Why the CHRO of This Massive Company Says it’s Time to Talk About Inclusion Before Diversity #SHRM19


Amy Cappellanti-Wolf is SVP & CHRO at Symantec, the world’s largest cybersecurity software company, based in Mountain View, CA.  In addition to serving on the executive team and managing Symantec’s global human resources function, she leads Symantec’s Workplace/Workforce Strategy and Planning, Real Estate and Facilities organizations.

With more than three decades of experience leading companies across high tech, entertainment and consumer products industries through complex transformations, Amy is a proven organizational design and development leader as well as executive coach focusing on talent as the key driver of business growth. Amy specializes in helping businesses survive and thrive while undergoing deep transformation. Her focus areas include Business Transformation and Change Management, Organizational Design and Process Management, Business Partnership, Communication Strategy Facilitation, and Diversity in Tech.

As CHRO at Symantec, Amy has successfully led the global organizational operating model, structure, change management and integration strategies for large scale acquisitions and divestitures. She has led effectiveness strategies related to organization and people optimization, and delivered systemic program and metrics related to structure, workforce planning, talent, and real estate consolidation. Amy has deep experience in architecting HR Operating Models in support of the business with her most recent emphasis on building Talent Development and HR Solutions capability. She has delivered high-impact automation and predictive data analytics and reporting, reducing operating expense, while improving operational effectiveness. In the real estate space, she has integrated workforce planning with real estate optimization, significantly reducing operating costs while also delivering award-winning workspaces for better collaboration and productivity, among other successes.

Prior to joining Symantec, Amy was CHRO at Silver Spring Networks, where she led Global HR, Real Estate, and Technical Education organizations. Amy helped to deliver a successful IPO in March 2013. She established HR infrastructure, programs, and technology to drive global scale for the fast growing hardware, software, and services business, and she led several organizational companywide restructures. Amy built and ramped a professional talent acquisition team, doubled the employee population in less than eighteen months, implemented various automation and information systems, and opened up the European, South American, and Asian offices.

From 2001 to 2009, Amy held key human resources roles at Cisco Systems, where she developed innovative leadership development programs and processes. She directly contributed to Cisco’s globalization efforts by developing workforce planning and global mobility practices to resource new and emerging capabilities outside of the US. Specifically, Amy led HR for the U.S. Enterprise Sales team; Worldwide Marketing; Business Functions; and the Decision Support, Services and Operations Businesses. Prior to Cisco, Amy also led HR teams at Sun Microsystems, The Walt Disney Company, and Frito-Lay.

Amy holds an M.S. in Industrial and Labor Relations and a B.S. in Journalism and Public Relations, both from West Virginia University.  Amy provides ongoing support of children and foster children as a Board member of the non-profit Silicon Valley Children’s Fund and also serves an advisor to several private companies. Amy was recently named one of the top 50 most influential women tech leaders by the National Diversity Council.  Amy is also an Official Member, Forbes Human Resources Council since September 2018 and a new member of the Better Works HR Advisory Council. She is a frequent speaker and lecturer at industry-related conferences.

About Symantec

Symantec Corporation (NASDAQ: SYMC), the world’s leading cyber security company, helps organizations, governments and people secure their most important data wherever it lives. Organizations across the world look to Symantec for strategic, integrated solutions to defend against sophisticated attacks across endpoints, cloud and infrastructure. Likewise, a global community of more than 50 million people and families rely on Symantec’s Norton suite of products for protection at home and across all of their devices. Symantec operates one of the world’s largest civilian cyber intelligence networks, allowing it to see and protect against the most advanced threats. For additional information, please visit www.symantec.com or connect with us on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.

When it comes to creating diverse high-performance cultures, starting with inclusion first is what Amy Cappellanti-Wolf, SVP & CHRO at Symantec recommends.

“Everyone leads with diversity, but to me that’s just a metric at the end of the day. Ultimately, the question is, ‘Have I created an environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their experiences and perspective, regardless of their background?”

