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Getting Ahead

How This Senior HR Associate Inspired Her Company’s Social Justice Efforts

person with long hair standing against a dark grey background looking into the distance
Kristina Henry, a senior associate of Talent and Development at Sprinklr.
| Courtesy of Sprinklr

As a classically trained opera singer, Kristina Henry always wanted jobs that would give her the space to work on her craft. That led her to take on a variety of administrative roles—including one at the software company Sprinklr, a provider of customer experience management (CXM) software.

“When I was researching Sprinklr, I saw an interview with the founder Ragy Thomas talking about how he founded the company,” Henry says. “He mentioned working backward from the outcome you want, ultimately making customers happier. That resonated with me so profoundly as a performer. This is the way I live my life, working towards creating experiences for my audience that resonate with them.”

After joining the company as an executive assistant, Henry proactively pursued a new opportunity—ultimately joining the Talent Development team as a senior associate working on employee onboarding. Perhaps one of her most important contributions to the company was the role she took after George Floyd’s death in inspiring Sprinklr to take action to support Black employees as well as outside organizations.

Here, Henry shares more details about how Sprinklr showed up for the Black Lives Matter movement, how the company has nurtured her growth, and what it takes to succeed as a new hire in any job.

What attracted you to work at Sprinklr?

I’ve always been the type of person who has to believe in a company. I put my heart and soul into my work so wherever I chose to continue my career has to have leadership that I believe in as well as values that I can align myself with.

Our founder is very passionate about helping companies make their customers and employees happier. I loved the fast-paced environment. I loved the idea of working with the VP of Sales, VP of Strategic Operations, and the VP of Business Development. It fed my passion for numbers, business growth, and people.

Also, our founder is of Indian descent. He looked like me. He was a hard worker. He inspired us and gave us the sense that we were in it together.

Tell us about your journey at Sprinklr. How does the company support growth and development of its employees?

One thing I love about Sprinklr is it’s entrepreneurial spirit. You can make it happen if you want it badly enough. Back in 2017, the company was experiencing many organizational shifts after a high-growth year. At the time I was supporting a leadership team as an executive assistant, and opportunities opened up for me to shift my skills elsewhere. That’s when I went into action. What else could I do to help Sprinklr at this critical time and how could I contribute to the growth of the company? I had a conversation with our facilities director, who gave me the opportunity to work as an office manager as a temporary employee for two weeks. That was all I needed.

I used that time to meet with leadership to find my next opportunity. I spoke to our Chief Revenue Officer. He knew instinctively how hard I worked and how much I loved the company. I also had a conversation with our Chief Culture & Talent officer, who said I’d be a great fit working on our onboarding program with our Talent Development team. I didn’t know the first thing about talent development but I knew about people. It all started there.

What are you responsible for in your current role?

My primary responsibility is creating an extraordinary onboarding experience for our new hires. I run our onboarding programs globally and work with cross-functional teams—including executive leadership and Culture & Talent—to curate this experience.

We host two major onboarding events every month in two different time zones. I oversee our program from day one to 180 days out. In the virtual environment, it’s important to touch every new hire and make them feel loved and supported (even in a pandemic). For example, we send them care packages with carefully curated Sprinklr-branded items to their home.

After the death of George Floyd, we understand you took an active role in helping Sprinklr create a stronger culture of belonging. What was that experience like?

When George Floyd’s death was shared for the still-standing world to see on a Friday afternoon, there was no turning away from that truth. How could I go to work as if nothing happened even though I knew all too well that scene and how it affected my community?

In September 2019, I started an unofficial Slack channel for all Black employees to join. After George Floyd’s death, I reached out in desperation to the channel. I was not OK. We were not OK. I literally said, “This moment needs a moment. If you can make it let’s get on a call to be together.” We yelled, screamed, and shared our honest feelings. It was a vulnerable moment—and it was then that I realized I couldn’t have people that I love feeling this way without confronting our leadership about it. I was so scared. I was prepared to lose my job. I was prepared for the outcome that I always feared.

After sharing our raw emotions with my manager, she asked me if I felt comfortable with speaking to our Chief Culture and Talent officer about it. I said yes, and shared the sentiments of what my people were saying and how I was feeling. I told her, “If one of us is in pain, we’re all in pain!” I spoke to the character, values, and soul of our company with no fear and great passion. She listened to this feedback and turned it into action— activating the entire company to double down on creating a company culture for all.

We held open discussion groups, talked about what actionable steps we could take together and as individuals, and set up a plan to keep the conversation going. I believe we are better for it. The allyship my colleagues displayed is something that to this day brings me to tears. The empathy, the hard conversations, the healthy disagreements, and the exchanging of perspective around this global family really amazed me. We’re not perfect by any means, but our values hold us accountable to each other.

What initiatives has Sprinklr since launched in response to the Black Lives Matter movement?

I’m so proud of my company for the way they’ve showed up and allied for the Black community at Sprinklr and the world. We’ve committed $1 million of software to organizations that support the Black Lives Matter movement. We’ve rolled out a We Belong initiative, which directly supports the education and awareness of our employees showing up being exactly who they are.

We’re learning how to treat each other like family and how to respect each other and our experiences. We’re having the hard conversations that lead to understanding and empathy. It’s ongoing and we’re all the better for it.

As someone who runs new-hire orientation, what advice do you have for those starting out in a job?

Find your purpose. Your work is just one part of the equation. When you’re starting at a new company, don’t skip over the mission and values. Learn what the character and purpose of the company really means. Then, find out what that means to you and the work you will do. You will be spending major parts of your life at work. You will be influenced by the people around you. Make sure you’re taking the time to create a plan that aligns with your life (personally and professionally) and who you want to be in the world. When you do that, you won’t have any regrets of the time you spent working in any company or industry.

What does it take to succeed as an employee at Sprinklr?

You have to be hungry for growth. You must have great character. You must have the perfect combination of heart, skill, and creativity. You have to be a team player and be willing to take the weaker employee to a path of strength. We do it together, we don’t leave each other behind. Your character speaks louder than your skill. You have to be a good person who does the right thing when no one is looking. Address your fears and goals head on. Lean into our values and the resources—they won't fail you.

What’s the best career advice you’ve received?

Believe in yourself. Oprah once talked about getting to a place where you don’t need to say “You go, girl” because you're already gone. You don’t need validation. Be you. Go for it. Lean into your talents and your opportunities to grow and learn.

As a child of immigrant parents from Panama and Jamaica growing up in Brooklyn, I learned survival skills to keep me safe and hidden. I was taught not to ruffle feathers, and to be seen and not heard. I knew that came from a deep desire to keep me safe in this world.

However, I have forced myself into a new understanding of me. I make no apologies for my passion, voice, character, and ability to connect with others and do what I was created to do. I’m “going” no matter what. I’m leading people to living their best lives at Sprinklr. I’m supporting an organization I believe in.