November 23, 2020

Meet the People Heroes who made life at work in 2020 the best it could be

In 2020, People leaders everywhere have stepped up to face new and unforeseen challenges—from supporting the overnight switch to remote work, to reshaping strategies to support and engage workers, to creating new modes of connection and fostering company culture. They’ve revealed themselves to be what we always knew they were: the unsung heroes of their organizations.

Bravely and Blueboard asked employees at companies of all sizes to nominate HR and People leaders who went beyond the call of duty in this intensely challenging year. The nominations we received were overwhelmingly appreciative of the hard work these leaders have done to make it possible to thrive at work.

While all of the nominees we heard about are People Heroes in the truest sense, we chose 12 whose efforts helped their colleagues feel especially supported, empowered, included, and connected, and are featuring some of their stories here:

Julie Blaikie — Equity Residential

Julie’s colleagues say they don’t know how she does it. Amid what they called Equity Residential’s “most chaotic year ever,” she led a team of nearly 3,000 through completely uncharted territory. With her long history of transparency, compassion for her teammates, and having the entire organization’s best interests at heart, Julie had earned the trust to guide her team through 2020 and the unexpected journeys that came with it.

Through it all, Julie remained open to others’ feedback about how current events were impacting them and their comfort levels with discussing them in the workplace. Listening to this feedback informed Julie’s work in shaping unified and supportive internal messaging, resources, and next steps — both at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and again in the summer amid renewed visibility for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Julie is a model for harnessing her own resilience and building it in others. As one person said: “No matter how unknown or challenging the topic may be, Julie successfully gets us to a place where we feel confident that we have the information and support to forge ahead.”

Anastasia Greenmore — GoPro

Leading DEIB and Philanthropic partnerships for GoPro, Anastasia’s impact extends beyond the walls of her own organization — Anastasia was nominated by a former GoPro teammate who now partners with her at a new company and says she’s grateful for the opportunity to continue learning from Anastasia’s example.

Anastasia’s self-reflection, advocacy, and strategic thinking are an inspiration to those around her. Her ability to present her perspectives and persuade others to feel her conviction is a powerful model of courageous leadership. Her commitment, courage, and ability to connect with others make Anastasia an unstoppable advocate.

Emily Hull — CapitalOne

One word that came up again and again in the nominations from Emily’s colleagues was “heart.” Heart and caring are at the core of Emily’s leadership style. One nominator said, “She is empathetic and vulnerable — sharing authentically about her own efforts to learn and grow to encourage us to do the same!”

Emily’s genuine encouragement for her team’s self-care has shown up in the individual care she’s taken to help her direct reports make adjustments to avoid burnout. She keeps multiple channels of communication open, so that everyone has the opportunity to be heard in the way that best suits their needs and communication style.

By working with integrity and authenticity, Emily makes everything she does an opportunity to lead by example. This note summed it up beautifully: “I feel inspired to show up every day and work towards delivering my best work because I see Emily doing the same.”

Tara Turk-Haynes — Leaf Group

Tara’s impact at Leaf Group took on new meaning this year, say her colleagues. She exhibited selfless leadership as a source of strength and support for people across the organization. In a time of social unrest, she developed educational resources that met people where they were at and allowed them space to grow. Knowing there can be no learning without empathy, she gives others the grace and trust they need to navigate difficult conversations.

A nomination for Tara Turk-Haynes reads in part: “She shows up for our team in a way that many could not have… It’s truly heroic and remarkable.” 

Tim Betry — GoPro

Tim’s work leading the Covid-19 Task Force for GoPro is more than enough to make him a People Hero — the fact that he did it as a new dad reminds us that each of us has our own unique set of circumstances shaping our experience of 2020, and makes him all the more impressive. Indeed, his ability to empathize with parents on his team and exemplify the power of sharing stories hasn’t gone unnoticed.

What inspired Tim’s teammates most about his leadership was the way he balanced a willingness to process input and needs from across the company with a readiness to make decisions for the good of the entire team. The results speak for themselves: GoPro employee feedback shows that people have felt supported and that their health and safety have been prioritized. As his nominator said, “‘Be a Hero’ is the GoPro motto and Tim is absolutely a People Hero for GoPro.”

Kelly Battelle — GumGum

As GumGum’s first-ever VP of People Ops, Kelly has transformed the way the company thinks about the HR function. Her colleagues shared that her data-driven approach has made HR a stronger partner in the company’s business goals. This year, she was the force behind moving GumGum through rapid and unexpected change, leading the company’s work-from-home strategy and support, managing a re-organization with compassion, and launching STRIDE, GumGum’s D&I committee. She’s kept GumGum at the cutting edge of HR within its industry while approaching her work with a people-first mindset. A colleague shared, “I have learned so much from her and admire her both as a leader and friend. Her empathy, hustle and innovative mindset are make her a HR HERO!”

To all HR and People leaders: know that your teams see you, appreciate you, and think of you as an unsung hero of your organization — and we couldn’t agree more.

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