Kim Rohrer is the VP of People at Stride, and the Executive Chairperson/cofounder at OrgOrg. Prior to Stride, she spent eight years at Disqus building the entire People Operations function from the ground up, before seeing the company through a successful acquisition in late 2017. She created OrgOrg in 2010 to help fill a personal need for resources, advice, and connection with her peers. Today it's a thriving community of over 3,000 professionals globally, run by the best damn volunteers on the planet. Kim loves to connect people to opportunities and each other, create something out of nothing, and take on way too many personal projects. She lives in Berkeley with her husband and feisty two-year-old daughter and sometimes updates her blog.
Sophie: Could you describe the path that led you to your current role as VP People at Stride?
Kim: I have a sort of non-traditional background in that I started out in theater, rather than in tech or HR. I gained early experience in office management and administration and picked up people skills along the way, then landed at Disqus when it was in its early stages. I spent 8 years there growing the team and the People function, which set me up nicely for a move to Stride after Disqus was acquired.
Sophie: What personal attributes and influences have been important to your development and success?
Kim: A certain level of gumption and naivete in the early days, and an almost obsessive desire to document and create order out of chaos as we grew. Having the ability to see holes in the way a company operates and suggest (and execute!) ways to fill them is an invaluable skill for any growing startup, and being naturally inclined towards that type of problem-solving has been an attribute for me for sure. I also grew up doing a lot of theater and improv, specifically, which I feel like gave me a strong foundation for creating spaces for safe risk-taking… as well as an incredibly diminished fear of failure :)
Sophie: Do you have any advice for women who wish to follow a similar career trajectory?
Kim: Don’t be afraid to speak up and have a perspective. We need more voices, and if you think you have the right answer, you probably do. And if you don’t, that’s ok! It’s important to be a part of the conversation, and I think the first step of that is not being afraid that people won’t like you, won’t listen to you, won’t do what you suggest. Make your case (respectfully but assertively) and show others on your team what positive action looks like. The saying and the doing is the first step to getting a seat at the table long-term.
Sophie: How does wellness in the workplace differ from general wellness and why is it so important to overall health?
Kim: Workplace wellness to me means finding a meaningful balance/integration between your work and general life, such that you feel comfortable and supported in both. It’s so easy to talk about wellness as something personal that we do in private or with our friends, like working out or going to therapy or meditating or eating well. But we spend so much of our lives at work that we have to think about how to integrate wellness practices there too. That might look like taking time to look away from the screen or take a walk, drink enough water during the day, or scheduling bathroom breaks. It also might look like setting clear boundaries on how many meetings you attend during the day, how much work you take home with you, or practicing “selective negligence” when your workload gets too high. I’m certainly not good at doing all these things, but it’s important to keep in mind!
Sophie: How have you seen people ops, company culture, and wellness in the workplace evolve over the span of your career?
Kim: It was definitely not something anyone talked about, outside of basic desk/workstation ergonomics, until the last few years. It’s become more top of mind for a lot of tech companies, which eventually trickles out to other industries as well. Larger companies offer “wellness perks” which inspires smaller companies to see how they can adapt and remain competitive with the bigger businesses. The space is getting more and more saturated with vendors looking to serve these needs, as well, which contributes to the momentum — a good thing!
Sophie: What advice do you have for women who do not feel well in their workplace?
Kim: I mean it depends on what kind of wellness we’re talking about. Do they feel unwell physically? Mentally? Emotionally? There are different ways to address each thing, and I think the first step is to try to get to the root cause of your feelings of… um… unwellness. Then see what areas are things you yourself can change or control, whether that’s setting a reminder to refill your water bottle because you’re feeling lethargic and dehydrated, or taking meditation breaks when you feel overwhelmed. For things that are out of your control, it can help to make a list of the things that are contributing to a lack of personal wellness and talk to your manager or a coworker about crafting an action plan to alleviate them.
Sophie: What about for women advocating for wellness initiatives internally with their employer?
Kim: Similar to my answer above, I think the first step is figuring out what the need is and making a case for resolving it. If you have anecdotal evidence to support an initiative (ie a bunch of employees talking at lunch about how they’d love to do in-office yoga), make a recommendation for a trial period, gauge success with clearly defined metrics (attendance, survey results), and move on from there.
Sophie: Moving to overall wellness, how do you take care of yourself? Do you have any self-care rituals?
Kim: I commute by bus, and when I don’t have pressing work, I try to use my commute to chat with friends in a personal/social Slack network, listen to a podcast while I stare out the window, or catch up on favorite shows on Netflix. I basically turn off my phone (except to take pictures or FaceTime with family) from 5:30 PM when I get home until around 8 PM when my daughter goes to bed so that I can enjoy family time without work distractions. I actively choose a few nights a week where I refuse to open my laptop or work email after she goes to bed, too. And I have a membership to my local reflexology and foot massage spa :)
Do you work in People or Business Operations (Human Resources, Office Management, Recruiting, Learning & Development, Administrative Support, Event Planning, Facilities Management, IT, etc)? Check out OrgOrg, a free and supportive community for the people “making it all work at work”. Already a member and want to give/get more out of your membership? Consider becoming an OrgOrg Volunteer!
About the author:
Anne-Sophie Bousset ("Sophie" to English-speaking friends), is a freelance marketer and community builder. She helps companies build their brand, attract clients, and build a community around their product. Her favorite things include sunshine, yoga, reading, and lazy Sundays in with her cat, Phelps. She can be found on Twitter @Sophie_Bousset.