Carla Dowden: From Part-Time to VP-HR
Our next interview in our Senior Leadership Interview series is Carla Dowden, VP – Human Resources. You can check out her full bio or just dive in and learn more about her six years of HR success at PFSbrands below.
Q: Tell us what you did before landing at PFSbrands.
A: I have a business degree with HR certifications; I started as a generalist 15+ years ago, I have worked in the medical, manufacturing, and now food service industry. I have worked my way through many different areas of HR before arriving at PFS, which has been a great foundation to build on.
Q: What brought you to PFSbrands?
A: My position was relocating to Atlanta and my family wasn’t fond of that option, I took a huge leap contacting Shawn to see if he needed any HR help. Shawn’s daughter and my daughter played soccer together and I knew he had a high-growth company, which sparked my interest. He started me at just 30 hours a week with no long-term promises. Within 30 days I was full-time, putting together handbooks and ironing out the hiring processes.
Q: Tell us about you and your family a bit.
A: Interesting question, a few years ago I wasn’t as quick to share personal details about myself – however, I’ve learned (slowly at times) that if you want a family environment like we have here at PFSbrands then it adds an element to our culture that cannot be ignored. In the spirit of this personal evolution, happy to share I am married with 3 children (one heading off to college, a high-school junior and a 6th grader). I’m endlessly thankful for my family who is supportive of the time I put into work and who understand I truly have a passion for my job! Everyone has to find their own work/life balance.
Q: What is a normal day in the life of Carla?
A: There is no typical day – I’m sure everyone around here probably says that! Some days are structured and include interviews, team meetings and strategy sessions others I can really dig into projects and planning. At this point in my position and progression of roles in PFS I have to say I’m extremely grateful for my HR team, because of them and their special areas of expertise I am able to do a lot more planning, goal-setting and am currently working on restructuring the entire department to be more focused on professional and personal development.
Q: Do you have a favorite quote or a driving force for your passion for HR?
A: “Success isn’t just about what you accomplish in your life it’s about what you inspire others to do.” I think at the beginning it was more about me and now it is more about inspiring others both inside and outside of the company, the transition isn’t always easy or fun in the traditional sense (succession planning for instance – nobody wants to think about that) but it is endlessly rewarding seeing others grow.
Q: What can you tell us about HR trends you have your sights on?
A: DIGTAL TRANSFORMATION – embrace technology! Like everything, if you don’t keep current you’ll be left in the dust. Paper forms are becoming a thing of the past. We’ve partnered with a company called PayCom to get everything we do in HR in ‘the cloud’ from recruitment to retirement. We strive to provide transparency in this open-book management company, this is a key way HR can aide that effort.
Q: What do you think is the #1 way you have been able to impact PFSbrands so far?
A: Asking the tough questions! I like it! Meeting, evaluating and recognizing key traits in each individual who has been hired since I started here 6 years ago, is essential in our hiring practices. It is a huge time investment but we truly feel it makes the difference and is a major reason we’ve gained a cultural edge on our competitors. This company is NOT for everyone and that isn’t a negative thing. Sometimes a hiring manager seeks talent over attitude and potential, I’ve been there and can help talk through those tough decisions.
Q: Anything else you’d like to share with our partners and potential customers?
Top-grading by Bradford D. Smart has impacted my life and how I look at hiring forever. Do yourself a favor and read this book! My next article will be a few key takeaways at a very high level and how we have implemented them. We’ve made so much progress in this area and reading this book will start you down that path as well. Of course we read a lot of great books here at PFS, we’re lucky to have a CEO so invested in development that provides us with a resource center including paper and audio media formats.