5 Questions with HighGround CEO Andee Harris | HighGround


5 Questions with HighGround CEO Andee Harris

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Things have been in full swing over here at HighGround since CEO Andee Harris took the helm, so much so that we haven’t had time to stop and introduce her on the blog. We’re excited to do so today and give you a peek at why we’re so happy to have her in the top seat.

While Andee is new to the role, she’s not new to the company or even the acronym. Andee celebrated her two-year HighGround anniversary last month and was previously our Chief Engagement Officer. Let’s dive right in!

1. Your title has gone from CEO to CEO, just swapping out “Engagement” for “Executive.” How did your time as Chief Engagement Officer prepare you for your new role?

Often one of the most difficult parts of taking on a CEO role is ramping up on the company dynamics, from meeting the team and figuring out the culture to learning about the business and its customers. I’m extremely lucky on this front for three big reasons.

First, as an inside hire, I already understood the culture and knew the quality of employees I’d be leading (our team really is amazing). Second, as someone in a leadership position, I already had a good rapport and knew how to work with the company’s leaders and board of directors and could utilize them from Day One. Third, as Chief Engagement Officer, I was in a role that touched nearly every facet of the organization, from Client Service to Product, Sales and Marketing. All of this made for a transition that was about as seamless as it could be for not only myself but our employees and our customers.

2. What are you really proud of at HighGround?

Our team’s commitment to our culture. It can sometimes be difficult to practice what you preach. As a company that focuses on helping other organizations deliver the best possible employee experience, it is really important that we’re doing the same for our own people. In 2018 we’ve stepped up our game. We like to have fun here, and we also want to create a place where people can be their best and be productive. We’re doing this by focusing on creating diversity in all departments, offering clear career paths and committing to transparent communication practices to keep us connected and working together towards common goals.

Andee Harris

3. A recent article shared that the number of women-led Fortune 500 firms in 2017 was 32. Unfortunately, that number is shrinking, due to a lack of women in succession seats. How can businesses ensure more mid-career women are in a position to take over?

I think the solution is two-fold. First, businesses need to implement more ways to get women ready for leadership positions. Does your company have a program for training and advancing women? Today only the largest companies can invest the time, money and energy that goes into successfully implementing and sustaining a program. Smaller organizations should look to partner with local or industry-specific groups to offer more resources to their women employees. For example, ARA’s goal is to attract, retain and advance women in technology, and has a presence in several cities.

Much more broadly in our business environment, we need to redefine the requirements of a CEO so that more women are qualified for the role. What does success look like? Is it someone who has a certain degree, deep expertise in a particular industry or someone who has led another company through a similar business stage? For example, requiring a CEO to have an advanced degree can create bias against women, who often juggle their careers with raising children and don’t have time for graduate school as well. My own lack of a master’s degree was a concern during my interview process here for the CEO role, but luckily for me HighGround felt I had far more attributes that made me the right fit.

4. How welcoming is the Chicago technology ecosystem for women? What’s been your experience here?

I’ve been fortunate to go through my career here in Chicago, as the city is very welcoming for women in technology. Local organizations like the Illinois Technology Association is very supportive of women in our field in many different career stages. 1871’s WiSTEM is an amazing program that helps female founders develop their startups and connect with mentors and investors. Even our local media like Crain’s Chicago Business devotes a lot of time to covering and helping to advance women in Chicago’s technology ecosystem.

The real proof of Chicago’s commitment to women in both leadership and technology can be seen inside the walls of our own companies. Half of HighGround’s leadership team is comprised of women, and 40% of our software engineers are women as well.

5. With today’s talent shortage, HR is one of the hottest areas of technology innovation right now. Are you seeing more businesses ready to address their performance management and recognition programs?

There has definitely been in uptick in not only interest, but also a willingness on our customers’ part to roll up their sleeves and overhaul their processes. The talent shortage is a factor, yes, but so is the transparency created by sites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn. I’d also attribute the interest to an increase in inclusion and diversity initiatives, which a platform like HighGround can complement.

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