True Religion’s Theresa Watts on Redefining Organizational Culture

Theresa Watts is the Senior Vice President of Human Resources, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at True Religion Brand Jeans, where she has helped to redefine and shape culture in order to design, build, and implement programs and policies that strengthen the organization. Employee relationships are central to Theresa’s leadership philosophy, and they inform her hiring strategy.


Listen to the podcast


HIGHLIGHTS FROM OUR CONVERSATION INCLUDE

  • How she stays connected to remote workers (8:04)
  • The brand’s current priorities (9:37)
  • How Theresa views candidates who have made mistakes or faced failure (12:04)
  • Her approach to implementing equitable, inclusive, and effective hiring processes (13:41)
  • Why it’s important to open doors and see talent in different forms (21:44)
  • Her success profile for a C-level or VP role (24:03)
  • Theresa’s take on flexibility and remote work (25:47)
  • Her advice for current job seekers… (30:25)
  • …And those who are just starting their careers (33:08)

SHOW TRANSCRIPT – HOW I HIRE PODCAST WITH Theresa Watts

HIH: Theresa Watts

[00:00:00] Roy Notowitz: Hello and welcome to How I Hire. I’m your host, Roy Notowitz, Founder of an executive recruiting and leadership consulting firm called Noto Group, where my team and I have spent the last decade helping to build iconic consumer brands one hire at a time. You can visit us at NotoGroup.Com to learn more.

If you have a friend or colleague who might be interested in the content of our show, please let them know that they can find us on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, Amazon, and anywhere they get their podcasts. 

I’m excited to welcome Theresa Watts to the show. Theresa is a seasoned HR executive who has held roles at companies like Eli Lilly and Sprint. She recently joined True Religion, where she’s the Senior Vice President of HR, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Theresa is a leader focused on transforming HR and integrating all aspects of the company’s culture to support a results driven mission. Theresa will share her insight into current challenges and HR trends, as well as how she helped leaders implement an inclusive, equitable, and effective hiring process. 

So Theresa, thanks for taking time to be on our podcast. I’ve been looking forward to this conversation and excited to get this opportunity to connect.

[00:01:21] Theresa Watts: Thank you so much. I’ve been looking forward to it as well, and it’s so nice to be here. Thank you. 

[00:01:25] Roy Notowitz: You know, we haven’t met until recently, so I thought it’d be great to start by having you share more about your career journey, some highlights that led up to your current role at True Religion.

[00:01:36] Theresa Watts: I think like most people, I think my career is going to go in a completely different way. So in undergrad, I began in clinical psychology thinking that I was gonna, you know, solve all the world’s mental issues and mental problems. Then I switched to counseling psychology. And then after that behavioral psychology and just was not finding my footing, but then I was in Atlanta presenting a study that had done with pigeons on memory and visual acuity at a conference in Atlanta. 

[00:02:06] Roy Notowitz: Wow.

[00:02:06] Theresa Watts: I know, I know.

[00:02:07] Roy Notowitz: Sounds really interesting. 

[00:02:08] Theresa Watts: Yeah. And while there, I sat through another presentation on industrial organizational psychology and I thought, wow. This is great. I was always interested in business, but then always interested in psychology and I thought, wow, I can study people and be in business at the same time.

So I had six months left til graduation and I was just like, listen, I know there are only six months left and I haven’t done this before, but I’m really interested in IO and organizational culture and I just want to switch. So they were very nice, switched me the last six months and got me into a study and that was great.

So one of my first big jobs out of undergrad was at AT&T Wireless in Chicago. It was the summer right before they launched. So that was exciting. 

[00:02:50] Roy Notowitz: Cool. 

[00:02:50] Theresa Watts: Yeah. Everything was new; policies, programs, people, the phone, the product, I mean everything. So it was a great opportunity to start from the ground floor with them.

So then I had an opportunity to go to Eli Lilly, the medical device side, which is actually Guidant. It was also the summer before they launched. 

[00:03:09] Roy Notowitz: Wow. There’s a theme here. 

[00:03:10] Theresa Watts: I know, right? So it was the summer before they launched. And again, another great time building policies, building the department, hiring the people, just building the processes from the ground up.