In order to understand how Symantec is creating a culture in which all employees feel comfortable sharing their voices, we sat down with Amy for a Q&A about the initiatives she’s leading and the challenges she’s overcome.

You can get more tips from Amy about developing a high-performance culture during her Mega Session “Developing A High-Performance Culture That Enables Your Company To Grow and Thrive” on Monday, June 24 from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the 2019 SHRM Annual Conference and Exposition!


To start, what’s your definition of company culture?

Culture is a company’s way of being. It’s everything from how decisions get made to who’s included in the decision-making process to how people are hired and fired. It is also a huge component of how tough decisions are made around social issues that may correlate with your business.

What does Symantec do to help new employees learn the culture?

We have a values document that we use to interview people, so learning the culture starts even before folks join the organization.

It focuses on collaboration, a customer-first mentality, swift and speedy decision-making, systems thinking, and accountability.

We also emphasize ethics and compliance.

How do you see diversity and inclusion influencing company culture?

You want to create a culture where people feel comfortable speaking up and feel like they’re being heard. Regardless of the makeup of a team or the experience someone has, you want them to feel like they can speak up and share an alternative point of view.

What do you say to folks who push back on diversity and inclusion initiatives?

From a business case perspective, I'm pretty tired of justifying why four diverse people could be just as if not more effective than four white men….

When you're a global company, you have to represent your customer and your consumer base. If you live and breathe Mountain View, California, you're not going to know what the asks are in Peru or Argentina or Africa. So from a business imperative perspective, how could you argue against that? So I generally lead with that.

But on a more personal level, I try to get real buy-in and interest from folks who are open to challenging their biases and their experiences with privilege. As a white woman, this is a lesson I’ve had to learn, and I’m trying to encourage those same honest conversations at Symantec.

If you ignore the tension and potential pushback, you’ll get a lot of smiles but not very much action.

What are some steps you’re taking to encourage these conversations?

First off, we’ve started to focus on conscious inclusion, not just unconscious bias. Rather than making people feel like they’re guilty, we want to help them focus on the good they can do.

We’ve done something similar with the concept of white fragility. We actually did a pilot discussion about white fragility with one of our teams, and the responses were illuminating - no one walks into the room thinking they have these biases.

Our goal is always to help people hold a mirror up to themselves, without being threatened by it. Then people bring that heightened experience to how they operate in the company and in the world.

More broadly, we want to view these initiatives as paths or journeys, not just trainings or boxes to be checked. We pepper unconscious bias and conscious inclusion  training into everything we do - from orientation to our newly formed manager bootcamp.

What are some examples of things Symantec is doing to build a more inclusive culture?

1. We have change inclusion teams that are driving initiatives specific to their areas. In HR, for example, I don’t need more women - I need more underrepresented minorities and early-in career talent. But that’s not the case in other areas of the business. So we're doing a lot of very personalized, customized work within those different organizations that will not only increase representation but also drive better business results.

2. We’re also working to amplify the work we’re already doing. For example, how can we get executives to talk about their journeys and be sponsors instead of just mentors?

3. Finally, we’re working to remove bias from the system. That’s everything from gender neutral job descriptions to how we assess talent to how we promote talent to how we look at pay equity.

I'm very excited to say that as our last performance and pay cycle this summer, we have closed our pay equity gaps!

You’ve partnered with PowerToFly on a couple diversity and inclusion recruiting events. Why do you think these are valuable?

The events we've done so far have been super well received because we're trying to build a community. If we get some great talent out of it, fantastic, but I just think getting powerful, strong women together to connect and form a community is already a victory. That’s what we’re here to do. It all goes back to inclusion.

Any final tips on creating inclusive leadership?

We need leaders that are there for their teams, not just there for themselves. I think we need to go back to basics - the kind of stuff you learn in kindergarten about being a good person. We’ve lost our way a bit, and we need to remember that you can still make money, but do it with grace - focus on bringing people with you, not taking people down.


The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

Add new comment

Please enter the text you see in the image below: