they’re more likely to go off on maternity leave’. Hearing this from another woman shocked me. At the same time, it struck a chord in me and I have vowed since to do all I can to lift up other women and take ample risk, despite my fears of judgement.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
This may be an unusual answer but rather than looking back at every project I worked on, the most meaningful achievements have been the relationships I have developed with people along the way. Also, every moment from the first until has led me to where I am today. I am proud to be where I am today and have an amazing group of people I have learned from along the way.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in your achieving success?
Leading with vulnerability and transparency. Beyond this, lifting up other women around me and taking risks despite fears of judgement. And of course, the support of my family, who are my ultimate purpose in life!
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
I am a mentor and a mentee. I think it is such a special symbiotic relationship whereas a mentor allows you to really lean into your generosity and vulnerability as a leader. Generosity in that you share and give of your time, knowledge and experience, expecting nothing in return. And vulnerability in knowing that you have just as much to learn from your mentee as they do from you. Great mentor/mentee relationships are ones in which there is a mutual and intentional investment in the success of the partnership.
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?
Magic wand? I would surface all biases. Unconscious biases of all people (not just men) are one of the single biggest threats to parity.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
One piece of advice would be not to worry so much. I think when we’re young we can often get caught up in the small things, but as I’ve gotten older and progressed further in my career, I’ve come to realise that not everything is going to work out and you don’t need to have all the answers. Life is about embracing every challenge thrown your way and learning and growing from them. Where I’m at now, personally and professionally, is much more about the journey than the destination. I see this at Hootsuite; the actions we take daily around equity, and the sometimes hard lessons learned along the way, are what allow us to move forward and affect change.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
Right now at Hootsuite, we’re in the process of creating goals. We’re taking a data-driven approach to our goal setting and creating our DE&I strategy. That data will include third-party assessments but also include qualitative and quantitative data from our employees.
Some things top of mind are representation within our organization and how we move some of our programs and initiatives beyond the point they are at today. This is where we need the voices of our DE&I Council to help us shape what the goals should look like.
In the future, it’s less about a specific destination and more about the journey. My goal is to continue learning, challenging myself and continue the exciting adventures.
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