So it was great during the comp plans, hiring, onboarding. So all of that, and even just being very junior, like I was. Still fresh out of school, sort of, a couple of years out. So having the opportunity to do that, that was a great experience for me. And then there, I went on to Sprint’s… and actually, you know, they were already well established, but I got an opportunity to just hone my skills there.

It was a great opportunity to work with some of the, what I think are some of the best leaders, best CEO, the best leaders of HR that time, the best leaders in training, and just really get the skills I needed to bring me here to True Religion. And when I was contacted about True Religion, it was the same thing, but the company was well established, but they were in the process of a relaunch or rebirthing.

We wanted to basically redefine our organizational culture. So that’s what I came in to do, to help define it.

Help design it, help employees say, “Hey, I like this. This is where I want to be.” So I think that working with this current leadership team and our current True family, it was a hard task, but it was a fun and good task. And we’re doing really well now. I think that we have a great team and a great family.

[00:04:29] Roy Notowitz: So along the way, as you were going through these different steps early on in your career, and then kind of mid career, did you have any mentors or people that sort of shaped your philosophy around hiring and just HR in general and culture and things like that? 

[00:04:44] Theresa Watts: Well, I wouldn’t say anyone specifically, like in an organization, things like that now I’ve definitely had mentors to tell me, you know, “Theresa handle this situation that way, handle the situation that way.”

But I will just say I’ve had great opportunities. Like I have nothing negative to say about any organization I’ve worked for or because they gave me the best opportunities, for example, AT&T Wireless, again, I was sitting at, at the front desk of the human resources department working on my Master’s thesis, which was on, um, diversity.

They did not have a diversity training program. And I said, “Hey, you know, I need a study organization for my Master’s thesis. Can I use AT&T Wireless?” And they said, “yeah.” So here I was flying to Kirkland, Washington meeting with the top leaders of the organization presenting my project on diversity and they allowed me to do that.

And I think from AT&T, what I learned from them is just giving people an opportunity, giving them a voice, regardless of what level you are in an organization. If you have a great idea, if it’s something that you can do to make the organization better, I want to hear it. And they wanted to hear it. And that was great.

And it’s the same with Guidant, it’s just the opportunities there, Guidant and the whole Eli Lilly culture. It was, you may work in human resources, but you must know what everyone else does. It’s very important. So that’s the same thing that I brought here to True Religion. You may work in merchandising, but you need to know how what you do impacts marketing and design. You need to know human resources, how they recruit, who they recruit from, that type of thing. So making sure that everyone knows how every role is integral in the organization.

[00:06:21] Roy Notowitz: Tell us about your current role. What were you brought in to accomplish?

[00:06:24] Theresa Watts: Well, basically to define and shape the culture. I hear other people say all the time, “well, I was hired to increase this, to change that specifically, but regardless, you can’t do any of that or make any successful changes until you change the way the employees view the organization and get their buy-in for the changes. And I think that’s where things fail. You know, I’ve been a part of teams where we’ve implemented big changes and the employees knew nothing about it.

And rightfully so, when it occurred, their employees were like, “what? No, I don’t want to do this. No one got my feedback on it.” So just being intentional with changing the culture means having conversations with employees to assess how they feel now, what their walls have been, what their challenges have been, how they’ve seen the organization evolve or devolve. Me being new to the organization, I know none of this. I only know what people have told me during the interview process or what I’ve read in articles. So being able to just sit in the break room with the employees and talk to them, and I think that was new because now I hear the employee saying all the time, “wow. You know, we’ve never had an HR leader where we can just go and talk to her.” And I’m always amazed by that. 

[00:07:32] Roy Notowitz: That’s cool.

[00:07:33] Theresa Watts: Even with my HR team, I tell them, I’m like, “you know, why don’t you schedule a meeting with that department, a lunch, rather, with that department so that you can get to know them so we can get to know more about them and what they do.”

So for me, that is what I was brought in to do; to change and shape the culture so that then we can build and design and implement programs and policies that strengthen the organization. 

[00:07:55] Roy Notowitz: So you’ve been there a year and a half. So kind of a really interesting time, right? For a lot of retailers and brands and just business in general, what challenges are brands like True Religion facing in the current environment? 

