Yes We Can
A recurring series presented by Cloudflare Co-founder, President, and COO Michelle Zatlyn, featuring interviews with women entrepreneurs and tech leaders who clearly debunk the myth that there are no women in tech.
Beth Steinberg has over 20 years of experience in organizational growth, talent strategy, and leadership development for both emerging and Fortune 1000 companies. Beth began her career at Nordstrom, where she helped open numerous new locations in the midwest region. Beth hired & integrated over 10,000 employees during her tenure at Nordstrom. She has experience scaling many emerging companies such as Facebook, Sunrun, and BrightRoll. She is a certified ICF Executive Leadership Coach and certified in multiple leadership assessments. Outside of work Beth is an investor in two local SF bars and is a fan of foreign crime dramas. Beth currently serves as the VP of People & Talent for Chime - a financial tech company based in San Francisco, CA.
To watch more episodes of Yes We Can — and submit suggestions for future guests — visit cloudflare.com/yeswecan
All right. Hi, everyone. Welcome back to this week's episode of Yes We Can. And I'm just so honored to have Beth Steinberg here today with me.
Hi, Beth. Welcome. Hi, Michelle.
Thank you for having me. I'm so excited to have you here. I've never had anyone with a people and talent background, which is what you've spent your career doing in technology.
And at the end of the day, companies are just groups of people.
So I'm just so thrilled for you to be here. Thank you so much. Great.
So just a couple quick housekeeping, and then I'm going to dive in with Beth.
If you have ideas of guests you'd like to have on Yes We Can, please email yeswecan at Cloudflare.tv.
Or if you have any questions for Beth, you can also email yeswecan at Cloudflare TV.
And now let's get started. So Beth, you've spent your whole career in amazing companies, high growth companies, always focused on people and talent.
And I think there's some people in the audience who probably don't know what you do all day.
So maybe we could start by, what do you do all day, Beth?
What does a head of people, chief people officer, people, what does that do? Yeah, so I think there's a lot of different flavors of chief people officer and heads of people.
But what I really see my role is, is to help the company succeed, to help people succeed.
And I think, you know, I, as you mentioned, I've spent the majority of my career in technology.
And in those companies, you know, there's not a hard product.
The product is really the people, the intellect of the people, the intellectual capital of the people.
And so I really see my role as, you know, being somebody who inspires people, coaches people, hires people, helps to make the organization more functional and successful in service of our business objectives.
So there's a lot of other little things that I do on a day-to-day basis, but I spend the majority of my time really thinking about how I make the company more functional and people in the company having more meaningful work.
I love that. It's like you find great people to come work at the companies and then allow them to be empowered to do the best work of their life, which is pretty amazing.
And so how did you find, how did you decide that you wanted to pursue a career in technology and people?
Because I don't think that was that comment.
So how did it happen? It was actually really by accident. So kind of my whole life, I wanted to be a clinical psychologist and I had family members that were both clinical psychologists and I was very interested in human interaction and, you know, how people are more satisfied in their lives.
And I was getting my master's and PhD in clinical psychology.
And I decided that it was just too much for me, sort of the emotional burden of it was very tough.
I mean, I was very young too. I think if I perhaps would have waited, it would have been different.
And I had been working at Nordstrom through kind of grad school and some undergrad, they were opening up a new region in Chicago and they asked me, would you be interested in going to Chicago and helping us open the store in, at that time they called it HR, in the HR function.
And I decided, yeah, I guess I'll try it. And so it happened by accident.
I ended up being with Nordstrom for about 12 years in total. I hired over 10,000 people at Nordstrom and opened, you know, eight to 10 stores around the Midwest.
And I started realizing that there were a lot of progressive things happening in companies that were not really happening in retail.
And so I had been in the Bay Area previously, and I started researching coming back and getting a role in a technology company.
And people were saying, you're never going to be able to make the switch from retail.
I did. And I realized that the issues are the same.
The problems are the same, no matter what industry you're in. And I was able to then launch my career in tech.
I love that. It's amazing how many people I've met where it's a little bit, they fall into their career by accident.
And I, I think those stories don't get told enough.
I think there's kind of these stories of people do exactly what they wanted to do since they were five years old.
And that's amazing if that happens to you, but there's lots of ways to be successful in life.
That's right. That's right. And so now, you know, at Nordstrom, and now you've worked at so many different technology focused companies.
And, you know, I think one could argue that Nordstrom is also becoming a tech company because tech is everywhere.
