Faces of HR

Faces of HR: Darcy Mackay—From Business Leader to Champion of People

Darcy Mackay’s path to HR leadership isn’t your typical climb up the corporate ladder. Instead, her journey began in the bustling world of business operations, where she honed her leadership skills at the helm of large global teams. This experience, coupled with a keen eye for talent and a passion for empowering people, ultimately led her to the SVP of HR and client services role at Rippling.

Darcy Mackay

For over two decades, Mackay thrived in diverse leadership positions at CBRE, a global leader in commercial real estate. From overseeing infrastructure projects to managing workplace solutions for entire regions, her career trajectory wasn’t a straight line to HR. Yet, her experiences offered a unique vantage point—a deep understanding of the intricate workings of businesses and the essential role people play in their success. This insight, combined with a stint as chief people officer at a Fortune 120 company, solidified her passion for fostering a thriving workforce environment.

“People often assume my background is purely in HR,” Mackay shares, “but my journey has given me a well-rounded perspective. Witnessing firsthand the challenges and opportunities faced by HR teams sparked a desire to be part of the solution.”

Now, at Rippling, she bridges the gap between business leadership and championing people. Leveraging her combined expertise, she leads Rippling’s HR, talent acquisition, and workforce teams, fostering a dynamic employee experience while providing invaluable HR consulting services to Rippling’s global clientele.

In our latest Faces, meet Darcy Mackay.

Who is/was your biggest influence in the industry?

I am fortunate to have worked with several tremendous leaders who grew small companies into larger ones that were acquired, who took companies from private to public and back again, who shaped good companies into globally dominant companies, and who started enterprises from the shop floor. While these leaders all have different personalities, they all share traits of fearless determination, perseverance and resilience, and a relentless focus on delivering differentiated products and services to customers—and, of course, delivering results of exceptional growth and shareholder returns.

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

One of my favorite things is learning more about what each department and team member focuses on. When you’re in HR, you get the opportunity to ask people in-depth questions about what they do and why they do it, but the best part is being able to help and work with them to fill in any gaps so their departments run smoothly.

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.

At the end of the day, we’re all humans trying to do the best we can. So, do I care about people? Yes. Do I care about delivering excellent results? Yes. Most of our businesses, whether product- or services-based, are run by humans. In the services business, we used to say that our assets went home in the elevator (or lift) every night. Well, it’s the same for product -based businesses. The engineers who write code, the customer service reps who help clients solve software problems, or the sales reps who spot opportunities go home in the elevator every night, too.

So, no matter what your industry or business is, your people need to feel safe and comfortable enough to show up and do their best work every day. That’s the magic of great people leaders: They set the vision of where we’re going and figure out the magic of how to bring out the best in each of us.

As a leader, I believe that if you do right by your people, they will put the best into your product and clients, who then drive shareholder value. It’s a virtuous circle across stakeholders.

How can HR most effectively demonstrate its value to the leadership team?

HR leaders do it all. They are talent experts, performance managers, trainers, cultural architects, and much more, all at the same time. While they focus on excelling in different areas of the department, they need strategic business skills to thrive. HR leaders need to take a deep dive into the work each department and function does, and the outcomes it needs to drive, to truly understand how to help each area of the business. This helps them become outstanding at defining roles and goals, recruiting, training, advancing the right people, and distilling and preserving company culture.

With the right focus and technology, HR leaders can better understand the business and its talent; spend less time on time-consuming, reactive administrative work; and become more strategic. 

Where do you see the industry heading in 5 years? Or are you seeing any current trends?

I think automation is profoundly changing the day-to-day practice of HR, as well as the skill set and mindset required for HR leaders. And it’s about time. Traditionally, HR pros have spent the majority of their time dealing with admin and servicing mundane requests. They’ve been the switchboard operators of the organization, connecting other departments’ work as much as driving their own projects forward. But now that they’re getting out from under all the paper pushing, they’re focusing more on value-add projects like data analysis, workflow design, and strategic planning. HR leaders have a voice, and it’s time to be heard.

What are you most proud of?

One leader whom I respect once told me that everything I touch gets better. I have a relentless drive for results, and I also think it’s important to bring people along with me. I am not a solo player, and I’ve never accomplished anything alone. Helping people develop and building winning teams are important hallmarks of my career.

As I look back over the last 5 years, the thing I’d cite is helping an organization with 100,000+ people navigate COVID and the brutality of racial injustice, all while continuing to drive the business forward. That took tremendous team-ship, and I’d like to think each one of us emerged a better person for it.

Do you have any advice for people entering the profession?

First, for anyone entering a G&A role, I think it’s essential to know your business. Find out how the business actually works, how it’s measured, and what people do in their different roles. Don’t stop asking questions until you’re satisfied you could “pass the test.” Personally, I find people who are interested and inquisitive refreshing to work with. It tells me they never stop learning!

Second, as you advance in your career, develop a perspective, and form a point of view. Seek input from others both within and outside your circles to help inform your views. I look for people who are not just order-takers but also shapers and creators. Guide the business to build the best talent in the industry.

Lastly, I always believe in surrounding myself with smart people who are fun to work with. It’s just better that way!

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