After nearly 20 years in the HR trenches, Mikaela Kiner is confident that the #MeToo movement has at last triggered a meaningful, irreversible change when it comes to sexual harassment.
She points to firings and shakeups at Nike and Uber and the downfall of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, among many others. Women now feel empowered and that their accusations will be believed.
“That is a change that there is no going back from,” Kiner said. And tolerating harassment carries an economic cost. “Now it’s financially a risk and risky to business to allow these things to continue.”
Kiner is the founder and CEO of UniquelyHR, a Seattle-based company that provides a full suite of HR services, primarily targeting startups, as well as leadership and management training and one-on-one executive coaching. And in the past quarter, UniquelyHR has provided anti-harassment and discrimination training for more than 1,000 employees and managers — a number that exceeds the total for all of last year.
Kiner is also hopeful that the effort to support gender and racial diversity in the workplace is getting smarter and more effective. Companies are realizing that they need to go out and actively recruit diverse job candidates, and that the work doesn’t stop there.
“You’re bringing people in the door, but how are you including them once they’re there so they stay,” she said. That means offering mentoring, but also backing that up with leaders who actively advocate for women for advancement.
Before founding UniquelyHR in 2015, Kiner worked in HR leadership at Microsoft, Starbucks, Amazon, PopCap Games and Redﬁn.
Recently she found inspiration in a project at her tween daughter’s middle school where the girls wrote poems about social justice, including the breaking of the metaphorical glass ceiling faced by women. One of the girls mused that “every woman should be born with a sledgehammer,” Kiner said. “They’re having this conversation at [age] 12.”
We caught up with Kiner for this Working Geek, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for her answers to our questionnaire.
Current location: “Galvanize co-working space in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood”
Computer types: “I grew up at Microsoft, so I use a Surface Pro Tablet. My kids ridicule me because I’m a failed Mac user.”
Mobile devices: “iPhone, iPad Mini”
Favorite apps, cloud services and software tools: “I love Moves to track my steps, and as a PopCap Games alum, I’m addicted (yes addicted) to Bejeweled Blitz.
Our team uses G-Suite for collaboration including their intranet app. Other tools that make our business run include HubSpot, DocuSign, QuickBooks Online and Trello. Our finance person, Calli, is a millennial and her tagline is ‘there’s an app for that.’ She helps us automate everything.
I’m excited about some of the new emerging tech tools for HR leveraging AI and machine learning including StartWithLucy, Work Bravely and Drafted. I’m also fascinated with VR; we work with clients in that space including Doghead Simulations and Pluto VR.”
Describe your workspace. Why does it work for you? “We love being at Galvanize for the community and high energy. There’s always something happening whether it’s mentor hours or startup coffee. In addition to open glass offices, there are communal seating areas throughout the building as well as a rooftop overlooking the Seattle waterfront. Unlimited conference room space is a must for us and they’re also kind enough to let us host workshops in the building.
We’re frugal so our staff and consultants rotate through our office and use it as a landing pad, while also working remotely or onsite with clients. The space is highly organized thanks to our ops manager, Michelle. It’s also fun and personalized. There’s startup paraphernalia everywhere from signs to stickers and swag, ours and others. Lots of chocolate.”
Your best advice for managing everyday work and life? “There are only 24 hours in the day, and sometimes we need to eat and sleep. I write a short list every morning of the things that have to get done which keeps me focused. I also block free time to think, plan for the future and catch up on email. If you’re in back-to-back meetings then you end up doing your day job on nights and weekends. It’s important to take short breaks whether that means grabbing a coffee or taking a walk around the block. Another key element in maintaining balance is knowing when to say ‘yes’ and when to say ‘no,’ which takes both practice and discipline.”
Your preferred social network? How do you use it for business/work? “For business I use LinkedIn primarily. In addition to tracking what my friends and clients are working on, I follow articles, events and forums related to startups, culture, female founders, gender pay equity and building inclusive cultures, among other topics. I basically read LinkedIn like a news feed to see what’s happening in our work ecosystem. Sometimes I see causes or events we want to participate in or sponsor. It’s also the best place for us to post events and get community feedback on what we’re working on or things we’re experimenting with.”
Current number of unanswered emails in your inbox? “Currently I have 99 unanswered emails. Thanks to SaneBox there are another 20 plus that have been filtered into Sane Bulk, Sane Later, etc. which I know are lower priority.”
Number of appointments/meetings on your calendar this week? “26 meetings excluding personal engagements, like my daughter’s spring dance. I am a perpetual over-scheduler and this number is lower than normal since it includes one half-day and one full-day event. If there’s a vice that I’m working on, this is it.”
