Meet Becky Pratt, Principal Culture & Employee Engagement Specialist for Progress

Meet Becky Pratt, Principal Culture & Employee Engagement Specialist for Progress

February 04, 2021 0 Comments
Meet Becky Pratt of Progress

Progress people bring diverse experiences to the table and make Progress a special place to work. In this post, meet Becky Pratt, principal culture and employee engagement specialist at Progress.

Becky Pratt is someone who has embraced change throughout her personal and professional development, from learning Japanese, to pivoting in her academic path, to traveling and soaking up various cultures, and working in a wide range of companies until landing at Progress.

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She was onboarded during COVID-19 after an acquisition, and she has already had an immense impact on the company culture with assisting in the formation of three new employee resource groups and aiding in our inclusion and diversity efforts.

How was she able to dive right in and influence the culture? Her Q&A below may be able to answer that question.

If you had to explain to a 5-year-old what your job is, how would you describe it?

We spend so much of our lives at work, and the way we feel while we're doing our jobs with the people we work with has such a huge impact on how much fulfillment and enjoyment we get out of our lives. My job at Progress, focusing on culture and engagement, is to make sure that this is the best place it can be for employees. To make sure people feel like they belong, that they have a connection to their company, and they have a connection to the people they work with.

That's a really good answer. “Making sure people feel like they belong.” I’m sure any 5-year-old who heard that answer would want to do your job. And you were onboarded during COVID-19 while everyone was working remotely; how was that experience?

Yeah, it's weird. This is the first time I've been onboarded virtually. I've never worked 100% virtually before COVID.

What I was noticing when you have everybody working from home, is that you've leveled the playing field. Everybody has to work just as hard to make sure that this person sitting in their house in Seattle, for example, feels just as welcomed, just as part of the team and included as everybody else. If we weren't all working remote due to COVID, and I was doing this as a remote employee elsewhere, it would be a lot harder because there would be the haves—the people in the offices collaborating every day—and the have-nots— the people without others around them. In a way, it's been really weird and obviously harder because you're not face-to-face, but on the other hand, the fact that everybody's in the same boat makes it OK.

I liken this to the DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) work that we're doing because it's like we have removed all the barriers to inclusion that are built into our in-office and work from home system. Everybody is connecting over teams and over email and in video meetings. It's not the hallway conversation. You're not missing out on opportunities to connect. Everybody has to equally put in the work to make it work.

How did you find yourself in this role, and what has your professional path looked like?

I actually studied to go into HR, so it's my chosen profession. I went to school for psychology and got a master's degree in human resources and labor relations. And from there, my career just started. I was at super big companies at the beginning of my career. I worked at Boeing, DIRECTV, which got acquired by AT&T while I was there, and then Nordstrom before joining Chef, and now Progress.

Coming into this role with organizational effectiveness (OE), the bigger team, focusing on culture and engagement, it's a little bit different because whenever you go back and forth from a generalist or a business partner HR role to a specialist role like OE, you take your experience that you gained from the other side with you. So you take this business acumen and this understanding of how business leaders prioritize work and how they think about things and what problems they're trying to solve, and you use that to influence the work you're doing with culture and engagement.

Before Chef, I had been interested in doing organizational effectiveness or culture work. It had never lined up with opportunity or timing of things. So this is work that I had been interested in getting into before, and it was cool to have the opportunity to step out of the business partner role which I had been in for five or six years, and go into something a little bit more specialized with the acquisition.

That’s great how everything lined up for you with this role. So you got a degree in psychology, and went onto to get your master’s in human resources and labor relations, but I also heard you have a bachelor's degree in east Asian languages and cultures. Pretty broad range there; what made you want to pursue that degree?

My middle school had each student test out a lot of different language classes. You took a little bit of French, a little bit of Spanish, and so on. Then in high school, you pursue one language. I decided everyone takes Spanish, and French is similar to Spanish, so I thought, “I'm going to be different. Japanese. Let's do this."

I took Japanese all through high school. It was a super tightknit group, a class of only 12. And I was an exchange student in between my sophomore and junior year where I spent a couple of weeks going to school in Japan. And I had several exchange students come and stay with me and my family. So I was like, "I'm just going to keep taking Japanese in college,” which ended up in my pursuit of getting the degree. I ended up getting two bachelor's degrees simultaneously.

