Thilagavathi Chilakuru, HR Generalist, was one of the first people hired at Upland’s Center of Excellence in India in 2021. With over ten years of experience in people management, she’s used her master recruiting skills to build her team from the ground up. Joining the company has given her the chance to start working her dream job, and as the team in India continues to grow, she’s looking forward to growing her skills at Upland as well.
Q: Who, what, and where are you?
A: My name is Thilagavathi Chilakuru. I’m based out of Bangalore, India, and I work as a HR Generalist for Upland.
Q: What is your day-to-day work like?
A: I’m taking care of end-to-end people-related things from recruitment until onboarding. I have a team of four people. As we are growing, we are looking forward to more responsibilities.
Q: How did you first hear about and start working at Upland?
A: It’s been a really exciting journey! My previous job was no longer working for me, and I took a risk and gave my 90-day notice without having another job lined up. I had the support of my husband and my in-laws; they saw how I was suffering in my last role. I had started looking for jobs, but I got stuck with a personal problem. My son got sick and was admitted to the hospital for more than 10 days. I was not keen on anything else other than him getting better and back home. He did get better, and I heard that Upland had an open HR manager role.
Q: How did you feel about that role?
A: I was very frank about what I did at my previous company and my skills. I was more into resource management and supply and demand, but at the same time, my aspiration was to get into a core HR role. I knew I could handle it, but I didn’t have the exact experience. I eventually interviewed for a Talent Acquisition role, which was more in line with my experience. In resource management, we had areas where we interviewed, we tracked, we validated. So, it’s almost the same, it’s just that resource management does that for the internal set of candidates, and the talent acquisition team does for that for the external candidate.
Q: What was the interview process like?
A: I met Srini Sampath, VP of R&D and Site Leader, and he was the sole person responsible for the operations in India. I had a lot of bandwidth issues due to COVID and he was so awesome. He was flexible and comfortable to talk to, which I have learned is also how most of Upland is. As the conversation went on, I was not sure if I was doing well. It all felt very casual and conversational. In the next round, I got to meet Lou Tackas, Jen Verzal, and Dan Doman. I got the job with the title HR Generalist, and I was the second person officially on the payroll for the team in India. It had been my dream to get into a core HR role, and I was so excited to hear that title. I can’t even express it.
Q: How exciting! How has your work changed as more people in India have joined Upland?
A: I obviously didn’t have people to manage when I first started. I did the recruitment work, and slowly moved into a more general role. I had an opportunity to learn and grow with the company and my new hires. That is so nice, giving some an opportunity to learn rather than picking a ready-made manager. That’s what I like about Upland. The headcount slowly grew over six months, and I’m into more of the core HR work that I’ve always wanted to do. When I joined my focus was more towards recruitment, and now it’s more towards people-related things like hosting onboarding sessions and working on payroll. Every day, I am learning new things. That’s what I believe in, and that’s what has helped me grow my career. I might not be the perfect candidate who knows everything on the first day, but I am open to learn. Upland took a chance on me, and they won’t regret it.
Q: Now that you have a team to manage, how would you describe your leadership style?
A: I don’t know if I’d say I have a style… I know how bad bosses act, and I know how good bosses act. I just try not to be the bad boss. I like to give my team leeway to get the work done however they want rather than dictating it. I also ensure that if somebody is seeking help, I will do whatever I can to be of assistance.
Q: What do you like about it here?
A: I always tell candidates if you are professionally passionate and you want to grow and get visible, you should be at Upland. That’s something that I can assure, and I have seen the same growth in everyone who has onboarded. I also appreciate that we’re flexible to remote work. I had been denied the opportunity to work from home at my previous company, but after the pandemic, everyone was doing it. Upland always believed in that concept, and in its employees.
Q: What do you wish people knew about the work you do in HR?
A: There’s this myth that HR never responds, and that HR doesn’t have very much work. People should understand that no role is easy. Everyone has their own role and their own tasks to do, and there might be a reason that you’re not getting a response. HR has lots of work to do, even if it’s not always visible.
Q: Can you tell me about a time that you felt successful?
A: I feel successful every time I onboard a candidate, and when my team fulfills their targets. Success is a journey, not a destination. That journey in learning is something I look forward to.