[00:08:07] Theresa Watts: I think most so just staying connected to the remote workers, you know, they have concerns about, “well, I’m a remote worker and I no longer have that connection with my coworkers. If I’m working from home and I’m not in the office, you can’t see my face. So you don’t know when I’m tired or when I’m just dragging or when I’m just huffing and puffing because what I’m working on is really hard and it’s taken me a long time and I’m not really vocal. So I’m not going to call someone and say, oh, you know, I’m struggling mentally today. Um, my mental health is a concern for me.” 

So staying connected to them by developing opportunities where they can come into the office. Where, just in meetings, they’re not all business where we can say, “hey. Tell me about your kids. I know your kid just graduated from college. What else is going on? Hey, there’s a lot of noise going on in the background. Are you remodeling? Show us pictures.” 

I mean, honestly it sounds small, but those types of things work. So just staying connected to the remote workers and letting them know that we’re doing the best that we can to keep employees that are in the office, keeping them safe.

[00:09:10] Roy Notowitz: I’ve noticed that just having been working remotely for as long as we have now, it just sort of feels more normal just in general, but you know, having those personal connections on a day to day, I found it just, you know, you can even tell sometimes when somebody is just on video, if you look carefully, if you pay attention a little bit, um, I’m getting better at it or at least I’m noticing our team is getting a little bit better at sort of tapping into, you know, how people are feeling on a day-to-day basis. Connecting. 

So how are you addressing the challenges and you know, what are your priorities and where are you focusing your energy and your team’s energy as it relates to the overall business strategy?

[00:09:47] Theresa Watts: Well, first we’re focusing on the health of employees. That’s number one. And I will tell you too, that is number one, my CEO’s agenda as well. He’s always asking me, “you know, how are the employees? Is there anything more that we can do?” And I’ve worked for a lot of places and spoken to a lot of CEOs and I’ve never had them ask me that. And I honestly don’t think it has anything to do with COVID. I just think that that’s who he is and that’s the culture that he wants to bring. So we do things like, you know, once a month we bring in caterers to provide food and drinks for the employees. The weather’s been nice here in Southern California.

So we’ve been able to have, um, catered lunches on our patio with music. Sometimes there’s wine, you know, a wine break in the middle of the day, who wouldn’t love that? So people get to catch up. I mean, I’ve been here a year and since we started this, I’m meeting people that I’ve never met in person before.

So, you know, it’s just Zoom has been the way, and we haven’t met in person, the CEO and the CFO are there at our lunches. That’s a great opportunity because people have sometimes never met them or honestly, you know, younger people that have never met a CEO or CFO before. So imagine sitting down with them, having lunch and drinking wine. Also the CEO, he sends snack boxes out.

We call them Buckley boxes. It’s a play on his name, Michael Buckley. So we call them Buckley boxes. So he sends snack boxes to all the remote employees regularly. Just over the weekend, we got a nice box of assorted brownies and everyone came to the office yesterday super excited about it. 

[00:11:12] Roy Notowitz: That’s cool. 

[00:11:13] Theresa Watts: I think the last thing we focus on is, um, our recruiting strategy. And I say that’s next after all of that, because you can’t effectively recruit if the current employees have nothing nice to say about the organization, you can’t expect to retain new hires if when they arrive, the current employees are miserable and have nothing nice to say about the environment. So the strategy is to strengthen what is working, fix what is not, and to implement what we think is needed. And it only happens if you’re partnering and having guidance from the employees and building that relationship with the employees. 

[00:11:45] Roy Notowitz: So what is your philosophy or approach to hiring? You know, tell us a little bit about how your leadership hiring experience took shape over time. 

[00:11:55] Theresa Watts: I don’t know if you remember, but back in the day, I’m aging myself.

[00:11:58] Roy Notowitz: I’m with you. 

[00:11:59] Theresa Watts: Yeah, okay. 

[00:12:00] Roy Notowitz: I started recruiting before there were computers on desks. Right? 

[00:12:04] Theresa Watts: Exactly. But you could never talk about when you made a mistake, or when you failed at something and that’s okay. Our biggest leaders have made mistakes, learned from it and bounced back. So I think my philosophy is that failing at something at one time or other in your life is perfectly okay.

You know, like I said, in the past, we always wanted to hire the best and the brightest, those that are shiny and right out of the box and have no bruises and that’s nice, but what lessons have they learned? What can they teach us? What can you learn from them? So I think, you know, we always talk about failing forward. I hear that a lot but people don’t really mean it because if you’ve not had to adjust the way you think because things have not gone as planned, I’m wary of that person, I’m wary that the person is afraid to admit that they failed, but also I’m saddened by any organization that passes on a candidate when they are honest about an initiative that was not as successful as they’d hoped. And they had to take a step back and say, whoa, whoa, let me regroup. 

