We’ve worked hard as a team at Cognota to create a strong culture and lay the foundation for successfully striving towards our shared goals together. Now that the team is growing (and growing quickly!), the time was right to welcome a new team member who could take our People Ops and the company culture to the next level.
With that said, we are delighted to welcome Ara Cruz as our new VP, People Ops & Culture! Ara brings a rich background of experience in the People function to the table and, having learned a little more about her People Ops philosophy and plans for Cognota, we can’t wait to see what she does!
Read on to learn a little more about Ara’s experience and her outlook on People & Culture in a new world of hybrid workforces and digital communication.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your career to date.
I have dedicated my career to building and transforming HR in tech organizations through innovative services and systems that not only meet strategic goals, but also shape the culture of the company and enhance the lives of employees.
Early in my career, I joined a start-up company called RL Solutions, a leading vendor of software solutions for Patient Safety. At RL Solutions, I built the HR function from its infancy as a start-up to becoming an Employer of Choice (Top 50 Best Employers in Canada list). Down the road, the company went through a merger and became RLDatix. As an HR Professional, it was exciting to lead the People Ops transitions throughout the years and managed significant growth from 10 to 300 employees.
Most recently I served as the head of HR for CATALYST, a leader in remote sensing desktop software for Earth Observation. After two amazing years there, I was ready for a new challenge and joined Cognota.
It is exciting as an HR leader to join an organization that is people oriented. Once I started meeting the team, it became clear that this wasn’t just something to put on the website – the company really lives their values throughout every practice.
I am thrilled to join the Cognota team!
What kind of challenges and opportunities come up when building a People/HR function from scratch?
Overall, it is truly exciting because you can build solid foundations from the start. This gives you a true sense of contribution and accomplishment.
Everything moves faster in a start-up or high-growth company, sometimes structure is lacking as transformation is constantly happening. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing and can be more of an opportunity in the sense that, like the rest of the company, People & Culture can stay agile, quickly adapting to the needs of the evolving organization.
Also, the enthusiasm and passion employees have in a small team may be difficult to maintain as the organization grows. Building from the ground up means you can tweak, monitor, and tweak again so that you’re really bringing the “Wow” factor in the employee experience and coming up with systems to maintain that enthusiasm and entrepreneurial passion as the company evolves.
What are your thoughts on moving into the learning and development technology space?
I believe it’s a great space to be in because L&D offers a big opportunity for people to improve themselves and this is something I am passionate about. Also, our technology improves customer’s efficiency and productivity, which is so important. Cognota is the only operations platform for L&D, and it feels great to be part of a team that is building something so impactful.
What are some of your plans for Cognota?
My plan is to align the People and Culture strategy with our values and mission to enable more people to learn and grow.
From what I’ve seen, Cognota has a good foundation in terms of the people operations and being people-oriented. My intention is to build upon all those good practices and really take that side of the company to the next level for scalable optimization.
We’ve got a pretty globally dispersed team at Cognota. What are your thoughts on remote or hybrid teams as opposed to the traditional office set-up?
Remote work provides employees with more choices and enables them to enjoy a better work life balance – it has a lot of benefits. Something I’m hearing as I begin to connect with the team at Cognota is that, although they are working remotely, they really feel that they are part of a cohesive team. The key to success when working remotely is trust and establishing good communication. Therefore, hearing those comments is very encouraging in terms of potential challenges that can arise with remote or hybrid work.
It’s also important to monitor the impact on mental health. In a WFH environment some people might struggle to separate work and home life or feel isolated. It goes back to the importance of maintaining good communication and encouraging people to take care of themselves and their mental health, for example by taking breaks, employing self-care, or socializing through regular chats and catch-ups.
From a talent acquisition perspective, remote work also provides the opportunity to open the door to a larger and diverse pool of talent, as a result the company can attract the best talent no matter where they are
What are the most important contributions a VP, People Ops & Culture brings to the table?
To me, it’s all about building the best team possible by attracting and retaining the best talent. This can be achieved by implementing solid practices and playing a crucial role in forming a great employee experience.