Ann Marr sits down with HRD to debate the importance of aligning values as an HR leader
Growing up as the 12th child of 13 children, Ann Marr learned about success, tenacity and leadership from her parents. It’s something she carried through to her own career as executive vice president of global human resources at global IT giant World Wide Technology (WWT).
“My parents were such a big influence on my siblings and me, each teaching us valuable life lessons,” she tells HRD. “My father was the hardest-working person I have ever known. He told us we could do anything in life as long as we worked hard, and that there are no shortcuts if you want to achieve your goals. That strong work ethic continues to drive me in whatever I do.
“My mother encouraged us to follow our passion but stressed the importance of education, kindness, compassion and giving back to others who are in need. Both my parents made family a priority in our lives and gave us a home filled with love, laughter and where everyone was welcome. To this day, they inspire me to be the best person I can be, and I want to make them proud of the things I have accomplished.”
‘My personal values align with the company culture’
In her role at WWT, a role she’s been in for 25 years now, Marr has taken the advice her parents gave her as a child – and ran with it. The ongoing talent shortage and tight candidate-led market means employers have been grappling with more stress than usual – something that’s taking its toll on recruitment plans.
However, for Marr at WWT, she’s committed to hunting down the very best and brightest STEM candidates they can – and supporting them throughout their entire career.
“At the center of this is creating a culture of inclusion and investing in diversity, equity and inclusion programs that drive shared value for our people, our business and communities,” she tells HRD. “Our global community-impact programs allow us to extend our impact beyond our business and give back to the communities where we live and work. These programs are also important to the work we do every day in investing in the future we want.
“All the work we do is powered by our mission to make WWT a great place to work for all. Our company’s core values – THE PATH (trust, humility, embracing change, passion, attitude, team player, honesty and integrity) – accelerate these efforts and allow us to take an innovative approach to problem-solving. My personal values align with the company culture we are building and continue to motivate me in whatever I do.”
This commitment to promoting and championing more women in the tech space is a personal issue for Marr. As a female leader in the male-dominated technology sector, Marr takes her responsibilities very seriously.
“It’s such an honor and privilege to be in this position while working in the technology industry,” Marr tells HRD. “Without question, I have learned so much about this business, but I have also had the pleasure of working with amazing, smart and inspiring women. As a female, I have always felt supported by our founders – Dave Steward and Jim Kavanaugh – and my peers at WWT. My opinions, recommendations and voice have always felt valued and appreciated.
“I’ve also had great female role models, including my mother and five sisters who taught me to have self-respect and to be true to who I am. And throughout my career, I have had incredible mentors, both women and men, who have helped me grow and develop my leadership skills and provided me guidance and feedback when I needed it most.
“As I look back on my career, I want to pay that forward by helping advance other female leaders at WWT and in our industry. I hope to encourage and inspire other women by sharing my experience and what I have learned throughout my own journey.”
“Feedback is a gift - leadership is a privilege”
But scaling the echelons of HR superstardom is no mean feat – nor is it always what HR leaders want. According to data from Ivanti, 70% of employees are now turning down promotions – citing a reluctance for ore pressure or being asked to come back to the office full time as their main reasons why.
However, for those junior HR practitioners looking to make it all the way to the C-suite, Marr again returns to her father’s advice.
“I would start by telling them exactly what my father told me growing up,” says Marr. “’Work hard, there are no shortcuts to success’. But I would also tell them to have passion for what they do as this fuels their energy, enthusiasm and commitment to their mission. Don’t be afraid to take risks – you will learn more from your failures than your successes. But this will also enable and encourage you to be innovative and creative.
“Be flexible and open-minded. Remember that feedback is a gift, and leadership is a privilege. And finally, assemble a talented team to work with you, and then give them support, guidance, autonomy, encouragement and wings to fly.”