I'm Rana Robillard, Startup Advisor and previously Chief People Officer at HackerOne and Vice President, People Operations at New Relic.Featured

Hi Elpha! I’m Rana Robillard. I help tech startups build employee-centric cultures, where we enable and inspire people to do the best work of their careers.

Currently, I’m a startup coach and advisor. Previously, I was the Chief People Officer at HackerOne, and Global Vice President, People Operations, at New Relic.

My best work includes building strong and diverse teams; delighting candidates and employees on their career and life journey; building innovative, creative, and meaningful people programs that amplify the values and culture of the company and support local communities; and developing location and hiring strategies to attract the best talent to fuel growth and outpace competitors.

I have an HR-related blog ( and I enjoy traveling and trying new food and wine. I have one daughter who just started college at UC Berkeley this year.

Ask me anything about global talent management, team leadership, people analytics, DEI programs, executive compensation, or something else!

Thanks so much for joining us @ranarobillard!Elphas – please ask @ranarobillard your questions before Friday, October 22nd. @ranarobillard may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Hello @ranarobillard. Thank you for this opportunity. While building meaningful people programs, were there ways you noticed support of local communities created a healthy environment for building rapport amongst community leaders, businesses, schools, etc.? In what ways can companies build a similar ecosystem to support local communities especially those which may be underserved? Thank you for your insight!
I love this question! This is such an important topic and I feel that this is an area where expansion is happening - but I am hoping to see even more. When I was at New Relic, we developed a CSR program called Data Nerds 4 Good (DN4G). We implemented Benevity and community service time off to provide access to volunteer opportunities and campaigns. Like most HR programs, I believe in developing these programs in a very holistic way, meaning they are weaved into various aspects of work programs. For instance, community support and volunteering as part of onboarding, department/team events, offsites, ERGs, recruiting campaigns (supporting select code schools and universities). Having a culture where community service is ingrained in all that you do can provide for meaningful opportunities to truly make a difference. While the above example is from New Relic, every company I have worked at has had great opportunities to build and grow in this area. I believe this is an area where every individual can make a difference.Please let me know if you have additional questions - I would be happy to help!
Hello @ranarobillard; thanks for making time to share your thoughts! We are an early stage FemTech startup (and team of 4) helping organizations become breastfeeding/baby-feeding supportive and as you have built cultures that consider the needs (and value!) of working parents and also navigated the working motherhood journey yourself, I'd very much value your thoughts on two things:1. What do you think is the best way for family benefit companies like ours to spark the interest of HR professionals and engage them in a conversation?2. In this time of pandemic and increased stress among our teams (especially mothers), how might we lead with empathy while still motivating everyone to help us hit our vital milestones? I am curious of ways you or others you work with have found to positively support both the health of humans and the health of the business when at an early stage.Many thanks for your thoughts!
Thank you for your question and I love the support that you provide for working parents. Regarding your question about engaging HR professionals in the conversation, I think that most HR related startups should first focus on the differentiation in their products and services. Are there other products/services that offer similar solutions? Why does the team and company benefit from your solutions? It is important that you are solving an important need and that you are able to clearly define the need and the solution - and the difference that you bring to market. In addition, most HR teams are swamped. How easy is it for them to implement your solutions? Do you bring a “plug and play” solution? For instance, do you provide employee communications and clearly customized employee engaging materials?Empathy will be key in your communications both with the HR teams and with the broader employee populations. Recognizing the workload of the HR teams and clearly showing up front the important area that your solution helps solve. HR teams are inundated with sales but they also will lean forward on solutions that are solving tough challenges of employees and come prepared to serve the employee populations with thoughtfulness, care and ease. HR teams tend to be careful and sensitive about who they turn their employees over to for solutions. They will want all service providers to be an extension of their HR teams and provide the same level of thoughtfulness, confidentiality and empathy that they would provide themselves. Showing this capability from your very first contact will be important. Please let me know if you have additional questions. Good luck with your exciting mission!
Wonderfully helpful insights, @ranarobillard. I especially appreciate your notes about empathy and showing up thoughtfully from first contact. I so appreciate your valuable response and making time to share notes. I will take them back to consider as we move forward.All the best and thanks again!
Thank you so much for doing this @ranarobillard. We are a supply chain startup. Our customer base is growing super fast and we need to staff up from engineers to customer development. It's a distributed workforce. I'm taking on some of the recruitment. In interviews, once the initial screening is done, what are some of the questions you've found elected some insight about the person that you might not have seen from their canned responses/resume? What have you learnt after hiring someone, that you wished you asked about before? Lastly, what are some of the resources that you'd suggest (other than your blog) for early stage companies to think about now rather than later?Thank you
Thanks for these great questions and congrats on your growth journey! For interview questions, I tend to do a combination of questions. Some are culture related. For instance:- What’s the biggest problem in most offices today?- Where have you done your best work? Why this role?- What does a successful company culture look like to you? What experience have you had that are both positive or that you considered negative?For general work questions:- Can you walk me through an accomplishment that you are most proud of?- If we asked your manager about your top three strengths, what do you think they would say? How about areas for development/improvement?These questions will help show you their self awareness as well as their thought process about how and why they do their best work. To help employees thrive and do their best work, it is important to understand these aspects to ensure that the role and culture is a strong fit.Note that it is equally important to be honest and transparent in how you describe the role, challenges, culture etc to each candidate. Transparency can provide candidates to “self select” to not consider the opportunity further and also ensure that they have the best possible understanding of the role and the company. Once they start, they will see for themselves - so it is really best to provide the full details in advance.Please let me know if you have additional questions. As you know, hiring is an absolutely critical role for every company. It is great that you are thinking about this and researching in advance.
Thank you for sharing your knowledge. I appreciate this. Copied into my interviewing 101 doc!I'm wondering if any additions in a (1) remote workforce where communication, cadence & trust is so deliverable orientated; & (2) when often new roles can be pretty broad & undefined?
Hi @ranarobillard, would you invest in a startup where the founders are 0 experience in the industry? 2. What criteria would you use to evaluate a startup if it worth investing my career?3. In your opinion, what's typically the size of the startup that just found its market fit and going to grow exponentially?I'm still forging my path, therefore I'd love to find a fit startup where I can contribute and wear many hats.Many thanks!
Thanks for offering office hours. I would like to learn more about global talent management. 1) What are the challenges that your clients have?2) How do you collaborate with different timezone?3) Do you have a talent map such as certain country is expert in certain roles (CRM, software engineer)?Thanks for answering them.
Thank you for the global expansion question. This is a complicated area and often depends on the company that you work for and their goals:- Strategy - I find many startups to be more action-oriented and reactive rather than to plan a clear strategy in advance. I think that having early planning is important - even if these plans remain fluid. The advantages and disadvantages of countries can be significant and understanding the talent availability for different roles is critical. It is also helpful to think through potential “hub” locations for regions where you may want to have a support structure for the region (finance, marketing, HR, etc). I work closely with the executive team to understand their goals and then do research to support a plan to meet the goals, often providing them with pros and cons for various locations. Having a network of peers at other companies can also be extremely helpful. This can help you understand challenges and successes others are having first hand.- Vendor Structure - It is important to determine how you will develop each location. For instance, some will open a country by having a formal entity - while others might use a global PEO (such as Papaya Global or Safeguard Global, etc). Depending on the structure and needs, you may also need a global benefits consultant (for instance, WTW or Aon), payroll provider (ADP, PwC, Cloudpay, etc), a global law firm (for instance Baker McKenzie) and an immigration firm (for instance, Berry Appleman & Leiden,- Culture, communication, engagement and management - While there can be challenges like time zones, I believe it is important to build structures that can support in the best way possible. For instance, you could adjust “all hands” meetings to support different time zones and provide recordings. You can provide weekend stays for offsite meetings to allow people to fly in advance and have time in an offsite location before meetings occur. For new/growing office locations, you can provide management team members with opportunities to work as an expat in the new location for 6-12 months to help the location grow and ensure culture, recruiting, practices and processes are developed. There are a variety of roles that can help with this and it can have a meaningful difference in the success of a new hub/office.Please let me know if you have additional questions regarding this important topic! Good luck!
Hi @ranarobillard! I am early in my career and am very interested in a lot of the same work as you, so this is such an amazing opportunity. I was wondering what is the best way to help startups define their values, based on your experience? Do you utilize any assessments or tools, or do you glean values from conversations with the founding team/org?
This is such an important topic for every startup and growing company. I believe the best practice is a combination of employee assessments and conversations with execs/founders. I have brought in a third party in the past to do focus groups with employees (for instance, Katy Sharon at Leader Success Inc Having an outside expert can help to ensure that employees feel free to be open and honest in these discussions. From this “grassroots” engagement you can truly understand what is special about the current culture and what employees would like to see grow. Meeting with execs/founders can then be done to review this work and further discuss possible aspirational values. Along with formalizing and communicating values to the company, it is important to also provide examples of the behaviors that support these values. This helps bring values “to life” versus simply having them as a documented framework. Hope this helps! Please let me know if you have any follow-up questions.
Hi Rana - I’d like to know what advice you have on where to begin for those who want to explore a career change into people ops without professional experience in the field. Also, can you elaborate on your experience with DEI programs and your process for creating and integrating those in the workplace? Thank you!
It is great to hear about your interest in a career in People Ops! I believe that entry level People Ops roles are a great way to start building an amazing career. People Ops has a number of avenues that you can pursue and these roles provide early exposure to these paths. Most of the hires that I have made into the Coordinator role have little or no HR experience (but do require general computer/office experience). Once in this type of general People Ops role, there will be exposure to many SMEs (for instance, compensation, benefits, L&D, DEI, ER/business partner, CSR, systems, people data, etc). You can let your manager know of your area of interest and there may be opportunities for you to help with projects in these areas. There are amazing books and resources available to learn more about People Ops/HR, for instance these online resources/organizations: Josh Bersin Academy, Redefining HR, SHRM, HRCI, World at Work,, LifeLabs, etc.Regarding DEI work, I believe there are opportunities to have an impact in this area regardless of your role. At Deloitte, I was lucky enough to get an opportunity to help administer the Women's Initiative program. In other roles, I have worked both with formal programs (managing the function) or informal programs. Examples of areas where all employees can impact:- Learning about biases, DEI history, and DEI programs. There are books, podcasts, webinars, films, training. I believe everybody has an individual responsibility to learn and grow in this area. Taking training (internally and externally available) can be very helpful in learning ones own biases and being thoughtful about how people interface with others (inside and outside of work)- Supporting, participating or forming ERGs- Be a champion for an overall strong, inclusive, welcoming and positive culture.- Supporting the recruitment programs. Share what it is like to work at the company (via LinkedIn, Glassdoor, conferences, training, etc) Examples of broad areas where HR team members/people managers can impact:- HR team members and general company people managers can have an incredible impact on DEI through the development and administration of important employee programs. These can range from compensation, talent management (promotions, performance mgmt), recruiting & sourcing, training opportunities, CSR programs, people data/insights, employee benefits. While I know a lot of people have a specific interest in a DEI role, it is important to understand that DEI is incredibly holistic and foundational work that has a lot of avenues where there can be significant positive impact. I would be happy to provide more information on any of the above as well as specific examples if it would be helpful. Please just let me know.
@ranarobillard Thank you so much for your thoughtful response! I will definitely take a look into those resources you mentioned to learn more about the people ops field as a beginner. It’s great to hear that DEI is holistic and can be fostered by all employees. I agree that we all have a responsibility as individuals to educate ourselves on these matters, as well.
I love all of this and where your journey has taken you! I would love to pick your brain on a few topics!! We are at 44 people today and in growth mode and I would love to know what your priorities would be thinking about what you believe should be in place by the time we are at 200 team members. Which technology would you use for coaching and building leaders? What are some of the best practices you have come along with when building teams and ensuring communication across an organization? oh! So many questions...would love to enjoy a glass of wine with you. =)
It is great to see you thinking about these topics and planning ahead. This will really help develop your overall planning and priority determination. For e-learning, I have implemented Linkedin Learning in the past with a lot of success. For coaching and general management training, Strive ( had been very successful. I have also heard great things about BetterUp ( your communication strategy early on is important, as well as continuing to review it as you grow. For instance, you may want to consider a combination of all-hands meetings, slack, intranet, etc. It is important to define what type of communications you will use in each form. I have seen where things like Slack get used for far too much (very very lengthy messages etc)- and other forums are not used enough. There are also certain types of communications that you will want employees to be able to refer to frequently and are weaved into other communications (such as the company's strategy, short and long term goals, values, etc). As far as general HR planning, I would also recommend being thoughtful about the overall HR tech stack and vendor selection. It will be important to time and implement these so that they are in place to provide you and the company with the most automation and service possible. For the HR tech stack, consider systems like Bamboo (HRIS), Culture Amp (engagement), Greenhouse or Lever (ATS), and Lattice/15Five (performance/goals). You may also want to consider a compensation tool (such as Kamsa at some point). I recommend moving some of this to Workday at around 400-500 employees (if your company is continuing its growth pattern).I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have any specific questions.
Thank you so much Rana! I appreciate your thoughtful response!