Evelyn Kudlak has been on the move for most of her life. She was born in the US, but has spent most of her life in Latin America, moving every two or three years. Kudlak has lived in Chile, Ecuador (twice), Uruguay, and Argentina. The recently appointed human resources business partner (HRBP) and VP for global infrastructure, data analytics, and information security at MetLife returned to the US in 2021.
Thanks in part to the support of her family and their collective resiliency, Kudlak returned as an accomplished multicultural HR professional with two decades of experience under her belt. The VP has the kind of cultural fluency that makes her an invaluable resource, and it probably explains why Kudlak has been expanding her responsibilities every other year since coming to MetLife.
“When it comes to versatility in career development, I think I’m a good example of what is possible when you have the right conversations and are open to thinking about your options and capabilities,” Kudlak says.
Career conversations, Kudlak says, are a vital component of anyone’s journey, and should be greatly encouraged.
“It’s imperative to know it’s possible to have those career conversations with leaders,” the VP says. “You need to have a relationship with your leader where you can share your aspirations, share the skills you’d like to develop, and even think about ways to develop those skills, either through stretch assignments or expanded roles.”
Kudlak’s obvious passion for her job shines through when discussing the three priorities for MetLife’s talent initiatives: accessing and mobilizing talent, building future-ready leaders, and driving organizational agility.
The VP says that when tapping into the right talent pools, diversity is critical.
“The truth is, and I’ve experienced this directly, that when many voices all contribute to one single output, the impact is quite significant and positive,” Kudlak says. “We are building an environment where all voices are heard and valued, and where you’re free to share and request advice from your leaders.”
Kudlak says one of the main opportunities her team is working to address is helping talent see the potential for advancement—to see the possibilities. Again, it comes back to those critical career conversations.
To create “future-ready” leaders, MetLife has built a successful program called Leading the Future.
The idea is to empower leaders to create inclusive and agile teams and to adopt a growth mindset (what Kudlak calls a “curious mindset”) that will help grow leaders, whether they’re leading teams of hundreds or are individual performers.
“Being a leader isn’t about how many people report to you,” the VP says. “It’s about influencing, and the inclusive leadership you can bring to whatever role you’re in.”
To address MetLife’s third talent initiative, organizational agility, Kudlak says sometimes prior mindsets need to be broken and challenges need to be approached from different angles. Fortunately, Kudlak has significant experience in reimagining processes, performance development, employee care, and future of work initiatives. Maybe it’s because she moved around so much in her youth, but the VP is a master at rethinking what’s possible.
“One of the keys to this effort will be building a contemporary and diverse workforce,” Kudlak says. “That evolution will help continue pushing us to the next level.”
When asked what continues to inspire her seemingly endless evolution, Kudlak says it’s easy: she’s able to find connections in nontraditional places.
“My inspiration, even for building careers, comes from integrating things that might not seem to be connected in one certain context,” Kudlak says. “But if you look at them in a different way, it makes perfect sense.”
That can mean projects or roles as well as people. Kudlak is known as a people connector at MetLife, willing to personally reach out to bring people together because she understands the value that can come from unlikely partnerships or cross-function collaboration.
Kudlak also says the opportunity to grow across MetLife is part of the reason she’s been there for close to nine years. “There’s always something new coming down the pipe,” the VP explains. “Everything is always evolving and refocusing with our customers in mind.”
The VP lights up when asked if she has advice for those who are new to the space: she has plenty, though she loses count of how many points she’s made somewhere around number six or seven. It’s clearly information the VP is happy to provide to those trying to find their own ways.
“Raise your hand,” Kudlak says. “If we just think about roles, I think we’re limiting ourselves. Think about experiences you can add to your career portfolio.”
For a VP who is committed to helping employees examine their own potential, this is the most salient advice. Kudlak wants to help those at MetLife develop their curiosity and understand not just what already exists, but what could be. It just takes some curiosity, some passion, and a desire to never stop learning.