[00:13:03] Roy Notowitz: That’s a really insightful and meaningful tidbit of information there because I agree. I think somebody’s resume doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story. Right? And so understanding the context and really being able to understand how that person approaches those challenges and those opportunities and how they incorporate, or have learning agility around those things.

That’s really important. It’s something that I think it’s cool that you pick up on. So let’s talk a little bit about that. What’s your approach to helping leaders or other stakeholders implement an inclusive, equitable, and effective recruiting and hiring process within the organization? 

[00:13:41] Theresa Watts: I think that first, leaders have to be taught that there are multiple dimensions of diversity, there’s age, socioeconomic status, gender, religion, et cetera. It’s no longer just Black or white, gay or straight, male or female, therefore it’s important to create a culture that represents the multiple dimensions of diversity, a culture where diversity is expected, and it’s not a surprise. And if you have that, then you allow people to bring their whole selves to work and not just their work self, which I can’t stand as my work self. This is my personal self. 

Like you’re one person. So if your job, your organization, your coworkers don’t appreciate the totality of who you are then you’re in the wrong place. I think also when it comes to diversity, we need to stop focusing on the metrics so much. It’s, you know, what percent this, what percent that, for example, with us, when you walk into an office, do you see black people?

You know, you know, do you see Latinx employees? Do you see women leading teams and meetings? Do you see individuals with different abilities? Do you see women and minorities on the senior leadership team? And at True Religion, you see that the moment you walk in the moment you schedule a meeting with us and you see, you know, the head of this department is this rockstar female, or this rockstar Latinx employee or someone who’s proud of, you know, being married to someone who’s a non-traditional marriage, that type of thing.

So, I mean, to me, that’s diversity in action. That is diversity. So, as my mom would say, the proof is in the puddin’. So, you know, proving that you mean diversity when you, um, when you can walk in into an organization and you see that diversity and to this day, I’m still very impressed at how diverse we are and at our organization, how we do not have to work hard to ensure that our hiring managers are hiring diverse people.

For example, I’m typically in the office on the day that new employees start, they’re onboarded. So I get to walk into the onboarding and I introduce myself and I meet them. I give them a gift, but recently, last week I was doing something else during the onboarding. I was out of the office or something and I didn’t meet the new employees.

So I kid you not, the next day when I was back in the office, there was a group of like, minorities, a group of new people I hadn’t seen before. And I asked my team, “who are all those people?” And they go, “who?” I go, “all those minorities, all those Black people over there, who are they?” And they go, “those are our new hires.”

And I was like, wow. And I honestly walked around the office talking to other senior leaders about it. I was so proud because honestly at my last organizations, I always had to say, when we’re recruiting, 50% of your recruiting effort must focus on diverse candidates. If not, then I’m not moving along in a process.

I always had to plan it out for them. I do not have to do that at all. And I’m not making it up. I’m impressed. I’m proud. It’s just something that they do. They don’t have to come to me and say, “Theresa, are there any diverse resources we can use to get diverse candidates? Or I need a woman for this role. I need this.” No, it’s just ingrained. And we do it instinctively. I love that we do that very well here at True. 

[00:16:51] Roy Notowitz: So how did you facilitate that instinctual or that ingrained element around ensuring that diversity happens? How did that take root, I guess, to make sure that you actually had that ability to walk in and see diverse teams taking shape and having success there?

[00:17:08] Theresa Watts: Well, we do business, we’re in a lot of diverse communities. We’re in a diverse industry. Our customers are diverse. So we were able to have a greater focus on diversity because we look at diversity through the lens of our customers, through the community and the industry. So based on that, we can create models or pathways for hiring based on that lens.

You know, we changed how and who we recruit from, are reaching out to different schools, organizations and partnering with organizations that are in or work in underserved communities. You know, I remember growing up on the South side of Chicago, listen, no one was coming into my neighborhood to mentor me, to provide me opportunities.

I never worked alongside a female VP, let alone a Black female VP for a large international organization. Never. So I’m proud, you know, we go into different communities and we partner with the customers there, we partner with our business partners there to say, “Hey, how can we help?” And it builds those types of relationships.

