Over the coming months, we’re going to profile the founding members of HR2IT, to introduce them to each other and our membership at large. We selected an amazing set of people for this core group, and we’re calling them HR2IT Trailblazers for a reason: They’re shaking up their practices, challenging assumptions, and transforming HR to be as dynamic and disruptive as the IT space itself. They are literally charting a new course for the HR profession, and we’re really excited to create a place to share ideas and discoveries.

Amy deCastro, Schneider Electric

There’s a lot to be said about someone who’s been with the same company for her entire career. In her tenure at Schneider Electric, Amy deCastro has seen the global energy management and automation company through its transformation to becoming the digital transformation leader. Today, Schneider operates in over 100 countries with 137,000 employees worldwide. Taking on the role of talent acquisition in the age of digital takes a blend of upskilling long-time talent while ushering in digital natives to push forward the constant evolution of business. As the vice president of Human Resources, Amy partners with the Chief Digital Officer, Hervé Coureil, and the Global CIO, Elizabeth Hackenson, as well the rest of the senior leadership team, to drive the overall employee strategy and engagement. I got a chance to ask Elizabeth Hackenson about Amy, and she was effusive: “Amy has been instrumental in our journey. She’s great at equipping leaders, identifying those leaders who are struggling and helping them get to the next level. Amy also helps people with their career journey and get to the next job quicker.”
That’s quite an endorsement, and only made me more excited to talk with her.

Alexander Bissell, Qualcomm

Alexander Bissell came to Qualcomm in Feb. 2017, after 12 years with KPMG, and he says his consulting background is essential to his approach to change management—his arena within Qualcomm’s Office of the CIO. Talk about a challenge: the semiconductor and telecom equipment manufacturer is helping to engineer 5G, technology poised to change how we live and work. This entails considerable internal transformation, as well. Qualcomm has more than 33,000 employees in 165 offices worldwide, all of them touched by the changes IT brings as part of CIO Mary Gendron’s transformational agenda. IT itself has a team of about 1,850 global employees. 

Based in sunny San Diego, the UK native has kept busy, noting that his six-person team has completed change activities around more than 50 initiatives in the last 18 months.

When Alexander and I spoke, he had just returned from a business trip to India, where he’d been working with the IT leadership team on Mary’s new “OneIT” Strategy—“Journey to 2020”—but if he was jet lagged, he showed no sign. I took the opportunity to drill down on his approach to change management, and to scaling such a vital function across a sprawling, global organization.

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Home Depot’s Jennifer Simile and Paul Wakim on Developing Software, Developing People

This installment of HR2IT Trailblazers packs a double punch: We connected with The Home Depot for a chat with two veteran technology business partners. Paul Wakim, Sr. Director of Human Resources for Finance, Human Resources, Legal, Public Relations and Technology; and Jennifer Simile, Sr. HR Director, Online and Marketing. Paul joined the Home Depot in 2005 and was the HR business partner to Technology from 2008 to 2014, and still has the Technology team in his portfolio as a senior director. Jennifer moved into the tech space in 2014, and last year was elevated to her current title, with a continuing role in assuring workforce success in Online and Marketing. 

Their crisscrossing work history speaks to the culture of growth and development at the Home Depot. It is common within the company to move people around to broaden their experiences, to keep them growing and moving up in the organization. It says a lot that they’ve both been with the company so long, and even more that CIO Matt Carey has been there almost 11 years.

The Home Depot is a fascinating company, and a fascinating technology shop. With an emphasis on creating differentiation through software development (among other strategies), the company is doubling down on hiring talented developers to continue the retail giant’s digital success.

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Mylene Barizo, Boeing

We’re starting big, with one of the most dynamic personalities I’ve ever met in the HR realm: Mylene Barizo, Boeing’s IT Human Resources Director.

“Mylene is a burst of sunshine on the team,” says Boeing CIO Ted Colbert. “In addition to the energy she brings to the team, her leadership is about leveraging her skills and expertise to get to outcomes—and those outcomes are all about achieving our business objectives through our talented workforce.”

Mylene has held her current role for three years. Having risen from the ground floor of Enterprise Rent-A-Car to VP of HR for Enterprise Holdings, its parent company, Mylene brings a sales-and-marketing mindset and never hesitates to challenge the traditional practices of HR. (“She is relentless,” Ted says, “about tying our business objectives to our talent.”)

In a wide-ranging conversation, Mylene discussed what she learned in her previous roles, why she’s thrilled to be at the nexus of IT and human resources, and how she’s driving change in a transformational role.

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Kelly Villanueva, Hanover Insurance

Kelly Villanueva is an AVP and HR strategic business partner at The Hanover Insurance Group. She has a background in change management and organizational design, and held HR and talent roles at CVS Health and OneBeacon Insurance before joining The Hanover.

 When I asked Mark Berthiaume, The Hanover’s EVP, CAO and chief technology innovation officer, about Kelly, he spoke about a partnership that encompasses more than fundamental issues around talent.

 “Kelly delivers all of the support that HR professionals provide, and much more. She has a business mindset—a strategic thinker who helps us to go into different places like digital, innovation and emerging technologies,” he said. “She and I came into the organization at about the same time, and she helped drive a process to look at the operating model, the people and skills, everything. We created five new pillars and a new business-aligned operating model, and identified leaders who could help drive new centers of excellence to support standard IT functions.”

 Mark’s not kidding about her mindset. My conversation with Kelly was as much about business and IT strategy as HR strategy.


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Malvika Jhangiani, Monsanto

Malvika Jhangiani brings a global perspective to her HR career. Global in the sense of “worldwide,” having succeeded in multicultural environments in India, Oman and the United States. And global in the sense of seeing the big picture. In the case of her work as the HR liaison to IT, she’s focused on broad organizational change. For instance, the just-launched Digital Leadership program focuses on raising the digital skills of not only 1,000IT staffers, but all 20,000+ Monsanto employees—now a division of German pharma giant Bayer.

Her CIO, Jim Swanson (who is now Senior Vice President / CIO and Head of Digital Transformation at Bayer Crop Science), calls her a powerful change agent. “Malvika thrives on making things better, on transforming and disrupting—and she’s got the courage to do it,” he says. “I don’t just talk to Malvika about our attrition rate or how to develop talent. I listen to Malvika because of the thought leadership and the diversity of thinking she brings to any problem or opportunity I have in front of me. She’s critical to my success.”

With a background at retail sweet spot Cadbury Schweppes, and before that as a consultant with Ernst & Young and Andersen, Malvika brings a diverse range of experience to the agricultural-focused biotech giant as it enters a new phase with the recent acquisition.

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