Quantcast

North Bay Business Journal

Monday, June 23, 2014, 6:26 am

Women in Business 2014: Shireen Donaldson, Agilent Technologies

By

Print Friendly Print Friendly    

Share this item

    Women in BusinessVice president of human resources, Agilent Technologies, 1400 Fountaingrove Parkway, Santa Rosa 95403, 707-577-6424, www.home.agilent.com

    Age: 52

    Residence: Santa Rosa

    Professional Background: Human resources

    Education: MBA, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia; B.A., applied science, Phillip Institute of Technology, Melbourne, Australia

    Staff: I currently have five direct reports and a total team of 12 employees.

    Shireen Donaldson

    Shireen Donaldson

    Tell us about yourself and your company: I was born in New Zealand and lived most of my life in Australia, moving to California with my husband and three wonderful daughters 10 years ago. I get a lot of energy when connecting with people and this is reflected in my career, which started out as a midwife, moved into working for nonprofit organizations and adult education, and now I am working in human resources (HR) at Agilent — soon to be Keysight Technologies — leading the business HR and learning and development teams.

     I have been at Agilent for the last 15 years, working across many different business groups as we have made many exciting changes. Agilent split off from Hewlett-Packard in 1999, and now we are entering the next phase of our journey as a stand-alone, pure-play electronic measurement company — Keysight Technologies. Keysight is an exciting company to work for, pushing the frontiers of technology in the area of electronic measurement.

    Our revenues last year were $2.9 billion, and when we begin operating independently later this year, we will have about 9,500 employees globally and sell in more than 100 countries. What I love about the company are all the amazing people. One of the hallmarks of our company is the strength of our culture, which is based around empowering people, a high level of trust and respect, and an amazing amount of creativity and innovation. Working for a premier technology company is incredibly exciting. I look at my career and fully appreciate all the great opportunities I have had to learn, live overseas, meet and work with incredible people.

     Is there a major accomplishment in the past year or so that you would like to share?: I often say that I have the best job in the company — I get to work with the most passionate, energized people across the organization every day. I feel extremely proud of supporting and coaching our leaders. The business HR and learning and development teams work deep inside the business, every day supporting the leadership team. When teams of people are led by focused, energized leaders they believe in, the excitement of being on a winning team and delivering results becomes contagious.

    The dynamics of our business are constantly changing and over the past year the business HR and learning and development teams have partnered with the leadership team to drive a transformation of our business. I have the opportunity to work with amazing, energized people and leaders — in many ways, this award is for them and the business HR and learning and development teams that support the leaders.

    What is the achievement you are most proud of?: As a leader for the company, I feel very proud of where we are and what we have accomplished. The company’s value proposition in the market is all about innovation, and innovation is all about great people. A key sustainable competitive advantage is directly connected with who we hire, how we focus and inspire our employees and create the environment that enables them to unleash their creativity.

    Agilent has been on an incredible journey of transformation, and it is great to see the business HR and learning and development teams serve as important partners to our business leaders through many change management issues. The teams are fully integrated within the lines of business, working with the executive teams to create people strategies that deliver tangible results. I am extremely proud that the teams can turn on a dime, staying in lock step with the business, coaching and supporting our leaders.

     What is your biggest challenge today?: My biggest challenge for this year is ensuring our business leaders stay focused on their business and not worrying about the company separation. The teams are doing an amazing job making trade-offs to ensure we stay focused on the business, completing the separation and starting to think about the future. With these challenges also come opportunities. I see opportunity to build new partnerships, new positions, and opportunities to improve our business operations and processes to drive the growth of the company. I am proud and honored to be part of shaping the next chapter in our journey as a stand-alone, pure play electronic measurement company.

    Words that best describe you: Resilient, flexible and open, able to adjust quickly to change. Curious, lifelong learner, adventurous and the occasional sense of humor.