So when you’re not just looking through one lens where everything looks the same. You’re able to do that. So you diversify your thought, you diversify your processes, you diversify your product, you diversify everything you do. And how can we sell to a diverse community if within our own family, within our own True family, we’re not represented with diversity. 

[00:18:28] Roy Notowitz: That’s great that you’re able to connect with your communities and identify opportunities to build relationships and create candidate pools that mirror the customer base. That’s amazing. 

On the selection and decision-making side, when you’re working with leaders that are already in the organization, is there any kind of training or coaching or knowledge that you share with them to help them select the best candidates and to be open to seeing that diversity and understanding how that might fit into their team?

[00:18:55] Theresa Watts: I think what my CEO has is he’s done a great job of, one, hiring members of the senior leadership team that understand how important diversity is. We all come from different backgrounds. This is the most diverse senior leadership team I’ve ever been a part of in my entire life. Honestly.

You know, we have four rockstar women on our senior leadership team, and we have people from every religion, every race, every ethnicity, you know, different genders and our senior leadership team. So one, it’s taking a look at our senior leadership team and seeing what our CEO has done. Why wouldn’t we mirror that? It works, right?

So we’re a very effective team and we know what he wants and we know what’s important to him. And he likes that diversity in thought and diversity in process, but I think also what our senior leadership team does very well is that we communicate and we share our stories. And a lot of people don’t do that.

We’re able to sit on the senior leadership team and talk about how diversity impacts us personally, how it impacts us professionally and how it impacted us growing up to get to where we are today. I was just sharing with you, you know, about, you know, growing up on the south side of Chicago, but being able to openly share and have that type of conversation and that feedback.

I think that it humbles us. You know, we’re coming from a place where again, we’re doing very well and we all have different backgrounds, but it humbled us to a point where we can say, I want to help other people. And my recruiting strategies should be one, well, yeah, we want to hire the best people, but we also want to open doors for other people.

We want to open the same doors that other people open for us. So for me, the engagement parts is important for the recruiting strategy. You engage with others, engage with who they are and where they are. People want to work for you. They want to come here. And that helps with retention as well. So when they get here, are they going to be happy?

Is this a place where they want to fit in? And I know it probably sounds simple, but no, it isn’t hiring the right senior leadership who understands this and having those open conversations. And when we have our senior leadership team meetings every Monday like clockwork for three hours, we have an opportunity to share those experiences and to provide feedback to one another, “Hey, listen, maybe you should do that.” They’re regular diversity sessions or regular, “oh my God. COVID has just like ravaged the recruiting industry. So, um, opportunities to share. What do you think that we should do differently with recruiting? What have we done differently? Where are we going? What is working?” 

And we’re at a great place right now where our momentum is moving forward, but it all started with that strategy there. Just getting to know one another, talking, being honest, being humble, being open, sharing our story about what worked for us and what we think would work for the organization. That’s our strategy. 

[00:21:44] Roy Notowitz: I like that idea of the purpose and mission around helping others. Because I think oftentimes in the executive search or in the hiring mode, you’re thinking about the filter, right? How to filter people out, I guess, versus in. And I think one of the things going through these learning journeys that we have this past year is like really, you know, looking for shifting the mindset around that. It’s been amazing. We’ve seen it through our client base as well, just greater awareness and openness to see talent, you know, in different forms. 

[00:22:16] Theresa Watts: What we’ve found out is that, you know, everyone may have the same skill set. You could go to a room and find 50 people who can do the job. But will they fit in? You know, will they be happy here?

Will they bring the type of component that we need to strengthen our culture? Will they be a great part of our family? And we don’t just say that for us. We say that for them too. We don’t want to bring someone in who won’t be happy. So if you don’t check off every box that we’re looking for in a skillset category, we can train you.

We have no problem with that. We can sit down with you and help you learn what you need to do. We’ll get you the training that you need, the tools, the skills, everything, we’ll help you with that. But who are you as a person? Who are you as an individual? I remember one time, on one of our senior leadership calls, our CEO, Michael, he goes, we were talking about recruiting and all the different things that were going on. 

