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5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started: Sherry Whiteley, EVP of Intuit

Executive News & Opinions, People & Culture Sherry and Vijay

This article has been republished from the Huffington Post

I had the pleasure to interview Sherry Whiteley. Sherry is Intuit’s executive vice president and chief people officer, leading the team responsible for attracting, developing and rewarding the world’s top talent. She also leads Intuit’s diversity and inclusion program, and its community giving efforts. Since joining Intuit in 2000, Whiteley and her team have successfully worked to create programs and offerings that further Intuit’s high commitment, high-performance culture. In doing so, Intuit has been recognized by Fortune Magazine as one of the “Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For” each year since 2002. With a passion for employee-driven philanthropy, Whiteley is also co-president of the Intuit Foundation board of directors. Whiteley joined Intuit after a nine-year career at Silicon Graphics. While at SGI, she held several senior human resources positions, including executive recruiting, employee communications, executive coaching and development, leadership development and technical education. She earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Santa Clara University and is a graduate of the Executive General Management and the Human Resource Executive programs at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University.

Thank you so much for joining us. What is your “Backstory”?

I grew up in San Diego, California, on a street with 8 girls my own age so there was always someone to play with and I was never alone. This created my strong need for affiliation and for working in teams. My mother had me at 50 years old so my 3 brothers are much much older than me. My oldest brother is 20 years older. My Dad was a psychologist and my 3 brothers all have PhDs in psychology. I am the sibling without a Doctor before my name. I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up, but whenever I was asked (which is often when you are a kid), I would say that I will absolutely not be a psychologist. I went to UCLA and then to the University of Santa Clara and my first real job out of college was making video games at Activision. I started at Activision as a producer and I had a super fun time working on teams with game designers, programmers, artists, musicians and sound effect technicians creating magical things. I loved the creativity, the innovation, the finding and bringing out the best in people, all in service of creating an awesome game. I remember thinking that I was having such a good time that I would work for free. Luckily, I never said that out loud. A windy journey took me into Human Resources and the people business, so I guess you could say that I am a psychologist every day without the PhD.

Which person or which company do you most admire and why?

Walt Disney. He was a visionary and had a passion for entertaining and creating joyful experiences. He loved trying new things. He was curious. He had courage.

Walt deeply inspires me to focus on the experience I create for Intuit’s employees and at home for my 5 teenagers. For every single HR product or service our team creates, we explicitly talk about what we want the experience to feel like for our global workforce. At home, there isn’t a birthday party or a holiday event that I’m responsible for planning that I don’t channel Walt. I spend as much time thinking about how to create those entertaining and joyful experiences as I do executing the details!

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I spent a brief time as a sole proprietor doing executive search, but I decided to join Intuit because I felt I could give back more to the world with Intuit than I could by myself. At Intuit, we believe that with success comes the responsibility to give back to the communities we are a part of globally. In my 17 plus years as Chief of People, employees have volunteered 510,000 hours with charities around the world and have donated 82 million dollars, including Intuit’s 2 for 1 donation match. This is way more than I could have ever dreamed to do on my own. Not only are we helping people in communities around the world live better lives, but we are giving our employees a gift of wellbeing, which is strongly correlated with caring about others.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started”?

  1. People will not remember what you do, but they will remember how you made them feel.
  2. Your title makes you a manager, but your people will decide whether you are a leader.
  3. Don’t work for – or hire jerks – no matter how good they are at their craft.
  4. You spend more time at work than doing anything else – make sure you do something you absolutely love.
  5. Ask yourself as you start your day, “What would I do today if I wasn’t afraid?” Then lean in and do it.


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