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Kelly McGill
Kelly McGill of Avvo.

Kelly McGill is a people person.

As the head of talent management and human resources at Avvo, the Seattle-based online legal marketplace, McGill believes strongly in helping people do what they do best. It’s a mission she has pursued at a number of large tech companies, including Lynda.com (now part of LinkedIn), Expedia, Microsoft and T-Mobile.

Helping companies and talent stay “on purpose” for almost two decades has given McGill a unique perspective into what it takes for both entities to grow and evolve.

“Making sure that daily goals are tied to the company mission and to the employee’s career goals is critical to success,” McGill said. “I see teams stay highly engaged, business objectives surpassed and people end their days with enough energy and enthusiasm to enjoy their world.”

Learn more about McGill, what she does and how she does it, in this week’s Geek of the Week questionnaire:

What do you do, and why do you do it? “One of the biggest things we struggle with in our society is that work doesn’t stop at work, it bleeds into our personal lives. If I can help create a productive and positive work culture so that people can go home and actually have a better home life because of it, then HR has done their job. And I go home happy when that happens.”

What’s the single most important thing people should know about your field? “We are the vanguards to the most important assets in any company. Period. Human Resources and Recruiting brings in and nurtures talent, and quite frankly, we can make or break a company. That’s a big responsibility. It’s widely misunderstood that HR is just a cost center, a check the box of necessary things, rather than being a core tenet to how the business actually gets business done. HR is an arm of all the other departments, an enabler of their success.

“What’s also cool about HR now is that that we’re turning it on its head. We have an opportunity to do amazing things with our talent, from leadership training across the company, sessions on how to build your personal brand, to offering Desk Yogi and free coursework through Lynda.com.

Where do you find your inspiration? “From leaders who inspire through curiosity. Whether that person is a business leader or a scientist, I find my inspiration through exploring what ‘can’t be done.’ In a company where that kind of curiosity is really king, you and your talent will continue to grow and evolve.”

What’s the one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why? “Excel. I use it for everything, from looking at data on our talent to my To Do List. I’m a major Excel user. I love all the Microsoft products — that I use on a Mac.”

What’s your workspace like, and why does it work for you? “It’s welcoming and peaceful, and it doesn’t have a lot of clutter.”

Kelly McGill in Avvos
Kelly McGill in Avvo’s Seattle offices.

Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life? (Help us out, we need it.) “Stay on the balcony. You can spend some time on the dance floor, but watch from afar to give you that perspective, to keep you sane. Step out, sit for a minute, observe the craziness and then jump back in. Practicing martial arts doesn’t hurt either!”

Mac, Windows or Linux? “Windows. I was raised on a PC, but I do like the elegance of a Mac.”

Kirk, Picard, or Janeway? “Kirk all day long.”

Transporter, Time Machine or Cloak of Invisibility? “Cloak of Invisibility.”

If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … “If I could create an app that helps people get off the dance floor and onto the balcony, that interacted with you to provide you with guidance and perspective, that would be fantastic. It would help people be heard and seen and help us not feel as lonely. I think people get really freaked out and scared about life at times and they don’t really need to be, and this app would act as that virtual listener.”

I once waited in line for … “AC/DC tickets. All night long.”

Your role models? “Spock – he was who I wanted to be when I was a kid, to be honest with you. Spock had a perspective that for me was very calming. He stays on the balcony and looks at things from a logical perspective. And while he likes to deny it, he’s very human. As I’ve grown up my role model is more a mix of Spock and my friend and mentor Fred Kofman, the author of ‘Conscious Business.'”

Greatest game in history: “Galaga!”

Best gadget ever: “The cell phone. It changed everything.”

First computer: “Commodore 64.”

Current phone: “iPhone.”

Favorite app: “Snapchat.”

Favorite cause: TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools)”

Most important technology of 2016: Ambient User Experience.”

Most important technology of 2018: “The holodeck virtual reality facility like the one featured in the Star Trek universe. It will be used for recreational and educational activities.”

Final words of advice for your fellow geeks: “Keep dreaming and creating the future.”

LinkedIn: Kelly McGill

Twitter: @kellymcgill

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