It was just, everything is going on in our different department and he goes, “what kind of people do you want to be? What kind of people are you? Ask yourselves that, who are you? What kind of people do you want to be? Who do you want people to see you as? What do you want people to say about you? Then go and recruit for the person who wants to work for you, who can help you be better. Who can help the organization be better.” And I thought, “wow, that was amazing.” And that’s how we lead our recruiting strategy. 

[00:23:39] Roy Notowitz: I think it’s true. I think getting past the veneer and just to the essence of what drives somebody or what their motivations are, what their experience has been and how they can apply that and how they approach their job and so what are the two people that would really thrive in that organization based on how decisions are made or how they communicate or how they work collaboratively with others? Let’s talk a little bit about hiring at the executive level and on the leadership team.

When you have an opening or when you have an opportunity to hire somebody at the VP or C level, what’s the approach to building that success profile on the front end before you go out and start looking for candidates? 

[00:24:15] Theresa Watts: I look for someone who maybe has had, you know, you don’t always have to work for the best Fortune 100 companies. Maybe you worked for a great company and you took a stint at a smaller firm because you wanted to learn a little bit more. Maybe you have that entrepreneurial spirit and you stepped out on your own and you tried to do something different. That’s great. That’s someone who always wants to learn more. Who’s always doing something more.

Who’s always saying, “Hey, listen, for example, this pair of jeans is great, but I think I can do it better. You know, this organization, their processes are great, but you know what, I think if I ran my own organization, I could do a little bit better.” They may have stepped out and tried it, hey, maybe it didn’t work.

But that knowledge that they gained from that they can bring that back to us and say, this is what I learned when I tried to do this. Let’s not do it that way, but this worked. So let’s try it that way. So that’s the first profile we sit and we think we want someone with that entrepreneurial spirit, someone who can come in and build teams of people who also have that entrepreneurial spirit, because we don’t want them riding everyone every day. 

We want people to have the autonomy to do what they need to do to make the department better. You know, even when hiring their VPs here, we say, “listen, this is your department. Run it, make it successful. Let me know what you need. What, you don’t need anything from me? Great. So if you need something from me, I’m here.”

So that is the first thing we start, we look for that person. We look at their resume. We talk to them to see if they’ve done that before. That’s something that they can do, if it’s something that they’re interested in, because that’s what we want you to bring to our team. 

[00:25:47] Roy Notowitz: Has COVID influenced your approach to recruiting or hiring in the sense of being more open to remote work situations or hiring virtually in the interview process? How have things changed as it relates to recruiting and hiring and the COVID element? I guess the COVID factor. 

[00:26:04] Theresa Watts: Well, um, everything is just so different these days, but you know, it just makes me laugh because I remember early on in my career, I would always get a talking-to about leaving the office at five o’clock. Right? So, but I tell you the honest to goodness truth is really, I’m a hard worker, so I can get five days worth of work done from eight to five if I’m just doing my job, that’s true now. That’s always been true about me. I’m not someone that has to take long lunches. And when I do, it’s probably not the entire hour.

I’m always up working late or super early. And the thing is I always received great reviews on my work and my work ethic, but they were always upset if I left at five o’clock and I thought it was preposterous because work was always done on time or early and it was exceptional. But I look back at that now because COVID has shown us that people can work remotely.

Does it really matter what time an employee arrives or leaves? Does it matter what hours an employee works? No. As long as the work is done, we’re fine. So we went from a strict 8:30 to 5:30 schedule to, oh, what day will you be in the office this week? 

[00:27:05] Roy Notowitz: Yeah, I think that’s been amazing. It almost was like this big experiment that just was proven, you know what I mean? It was like no one had a choice, you know? And it’s just been proven to be true. People are more productive with that flexibility and freedom to integrate work and life and not having to commute every day. And it’s just been fantastic. 

[00:27:25] Theresa Watts: Honestly, I have no idea where my team is. Um, there were, there were, I don’t, if they’re going to be in the office, they’re going to be at home or they’re going to be at the park working, but I tell you what, when the work is ready, they send it to me. It’s never late. I can reach them and they’re a lot happier and that’s all that matters. 

[00:27:40] Roy Notowitz: So have any of your policies or practices changed as it relates to remote work? And what do you think the future, you know, post COVID will look like? Will it be similar or? 

[00:27:50] Theresa Watts: I think it’s going to be similar. I think it’s gonna be similar meaning where it is right now, where the remote work is just gonna be what it is. Everyone is going to be working more remote. Office space is going to probably get a little bit smaller because you don’t need it anymore. You know, sorry, landlords, but I just think that, you know, we’ve found that people are a lot happier when they’re able to just run really quick and pick their kids up from school.

