Career Advice with Courtney Harrison

August 16th, 2019   |     |  culture & news

Our team at OneLogin makes the company such a special place to work. As a company, we pride ourselves on attracting top-talent who espouse our values and uplift our company culture. From hiring managers to individual contributors, we all play an important role in fostering that culture. That said, our Chief Human Resources Officer Courtney Harrison has been instrumental in cultivating an environment that is inviting, inclusive, and values-driven.

Her vision and goals for a healthy workplaces isn’t limited to OneLogin. She’s a champion for creating healthy, inclusive work environments in the tech community and beyond. She is currently included in the SXSW 2020 Panel Picker to host a discussion, “Burnout or Build-up: Mental Health in the Workplace.” Vote today to help add her discussion to next year’s event!

We recently had a chance to chat with Courtney to discuss her career, life in Denver, CO, how to attract and motivate talent, and so much more. Check out our conversation below!

Tell us a bit about your background and career!
I am a strong advocate for diversity, innovation and healthy thriving workplaces. Having worked with CEOs/C-Suites in Fortune 500 mid-size and numerous start-ups, I have immersed myself in studying the differences and commonalities across organizations of various scale, and in particular at their critical inflection points of growth or decay. When asked these days, I say my strongest skill is understanding organizational dynamics - what is causing them and what is required to change course if a company is struggling (although sadly many times it is too late for them.) My favorite size company is smaller in nature and experiencing “hypergrowth” (ala OneLogin!). I am a self described workaholic driven mostly by loving what I do and wanting to make a difference but it has its unhealthy sides that I am trying to manage. I have realized after all my years in or around the C-Suite that integrity is my #1 “non-negotiable” tied to those I work for or with.

Your team is integral to the continued growth of our employee base at OneLogin. As the company continues to scale, how do you manage your day-to-day and keep grounded?
Goal of the Day: It is a never ending challenge, but for once in my life, going to bed with nothing on my “to-do” list for tomorrow. I am not exaggerating when I tell you I have 72 things on my list right now. I have come to grips that I will never reach this goal but will never stop trying!
Thought of the Day: Balance, Balance Balance - and no excuses not to work out.
Action of the Day: Get ready for our next five day onboarding Session. The pilot last week went great but it can be even better based on the talented team I have working on it. Clock is ticking. Also…..work out.
Deed of the Day: Check in on my Mom and my husband who both had tough weeks last week.
Tip of the Day: Only give your talent to the best companies out there - those with integrity, who treat you well and reward and recognize you even for the small things. With more jobs than people these days, I am confident the poorly run companies can be squashed by talented people not giving them their skills and passion.

One of the things that makes OneLogin special is our dispersed workforce. We’re headquartered in San Francisco, CA, but have employees across the United States, Europe, Australia, and Mexico. You’re based in Denver, CO—tell us more about your city and what makes it so special. 

How long do you have? Ask anyone who knows me, I can babble on about my love of Denver. If I had to pick one thing……ok…..one sentence……The vibrant energy of a city that is growing, inclusive, caring, and loves to have fun.

Favorite breakfast meal & restaurant? Breakfast meal - anything with eggs. Torn between two in Denver, The Bindery, and Beast and Bottle.

Tell us more about a typical day for you. What are you doing at:
6:00 AM – Trying to wake up. Hitting the snooze button and gently pushing my cat off the bed who loves to try to wake me up between 5:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. to be fed. As you can tell, I am not a morning person.

10:00 AM - This is my highest gear work wise. I have finally woken up, had two cups of coffee and feel like I can conquer the world. If I ruled the world, work would start at 10:00 a.m.

12:00 PM - Favorite Lunch spot/meal? Anywhere outside at Union Station in Denver. With Denver’s 300 days of sun (I snuck in another thing I love about Denver……) I love sitting outside with a friend or a few, eating at one of the great restaurants there, while watching kids/dogs play in the big fountain, tourists drinking ‘boozy milkshakes’ at Milk Box (at least I hope they are boozy as they are on vacation and I am not) and watching everyone in this space laughing and taking pictures because they love being there.

7:00 PM - Heading out to the gym or to yoga. This is my favorite time to work out. If it is the weekend then heading out for a great glass of wine or a great bourbon to catch up with my husband and celebrate what we did all week.

