Meet Lori Dipprey, the first Chief People Officer at Pariveda Solutions. Her career path has taught her many valuable lessons, including making room for an intersection between home and work for the benefit of both.
How did you feel about becoming the first chief people officer at your organization?
“It was great! It gave me the opportunity to craft the role from scratch and really define it in a way that aligned with how Pariveda thought differently about our people. I was very passionate about not calling this role a CHRO and instead calling it Chief People Officer. People are at the heart of our mission which is growing people to their fullest potential.”
Yes, I’m seeing that trend more frequently now. On one hand, it’s just a title, but on the other hand, it signifies a lot more than that. What is the difference for you between HR and chief people officer?
“To me, HR tends to address things around people but not the people themselves. I wanted it to be about doing everything for our people. Also, I just don’t love that people refer to humans as ‘resources’ because it indicates that we are a resource; we can be ‘useful.’ I just don’t feel like that addresses the human element of who we are.”
Your company’s all about finding people’s potential and maximizing it. Did you find your own potential in yourself? Or did someone help you see that and encourage you?
“I would definitely say that it required someone else to help me truly find it in myself. Some of that’s my personality, but also, I think it’s just human to have blind spots. It absolutely took others helping me realize my potential and recognize my strengths, recognizing areas in which I could grow but also how I can add value. It wasn’t just a single person; it truly takes a village.”
How do you think that learning and company culture are aligned?
“That’s a good question. I would say not everyone recognizes that the two should be aligned. If you’re focused on having your employees learn something that is counter to the culture you say you have, then your culture isn’t what you say it is. I think learning is a huge mechanism for reinforcing and aligning people to your culture.
“I believe culture is made up of norms and behaviors that we want to embody as an organization and within the individual. As we’re learning, we should be reinforcing those norms. The more we do that, the stronger the culture will be and the more visible that culture will be. This is especially true in consulting. Our brand and our culture are very visible through the people who work for us.”
Do you feel like your career has taught you something that you use in your life?
“Absolutely. I would say there is nothing that I’m learning at work that doesn’t apply outside of work in some way. What I am typically learning almost always is reinforced in different situations throughout my life. One big milestone in my career was learning that I was the one in the meeting who was always willing to offer up advice and say, ‘I’ve got that. I’ll help with that.’ I hit a turning point when I became a senior manager. I needed to allow other people the space to respond and say they can do it or work alongside someone. I am not collaborating with my peers if I’m the one stepping in and taking over. When you get to that point in your career, it is more about making a difference as a team, not the individual.
“I still recognize I do that at home. I try to pick up the slack or something and say, ‘I’ve got it,’ and maybe I’m not the right person. Maybe I don’t need to immediately jump in and help because the best way to help is to sit back and let that person figure it out on his or her own.”
It can be a lonely road if you don’t let other people learn for themselves and step in. It feels like you’re helping, but maybe you really aren’t.
“Yeah. Sometimes the people who love to help others are the people who are the worst at accepting help for themselves.”
Is there something that’s happened during your career that is particularly memorable? Something you’ll never forget?
“The most memorable thing was a personal thing that happened. I was diagnosed with cancer.”
“It has been just over 8 years ago. I’m cancer-free now.”
“Thank you. But, it was a pretty rare kind of cancer and pretty severe. I had to have arm surgery, and I didn’t know if I would come out of surgery with an arm; I did. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to use my arm; I can. Although, I don’t have a bicep, and I can do things that make people say, ‘I don’t understand how you do that without a bicep.’
“That whole experience taught me how to rely on others and allow others to help me, but it also taught me a lot about who I am at work and who I am outside of work. I learned I don’t have to be two different people and I can be human at work.
“I’ll never forget it. Our CEO was my mentor at the time. He delivered my performance review while I was going through treatment. He was so generous. He said, ‘Listen, the career goals that I gave you to work on are all things you can do with your eyes closed sitting in a chemo chair. Your number one goal is to get better.’ I think that’s when I really started getting passionate about how we treat our employees as humans because it’s very hard for me to not bring what’s going on in my personal life to work when I’m showing up to work with a bald head.
“The compassion that people give just broke down the boundaries that I think I had. This is work, and this is life.”
Yeah. You’re very lucky that you had that experience at work.
“It takes a village, too, because people jumped in. Coworkers threw me a hat and scarf party because I was going to be losing my hair during the winter, which isn’t that bad because I live in Texas, but I’m still cold when I don’t have hair on my head.
“Then they set up a meal schedule, so I had meals delivered every other day by coworkers and friends, and they coordinated all that for me.”
That’s a powerful story, and it’s the kind of thing that I want to show our readers; HR professionals are people. I think it can be easy for employees to get cynical about them. But, pretty much everyone I’ve ever met in HR has been fantastic. Did you have any last thoughts that you wanted to share?
“One other thing that I am passionate about in the HR space—and I think it just comes from my experiences—involves how we learn. When I was younger, I was ambitious and trying to accelerate my career quickly. People would often ask me, ‘Well, how did you do that?’ To be honest, earlier in my career, I would say, ‘I just got put on the right projects at the right time.’ I could see people getting frustrated. I would be frustrated because the takeaway seemed to be to just get on the right projects.
“I then came to the realization that it’s really about being intentional with what I was learning and being thoughtful about that I was learning at all times. Learning doesn’t just happen in a classroom. It doesn’t just happen when you’re taking in information. Learning and development happen through practice and application and reflection on the job while you’re working and while you’re just doing life. Be thoughtful about what you learn, and then craft what I call learning moments. These make me reflect and kind of integrate what I’m learning. What is working, this isn’t working in how I do my job. What am I going to do differently next time? Just trying to capture those as frequently as possible has really changed how I now answer the question, ‘How do you accelerate your career?’ It is through intentional, deliberate practice throughout your day that can help you accelerate your own development regardless of the work you are performing.”