In the ExpertsLAB, we interview successful professionals to learn how they got started, managed transitions, and found balance in their life and career.
In this interview, we sit down with Roslyn Fogarty, a Human Resources Consultant, Advisor, and Expert to high growth technology startups in the San Francisco Bay Area, including Netlify, Nextdoor, and Upstart. She’s also a mom who lives in the East Bay.
Read on to find out how Roslyn transitioned from corporate HR to consulting, how her definition of success has changed, and the habits and routines that keep her on track.
I help companies (startups, especially) bring people, organizational design, and foundational elements early on, and I help bigger companies create an environment that’s engaging with a sense of purpose to develop their people.
My professional story started in college. I was a psychology major working with adolescents and teens at San Diego State University and in my third year, I realized I wanted to make a shift. My school counselor recommended Industrial Organizational Psychology which is the easiest parallel to Human Resources Management. I pivoted my discipline and minored in Business.
Simultaneously, I was working at a mom-and-pop marketing company, sometimes working two or three jobs. I didn’t have the luxury to go out and get an unpaid internship. I worked with that marketing company to create my own HR role to gain experience in the field.
I graduated in 2001, during the ‘dot-com bust’, and it took about six or eight months to find a job in my field. I was hired as an HR Coordinator at an advertising agency and stayed there for eight years! It was fun and it prepared me well in the tech space, especially around ER (employee relations) issues. HR is very experiential. You get experience by going through it.
After eight years, I got an itch to do something different. I also had my first child and that changed my thinking. My priorities shifted and I wanted to be at home with my child rather than going to recruiting or networking events. I had the great fortune of having an amazing servant leader but I knew it was time to move on.
My next role was being the first HR hire at a fast-growing ecommerce startup company, Modcloth. It was the first place I worked where culture was so key to success. I took the lessons in leadership, culture, and community to create a people-first environment from scratch. In the three and a half years I was there, we grew from 125 to 650 employees!
After that, my path led me to another opportunity and then I ended up consulting for startup technology companies.
It’s interesting. If you asked me that in my first 8 years of my career, I would have said ‘to become a CPO or SVP running things somewhere’. That’s what success looked like before. That was my end game. And then I thought my career would sunset into a consulting role.
Now, later in my career, success is defined by how I answer the following questions for myself: ‘Am I creating a place where people want to come and be in whatever shape that takes place? Am I excited to get up every morning? Am I fulfilled in all aspects of my life, including the family side? Does my professional and personal life coexist?’
My professional and personal life has to blend. I won’t sacrifice one for the other. Both are equal barometers.
For me, it’s about scheduling, though I admit I don’t always get this right. Time is very sacred and I learned to block time and focus all my energy in each block of time. I don’t schedule anything before 8:30am or between 3:30-5:00pm during the week, unless there’s an emergency, so I can just focus on my kids.
The gym is my outlet. That’s my saving grace. I was at the gym at 5:45 this morning!
During COVID, I learned that being at home as a mom, a teacher, a consultant, I have been notorious for trying to squeeze as much as I can in a day as possible. Because everyone is at home, it was a lot harder to squeeze as much as I could because all aspects of my life collided all at the same time.
I lean on the village mentally to get through the pandemic. During COVID, I experienced a beautiful sense of community coming together to lean on each other. It loops back to the connectedness I love and it perfectly allows for this exchange of helping others and letting others help you.
Another thing that helped was saying ‘no’ more often. As a working mom, stay at home teacher, and everything in between, saying ‘no’ helped my life be more manageable.
I really like Brene Brown. She’s a podcast host of Dare to Lead and an author of several books including The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, and Dare to Lead. I often bring her theories of vulnerability to the HR engagements I consult on. She focuses on empathy and building healthy relationships in the workplace.
I also recommend Kim Scott, author of Radical Candor, a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller that teaches a framework to be both a better boss and a better colleague. She’s also written several other books.
I listen to Lars Schmidt’s podcast, ‘Redefining HR.’ He also wrote a book by the same name.
I admit, I listen to a lot of Silicon Valley folks, and there’s something about listening to other people’s stories. It’s honest and transparent, and a real look into what it’s like being in the field right now. For me, it’s about connectedness. Reading and listening to other people’s stories makes me feel like I’m not alone in what I’m going through.
I also love Calm, the mobile meditation app, and listening to classical music on Pandora while I’m working.
You know, it’s funny. I always thought consulting would be my sunset. Now I’m thinking maybe it’s not.
There’s pros and cons to everything and you have to be honest with yourself. Are you the type of person that takes initiative? Are you comfortable building from scratch? Are you comfortable not knowing all the answers but knowing where to go to get it? Do you have a strong voice? Are you comfortable with not being tied to the outcomes? Because, as a consultant, it’s not your choice. You’re there to provide guidance and action. Also, if you thrive being in a team environment, you have to be OK being a lone wolf in the consulting world.
On the flip side, consulting allows you to be more efficient with your time. It gives you flexibility with your schedule. You experience variety and excitement with the different types of clients and industries you may be exposed to. You get quicker wins. Your impact is significant and, oftentimes, immediate.
Roslyn’s interview covered everything from scaling startups to the value of saying “no.” Here are some key takeaways.
Interested in learning more about Roslyn? Connect with her on LinkedIn.