Continuing our profiles of some of the many extraordinary women in STEM at ADP, we sat down with Vice President of Product Management for Workforce Now, Hanneli Hudock.
Early in her career, Hanneli Hudock was having a hard time catching on to something she needed to figure out. It seemed that sometimes she just had to learn things the hard way.
Her manager told her she was very good at several specific things, then raised the issue she was struggling with and asked, "Do you realize that you're standing in your own way?"
Something about that question connected. Hanneli felt like the manager understood her and wanted to help. "Since then, I've learned that change is critical for growth. It's also painful, risky, and sometimes you feel like an idiot. I've also learned how important it is to connect with others from their standpoint, not mine—if my manager hadn't come at it from my viewpoint, I probably wouldn't have understood."
This is from someone who has a PhD in chemistry, spent time doing coding quantum electrodynamics simulations, and worked for McKinsey on medical and pharmaceutical projects. And she can ride a unicycle (thanks to the shortage of things to do while growing up in Iowa)!
Coming to ADP
Hanneli was recruited to ADP from McKinsey to help with strategy on healthcare reform. Her curiosity and openness to change were exactly what was needed. She was intrigued by the question of 'where is all this going?' as the company worked to help its clients implement the ACA.
She was also fascinated by working in a digital world, coming from the physical world of chemistry. It turns out they have some important things in common. "Just like biology is a system where we still have a lot to understand, the systems created by humans also have unknowns. We are constantly discovering things. It's easy to give a lot of weight to the things we do know, but we need to keep in mind what we don't know, and be excited about learning, discovering, and coming to new ideas."
Taking Risks and Trying New Things
In the fall of 2017, Hanneli started a new position as Vice President of Product Management for Workforce Now. She claims to have the least expertise on her team, but it may be her secret to success because she is focused on learning and imagining what is possible. Product management as a function is still maturing (in ADP terms) with an international team and a big shift from strategy. "Strategy is about big picture thinking and making business decisions. Product is much more operational and how to deliver business value in a way that works for our clients. It's a balance of making things easier and interesting while also focusing on the things that are most useful and helpful to the people using it."
Hanneli is enjoying leading a team of smart talented people and building on her management skills. "Learning to be a manager can be painful. At McKinsey, I learned how to manage up rather than down to make sure that everyone is moving forward to the same objective." She spends a lot of time listening and tries to strike a tone of honesty and understanding. "Sometimes, it's hard to give constructive feedback. So I focus on what we're trying to accomplish and talk about what's going well. People usually will be able to see what can be improved."
She sees management as more of a servant role that supports the team, makes sure there are adequate resources for the work they are doing, and gets things out of their way so everyone can do their best work.
The best part of managing for Hanneli is the opportunity to showcase and empower people. "I came in knowing less than the team. So I've learned to be comfortable saying when I don't know. It's also important to me to show my appreciation and let people know how great they are. I love to make a huge deal about how and why people are awesome."
She is motivated by doing a great job and always working to grow and get better. But for Hanneli, it's not about moving upward. It's about facilitating the success of others, understanding and building for clients' needs, and staying open to new ideas.
Hanneli's career advice is, "Take on new things, make mistakes, have fun, take risks. It's okay to be afraid. Do it anyway!"
Hanneli Hudock in the ADP Waterview, New Jersey office. She and members of the Workforce Now team celebrated Diwali.