So it's such a ubiquitous, you know, as you think about all the different leaders, I mean, you've just observed leaders earlier in their career, late in their career across all the different functions.
As you kind of think about maybe trends that are emerging on the leadership front, what, maybe what are some new trends that you see that might be interesting for the audience to hear?
Yeah. You know, I think I've, I've sort of either, you know, by design or just by the nature of my work have been kind of a student of leadership for my entire career and, you know, trying to do some pattern matching around, you know, what a good leader looks like and how we can try to amplify good leadership.
And, you know, I really think the, the model of a good leader is evolving.
And I think for the, for the better, and, you know, I, I feel like there was a time period, even in my career, where being transparent and being vulnerable and being empathetic to people were not really viewed as traditional leadership skills.
And I believe part, partly because of COVID, quite honestly, where, you know, you had to be empathetic, you, you know, everyone was going through very hard times.
And I think some of the models of leaders who were successful in navigating COVID in New Zealand and other countries, there was that difference in the way that they led.
And I think it's been a long time coming, but I do very much feel like, you know, being a human being as a leader is something that is now welcomed and changing.
You know, I think the hardest part of that, that I've observed with people is how do you be a kind, empathetic, and, you know, transparent leader, but also manage a high performance company and team.
And it is possible, you know, and I, you know, I think about this a lot.
And I think, you know, I've seen this struggle in, in many companies, including my own.
And I think there's a couple things that people need to learn.
I mean, I think giving feedback, being a good leader is a skill and a craft.
And oftentimes we don't treat it as such, you know, we, we promote people or people get into large roles and there's the assumption that you're just going to naturally know how to be a leader.
That's not true.
You know, I could be an engineer, but I'd have to go to school and I'd have to learn it and I'd have to practice it and get feedback on it.
It's no different with a leader.
And so I think part of the issue is we don't really teach people how to give feedback in a way that is going to be heard, how to manage, you know, people in an effective way.
And I, I really think that, you know, sort of in the spirit of, of Kim Scott and radical candor, I think it's cruel to let people be in roles where they're not successful.
And, you know, I've seen over and over in my career times where people didn't want to give a hard message because they thought that was, you know, the wrong thing to do.
I felt it was cruel to let someone suffer and not feel successful when you could do something about it.
So, you know, I think it's a skill that we have to keep learning and we have to hold in companies and in tech companies, doing and leading need to be valued equally.
And they're often not, and they absolutely should be.
You know, it's so much as you, as you talk about this, I don't want to say kinder, but, but, but more vulnerable, more authentic leadership, coupled with high performance.
And, you know, you just to, to, to go down this thread on, to pull the thread on the feedback.
It is true. It's hard to like your team and, and be rooting for their success and have camaraderie and like people working together, but then also saying, Hey, I think we fell short here, but that it does feel a little bit at odds with each other.
I mean, I wonder how leaders who are listening or someone who's like, actually, I'm guilty of that.
And I think we all have been guilty of that in our career. How do we get better at this?
Yeah. I mean, I think a couple of things, I think, first of all, you need to be really intentional about building relationships, trusting relationships with your team, because, you know, I think we can, this is analogous to any relationship we have in our life, you know, with our partner or friendships, the more that you trust, the more honest you can be with somebody.
And the more accepted that honesty is going to be both giving and receiving.
And so I think oftentimes the step that that is missed is actually building those relationships.
So you can give that feedback. And then the other thing I really like to do is to ask people, how is it best for me to give you feedback?
What is going to be most accepting to you?
Do you want it during our one-on-ones? Do you want me when I see something that I feel like, you know, I would want you to think about a little differently?
Do you want me to tell you in that moment, even if we're in a group, how is it going to work best for you?
And that kind of gives control, some control to the team.
And then I also think self-awareness is critical for leaders.
And I, you know, I definitely see a pattern of leaders who I think are more effective at leading or also have done work on themselves and are self-aware.
Because, you know, it's a little bit difficult to give authentic feedback when you're not looking in the mirror and understanding your strengths and opportunities, which, you know, we all have.
We all have. Well, actually, you know, it's a good segue about the strengths and opportunities because you've also, in addition to your day job, which we're going to get more, even more into, but you're also an executive coach.
So now that we know about the clinical psychology background, that makes a lot of sense.
I mean, what's your point of view on executive coaching?
That feels like a really growing trend. And if it's back to the leaders having to work on this craft, it seems connected, but I'd love to hear your own words.