It’s cool that you can say you’ve studied abroad in Japan. So what is your favorite thing about your job?

I really love my team. I get to work with amazing teammates, Poli, Mariyan and Ani, who are three of the most humorous, real, and enjoyable people I have met so far. I love being their peer and I love being on a team with them. They also live in Bulgaria, which is a country I have had exactly zero exposure to before this acquisition. It's been cool to learn about their culture, their families, and their lives.

Another thing is that there are parts of this HR work that I have not had a chance to do yet, and DEI is one of them. Everything an HR team does has a little bit of DEI work included, but as an actual focus and being the person that's really working on a lot of the initiatives? I have not had that opportunity before.

Speaking of I&D, you've been at Progress for just a few months and you've already had a huge impact on the culture, helping with the formation of three new employee resource groups ERGs. What's that been like for you?

It's really interesting because you come into a new company and just do your thing, and I'm looking back now and I'm like, "OK, clearly my thing is something that they haven't had yet." It's new and different and hopefully helpful. Just being able to be myself and push for the things that are important to me and have people listen and hear and understand, that's been really, really rewarding. I don't think that anyone can really be successful if they come in and try to hide a part of themselves or not fully express themselves at work.

Yes, agree with you on that for sure, how you can't be your best if you can't be your full self. Outside of work, what activities do you enjoy the most once the working day is over?

My Instagram bio says it all: traveler, baker, cat mom, sports fan.

Travel and learning other cultures is one thing that drives my life. And different places have impacted me at different points in my life. When I went to Japan at 16, I was living in a house with a host family so I didn't have any chaperones or teachers there. My days were independent. So that was super influential in my view of travel.

There are a few other places I really loved. I am Jewish and many people in my community go on a Birthright trip to Israel. So I did that in between undergrad and graduate school. It was a couple of weeks over the summer with 40 other young Jewish people, and I have friends from that trip still to this day. The trip was really influential because of I got to feel the culture of my ancestors and walk around somewhere that's 3,000 years old. There’s something special about touching a wall that 3,000 years of people have also touched, coming to it for comfort and safety.

And then, of course, another favorite place is Madrid. My husband is from Spain, and some of his family lives there. So going to visit family in a place that's so different from where I live and work and just feeling that love and that embrace is really wonderful.

I also love baking. I like to think I'm semi-professional. It’s something that is my creative outlet. I'll decorate sugar cookies and do over the top frosted cakes, all sorts of fun flavor combinations, macarons, you name it. I used to bring in treats every Tuesday to the Chef office when being in an office together was a thing. My way of showing my appreciation and care for people is through food. So baking is the way that I do that.

Love all of that. Now what is the greatest lesson you've learned either professionally or personally?

This is a something I first started learning when I was trying to get into grad school. I thought in my heart of hearts, I wanted to get into to a PhD program for industrial-organizational psychology. That was the be-all and end-all. And I did not get accepted. I applied to nine PhD programs, and I was rejected from all nine. And I was super down about it. I was like, “If I don't get into this program, what am I going to do?”

I was getting really worried, and then an opportunity came my way to go to this master's of human resources and labor relations program. I had never heard of it. I never considered a master's instead of a five-year PhD. But the lesson at the end of the day is to take the road that is offered. If the road you're trying to go down isn't working, don't be afraid to pivot. Don't be afraid to say, "Hey, this isn't working. I'm going to scrap it. And I'm going to do something different." There's no shame in saying, "I tried, and it didn't work out."

And finally, what is one piece of advice you would give your 10-year-old self?

So professionally, "No, Becky, you really don't want to be a veterinarian." Personally, I think it is that people will come and go from your life, but always, their impact is what you need to hold on to. You may not keep every friend that you have, or you may not hold on to every relationship, but the memories you have and their impact and how you've been changed is what's important to hold on to.

To get to know other Progressers like Becky, read more of our Progress employee interviews here.

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Danielle Sutherby

Danielle Sutherby

Danielle is a Senior Communications Specialist at Progress, where she is also on the leadership team of the employee resource group, Progress for Her, and an Advisory Committee member on Progress’ Inclusion & Diversity Committee. When she’s not at work, you can find her writing, reading, or acting like a tourist in her own city.

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