The finalists for WashingtonExec’s Pinnacle Awards were announced Oct. 11, and we’ll be highlighting some of them until the event takes place live, in-person Nov. 30.
Next is HR Executive of the Year (Private Company) finalist Janet Brewer, who’s chief people officer at Arcfield. Here, she talks career inflection points, career advice and more.
What was a turning point or inflection point in your career?
I have always been interested in having a career, family and work I felt was meaningful and impactful. However, having children really changed the way I viewed my career.
One day, when I was dropping off my son at daycare, he asked me, “Why do you have to go to work and can’t stay with me?” In that moment I realized that I owed him a good answer. From then on, I wanted to ensure that the time I was away from him was well spent ⏤ in service to others and of importance to society.
This moment forever changed my career, as I became more selective about working in industries and companies that I feel support an important mission. With Arcfield having such a strong mission and vision, I feel like I live up to the internal promise I made to myself and my family every day.
In human resources, I have the privilege of creating a culture and programs that support our people as they manage their own careers and answer a similar question for both them and their families.
What are you most proud of having been a part of in your current organization?
I’m most proud of being a part of establishing Arcfield as an independent company. Even though we had more than 60 years of history with our customers, at launch, I was only one of two corporate leaders. My entire HR, marketing and communications team was me and five recruiters.
On top of all this, we didn’t have our final company name, which makes marketing the new company a little challenging! We had to support running the business as usual while creating a new company in many cases from scratch.
In hiring new team members, we looked for those who saw this as the exciting opportunity it is ⏤ to be a part of building something unique and make their mark by bringing their passion and expertise to bear at Arcfield.
Fast forward a year, and we have an entire leadership team in place, have hired over 100 people in the corporate functions as well as a few hundred in the business, my team is fully staffed, and we’ll be expanding to new location soon. As an HR and marketing team, we are committed to building a company that is differentiated from the competition by implementing programs that support and enhance employee experience.
We launched an intranet platform, The Arcway, so our people can easily access must-have company information; and Arcfield Appreciate, a modern awards recognition program and Arcfield Academy. Each of which are mobile enabled so all employees, including those working in classified customer facilities, can have a modern experience and quickly connect with colleagues, information and stay focused on the mission.
What’s your best career advice for those who want to follow in your footsteps?
My best career advice would be to make bold moves, trust yourself and keep learning. In my regular life I am not a big thrill seeker, but in my career, I haven’t been afraid to take risks.
I find a lot of things interesting, so early in my career it was difficult to decide what my next step would be since I didn’t have a concrete end point in mind. At each decision point, I would consider whether I would be learning something new, be able to provide a unique contribution and if the work was something I cared about. If those criteria were met, then I knew a bad outcome was impossible.
I encourage others to recognize the areas where they have strengths to contribute and where they need to leverage the expertise of others. This can be hard when you are establishing yourself but there is also strength in being humble and learning and trusting others.
While at times it was frustrating since I didn’t follow a straight traditional path, in the end, I am so glad I made the leaps I did. In ways I wouldn’t have predicted, each of the experiences has given me a different and broader perspective which allows me to think creatively when tackling new challenges.
It’s also important to trust yourself and know what’s right for you; and when to disregard well-meaning advice or opinions of others. I have found that most people’s advice reflects the choice that would be right for them ⏤ not you.
Culture, learning and mission are extremely important to me ⏤ so the right move for someone else may not be right for me and vice versa.