Yeah. I mean, I think I am very optimistic about how ubiquitous coaching has become.
I think, you know, when I first started out, it was like only the most senior executives had coaches and it was sort of like, you know, maybe they were embarrassed about it and hit it and saw it as a weakness.
I think now every, almost every functional executive I know has a coach.
And, you know, I think I want to talk about coaching at a couple levels, but at the most senior level, you know, and I would say for myself as well, it can be a very lonely job.
You know, when you are responsible for so much of the outcomes of a business and therefore the people and your customers, like that's a lot of pressure and to have somebody who you can talk to who is not, you know, in the same day-to-day meetings that you're in can be enlightening.
So I have found it to be incredibly impactful in the leaders that I've worked with.
And so I decided I really wanted to understand that methodology because there's a real methodology to coaching.
And so probably four or five years ago, I had done one coaching course.
I studied with the Neuroleadership Institute, which really talked about coaching in the brain and all these things that are going on that we really cannot necessarily control, but we need to be aware of.
And it really enlightened me. And I think it really helped me be a more effective leader for my team.
And so I decided to get certified from the International Coaching Federation because you see a lot of people who call themselves coaches, but they don't really have training to be a coach and there's ethics involved and methodology.
So that's why I decided to do it. I'm also super encouraged by a lot of the tech companies now that have started being open for coaching for a wide variety of employees like Sounding Board and BetterUp.
And there's others as well where you can really ubiquitize coaching across the organization.
And, you know, we're now at my company, you know, most every director, senior director has a coach and I think it will pay off in dividends over time.
I love that.
Just way more accessible. It's not just, this is not just a CEO benefit. It's really, it's about anyone managing people or if you want to become a leader in your career, it's a good, that's great.
Well, thanks for sharing BetterUp. And what was the other one?
What was the other? Sounding Board. And I've used Sounding Board for many years and it's just been a game changer for the companies I've been in.
Yeah. You know, that's not what this talk is about, but I do think that there is a trend about taking care of ourselves, better care of ourselves as people so that we can bring our best selves to work.
And I, and, you know, I think that there's a fitness aspect to that.
There was a mental aspect to that. And I hope that's a trend that's also here to stay because you feel a lot better.
You do a lot better performance at work when you feel good.
You know, we talk a lot on, on both my executive team and my, you know, my direct team, you know, how can we take care of others if we're not taking care of ourselves?
And, you know, we think about it in terms of, you know, mental or behavioral wellness, physical wellness, financial wellness and social wellbeing as well.
Wow. That's good. I love that framework.
That's a good one that I might have to use as well. So it's good. You're welcome to use it.
Yeah. Thank you. And all the audience is welcome to use it too. It's great.
Okay. So let's go back. That was great. Let's go back to, you know, inside of the company where again, you're focused on getting great people to come work at these companies and helping them do their best work.
And one of the things that always comes up is compensation.
And I think compensation is such a important topic, but also confusing topic and sometimes a taboo taboo to talk about.
So let's talk about from a company perspective.
So let's say there's a bounder talk, listening, there's a, or, or a manager of theme, but I got to rethink comp for my team.
What are some ways that they should think about designing comp for their team inside a company?
And then I want to talk about it as a job seeker, as somebody in their career, we'll go to the individual next, but let's start from a company lens standpoint.
Yeah. I mean, of course it is, it is ridiculous to think that compensation isn't going to be important to people.
Of course it is. And I think, you know, compensation is a signal of value.
So I think, you know, and we should treat it as such.
You know, I think some of the important things for leaders to think about is actually even early in the maturation of a company systemizing compensation and using real data when you're making compensation decisions.
And when you have frameworks for how you think about compensation, you know, you can avoid things like bias in the way that you're paying people both managing the short-term and the long-term because, you know, part of compensation.
And we're so lucky in, in, in tech where most of us are owners in our companies and that's a real long-term proposition for people.
So I would really think about it in terms of, you know, is it fair?
Can you explain it? You know, I always say to people, if, if somebody comes to me and I cannot explain why they're paid what they're paid, we probably have a problem.
It needs to be defensible. And is it really balancing both the short-term and the long-term?
And, you know, I don't like to be a leading, leading with comp in companies because I think that that can attract perhaps from a values and cultural perspective, things that I don't want to attract.
I, I've been at companies that use pay, overpaying as a tool for acquisition of employees.
And it was, it, it was a fleeting proposition because over time, you know, people want meaningful work.
