For as long as she can remember, Jenny Vasquez has always been passionate about helping others achieve their full potential. In all areas of her life, Vasquez is a natural coach, a natural cheerleader, and a true HR pro.
The current senior director of human resources at Kodiak Building Partners, a company consistently atop lists of the largest US-based building materials supplier dealers, loves the idea of helping people develop their careers. Whether it’s young professionals just starting to navigate the direction in which they want their career to go, or more seasoned veterans making their way to the end of their careers, Vasquez wants to be there to offer her support.
“HR encompasses so much more than just coaching, I feel that helping people identify and reach their professional and personal goals is what’s really important,” Vasquez explains. “I want to help people recognize how their different and unique skills and personalities fit into achieving their goals. It’s the human part of this job that holds paramount significance.”
When she joined Kodiak in 2017, Vasquez was the first HR leader brought on board to help facilitate exponential growth. At the time, Kodiak’s portfolio only included about ten companies and has grown to thirty-six, with plans for more in the near future.
“When I started, it was just me,” Vasquez explains. “We acquired about three to six companies every year, so my responsibilities grew exponentially.”
While each company Kodiak acquires retains its own HR manager in a decentralized model, Vasquez works to create synchronicity where possible as the umbrella organization for so many different businesses. The senior director acts as a subject-matter-expert of sorts for Kodiak’s C-suite and is responsible for overseeing Kodiak’s HR function across all entities, restructuring and leading the department, and serving as a subject matter expert for all functions of HR.
When it comes to Kodiak’s consistent acquisition schedule, the senior director says HR spends the first thirty days integrating the acquired company with back-office, administrative functions that can positively directly affect the employees, such as the 401k and healthcare.
Recently, Vasquez amassed four HR business partners to assist in supporting the HR team across the country with the individual needs of each of the companies. However, the senior director remains cognizant that the success of HR out in the field is just as important as HR success within Kodiak headquarters.
“My main objective is to make sure that our individual HR managers are equipped to handle their day-to-day responsibilities,” she explains. “In our decentralized culture, we believe decision-making should remain at the local level and it’s my responsibility to ensure our HR team is prepared to support their local employees and leaders with their day-to-day functions.”
Additionally, Vasquez says she wants the HR organization to add more value to Kodiak than making sure people are getting paid and regulations are being followed. She has substantially restructured her department to get the right people in roles that will make the most impact on the larger business.
“We were a third or a fourth the size that we are currently just five years ago,” Vasquez emphasizes. “I want to position us for that continued growth and ensure we’re able to operate as proactively as possible.”
Making Connections and Refusing to Micromanage
In her own leadership, Vasquez says she actively works to avoid anything resembling micromanagement. The executive was the victim of a serial micromanager in her career, and the weariness in her voice when recalling that experience, to this day, makes it clear it’s not something she wants her own people to encounter.
“I aspire to empower individuals by providing guidance and education that enables them to reach their objectives, while fostering self-sufficiency and originality in their approach,” she says. “As a leader and mentor, I serve as both a dependable support system and sounding board. However, I firmly believe that micromanagement stifles growth and creativity, so I refrain from dictating precise instructions. I consider this approach to be counterproductive and actively avoid it.”
For those on their own journeys, Vasquez underlines the necessity of building relationships. While it can seem transactional or insincere to network, the senior director hopes people can see it as something else entirely.
“Success in any career is built upon the foundation of relationships, and networking is the tool that enables us to lay that foundation,” she emphasizes. “By actively engaging with individuals, we can cultivate rapport, gain valuable insights and connections, and establish a network of individuals who can provide support and opportunities. The seeds we sow today in our networking endeavors can grow into the thriving forest of our future career.”
Vasquez adds those more junior in their careers shouldn’t be afraid to speak up and voice their opinions. She observes that many are intimated because they may not be an expert on an issue. It’s not a case of speaking just to hear oneself talk, it’s providing a different context to a problem or a solution.
“I believe sharing your thoughts is key,” Vasquez says. “Adding perspective to a conversation is important, and I think too many people let themselves be intimidated when they have relevant and valuable input to share. Asking questions or adding your insights, I feel, puts you in the best possible light.”