Kendra Bitner, VP at Workday: Your Most Valuable Resource is Your People
Written by Joey Rosenberg
Joey Rosenberg, President of Product and Communications at Women Who Code, sits down with Kendra Bitner, VP of Software Development at Workday. They discuss Kendra’s path to management, the culture at Workday, and how Workday supports diversity and inclusion.
Tell us a little bit about you and what you do.
I lead our extended workforce technology development teams and solutions. We are the leading provider of enterprise cloud applications for finance and HR. We were founded in 2005, with work-mates around the globe. We’ve already automated a lot of the core processes around recruiting, onboarding, learning, compliance for a community of over 39 million workers. It’s likely that if you are working now, you’re using our software. I’m always deeply interested in technology, and not necessarily just for the technology itself, but what we can do with it to solve real-world problems and address the issues that our customers are facing. I’m excited by the work we’re doing in the extended workforce technology space, to help solve interesting problems for our customers, to help them adapt, to thrive in this changing world, to help us move forward as the world of work evolves.
Can you share a little bit about your professional journey?
I started as a Java developer. I was very lucky to have some opportunities at some startups. Anyone who’s worked at a start-up knows you get to wear lots of different hats and do lots of different things. I had the opportunity to get my feet wet and explore lots of different layers of the technology stack, working through UI, mobile, back-ends, databases, and distributed computing areas. I found myself drawn towards the management space. I’ve had some really great mentors. I think my favorite one actually said two things to me that have continued to resonate and stick with me. The first one was, if you’re the smartest person in the room, then it’s time to find a new room, and then the second one was, to never leave a company, but to join one.
I would never claim to be the smartest person in the room. What he meant by that was, if you’re not still learning, then you’re in the wrong place. I’ve had a fantastic opportunity to work in lots of different innovative technology spaces, defining standards that didn’t exist. It’s been a fantastic journey.
Can you tell us a little bit more about the culture at Workday?
Workday is probably my favorite company that I’ve ever worked for. At Workday, employees really come first. Our core values here are employees, customer service, integrity, innovation, fun, and profitability. Employees are number one, and we want folks to bring their whole, best selves to work. We’ve got a brilliant program that was started by our Chief Diversity Officer, called Vibe, Valuing Inclusion, Belonging and Equity.
We have over 30 employee belonging councils or EBCs. One of them is Women at Workday, which partners with great organizations like Women Who Code to help sponsor great events to inspire women’s careers. We also have a Workday Pride group for LGBTQ Plus community who’s putting on some amazing Pride events this month. We have Talented Tenth folks who did some brilliant work over Black History Month. We support Latin X, Campy, people with disability, you name it, the list goes on and on.
Workday does what I haven’t seen anywhere else, supporting what we call opportunity on-ramps. Our opportunity on-ramps provide training, internships, and jobs for non-traditional candidates that have different backgrounds. This includes our CAP folks, which are military veterans. We have a Workday Return Ship Program, which supports caregivers who have had to put their careers on pause for a while. We have You’re Up, for folks that are coming in from different backgrounds, as young associate degree students. We have all kinds of brilliant programs that help to uplift, inspire, train, and provide jobs to a hugely diverse population.
Can you talk a little bit about what diversity, equity, and inclusion mean for you and mean for you in the workplace and give us some more thoughts on that?
It’s critical to include different backgrounds, experiences, perspectives, insights, and skills to fuel innovation and create a broader connection to the world at large. When we leverage the strength of all of these different perspectives, we’re able to build products that reflect the diversity of our customers. As a leader, when I build teams, I’m always looking for a team that is strong where I’m weak, that can build each other up, that can create success for each other and for the larger organization. It is important to have all those diverse perspectives and ideas coming together, to create that balance, to create that team that’s going to be successful broadly.
Do you have any advice on how to avoid procrastination?
That’s a hard one. I think I tend to be a bit of a procrastinator also unless it’s something I’m excited about I think it’s just figuring out what it is that’s exciting to you about whatever it is that you’re doing. Is there a learning opportunity here? Is it going to benefit yourself or others? It’s about finding that motivation that’s going to keep you going.
Do you have any advice or any experiences you want to share around breaking the ceiling?
I hear this question a lot. Being a continuous learner, building your network, and finding good mentors are important steps. I think the real key here is advocacy. Advocating for yourself, but also being intentional about finding the people that will advocate on your behalf. When you can create joint success and build that relationship with that key stakeholder in a project you are working on, that person is going to be an advocate for you. When the next big project comes along and they say, “Who should lead this?” They’re going to put your name out there and into the ring. When their project finishes, don’t lose touch. Keep track. Stay in touch with them. Stay top of mind.
The other piece around advocacy is also advocating for yourself. Make sure that your leaders know that you’re interested in that next position or new project. Let them know that this is something that you can provide value to. Be proactive and share your ideas on how to make that project successful. Make sure to incorporate all of the things you’ve learned from your network, from the stakeholders that you’ve worked with. Talk about the other organization’s goals and what they’re doing and how that aligns with what you’re doing and how it would be a good synergy.
I think the final piece of advocacy, that’s probably the most overlooked, as you level up and move through the organization, make it part of your own DNA, to be an advocate for other people. Recognize talent. See where folks are stepping outside and understanding more broadly what’s happening. When you get that opportunity, bring them to the table. Give them that opportunity.
Is there anything else you want to share, anything you want the Women Who Code community to know?
Your most valuable resource, whether you’re trying to be successful on a project, you’re trying to be successful for your company, you’re trying to be successful in your career, is your people. Get to know them, get to know each other. Figure out how you can create joint success and build those fantastic networks.