Lead(H)er: Kim Castelda, Chief People Officer at Bullhorn
Kim Castelda, the Chief People Officer at Bullhorn, initially thought she wanted to be a social worker. As a psychology major in her final semester at Syracuse University, it seemed like the next logical step. However, before graduation, Kim changed her mind.
“One of the final four classes I took at Syracuse was an organizational psychology course. I had taken a lot of psychology courses at Syracuse, but I loved this one. The whole idea of helping people at work was something I was so excited and passionate about,” Kim smiled.
Quickly changing directions, Kim applied to the industrial/organizational psychology master’s program at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
After completing her master’s degree, she took a job placing temporary employees.
“I spent a couple of years doing industrial office placement, which is cool based on where I ended up at Bullhorn. Back then, I was using index cards and thinking ‘There’s got to be a better way. This is so antiquated.’ Of course, fast forward 22 years and I’m at Bullhorn where we have a software product that would have made my life so much more efficient,” Kim laughed.
After placing temporary employees for a few years, Kim went to work for Harvard University as an Assistant Director. Staying there for over ten years, she did everything from employment coordinating to employee training and organizational development work.
Looking for a change, Kim exited Harvard and went to work in the startup world.
“I left Harvard and went to work for a company called E Ink, which makes the Kindle screens. I spent a lot of time in that space, working with a lot of different scientists and manufacturing people in Cambridge. We had a really cool product and we had to find a way to bring it into the business world.”
Although it took the E Ink team a number of years, they eventually sold their product. Shortly afterwards, the executive team dispersed.
With another ten years experience under her belt, Kim went back to Harvard and served as their Director of Organizational Effectiveness. Shortly afterwards, Kim landed her current job as Chief People Officer at Bullhorn.
“I took this job because I’m able to understand what we do, how we do it and what our customers’ challenges are. I have a cool story—I started my career placing temporaries and now I’m working for a software company who actually helps that industry. Every day, I help people at work and try to create a positive work experience for everybody here. I take that responsibility very seriously.”
Rapid Fire Questions
Startup vs. larger company, do you think you prefer one over the other?
I prefer startups, I like the pace better. I like to see things happening relatively quickly. In my current job, we are very willing to try new ideas and get those ideas into the mainstream really quickly. On the other hand, Harvard is a much bigger place where change comes about a little more slowly. Making change at Harvard is like steering a large cruise ship—there are a lot of people and a lot of stakeholders that need to be bought in and engaged. Here at Bullhorn, we’re much more willing to try something and we’re okay with it being unsuccessful. We try it and if it doesn’t work, we’ll tweak it. That environment works much better for me.
What initiatives have you implemented since you’ve been at Bullhorn?
We’ve done a lot of cool things. We have a great primary care leave, which allows for the primary caregiver of an infant or adopted child to take four months off with pay. We’ve also implemented an unlimited vacation policy and started a career pathing program, which I’m really proud of.
Ten years ago, would you have seen yourself where you are today?
Yes, I would. I tend to be a planner so the idea of building the stepping stones of a career has always been important to me.
What do you like most about working at Bullhorn?
I like our culture of ownership. Not only can we try things and take risks, but there’s a focus on taking responsibility for who you are and what you’re doing. It’s about being able to admit when you’ve made mistakes, learning from them and owning what you’re responsible for. It’s my favorite core values and the one that’s most important and very attractive to me about being here. It’s not a blame game here, which is important.
How do you manage stress?
Since I got here, I’ve actually started doing yoga and I meditate every day. That helps tremendously.
What do you like to do for fun on the weekends?
I love to spend time with my husband and my three kids.
How many cups of coffee do you drink a day?
What piece of advice would you give to a recent college graduate?
Follow your passion. Figure out what you’re passionate about and turn it into a job.
Where’s your favorite place in the Boston area?
Anywhere I can see the water.
What do you think played a bigger part in giving you the tools that you need to do your job today, your education or your work experience?
If I’m honest, I spent a lot of time in school but I learned more actually doing my job rather than studying.
Do you have any go to interview questions?
I’m still very old school. My favorite question in an interview is still, ‘What are your strengths and what are your weaknesses?’ I’ve asked that question for over 25 years. I’m always curious as to how people choose to answer that question. I also probe on how they account for their weaknesses in work. ‘How do you work around your weaknesses?’ That’s an even more interesting question.
Images courtesy of Bullhorn.