People want, you know, culture that is going to be, you know, a place where they feel like they belong.
And that, you know, compensation is critical and important, but you also have to look at all the different pieces that, you know, make up why somebody would want to work and stay at your company as you think through it.
Thanks so much for sharing that.
Cause sometimes you read these articles about, you know, using comp as a tool to, to, to find great talent.
And of course, again, people have to be paid fairly.
Absolutely. But it's interesting. There are, you've, you've, you've lived through the implications of that.
Cause that is not a, you don't learn that the next day that, that kind of plays out over the course of a couple, I don't know, a couple of quarters, many quarters.
Yeah, it does. And I, you know, I can think about times where, you know, I've we've stretched and I've been uncomfortable with it.
And my gut was telling me it wasn't right. It's pretty rare that that hasn't panned out that like, yeah, maybe this wasn't the right decision for the company.
But again, you sort of learn those things over time.
And again, it's important. I don't want to say it's not important.
People need to be paid fairly. People deserve to be paid what they're worth.
But that's not, what's going to make people happy long-term.
Okay. Okay. Well that's you, so you've got us a great framework to help think about it from a company perspective.
And I think lots of wise words there.
So how about let's flip it on the head. Cause there's a lot of people listening who might be earlier in their career or middle of their career.
They might be thinking about, oh, am I being paid fairly at my job?
How do I go? And I want to get that promotion.
I want to go somewhere else. And so what do you, as somebody who has hired a lot of people and probably mentored a lot of people what advice do you have for the talent side of the equation of the people who are thinking about their career?
Yeah. I mean, I think it's very appropriate to ask questions, you know, where are you getting these numbers from?
You know, what data sets are you using?
You know, how do you think about pay equity in a company and what are the tools that you use to make sure that your pay is fair and equitable?
Thinking about what are some of the long -term pieces of comp that I might get?
Do you do refresh grants?
Do you give performance grants? How do promotions work at the company?
So I think it is perfectly appropriate to be asking all those questions in not in an accusatory way, but with curiosity of really trying to understand how the system works.
And if there's a company that doesn't really have a system, I would be wary of that.
And, you know, I think that tends to be very problematic over time.
But I would also say, look at the other aspects of the company to make sure that it is a place that you want to be and that you feel like you're going to thrive in.
You know, I think about promotions all the time because it's such a big deal for people and I totally understand that.
But I also think that, you know, what I try to get people to understand is I want them to learn and gain more competencies and more skills.
And that might be a promotion, that might not be a promotion.
And, you know, I challenge people to think about their careers, not necessarily as a ladder, but more like a checkerboard.
You know, you might move laterally, but you're gaining an experience.
You might move to another department and maybe take a lower level than you normally would because you want to learn and grow in service of what you want to do long-term.
So we tell ourselves a lot of stories about how important promotions are, but I would really, you know, want people to think about what their end game is.
It's cool. It's like we all need a personal checkerboard.
Yeah. I think I have this vision of I should have a personal checkerboard.
You know, your story reminded me because that sounds so easy, but it's really hard to do.
And I have a, you might like this story.
I haven't told it to you, but there was somebody who was, he ran a big team at a great tier, top tier tech company, very successful.
And he one day wanted to be a CEO.
And he realized he was on the sales side, go to market side.
He's like, I need more product. I didn't have credit on the product side.
So he literally left his big VP title job and became a product manager with like no direct reports, shipping product, working with the engineers.
And he did it for two years.
Like that is, and I was like, I always look back and said, wow, I give you a ton of credit to do that because that is, that sounds easy, but that's really hard.
Yeah. From an ego perspective, you know, that had to be hard, but I really believe in you have, when you think about what your end game is, what you want to do, you know, long -term for your career, you need to think about, I think two things, competencies that you need and critical experiences that you need.
So, you know, I coach and work with a lot of people who want to be a COO.
And, you know, I say to them, you've got to then figure out owning P&L perhaps, or, you know, how do you, how do you think about understanding marketing within a company?
How do you need to understand a lot of different things about a company, which may mean you need to do a stint doing something that you've never done before so you can understand the importance of it.
And I, you know, I think it is a hard thing to do, but I think people who've done it are much better off long-term.
Yeah, that's great. It's amazing. Okay. So we have about six minutes left and I want to start with one question and then I want to move to some of the, I want to talk about a bit diversity in tech, but before we get to that, you know, you've just worked at so many companies.
