Faces of HR

Faces of HR: How One HR Pro is Shifting the Narrative of HR One Day at a Time

As Chief People Officer at LiveRamp – a leading data enablement platform for the safe and effective use of data – Sharawn Tipton oversees the global people and culture strategy in support of the SaaS company’s continued growth.

Sharawn Tipton

She’s also responsible for global talent acquisition, diversity, inclusion and belonging, workplace experience, business partners, talent enablement, total rewards, benefits, HR technology, real estate, and people operations.

Tipton brings 20 years of tech industry experience to her role and her passions continue to propel her forward, including pay equity and ensuring fair pay. When Sharawn started her career in human resources, she discovered she didn’t understand all the levers of pay and quickly learned she was leaving money on the table.

Like many Black women, who are typically paid 64 cents to every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men, Tipton discovered she was being severely undervalued. This personal, lived experience has not only informed but also fuels her passion for ensuring everyone is paid their worth – both for the greater good of society and as a wealth driver.

“I believe it’s important for everyone to be educated on what their worth is, but also think that HR professionals, managers and leaders have equal responsibility in ensuring fair pay,” Tipton recently shared with HR Daily Advisor. “We’re seeing this topic arise more and more, with the #showusyourleave viral campaign and the recent laws passed in various states on pay transparency. This passion stems from lessons early on in life from my father, who taught me to know my worth and then add tax.”  

In our latest Faces of HR, meet Sharawn Tipton.

How did you get your start in the field?

I started my career in IT as a project manager. It was my first role out of college, and it served me a valuable lesson on how transferable skills from past roles can help you in the long term. In that role, I learned how to implement strategy, execute on business objectives, and gain alignment from key stakeholders – all the things I’m grateful to say still help me do my job today as Chief People Officer at LiveRamp. It’s also a perfect example on how you can pivot from any background as long as you stay focused on your passions, strengths and goals.

Who is/was your biggest influence in the industry?

Bozama Saint John, ex-CMO of Netflix, is an industry legend. She’s always unapologetically herself and exudes transparency and grace. She’s a great reminder to all that if you show up as your authentic self you will be wildly successful.

What’s your best mistake and what did you learn from it?

Early on in my career, I made the mistake of focusing my career choices too much on compensation or titles, rather than following my passions. This initially led me to the early part of my career as a new grad in the IT world. I realized early on that role titles and money don’t lead to fulfillment, and I needed to pursue something I deeply care about, which is making an impact in people’s lives daily. I’m so glad I made the decision to pivot to follow my passion which led me to a career in human resources. This experience also taught me that sometimes, following your passion means you may end up taking a step back to take two steps forward — whether that be a title, or a pay cut in order to gain the experience you need. Changes in career trajectory can be intimidating but being yourself is the code to true success. 

What’s your favorite part about working in the industry? What’s your least favorite part, and how would you change it? 

My favorite part is making an impact in people’s lives — whether it be big or small — on a daily basis. Knowing the work that I do really matters and being able to see its impact come to life in a tangible way is extremely fulfilling to me.

In contrast, my least favorite part of being in the HR industry is the fact that there’s a large misconception around the function of HR and what we actually do across the board, which leads many to believe anyone can create and implement effective talent strategies. I’d imagine changing this HR misunderstanding of what HR brings to the table starts with shifting the narrative. We are strategic players and key partners to every part of the business. The value we add and bring to the table is quantifiable — we can measure the results we’re having on the company such as Human Capital ROI — and that’s what good HR looks like.

It sounds like through your experience you really care about people, and you want to help them feel safe and comfortable, which is important in the industry. Please elaborate here.

Absolutely. Making people feel safe and comfortable is the very nature of my role, and also the root of my passions. I’m so glad I get to do what I love. I have the opportunity to cultivate spaces for folks to show up as their true selves by creating an inclusive, collaborative environment where exceptional talent is nurtured and championed. It’s ultimately a human need to be included in environments where you feel safe and belong. When this happens, productivity and innovation soars. I’ll also note that while representation of different backgrounds is extremely important, I’ve found in my 20 years in the industry that what’s actually most important in creating a sense of belonging for individuals is making space not only for people to be authentic, but to actually have a voice at the table. People want to feel seen, heard, valued, and respected.

How can company leaders make HR a value within their organization? 

Company leaders need to lean into, understand, and value HR as a discipline like any other in the business. We need people that have expertise and experience in these areas to make the right choices. When any leader is making a business decision that affects people, they need to have HR at the table. HR provides guidance, mitigate risks, and helps set benchmarks as a trusted business partner. I encourage leaders to engage with HR and trust their guidance. The more of this, the better rate of success.

Where do you see the industry heading in five years? Or are you seeing any current trends?

I think we’ll notice HR decision makers continue to rise creating a triangle-like dynamic connected to the CEO and CFO when it comes to decision making on behalf of the company. With the changes in the workforce stemming from the pandemic and racial injustices we all witnessed in 2020, people officers and HR leaders’ voices were expanded and amplified, and I think this trend will continue to evolve as we continue to navigate changes. On a macro level, the role of HR will continue to expand and be at the forefront of decision making for organizations.

What are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of being able to use my voice for good as an advocate for all people. I’m able to do this not only through my profession but as a trusted voice in Oakland, California where I was born and raised. Outside of my day job I serve as chairperson of  non-profit boards, College Track Oakland and Fair Pay Workplace and dedicate time as a mentor to first-generation and underrepresented college students, which also allows the opportunity to change people’s lives in a really tangible way.

Do you have any advice for people entering the profession?

Building relationships is key. The people you work with today could eventually help you in your next opportunity or be able to support you through changes in both your career and life. Build as many relationships as you can! Also find ways to create a symbiotic dynamic with your network, so that you’re cultivating balanced relationships.

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