S4 E58 | Women in Talent Have you met…Libby Sartain

Libby share with Shannon the importance of community and how having a mentor impacted her career

Announcer 0:00
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Shannon Pritchett 0:22
Hi, I’m Shannon Pritchett with CareerXroads and I had the pleasure of speaking with Libby Sartain at our women and talent meeting. During our talk, Libby shared some impactful moments from her career as an HR leader. What particularly stood out was our discussion around the value of mentorships. And the importance of community is my pleasure to share conversation with you today. I hope you enjoy it.

Very interesting story about how you have the company you were working at prior to Southwest Airlines, you know, as one of your moments that matter if you have several, but you know, would you be willing to share that story or perhaps a different moment that mattered in your career?

Libby Sartain 1:00
No, I’ll be glad to share it. Um, Chris asked me that on a prep call. And I was like, I don’t know if I have one. And then one popped into my mind. But I was working for a technology company, it was publicly traded, but it was very small. And I had been the manager of comp and benefits. And we had a new chro come in, and I work with him and the team for a couple of years. But he brought in two guys about my age, they both came from the military, because my boss was also from the military. And I had by that time, 10 years in HR, and they were starting an HR fresh or maybe with a year of experience out of the military. So they had some good leadership experience, but not HR experience. And they were brought in making in one case, $10,000 more than I was making, or maybe both cases. And then when a succession plan was developed, one of them who had very little experience in HR at all was named as the successor. And so when that happened, I just decided, and I had a great relationship with the CEO who had been a mentor. Because in another question, you’re gonna ask me about a mentor. He was a great mentor. But I just decided I’m leaving, because this just isn’t fair. And I talked to my boss about why they were paid more than I was. And he said, Well, they have military experience. I’m like, they’re the same age as I am. I’ve been in HR for 10 years, I have an MBA, and a BBA, you know, that just wasn’t, it just wasn’t resonating. So that’s when I decided to look for a job. And I landed the job at Southwest Airlines. So another, you know, sometimes those things work out. Ironically, or interestingly, about three months after I was at Southwest, the CEO called me back and asked me if I would rejoin as the chro of that company. And he decided that neither one of those guys were ready to be the successor. And even though I wasn’t only the head of comp and benefits at Southwest, I decided to stay at Southwest, because I did not want to go back there where that had happened. But anyway, it was a it was a good thing. It worked out well. But it was a moment that mattered.

Shannon Pritchett 3:24
Well yeah and the rest is history, I think, look how much you transform to very large companies. I think that’s just absolutely, you know, incredible story that many of us can resonate with. You brought up mentorship. And you know, I think it’s such an important part in not only how females get into leadership position, but how they grow into senior leadership. And of course, mentorship is great for everyone, regardless of your gender. So you know, who did open doors for you? And also two part question is, who do you look up to for mentorship and guidance?

Libby Sartain 3:58
Well, I think the first situation where I really felt like I had a mentor is I joined a Mary Kay cosmetics, which is a cosmetic company, and in Dallas, and it was publicly traded at the time, before that other company. And I had a female boss, she was the head of HR, which was called personnel there. And so that was the first time that I had a woman who appreciated my pretty much entry level skills and really mentored and helped me learn and grow. But then when I joined the company, after that, we had a CEO who really embraced creating a learning organization, but because we were small, we didn’t have an L&D function. So he and I created it on our own using pretty much all internal resources. So we had different employees inside the company create courses. We did bring in some outside courses, but we created an luckily I was one of The founding members have sort of a high potential young manager group. And we would have cohorts go through that program. But it was really great. And he made it part of his job to get to know all of the young managers and to think about their skills and, and recommend opportunities. And one day he called me into the office and he said, I think you need to be in charge of the United Way campaign for Dallas this year. And I was like, what I mean, he would get me volunteer roles. He said, this is going to stretch you. And I’ve picked you to do it. And so it was really great. They also got me involved in and leadership Dallas, which was a leadership program in Dallas you may know about, but it did a lot to help me develop leadership qualities. And then I went on from there to Southwest Airlines where I worked for eventually for the legendary Colleen Barrett. And both Herb Kelleher who was the CEO when I was there, and Colleen, were champion for women leaders. And I could tell you a lot of funny stories about that, but I don’t know how long way out but it’s a great experience. And I felt like they mentored everyone around them. It wasn’t a male female thing that you didn’t really even feel the difference there. I didn’t think that’s good. Yeah, yeah. Now I’ll just say I work on a lot of boards with a lot of former CEOs and current CEOs and sharp executives, and I just like being around them, seeing how they think, learning what is important to them. So I always feel like I’m got a great group of in this time, they’re kind of peer mentors around me, but it’s wonderful.

Shannon Pritchett 6:52
I really like how you mentioned so many different associations and groups that have, you know, helped mentor and shape and mold your career. I’m a big component of community and we are of course at CareerXroads a giant community, you know, and, you know, do you feel that communities can help, you know, inspire leadership and do those networking opportunities, you know, really help females empower themselves to find those senior leadership roles.

Libby Sartain 7:26
I actually feel that professional organizations, community organizations, volunteer or, or organizations that I’ve been part of, have shaped my career development more in some cases, than mentorship programs and mentorship relationships within companies. Because the networks that I learned, for example, in HR professional associates, associations or, or communities that I was part of, have helped me have been the people I could go to when I’m like, I’m faced with the situation I don’t know how to handle it. How would you handle it? There’s always somebody smarter than you that you know, in those groups, and they’re always willing to help and and I just love that and that I think that’s really who made me who I was. Just I didn’t have aspirations to be on the boards of public companies when I was 21 years old, you know, but people said hey, you could do this and I was like, Really? But you know, they they pushed me along and helped me along.

Shannon Pritchett 8:35
That’s great. Thank you for sharing that.

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