Kara Walsh, Vice President Human Resources, Principal Connections executive search’ HR Leader of the Month for October 2020
Q. THE CAREER & THE PERSON Describe your career journey and tell us about Kara Walsh the person?
Over the last 22 years I have being very lucky to have had the development and professional opportunities I have enjoyed across a number of sectors; 7 years in Manufacturing, 14 years in Software and now a year with my current employer Aptiv in Industrial Tech; experience of both Public and Privately held company cultures and consulting for Private Equity Companies. My PE experience was mainly in the software digital transformation space focused on turnarounds in preparation for a strategic buyer, IPO or another private equity buy out.
The common theme in my career has being transformation, working in concert with the business in ensuring that the people strategy is aligned with where the organisation is heading strategically.
During this time I have witnessed a massive shift from transactional HR to Strategic Business Partnering underpinned by using technology as key enabler focusing on the Employee life cycle and the experiences that go hand in hand with that. Having a clear operating model makes all the difference having implemented both captive and outsourced HR shared services, moving the needle regarding standardisation of transactional HR services and increasing high value service delivery in COE’s and business partnering support. What I have learnt is that HR strategies are central to culture.
This journey has taken me abroad, having lived in Germany for 4 years with SAP and then 5 years in the Netherlands working for Private Equity Portfolio Companies, UNIT 4 and Infovista as Chief Human Capital Officer. I’ve being privileged to be a member of the Executive Board in both companies which really evolved changing mindsets to “thinking and acting like an owner”.
I am a Galway girl, born and raised. While my education and career has taken me to studying and working in the UK, Germany and Netherlands, my heart remains in Galway where I come from a large family of 5 brothers and 1 sister.
I have 2 daughters Megan and Molly who I am immensely proud off and outside of work I try to spend as much time with them as possible.
Q. THE COMPANY Describe your current organisation?
Aptiv is a global technology leader, with more than 160,000 people across 126 manufacturing facilities and 12 major technical centres worldwide. With a presence in 44 countries, we address mobility’s toughest challenges through our deep software and systems integration expertise, delivering market relevant solutions for our customers.
Our mission is to enable a safer, greener, more connected future of mobility. Our products extend these values to the public with technologies such as active safety, electrification and advance vehicle architectures, has the potential to save lives, reduce carbon emissions, saving the industry billions in development costs and expensive vehicle repairs. As the only provider of both the brain and nervous system of the vehicle, Aptiv is positioned to deliver integrated solutions to these challenges in the way competitors cannot.
Q. THE CHALLENGES What do you see as the most important challenges facing HR Leaders today?
Over the years, HR has reinvented itself from an administrative back office function to one that has a seat at the table and is integral to the business. I see that we are constantly evolving, while juggling the demands of a wide range of stakeholders while supporting our biggest asset: our people.
Globalisation has brought a dispersed workforce, who are diverse, mobile, and more technologically enabled than ever. We have 5 generations of workers working alongside each other now. The oldest millenniums turn 40 this year. These are the next generation of critical leaders and we must capitalise on them now.
The contingent workforce is growing to include agencies, freelancers and gig workers, presenting challenges to the way leaders manage their teams and track performance. The war for talent has given people choices and we have to work harder to attract and retain the best. Employees expect more from HR. Engagement and productivity levels continue to be a challenge so I don’t see HR not having to continuously reinvent itself changing anytime soon. The big issue is how HR can keep pace with the skillsets required to manage in this new “world of work”?
I think COVID has really shown what we can achieve in times of crisis, how resilient and also how vulnerable we are as species. I always say to my team there is a “H” in HR and to remember that at the centre of all we do are human beings.
Q. THE ADVICE What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?
You have to continuously work at sustaining culture, you can literally lose it in a day. Keep it simple. Having honest conversations especially around failure will ensure you get ahead on issues and challenges.
Q. THE MOTIVATION What keeps you motivated day to day?
I am naturally curious and I really enjoy a challenge. Being surrounded by people who are intellectually curious, funny and who have a passion for people keeps me going. I use humour to defuse stressful situations.
Q. THE ACHIEVEMENT What has been your proudest career achievement to date?
I am proud my professional achievements, of the people I have met along the way, places I have visited and lived in have really enriched my life, giving me perspective.
Q. THE INSPIRATION Who inspires you professionally?
My parents. They have been married for 51 years, still enjoy each other’s company, reared 7 children and have a great outlook on life. They make me laugh every day. I think everyone needs to have laughter in their life.
Q. THE STAYING CURRENT How do you stay up to date?
Reading the latest HR report – Gartner is always a good one, HR Podcasts, external networking, and listening to other people’s opinions especially at work where I like to sound things out with the team gives me perspective and keeps me current. I always learn something from an interaction or from just reading an article. I am always saying I need to set aside more time to do more of this.
Q. THE DOWNTIMETell us about your interests and how you relax?
I love spending time with my family and friends. Being outdoors, going for a long walk or cycle really helps to clear the head.
Congratulations to Kara Walsh being named the Principal Connections HR Leader of the Month for October 2020.
Aptiv is a global technology leader, with more than 160,000 people across 126 manufacturing facilities and 12 major technical centers worldwide. With a presence in 44 countries, we address mobility’s toughest challenges through our deep software and systems integration expertise, delivering market relevant solutions for our customers.
ABOUT PRINCIPAL CONNECTIONS
Principal Connections is Ireland’s leading retained Executive Search and Leadership Consulting Firm. We offer five interrelated Talent Acquisition & Advisory Services to Private, Public and Not-For-Profit Organisations across Ireland: Senior Executive Search, Professional Search, Advertised Selection, Senior Interim Management, Board & Non-Executive Director/Chair Recruitment and a comprehensive suite of Leadership Consulting & Assessment Solutions.
Principal Connections is also the Irish Office of Agilium Worldwide Executive Search Group. Established in 1984, Agilium Worldwide is one the world’s largest Global Executive Search Organisations. Together with our colleagues across 55 offices in 30 countries, each year we complete in excess of 1300 assignments within most Major Industries and Functional Areas at Senior Management, Executive and Board level.