Gianna Driver doesn’t think of herself as a quote unquote human resources (HR) person. She thinks of herself as a businessperson who does HR. Driver started her career working in corporate insurance and then pivoted, taking a role at a small startup. Not long after, she gravitated toward many of the functions in HR.
“I naturally felt inclined to work with people on their development,” Driver recently shared with HR Daily Advisor. “To work with managers and leaders on thoughtfully, strategically architecting their organization and thinking about strategic hiring and so much more. So, it was really that HR found me more than I chose HR.”
Today, Driver is CHRO at Exabeam, a global cybersecurity leader in Next-gen SIEM and XDR. She brings 20 years of executive human resources management experience to her role including leading HR and People functions in high-growth technology, gaming, consumer, and SaaS organizations.
As CHRO, Driver is in charge of architecting Exabeam’s talent strategy, driving corporate culture, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, and leading its global human resources function. Driver will also manage the strategy and processes related to building, investing in, and retaining top talent at the company.
In our latest Faces of HR, meet Gianna Driver.
Where did your passion for people come from?
HR is the one place in an organization where you’re really holding the human experience and being mindful of business goals, objectives, etc. So, if I look back on my childhood and my upbringing, I’ve always had a passion for people and for bringing joy to people and helping people be happy. I feel like HR is this beautiful, natural fit because it’s this place in the organization where we’re helping people, being mindful of their experience and their employee journey, but we’re also mindful about business objectives – those two things are not mutually exclusive.
How did you find yourself at Exabeam in this role as CHRO?
Our CEO, Mike DeCesare, who’s fantastic, joined us in the summer of last year. One of the first things he realized when he joined is there wasn’t a CHRO here. Having worked with some incredible organizations in the past, he understood that the success of the organization is directly correlated to the success of our people. So, he wanted to have a leader in charge of the HR people organization, started looking and, thus, the rest is history.
Who is or was your biggest influence in the industry?
This is a wonderful question. Fortunately, there are so many people who are incredible in the HR people space, especially in the last five or so years, but the person who immediately comes to mind for me is Brené Brown. She is someone who has done so much to raise consciousness in the world about effective leadership. She’s really someone that talks very openly and candidly about the struggles of being a leader, she talks about vulnerability, she talks about being mindful and conscious, and I really admire her work and read it and listen to it as frequently as I can.
What’s your favorite part about working in the industry? What’s your least favorite part, and how would you change it?
Well, one of my favorite parts of being in cybersecurity is I get to work with some of the world’s best and brightest individuals. People who are passionate, who are crazy intelligent, and who are committed to making the world a safe place. That’s inspiring and I love that— I love that about Exabeam specifically. I’d say one of the things that is top of mind about an area of development in cybersecurity is we’re early in the path to becoming more diverse. So the industry, in general, is primarily a white male industry. And this isn’t specific to a company, the cybersecurity space, in general. Now, fortunately, there’s a lot of work going toward really making the industry more diverse. I’m excited when I see where we’re going, but it is a journey, and we are in the infancy of that journey.
Where do you see the industry heading in five years or are you seeing any current trends?
One of the trends that started right before the pandemic, but I think the pandemic propelled this forward, is around analytics, and specifically predictive analytics. What we’ve seen overall in tech is that many organizations are getting very sophisticated about their analytics, in general. So, it could be customer analytics, it could be sales analytics, or BI analytics. What we’re starting to see is this blossoming field and industry around people analytics. In the world of having so much data, organizations are realizing, “Wow, let’s harness this data and start to really understand areas where we may have attrition, areas where people could be unhappy and where we need to focus more.” I think the great resignation during the pandemic also helped to propel this forward.
How can company leaders make HR a value within their organization?
I love this question because it gets to the heart of, really, how to work with HR professionals in the most strategic ways possible. I think engaging your HR business partner, your HR leaders early and often as you’re making decisions is going to be critical because an HR professional can only be as helpful as you are permissive and allowing them to be involved and informed. So, if you want to really get the most out of your HR business partner, involve that person as you’re thinking about the restructure of your organization, as you’re thinking about promotions or exiting people, or whatever it might be, as opposed to making a decision and then going to your HR business partner to then act upon what you’ve decided already. That’s not ideal. That would not be best practice. So engage them early and often.
What are you most proud of?
Well, the first thing that comes to mind is my daughter, who’s almost 10 years old. So that’s more on the personal side. Professionally, what I derive lots of happiness from is I love the relationships that I’ve been able to make with people within Exabeam, but also in the industry and in the HR space, in general. It brings me such satisfaction to feel like I’m a part of helping someone find their path and step into their power. That really brings so much joy to me and I love that. And I love that, in my space and in my role, I’m able to do a fair bit of that.
Do you have any advice for people entering the HR profession?
I think, years ago, entering HR had more of a path if you will. It was you start doing perhaps some of the administrative elements, employee files, and things – then you work your way up. But beautifully, what I would say is we live in a time and place where you don’t have to come from traditional backgrounds. In fact, I think there’s a lot of value for HR practitioners to have atypical, non-standard backgrounds. So, what I would encourage people to do is ask themselves, what is it that gives them energy? What is it that they truly enjoy doing? And if that is something that makes them think, “Oh, I’d like to enter the HR space and field,” fabulous, give it a try.
Also, don’t be afraid to try something and you might just like it, but also don’t be afraid to try something and realize, “Okay, well, I like this, but not this. Maybe I should pivot and shift to another aspect of HR.” I think a lot of people think of HR as just being an HR business partner, but no, the field of HR and people encompasses, as we just talked about, people analytics. It encompasses total rewards, which is compensation and benefits. It encompasses learning, development, diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. It’s a very broad and wide field. So I would say, for folks interested in joining, go and try it, go and get involved and see. We want more amazing people in this field.