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A Day In A Life: Claire Hughes - People Operations Talent Lead, Tulip Interfaces

A people operations lead ensures the quality of employee onboarding and support. They mentor junior people-ops and human resources teams to guide them in finding solutions to people problems. Additionally, they play an important factor in daily operations such as people benefits, employee payrolls and other compliances. People Ops Leads also contribute to the philosophical aspects such as process changes and performance improvements, along with providing benchmarking and analysis in talent acquisition and talent retainment teams. Lastly, take care of legal aspects of hiring and on-boarding. But what does a people operations talent lead truly do on a day-to-day basis? And how could you build your resume to land a role like this in the future?

Enter: Claire Hughes.

Claire is the People Operations Lead at Tulip Interfaces. Previously, she was the Director of People Operations at Pison, Recruiting Manager at FormLabs and Northeastern University. In this interview, we will ask Claire questions about her work, daily operations and tasks, as well as some career advice.

Startup Boston (SB): What inspired you to choose this career path?

Claire Hughes (CH): My story starts about 10 years ago when I moved to Boston. I had been living abroad for a few years teaching English after graduating college, so when I came back to the states, I went into sales at an educational company and did that for about two and a half years.

I wasn't necessarily interested in a new sales challenge, so when I received a new opportunity outside of sales, I grabbed it. I took that as a good opportunity to just reflect on the things that I had liked about sales or the things that I was good at. And ended up connecting the dots between sales and recruiting.

Recruiting has a lot of similarities to sales. It leverages a lot of the same skills. So having conversations with people, understanding their needs and motivations and helping them find the best place for them to work felt natural to me.

SB: What are you specifically responsible for?

CH: I basically run the recruiting team. Outside of recruitment I can contribute and support some of those other broader people ops initiatives, such as our performance and growth cycle.

To put this in perspective, Tulip, when I started talking to them, they were probably somewhere between 160-170 folks, they had just received a hundred million in series C funding and really set their sights on essentially doubling their team throughout the course of 2022.

SB: Who reports to you?

CH: Three recruiters and one coordinator report to me. I've got a recruiter, Esther, who works for us in the EU. And then I have two US-based recruiters, Isabelle and Gina, and one US-based coordinator, Rose. These four individuals roll up to me. And the thing that I am uniquely tasked with is really our recruiting operation at tulip.

SB: Who do you report to?

CH: I report to my boss, Jill. She is like a Jill of all trades. She is our head of operations, head of people, as well as chief of staff. Jill really has an incredible perspective on everything that's going on at the company. We have global operations already. In addition to a headquarters in Somerville, we also have an office in Budapest, Hungary as well as Munich, Germany.

SB: How did you know this was the best career choice for you?

CH: I loved chatting with people and hearing their stories - what challenges they were encountering, that sort of thing. That certainly lends itself to recruiting, but there's also a people side. I know a lot of folks really focus on the beginning part of recruiting, which is bringing new folks into the organization, but when you get to see the folks that you brought into the organization grow and develop and really contribute to the overall success of the company - that is one of the most rewarding feelings.

SB: What did you do to land this job?

CH: I was leaving sales after three and a half years and really, truly realizing sales was not for me. There were a couple of things that I just didn't like - quotas and constantly pushing towards hitting that goal is; it can become a grind.

Now that's not to say that recruiting doesn't have goals. But it's not as black and white as let's say a sales quota. So, after two years I decided I wanted to get back to a more focused role, within people operations, and started exploring opportunities. That’s when I came across Tulip Interfaces.

SB: What type of person does the best in this role?

CH: For my role specifically, I am working with a group of folks who are managing needs and requests and desires from across the organization. The piece that I really must help them with is prioritizing. If they've got seven different roles or twenty different roles on their plate, we need to make sure they are prioritizing their time correctly.

You've got to be organized. You really must understand everything that's going on, where all the different pipelines stand. You must be able to understand what the business needs are, what are the highest priorities, and then be able to communicate that to your team. You must be a good communicator. When you're moving at a fast pace, you don't have the luxury of taking a ton of time.

SB: Now that you have your foot in the door here, what other options do you have for your career?

CH: You certainly could be in this role and really expand your scope, your level of responsibility, the number of folks reporting up to you just over time.

Another step you could do is, head of people. That's really moving outside of the focused, talent function and into the broader people operations function.

I think another direction you could go is the direction that my boss has gone. Jill oversees people, operations, and chief of staff. So, working in talent, you have a unique view into the entire organization. You see all the different business priorities or cross functions. It continues to grow.

SB: What is some advice or insights you can give for someone who is looking to work in your field?

CH: For youngsters who want to get into recruiting, I would say just like try it out. Most of the time, a lot of the skills that you would learn in a recruiting role will be applicable to basically any business role that you might want to move into.

For experienced folks, I think the thing that you really want to be specific about is making sure you can build processes, maintain processes and refine processes. I cannot stress how important it is to be a process-oriented person to succeed in this career.

You also need and want to be capable of people management, you’re interacting with a lot of different types of people and that requires a specific set of skills.

Lastly, I personally think that you must be good at recruiting or have a solid understanding of recruiting. I am certainly of the mind that you would need experience in a function in order to lead it successfully.

Curious what a day in a life looks like as a People Operations Lead? Check out what Claire does on a daily basis in the video below:

Connect with Claire Hughes! Did you love what Claire had to say? I know we loved the conversation we had with her. Feel free to connect on LinkedIn.

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