Interview with Dr. Debra Spearing, Vice President of Human Resources at Pointman LLC
This week I had the chance to head over to the Pointman Headquarters and interview Dr. Debra Spearing, Vice President of Human Resources for Pointman! Deb has been the VP of HR since October of 2017. She has had multiple positions in different fields prior to coming to Pointman, all of which have helped her get to where she is today!
Deb is originally from Amherst, and she works out of the Pointman headquarters in downtown Buffalo. While over there, I got to ask Debra some questions about her work responsibilities, her outside passions, her reasons for getting into human resources, and more:
What led you into Human Resources?
“I guess I always knew that I wanted to be in an organization that allowed me to make a cultural impact and improve the employee experience. I sort of got side tracked along the way, but I was always looking for a way to return to HR and wanting to improve workplace engagement and quality of life.”
What are your daily responsibilities?
“One of the great things about my job here at Pointman is that there are really no two days that are alike, it is always an adventure. Since I am a department of one I do everything from having conversations with people about compensation, benefits, and time off; all the way up to making strategic decisions that are going to impact the future of our work force in years to come. In addition to the day-to-day tasks I am always juggling a handful of strategic initiatives, whether that’s revising our employee handbook, planning company parties, or arranging community service activities, there’s always a lot to be done. Earlier this year, we introduced performance appraisals for the first time in company history and I am really proud of how that has turned out so far. We also have a fairly flat organizational structure, with a lot of different departments that don’t always interact so I try to promote a culture of appreciation so it’s visible to all employees how much everyone contributes to our success.”
Favorite/least favorite part of the job?
“My favorite part is having a group of employees that is comfortable coming to me to not only ask for advice, but also being really interested in working on collaborative solutions to any challenges that they are facing in their job or in their daily activities. It’s not them just coming to me and asking “What should I do about this” and I tell them and then they leave. Instead we really take a lot of time to work together to figure out what the best solution is going to be and I like to involve them in their solutions since ultimately they are the ones that are going to have to execute it. In terms of least favorite, I tell this to my CEO a lot, but since being at Pointman I have really not had a “bad” day. Sure, there are a lot of challenges, but I come to work every day excited to see what’s next. I do find it heartbreaking anytime one of our employees asks me why we can’t have a dog in the office. Unfortunately, in our lease contract we are not allowed to have pets (besides service animals) in the office, because if I only had myself to consider we would be operating in a sea of puppies.”
Do you find it difficult to recruit in the software/tech side of the job market?
“We have actually had a lot of success recruiting and hiring software developers. We’ve been fortunate to draw in a lot of really qualified applicants on the development side and we also use our internship program to bring young developers in and then keep them after they graduate. As we continue to grow, I anticipate greater challenges recruiting in the sales component of the business. Recruiting intrinsically motivated sales people can be a real challenge for a lot of different companies. With my background in business psychology and behavioral economics, I know that just about anybody can be motivated by offering them commissions, but financial motivation is not going to be behaviorally sustainable. We currently have an awesome sales team that is driven by the desire to offer a technologically advanced product to our clients that is going to make their lives easier and help their business grow and increase revenue. Sure, money is great, but the fact that they want to sell the product because they see the benefit that our technology can bring to a home service provider really drives them to be their best. That desire is often hard to identify in a candidate.”
How has your background in psychology contributed in getting to where you are now?
“One of my psychology professors once said, “everybody’s got stuff” and this is something that has stuck with me my entire career. I have stuff, everyone in this building has stuff, and by “stuff” I mean that everyone has day to day stuff going on in their lives. Stuff that could trigger you, stuff that could make you more or less productive, and having an understanding that everyone deals with stuff in some capacity and that nobody is perfect has really given me an appreciation for the fact that everybody that I work with here is first and foremost, an individual. They want their ideas to be respected, and they want to be happy and successful in their job. With that idea I treat everyone as they are, a person with their own individual goals and aspirations, and what they want in their careers.”
If you could give advice to someone applying to Pointman, what would it be?
“My number one piece of advice, and this has changed over the years, is to create a unique cover letter for each application. A lot of the time people just send out the same cover letter to multiple companies. I want to hire an applicant that knows the organization that they are applying to and has a reason for wanting to work here. Hopefully it is because they connect to our mission, they believe in the technology we provide, and this is the type of environment they want to work in. To be really honest I would rather see a short cover letter or simply an email that addresses the fact that you are purposefully applying to our company, rather than a long cover letter that gives a detail of really excellent experience, but it is obviously the letter that you sent out to a multitude of other companies. That is not to say that a really impressive candidate is not going to stand out as a really impressive candidate, but what gets my attention and the attention of other leaders in the company is knowing who you are applying to.”
What are you looking for in the future?
“Company wise, we are trying to streamline the processes for recruiting and hiring, and improve the on boarding experience. We have a program called Wingman, where someone new to the company gets assigned to someone who has been there for a while. The “wingman” has lunch with the new employee, shows them around, and is their go-to person for questions, but I think we can do more to engage new employees from day one. We also have some great community service initiatives planned to help get the company engaged in activities for a good cause outside of work. As far as personal goals, I have always said if you are the smartest person in the room, it’s time to find a different room. I have been really fortunate to work with a lot of brilliant and innovative people here at Pointman. There are so many things I can learn from each one of our employees and I am really looking forward to continuing my work here to grow the company and improve the employee experience.
Deb graduated from Alfred University in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She then went on to Medaille College for her master’s degree in psychology which she received in 2007. While at Medaille she worked for Dival Safety Equipment and fell in love with the company culture. Working at DiVal inspired her to continue her education at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology where in 2015 she earned a PhD in Business Psychology! Along the way to Pointman she worked in higher education administration and consulting before deciding to return to her passion for industrial/organizational psychology and HR management. In her free time Deb enjoys spending time with her husband and stepchildren, working on upgrades to their new home, and riding her horse every so often.
A big thank you to Debra for taking the time to speak with us! Have any questions or comments? Leave them in the comments below!