Lessons from the C-suite: Adrienne Gormley

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No award can match helping someone on their journey, according to the VP of global customer experience and head of EMEA at Dropbox

I started out…

I was never sure what I wanted to do growing up so I studied science, which I loved. Then I decided to travel and ended up in Germany where I became fluent and qualified as a translator. Being able to speak multiple languages led me into the world of technology. As soon as I started to work in tech I knew that was where I wanted to be for the long term.

I knew this was the right career path for me when…

I kept being offered fantastic opportunities and challenges. Every step I took felt logical and made sense. But most importantly I consistently felt challenged.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned along the way…

Enjoy what you do. You have the power to find the right role. Life is too short to be doing something that doesn’t make you happy. Put time aside to find something you love doing every day.

My proudest achievement…

Watching and helping people grow and realise their potential – no award can match helping someone on their journey. For example, coaching people on making key choices and enabling them to find their feet, develop and get to the top of their game. That’s special and rewarding.

My biggest mistake…

Earlier on in my career I spent too much time and energy feeling guilty about not achieving the best balance between work, parenthood, friends and family. I’ve learned that a perfect balance isn’t possible and I’m easy with that now.

My biggest inspiration…

The people around me who have overcome huge challenges, shown tenacity and achieved simply incredible things. Sinéad Burke, an Irish writer and academic, recently came to Dropbox to give a talk about how she overcame her disability. I felt humbled and inspired listening to her.

Keeping me awake at night right now…

Is constantly thinking about how to maximise the potential of the people I work with and how to create an environment where they can develop and succeed. People are key to every organisation, and how to bring together all the skills and experiences they have has to be the top challenge for every leader.

The biggest challenge for organisations over the next five years will be…

The way people are working is changing so businesses need to adapt. They need to embrace new ways of working digitally, remotely, collaboratively, globally and creatively.

I need my HR director to…

Think ahead of me about new approaches and ways of working. Experimenting is key. We have a great culture at Dropbox, but it’s come through a lot of trial and error. The HR team has been key to the success of our culture and the way we work.

It annoys me when HR…

Is perceived as a ‘blocker’ by people within the organisation, and only gets involved when things have gone wrong. HR is so much more than that.

More HRDs would become CEO if…

All businesses put people at the top of the priority list. ROI is more complex when you invest in people. I think that’s why it’s not always on people’s radar.

What I’m reading right now…

I travel a lot so am big on audiobooks. I’m deeply engrossed in listening to The History of the Ancient World, and have just finished Why We Sleep. My key takeaway from that is to look after myself and get my priorities right. In summary: a good amount of sleep is imperative!

My top leadership tip…

Hire people who are smarter than you and different to you. They will force you to bring your A-game to work every day.

Adrienne Gormley is VP of global customer experience and head of EMEA at Dropbox

This piece appeared in the April 2019 issue. Subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk

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