The Top 12 People Leaders You Should Know (And Their Predictions for 2019)

December 11, 2018

It’s clear that companies who are successfully scaling not only have the right business models in place, but also have strong People leaders driving the organization forward. They’re often the backbone of the company – an equal mix strategic, empathetic, tactical and inventive. We spoke to 12 top People leaders who embody these characteristics, and as a result, have fostered dynamic work environments during periods of high-growth. What do they expect for HR and talent in the coming year and how can you incorporate that into your people strategy?

Read on for their predictions and insights on what’s to come in 2019.


Helen Russell
Chief People Officer, Atlassian

“2019 absolutely remains a candidate’s market and the already limited candidate pool is becoming even more discerning about the types of organizations they want to be a part of. As the best talent has a high moral compass and motivated by intrinsic versus extrinsic factors, we have to ensure that as employers, we create environments where the best talent truly belong.”

Carol MacKinlay
Chief People Officer, UserTesting

“In 2019, companies will accelerate hiring remote employees to get the key skills needed. The rising cost and competition for workers and office space along with the positive shift in communication tools will drive companies to think even more broadly about their open roles. This may also be the easiest path to creating a diverse workforce.

The People team will need to recruit in global locations while keeping speed, quality, and cost in check, translate culture to a remote workforce, and figure out how pay, benefits, and policies work for a broad – and even mobile – workforce. This is a new challenge for most and it will be interesting to see what techniques evolve to keep the team in sync and motivated across virtual boundaries.” 

Marty Reaume
Chief People Officer, Twilio

“Automation and AI will continue to evolve and impact the work under the purview of the People team.  As a result, there will be an even stronger shift towards strategic partnering with the business in terms of analytics, workforce planning and building global leadership capability.”


Mark Frein
Chief People Officer, InVision

“HR in the tech sector has taken a bit of a beating in the media in the last few years. While I can’t predict what will be at the forefront for People teams in 2019, I’d hope that we see as many stories about deep innovations in People & Talent programs in the coming year as we saw stories of HR services failures. One that is important to us, based on our DNA as an all-remote workplace and digital design platform, is how to use profound creativity in People service design to truly see employees as customers in all the right ways. We’ve reframed our work from ‘policies’ to products and adopted not only the frames of reference of product design for our talent and employee experience programs, but the agile development process as well.”


Laura Butler
SVP People & Culture, Workfront

“Having the right culture to deliver on strategy is at the top of a CEO’s talent agenda. Because leaders have the most impact in driving workplace behavior, an even higher priority in 2019 will be the hiring, promotion and development of leaders that intentionally support a successful culture.”

Pattie Money
Chief People Officer, SendGrid

“The most effective People teams will be those that can predict and equip the organization for what lies ahead in terms of needed talent. They will use predictive analytics where possible, but will have the best results when they are true business junkies who understand the organization’s strategy, can identify gaps and opportunities proactively and can take a systems thinking approach to designing people plans that get funded because it’s super clear that they will drive business results.”

Dena Upton
VP of People, Drift

“Companies who create, coach and compose will lead in 2019. These activities should occur inside and outside of your organization. What we do with our Drift customers isn’t any different to how we attract future Drifters to work here, how we engage Drifters when they join, how we coach them to manage and, if they decide to leave, how we connect with them as alumni. We are always listening and learning. We connect with our future team through social media, our podcasts, books, events – we meet them where they are, not the other way around. Companies that can get this equation right will see success in 2019.”

Peter Navin
CHRO, Grand Rounds

“With talent markets remaining constrained – great for candidates – and nervousness of the global economy edging up, HR executives should double down on investments that improve productivity. This investment on productivity will ultimately increase performance within your organization. Focusing on making it easier for the employees to achieve their potential, like a CMO would do for their customer, will drive clear results.”

Mellissa Santos
Chief People Officer, Deputy 

“My prediction is that companies will be under even more pressure to step up and get creative to compete for talent in this incredibly competitive market. Deputy is hiring in Sydney, London and Atlanta, and each market is as competitive as the next. I believe that top candidates are seeking strong career development programs and leadership and that smart companies will invest more in strengthening those functions to acquire and retain key talent.

Katie Burke
Chief People Officer, HubSpot

My biggest prediction for People Ops and Talent in 2019 is that people lean into the human side of human resources – whether it’s work-life integration, mental health, elder care, family support or meditation, it’s clear that humans want to work for companies that value them as people. I think we’ll see an increased focus on companies building benefits, organizations and leaders who value human-centric leadership and work environments.

Jeff Weber 
SVP People & Places, Instructure 

Promoting employee development will become increasingly important in the war for talent. Building a strong career growth and development program that includes mentoring and peer feedback is critical in engaging and retaining talent. Additionally, upskilling or reskilling employees to be prepared for rapidly changing job requirements based on the integration of new technologies, automation and robotics.

Christina Luconi
Chief People Officer, Rapid7

Companies will finally begin to embrace the importance of not just saying culture is critical to their success, but they will craft and embody one that is authentic to them…and then ensure it is woven into every element of the employee lifecycle so it both sticks and scales. Focusing on people operations, technologies and all those great new evolutions are fantastic – but if companies do nothing else, they will invest their energies in nurturing healthy cultures.

Talent Manager

Ellie is a go-to-market Talent Manager at OpenView. In this role, she works to find top talent to join the sales and marketing teams of OpenView’s portfolio companies.