How do you run meetings? “I like to use a mix of formality (setting the agenda) and informality like doing a round table in our staff meeting. I’m usually most interested in hearing from other people in the room and making sure everyone has a chance to contribute. I’m happiest when meetings include brainstorming and lots of open-ended questions. I love testing thoughts, ideas and hypotheses. I find outcomes are always better when multiple people weigh in. I try to facilitate meetings so that everyone has an opportunity to speak up, with no self-censorship. On Fridays I take my daughter to school and do my one-on-ones over coffee or during a walk around Green Lake.”
Everyday work uniform? “Most comfortable in jeans and a sweater. Shoes that feel like slippers: Nikes or my new Rothy’s. I’m cold about nine months out of the year, so you’ll usually find me wearing a scarf. If I’m meeting clients or hosting an event I’ll dress more ‘like a grownup.’ I don’t own heels.”
How do you make time for family? “When my daughter was 7 she read me the riot act. It sounded like: ‘Mom why are you always at work? Why don’t you ever take me to school? How come only dad knows my friends’ phone numbers?.’ That was a big wake-up call for me, and I’ve made family time a higher priority ever since. I take my daughter to school every Friday and unless I’m at an event, we all have dinner together. A big part of launching my own company was being able to set my own schedule and work on my own terms. No matter how flexible, most companies still have a culture of face time where you have to show up in the morning and stay until evening regardless of whether that’s helping you get your work done. I work hard to fit most of my work into my Monday-Friday schedule, so I can spend evenings and weekends with my husband and kids.”
Best stress reliever? How do you unplug? “I love to read. It’s such a quick and accessible escape. I do read on Kindle, so not 100 percent unplugged. Getting outside is liberating and I walk a ton. If the weather is nice, you’ll find me walking to meetings anywhere between Pioneer Square and South Lake Union. On the weekends I walk to Leschi or around Seward Park.”
What are you listening to? “Ed Sheeran, Amy Winehouse and Old Crow Medicine Show. I’ve also recently gotten back into Pearl Jam. At home I listen to my husband playing guitar (right now they’re practicing Hotel California).
In addition to music, I listen to a ton of podcasts including How It Is, WorkLife with Adam Grant, Bloomberg’s The Pay Check, Embedded, New Yorker Fiction, Tim Ferris’s Tribe of Mentors, Harvard Business Review’s Women at Work, Hidden Brain, Freakonomics, The Law of Startups.”
Daily reads? Favorite sites and newsletters? “Daily reads include GeekWire, Puget Sound Business Journal, Washington Post and CNN. I start every day with social: LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. I read newsletters including Daniel Pink and MomWarrior, as well as listening to TED Talks and YouTube. ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a TED Talk I recommend. If the title scares you, trust me you will laugh while you learn.”
Book on your nightstand (or e-reader)? “Top of the pile right now are Rand Fishkin’s ‘Lost and Founder,’ Michael Ondaatje’s newest book ‘Warlight’ and ‘The Myth of the Nice Girl’ by Fran Hauser. Also a stack of New Yorkers.”
Night owl or early riser? “So early. I am almost always in bed by 10 p.m. and get up at 5:30 a.m. at the latest. Some days I wake up at 4 a.m. and just go with it. With two kids and three cats, I don’t always sleep that well. But I find that I’m at my best in the morning and getting an early start means I can have a productive day and get home for dinner. I believe in Richard Leider’s concept of the ‘golden hour’ — doing your creative work when your energy level is highest. For me, that’s first thing in the morning.”
Where do you get your best ideas? “I talk to so many incredible people every day. Seattle’s startup community is full of friends, clients and entrepreneurs so there’s no shortage of good conversations. I listen for themes: what’s bothering people, what they’re struggling with, what they’re most proud of, etc. During the week, I take in lots of information. The ideas and insights usually come in the middle of the night, or on weekends or when I’m out for a walk.”
Whose work style would you want to learn more about or emulate? “There are so many, but one I think of frequently is my long-time friend and mentor Jerry Hunter, senior vice president of engineering at Snap. He’s one of the most brilliant, high emotional-intelligence leaders I’ve worked with. Jerry always takes the high road, is unflappable and has high integrity. When I’m in a bind, I literally ask myself ‘What would Jerry do?’ and it helps me lead in the way I aspire to.
I’m getting to know Cheryl Ingram, who I’m excited to say has joined uniquelyHR as our first advisor. Cheryl is a powerful speaker with a strong point of view. She’s on a mission to change the world and she is not shy. Cheryl has a rare balance of honesty and empathy. She’s my new role model.”