I know I love being able to just run to the grocery store right quick, and to get something prepared for dinner or, you know, to take your dog for a walk, those mental breaks help. There’s sometimes if I’m on a conference call and I know that I’m not doing a lot of talking, I’ll take a walk while I’m on the conference call. I think that’s going to be life. And I think it’s going to be a great life. 

[00:28:36] Roy Notowitz: Yeah, totally. And I think it’s going to become the expectation of the next generation. Right? So it’s just becomes reality. It’s pretty amazing. So, in terms of leadership hires, have you gotten to the point where you have people leading remotely outside of the Los Angeles metropolitan area? Or is most of your leadership team still within proximity to the office?

[00:28:57] Theresa Watts: No, we have a member of the senior leadership team in Vegas, but honestly it’s like, they never left because we talk to them regularly. The work is there. We have members in New York, Ohio all over the place, in the South. It’s just, it’s all over. 

[00:29:12] Roy Notowitz: And it works, right? 

[00:29:13] Theresa Watts: Yeah. 

[00:29:14] Roy Notowitz: That’s incredible. 

[00:29:15] Theresa Watts: It works. Yeah. 

[00:29:17] Roy Notowitz: Um, so when you reflect on you know, in the past we talked about, you know, the most successful hires and the least successful hires. What do you think makes the difference between success and failure when recruiting or assessing executive level candidates? 

[00:29:34] Theresa Watts: Again, you know, I’ve hit on it several times. Just someone who’s fearless. Who’s curious, who, you know, yeah, this is working well guys, but how can we do it differently? Someone who has passion. I see that all day in our office. Oh my gosh. The people that are running around, I have to get this done, or this is great. Or I want to run and see this in the store. I want to see my designs in the store and they love that. Just someone who has grit and who has nerve, who knows that, you know, Monday, oh, we had a fabulous day, but Tuesday it was bad, but Wednesday is going to be great again. Someone who could take those punches and take those ups and downs and just roll with it, you know, they’ve proven that they’re able to fail and just bounce back with a smile.

[00:30:17] Roy Notowitz: Resilience. 

[00:30:18] Theresa Watts: Exactly. And most importantly, to just verbalize what they want, who they are and what they want of an organization and what they want out of a team.

[00:30:25] Roy Notowitz: What advice do you have for job seekers in this market?

[00:30:29] Theresa Watts: I would just say, you know, be a risk taker, but also don’t take a job where you think that you’re going to be miserable. Um, I did that before, years ago and, oh, man oh man did I hate it, but, um, you know, culture is very, very important. I would think that too, when you’re talking to organizations, when you’re interviewing with them, ask them what they’ve done to shape or influence the culture or evolve the company culture, not just during COVID, but in general, you know, I give an example, we implemented our new parental leave policy here at True Religion, and it’s great. 

We just implemented it less than a month ago, but honestly, it’s something that we needed and is something that we’re very proud of. And it’s something that we probably would have eventually had, but COVID just sped up the process, cause you know, we saw that our parents, male and female, are working from home.

They’re taking care of their kids and we realized, what do these people do when they’re out on furlough? How do they get money to take care of their kids or their pregnancy? How do they have a baby and still take care of everything? So it was saying we need to really focus on policies that help our employees be better employees, be better family members, be better parents and caregivers. So honestly, look for organizations who put employees first. Yes. Business is business, and putting employees first is also important because without the employees, you would not have a business. 

[00:31:53] Roy Notowitz: Right. Yeah. I mean, we might not ever achieve work-life balance fully, but work-life integration is something that I think we can try to get to. 

[00:32:01] Theresa Watts: Yes, definitely. 

[00:32:02] Roy Notowitz: And certainly the more balance and the more opportunity to take care of your family, the better employee you’re going to be. Right? And especially, even taking care of yourself too. Right? It’s so hard to make time to fill all those buckets. 

[00:32:12] Theresa Watts: You know, you hear a lot of leaders say, “oh, I care about you. I care. I’m concerned,” but…

[00:32:20] Roy Notowitz: I can hear it in your voice. 

