As part of our ongoing “Life at Uniphore” series, we interviewed Andrew Dahlkemper, Uniphore’s new Chief People Officer. Andrew shared his thoughts on the value of company culture, how to empower a growing workforce and what leadership lessons he’s learned from nearly two decades in the tech industry. He also revealed what gets him going and what excites him the most about the future of Uniphore.
Uniphore: How do you start your day?
Andrew Dahlkemper: I have been an early riser all my life, so I’m usually up at 5 – 5:30 a.m.; and even though I’m wide awake, I head straight to the espresso machine. I will take a quick look at my emails and respond to anything quick or urgent, and I’ll take a look at my calendar for the day. At around 6 a.m. on most days I will either get some aerobic exercise via Peloton or some weight training in the gym. Being an early riser, some of my best and most creative thinking occurs before I even get to work!
U: What’s the best part about your job?
AD: I really like the range of things we can do as an HR team to help create a positive work experience for our people. When we create a positive work environment, we put our people in the right “space” to do their best and most fulfilling work. When I view my role that way, it allows my team and I to use some creativity in our programs to reinforce a positive environment—whether it’s how we hire and onboard, how we reinforce our culture, how we develop our people and grow careers or how we listen, respond and communicate.
U: What about Uniphore excites you the most?
AD: It’s a combination of the founders’ vision, the products (those deployed and those in the pipeline), and the underlying technology – and the convergence of these things at this time in history – that really gets me excited. We truly have the opportunity to define the future in way where AI fulfils its fundamental promise, used as a force for good. I love explaining what we do to people who ask, and the most frequent response is some version of, “that’s so cool!”
U: What words of wisdom do you have for a growing workforce like ours?
AD: In a rapid growth phase, it [is important] to balance the needs of delivering on core business objectives (products, technology, selling, deployment, servicing, etc., etc.) while also onboarding new folks and scaling our systems and processes. It’s important for leaders to establish high level priorities and give our people the guidance and the autonomy to figure out the “how”. The biggest opportunity during rapid growth [is] attracting great talent from around the world. We are fortunate to have the positive culture, a great brand and the global footprint that we have today. I see us expanding our footprint even more into new customer markets and new talent markets. This is an exciting time.
U: Speaking of culture, what do you see as the future of Uniphore’s culture?
AD: Cultures should evolve over time as the company evolves, while the underlying values of a company stay more consistent. For example, if one of our core values is being customer-centric, we’d want to preserve and reinforce that value over time. On the other hand, companies that are very early in their stage of growth might have a culture that is scrappy [and] more tolerant of risk.
[These] companies need to be more mindful of creating long-term, sustainable solutions for things … The key to getting this balance right is to occasionally pause just long enough to evaluate where we’re at, asking, “does our way of doing things still work for us? What tweaks or adjustments do we need to make to achieve our business goals and build a long-term, sustainable future?” Like with many things in life, it’s a matter of balance and being careful not to swing too wildly in one direction or another.
U: You have a lot of experience in the tech industry. If you could share one lesson you’ve learned with other leaders, what would it be?
AD: Stay connected to your purpose and mission. When we all have a sense of what Uniphore has to offer the world, and we relate our roles to the mission of the company, asking ourselves, “How am I contributing to our success? How is my team contributing to success?”, it makes our work so much more fulfilling. When you’re connected to purpose and mission, you have a better sense for what is important. As leaders, we have to constantly be thinking of our functions and our teams as enablers of success, connected to purpose and mission, and we have to communicate and reinforce that every day in very real, tangible ways. It makes a huge difference in the focus, creativity and success of our teams.
U: Did you have a mentor growing up? If so, who was it?
AD: I had many. In my early days (age 13 to 18) it was my Uncle, who was a very successful businessman. I landscaped his property in the summers, and sometimes he’d work alongside me and tell me stories about how he overcame setbacks as a young entrepreneur. He taught me about the value of hard work, accountability, and perseverance. In my professional life, I had a peer at PepsiCo who instilled the value of “knowing the business.” We sat down one day in an onboarding session, and he had nothing but a pencil and a blank sheet of paper. He drew four simple pictures and made a few hand-written bullet points, explaining how the business worked. I was stunned and impressed with how much he knew about the business as an HR leader, and how that business knowledge made him one of the best HR professionals I’ve known. One of my HR mentors at Electronic Arts opened my eyes to the creativity that can be applied in the HR profession, which is something I constantly think about and act upon. Mentoring can happen formally and informally; I think it’s as much about the person who is hungry to be mentored as the person doing the mentoring. You can learn a lot from people by listening with curiosity.
U: Lastly, what’s one place you’ve always wanted to visit but haven’t yet?
AD: Believe it or not, after 25+ years in this profession in global roles, I’ve never been to India! I’m looking forward to visiting the teams in India at Uniphore as soon as conditions allow.