    As a successful female professional, what were the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?: I think this question is tricky because it implies that gender is a factor, and I cannot think of any obstacles that may have impacted me because I am female. From an obstacle perspective, I would think more about pushing your own boundaries. Sometimes we need to push ourselves to move toward our fear, and have the courage to try new things. When I moved to the U.S. 10 years ago with my husband and three young daughters, my oldest child was 16. Someone asked me, “Was that a hard decision to uproot the family and move to the other side of the world?” Maybe I was a little naïve, but I didn’t think too much about it. I saw it as an adventure — an opportunity to try something different, to take a leap. What is the worst that can happen? You may have to start over again.

    How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?: Given all the dynamics in the business world, this is an exciting time for human resources. The rapid change and adoption of technology such as mobile smart phones, tablets and many different communication devices are having an impact on how, where and when we work. A large percentage of the workforce is doing some part of their job virtually, and we are seeing the next generation of workers want their learning to take place instantly and on demand. Over the next five years, there will be five generations in the workplace. All of these shifts will provide an opportunity for HR to adapt, embrace and thrive on change.

     Who was your most important mentor? And tell us a little bit about that person: I tend to have more informal mentors or coaches — a range of different people who offer different advice or support depending on the issue. I also believe a lot of our life lessons are developed from our parents. I remember my dad working night shifts, coming home and studying during the day so he could complete his engineering degree. I also remember my parents working hard as small business owners and having to start again after losing everything. Seeing this level of passion, energy and focus has helped me to be very resilient to change and to roll with the punches.

    What advice would you give to a young woman entering your profession or the work world today?: Don’t limit yourself. Many people limit themselves to what they think they can do. Find something you are passionate about — when you have passion and focus, anything is possible. I remember being told it is impossible to move across different work sectors. Yet I have gone backwards to go forward in my career, working across all three sectors – first government, then nonprofits and finally private enterprise. I also remember receiving many rejection letters trying to break into new areas, but I just kept the end goal in mind. I am an advocate of lifelong learning, keeping an open mind, finding your passion — and don’t hold yourself back.

    Most admired businessperson outside your organization: I think Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop, was a very impressive businessperson and ahead of her time. She was a social activist, an amazing entrepreneur, and a champion of green issues back in the late ’70s. I remember as a teenager going into her stores and being amazed at the level of passion and energy from employees working for an organization they cared deeply about. More recently, Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, seems totally down to earth and an extremely successful businessperson. Melinda has been very successful in applying her strategic insight and strong business foundation to drive amazing results in the nonprofit world.

    Current reading: I always seem to be reading more than one thing at once. I love books and I have a habit of picking up a book, reading the first page, skipping to the middle, and then reading the last page to determine if the book will hold my attention. I am currently reading The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, I am also re-reading Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance, which is about IBM’s transformation.

    Most want to meet: Tina Fey, as a comedian, writer and producer, is able to tell a story through humor and give a voice to a variety of issues in which we can relate. She is very down to earth and humble in her many achievements, and able to juggle a demanding career and support her family.

    Stress relievers: I love working with clay and have a small shed set up where I can work on my ceramics. This is a big stress reliever because it is such a contrast to the work I do during the day. I also love getting outside and spend hours in the garden and enjoying the amazing weather in California.

    Favorite hobbies: I love art and especially appreciate ceramic sculptures. I could spend hours reading through art books or photography books admiring the creativity of others. I don’t mind getting lost in old book shops and spending a lazy afternoon browsing the book shelves. I also love the outdoors, so spending time in the snow at beautiful Lake Tahoe or enjoying the Shakespeare festival at Ashland is a really nice way to unplug.

    Is there something we didn’t ask that you would like to add?: I attribute much of my success to a highly skilled, flexible team and the opportunity to work with many talented, passionate leaders across the organization. Thank you for this honor — it means a lot to be acknowledged.

    Copyright © 1988–2014 North Bay Business Journal
    View the policy for linking to website content.

    Print Friendly Print Friendly    

    Submit Your Comments

    Required

    Required, will not be published

    Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive. For more information, please see our Comments and Letters Policy. To share this item by email or social media, use the links above.

    Do not use this form to contact people, companies or organizations mentioned in this story. Contact them directly. Private messages left here will be deleted.