I don't even think I've done it justice for the audience.
Like you should go look at best background, like early at Facebook, you know, Sunrun, Nike, Brightroll.
I mean, Chime now. I mean, you've just been, and then you've advised a ton of companies.
I just think that the breadth of experiences you've seen with different types of leaders and a lot of successes, which is interesting.
A lot of those companies did very well and some of them didn't do so well, like Zenefits.
But I just curious, you know, as you reflect, because again, I see that breadth is like, you have such an interesting vantage point that most people don't get to see, you know, what, what were, were all those companies the same or, or like, do all those companies feel the same or are there really differences?
And I'd love to hear a little bit of your remarks on that. Yeah. I mean, I think that there's a couple things that I always look at in, in, in going to a company.
One, do I feel good about the leadership? I think that's, you know, and quite frankly, I've had a few misses there, honestly.
But I think obviously that's, for me, one of the most important things.
Do I believe in what they're doing?
Do I believe they're doing something that is meaningful to me and is, you know, additive to, to the world?
And then, you know, I'm a real builder. So I really also think about, is this a place that is going to be buying what I'm selling?
You know, I'm a little bit of a different flavor of, of a, you know, two people officer.
I'm much more around, you know, the organizational development and design and behavioral work versus, you know, kind of the back office work.
And so, you know, do I believe I could actually make a difference?
It may be a place where people really are valued and empowered to do good work.
Yes. And I've certainly found that, you know, companies where I really in my heart of hearts believe in the mission, I do better work and I'm much more satisfied in my work.
I love that.
Well, that's good. I think that's a good reminder for all of us as we think about our next roles, like to go find something where you feel really what you believe in what the company's doing, because it's possible.
And I do think the satisfaction.
Yeah. And I do think sometimes you may make a decision because you need that experience.
And I think if you're intentional about that, that's great.
And maybe you'll find something else to add into your life to give you some of those things that you're missing, but don't try to put something on a company that it's not, not going to be for you because you're just going to end up disappointed.
Just be intentional about what you do. I love it. That's good. Okay. We have about three minutes left.
And so the one thing I want to end on is just, you've spent so much time at so many companies you've been in tech for many years.
I'm curious, like the diversity in tech and the inclusion in technology, that's such an important topic.
I feel like it's way more of the forefront today than it was 10 years ago, which I'm really glad about as a woman in technology.
And I just love to see from your perspective, where do you think we're at and where we could be doing better as an industry?
Yeah. I mean, I think that you're right. Things are changing.
I think there's much more open dialogue about it than there used to be.
I think that the data, we're using data and research more to show that diverse teams are more financially successful over time.
And that homogeneity in anything sort of leads to not necessarily the best outcomes.
So I think we are talking about hard things now, which we didn't really used to do.
I think we still have a long way to go.
And DE&I sits under me at Chime, and I tell people all the time, we want this work to be easy and fast.
It isn't. It is long and hard. And I'm never going to be happy with our representation.
And I often say the Ruth Bader Ginsburg quote about when will there be enough women justices?
Well, when there's nine.
And I just feel like this work is never, never done. But we have to stay in it.
We cannot lose focus because it is important in how we make our products, that we're really making products for everyone because they're our customers.
And that when we have people who think differently, we get to better answers.
And I just really believe that's the truth. Oh, well, and the data supports that too.
I couldn't agree more. So we have about a minute left. So maybe quickly.
And so I love that. And I think I am agree we have to stay on. And I think the data helps way better open up dialogues.
I'm just curious, like when there's an executive on your team where they're worried, they don't put their foot in their mouth, you know, because they don't want to, they believe it, but they're worried about not like any words of wisdom for the people in the audience.
I think there's a lot of people like, I want to say the wrong thing.
I think you'd be honest about it.
I mean, there are times and, you know, certainly last year, we had a lot of things happen that I didn't have a play before.
I'd never been through any, anything like what we experienced.
And, you know, I approached it with humility, um, and seeking to understand and just saying like, I am not in your shoes, but I have, you know, I want to help you.
I, I want to be an ally. I want to be an accomplice.
What can I do? And I think when you show grace, you're given grace.
And I don't think people expected me to have the answers, but they helped guide me, um, and help me understand their perspective.
And I'm super grateful that I was given that grace.
Amazing. Beth, this was amazing. Thank you everyone for tuning in.
Next week, we'll be back with Yes, We Can. And please, Beth Steinberg, round of applause for our fabulous guests.