11:00 PM - Reading (on my phone, which I know I am not supposed to do but I at least have a blue filter!) while my husband’s sleeps. I am a night owl and he is not.

What drink do you need to get through the day and at the end (and how many)?
Hmmm. What day is it in this scenario? I love my green “shakes” I make in my nutribullet each day assuming my refrigerator has food. My husband and I travel a lot for work, so it is often empty. If it is Mon-Thursday end of day, I am still going to say something healthy as I should be on the way to the gym. If it is Friday or Saturday it is definitely a great Manhattan, preferably with top shelf Colorado Bourbon (another great thing about Denver……)

What’s your most used app or favorite Instagram account?
Most used App: Weather Channel because I travel so much and need to know how to pack or if I should expect delays. That is a sad answer so I am also going to say my favorite Instagram account is “Coral House Harbour Island” as I grew up going to Harbour Island Bahamas, got married there and still, out of all the global travel I have done, it is my happy place. Coral House is an old house the owners rehabbed a few years ago and that is my lifelong dream - to rehab a house on Hawaii and live in it. Now that it is done (and they did a great job!), they always post pics of the house, or happy vacationers in it, or just photos of the most incredible beach in the world called Pink Sands. I try to look at it everyday (at night on my blue filtered phone when I am not supposed to be reading) and just breathe and smile.

What should everyone try at least once?
To have or find a creative outlet, even if they don’t think they are creative.

Where do you enjoy getting lost? Harbour Island Bahamas/Man Island Bahamas (see above answer) or walking along the River in Beaver Creek, Colorado where my husband and I spend as much free time as we can muster up.

How did you get into the tech industry?
I spent most of my adult life on the East Coast (NYC, Philly, Boston) and that fast pace is in my blood. After experience in 10+ industries in my career, I decided to set my sights on tech as I thought the pace and the excitement of innovation and driving “what’s next” in the world would be right up my alley. And it was. It has been 10 years now and I can’t see myself working in any other industry. Cybersecurity specifically is just icing on the cake. The world needs what OneLogin does and that not only makes the work more challenging but meaningful.

What career advice would you give others in the industry?
I could write a book on this as there is so much advice I could give to others based on my learning and the unnecessary stress I put on myself over the years. I will break it into a few categories:

Early Career People: It is hard to get jump started for most of us. Just be tenacious, hard working and build out your “intentional network” and over the years you will see progress. Most of us had to work hard to get where we are but know it will happen and know that all the work it took to get there will make it even more rewarding.

Creative People: Celebrate who you are and being different. Find your “tribe” and take care of each other. When I was at Juniper Networks there was a core group of creatives who found each other and called ourselves “the misfits,” as some days when it felt like no one would listen to your ideas or help flame your passion, they did. As just a small group, we accomplished some amazing things there and all have gone on to high level, powerful jobs/roles and are great mentors to others. We all still call each other, rely on each other and help each other 5 years later. Companies need creatives but being creative in the corporate world is an uphill climb. That’s ok. Just keeping going.

Change Agents: See above answer. All companies claim they want change and change agents but they really don’t. Most people and organizations aren’t wired for it. By nature both are wired for status quo and survival and hanging on to the “way it was” way too long. Just know that 2-5 years after you create something or suggest something that feels like it is going nowhere, you will finally see the fruits of your labor and will almost never get “credit” for being way ahead of the game. No worries as it isn’t about credit. It is about knowing you did good work and made a difference. Plus, your fellow “misfits” will know you did good work and will celebrate with you. Companies need change agents now more than ever. It can feel like a lonely, unpopular job. That’s ok. Just keep going.

Women/Minorities/Disabled: I really do believe the future is about diversity and that it is not just a tagline of what businesses “should do.” Because women/minorities/disabled have had to study twice as hard or work 3X as hard to get noticed, or hired, or paid fairly, they have inadvertently learned what it takes to be great leaders - resilience, confidence, learning agility and how important it is to reward and recognize others who worked hard to gain a foothold in the current system. Companies need you and while it is still an uphill climb to shatter a decades-old ingrained system, just keep going. Find or build a network of others who can help you as eventually it will change - it has to or companies won’t make it through this next inflection point of change and innovation.