[00:32:21] Theresa Watts: Exactly. But it’s not really true when you’re not doing anything that benefits me and my family. So, you know, like I said, it’s like our new parental leave policy or all the other things that we do for our employees. I hope that they know that we care because we do. 

[00:32:38] Roy Notowitz: So your advice is to look for the companies that walk the talk that are actually doing things to demonstrate that they’re a good place to work and that they care about employees.

[00:32:46] Theresa Watts: Exactly. And honestly, if you are a diverse candidate, I would take a visit during the interview process. Can I come to the office? See who’s there. See who’s working. Who’s been a part of your entire interview process? Who’s been a part of your team? Any diversity there? Any women? Any minorities? I would, um, yeah, take a look at that. If that’s something that you’re interested in, be aware of who you’re interviewing with. 

[00:33:08] Roy Notowitz: And in case there’s any like college students or younger individuals who listen to this podcast, what advice do you have for the generation of talent that’s coming into the market right now, as they think about their career path and future?

[00:33:20] Theresa Watts: I would say to speak up, start to learn who you are and to learn what you want and verbalize it. We work with a lot of young people in the office and they’ll say, “oh, you know, I thought about asking if I could do that, or I saw that position posted, but I didn’t think that you would consider me.” And we’re thinking, “oh my God, you, you didn’t say anything to us. We would love to have you in that position. We would love to have you run this team or run that project. I would love to have you switch teams and be promoted and come to my team.”

And I even tell people on my team, I say, “listen, go home and talk to whoever it is that you talk to that you get great advice from. Is it your mom? Is it your dad? Is your siblings? Your best friends? Hey, come and talk to me and tell me what you want, what you need, what you want professionally. Also, too, if there’s something that you want, schedule it on your leader’s calendar, just plop it in. Don’t even ask, just go fill it on the calendar and say, “Hey, I need 15 minutes with you this time. I know you’re free 30 minutes of the year on this day, your calendar is up to date. You’re free. This is my time.” Do that. Just be bold about your career. 

[00:34:34] Roy Notowitz: That’s great advice. I couldn’t agree more. So what’s next for you and how are you thinking about the future? Do you have any other exciting projects or endeavors that you’re working on currently? I’d like to get a sense of how you’re thinking about the future. 

[00:34:47] Theresa Watts: Anyone who knows me, knows that my passion is women and helping women to do more, be more, speak up more, helping us all to get to the next step, wherever that may be in our careers. So I’m networking with more women who also aspire to grow and expand their capabilities to sharpen their skills.

And a lot of times that starts with the younger generation. High school or elementary school. So right now I’m working on signing an agreement with an organization here in Los Angeles that helps high schools partner or get connected to organizations that want to help students in underserved communities.

So super excited about that. That’s gonna be something great for True Religion, for my own development. I’m so excited. You know, I’ve asked to join Chief, which is a private organization for women. 

[00:35:31] Roy Notowitz: Yes, I’ve heard of them. 

[00:35:33] Theresa Watts: I know the waiting list is really long, so I’m so excited to be accepted, but it’s just another group of executive women who want to move up that ladder and move into that chief position. So hopefully we’ll all get to be in that chief position one day.

[00:35:48] Roy Notowitz: Well, this has been really exciting to learn about you and to hear your story and more about your journey and how you hire. How can people get in touch with you if they want to connect? And we’ll also have links in our show notes and stuff.

[00:36:00] Theresa Watts: Well, you know, I love my job, so you can always contact me there. I’m at True Religion, so it’s T.Watts@truereligion.com. I’m also on LinkedIn and definitely on Twitter as well. So yeah, LinkedIn and emailing me. 

[00:36:13] Roy Notowitz: Thank you again so much for joining us, Theresa, it’s just been great to get to know you a little bit and appreciate you being on the podcast.

[00:36:21] Theresa Watts: Thank you so much for your time and thank you for being here. I really enjoyed it. 

[00:36:25] Roy Notowitz: Thanks for tuning in to How I Hire, visit HowIHire.com for more details about the show as well as our guests and links to things that you might want to learn more about. If you know somebody who would be interested in the content you heard today, please let them know about our podcast. Really appreciate that. 

How I Hire is created by Noto Group Executive Search. To find out more about Noto Group visit NotoGroup.Com and follow us on LinkedIn. This podcast was produced by AO McClain, to learn more about their great work visit AOMcClain.com.