How would you describe an ideal experience for a customer/client?
As someone who despised having to manage so many passwords in past work and personal life, OneLogin is life changing. I was a client before I joined the Company as chief human resource officer (CHRO). Identity management and password management are critical personally and professionally so our ideal for a customer is to take the stress out of worrying about these issues while improving productivity. The most exciting part is that this OneLogin experience is only going to get better.

How do you motivate others?
It sounds corny/cliche but I really do believe in the mantra of “catching people doing things right.” My years at the Olympics taught me so much about the difference between good athletes and elite athletes and it is the same for leadership. I am saddened when I watch an employee do great work, with a leader standing right there who does not even bother to say a two second ‘thank you’ or ‘great job’. I never know if they just didn’t really notice the good work because they aren’t ‘present’ but instead worrying about other things, or if they are they types of leaders who say “isn’t that what they get paid for?” Read any research about motivation and you will see the top drivers are around people feeling valued and recognized. I feel blessed this comes naturally to me and that I thoroughly enjoy watching people grow, take risks, and thrive as being inauthentic (ie. catching people doing things right only because Courtney or a book told me I should) doesn’t work and just makes everyone and everything awkward.

What are some of your aspirations?
It changes every few years but at this point it is three fold - 1) only be a part of companies who have a good collective soul - where humanity and doing what is right matters as much or more than analytics and making money. If companies do the former correctly, they will make plenty of money. 2) Give back through mentoring women/minorities and disabled people in business and in politics as well as do more work for not-for-profits. 3) Spend more time with friends and family enjoying life.

What has been your biggest success?
I will answer personally and professionally. 1) Professionally - the pride I feel for anyone who worked with me or for me in my career and seeing the amazing jobs/companies they are in today. I am so proud of all of them in both the human resources profession and in the C-Suite. While I am sure they would be there even if they hadn’t met me, I am hopeful, or at least strive for, an outcome that I had a positive influence on them in some way. 2) Personally - my 31 year marriage and that we still know how to have fun and can crack each other up like no one else.

What has been your most challenging moment? Professionally - Every time I have encountered an executive lacking integrity which sadly has been more than once. Personally - my dad having cancer for 20 years.

What’s your motto? Once again, may sound corny/cliche but I 100% believe “everything happens for a reason.” It just may take a while before you can look back and realize what that reason was. Just breathe and trust in the process.

Who are your favorite people and or role models?
My husband, Chris Zlocki - my #1 fan, great work ethic, creativity, drive, and an amazing heart. Business Partner/Friend/Rock, Alicia Mandel - everyone needs a person(s) in your life that are there for you at every turn - to celebrate the good and pick you up through the bad. She is also my go to co-collaborator and can finish my sentences. My creativity only thrives when I am with other creatives. Anne Rhodes - previous CHRO of Southwest Airlines and Founder of PeopleInk. Besides placing me in two CHRO roles where I learned a ton, she taught me a lot that helped form who I am today and mentored me through one of my toughest work challenges, so I will forever be grateful. Andy Stefanovich - Founder of Play, Chief Curator, and Provocateur. He pulled me out of my creativity and innovation shell and has helped me curate some of my best work ever. Plus, no one makes me laugh more or harder. If I could work with him everyday, I would.

When Courtney isn’t in Denver, CO, she often travels to connect with OneLogin employees in San Francisco, CA, Redmond, WA, and Atlanta, GA. She actively speaks on workplace issues like mental health and sexual harassment.

She’s scheduled to speak at an upcoming HR Symposium discussion, “Reimagining HR for the Future of Work.”

Want to know more about Joanne and the leadership team at OneLogin? Meet the team!

About the Author

Natalia Wodecki is the Director of Global Communications at OneLogin. She is skilled at internal and external communications, creating integrated marketing communications programs that drive business, build brands, strengthen employee loyalty, and increase awareness. Previous to OneLogin she worked at Salesforce and Zendesk. She loves puns, puppies, pizza, and alliteration. Follow her on Twitter @NataliaW.

View all posts by Natalia Wodecki

About the Author

Natalia Wodecki is the Director of Global Communications at OneLogin. She is skilled at internal and external communications, creating integrated marketing communications programs that drive business, build brands, strengthen employee loyalty, and increase awareness. Previous to OneLogin she worked at Salesforce and Zendesk. She loves puns, puppies, pizza, and alliteration. Follow her on Twitter @NataliaW.

View all posts by Natalia Wodecki

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