A minute with… Tiffany Lathe, vice president of Legal International, Rackspace

How did you get into your current role?

I’m a lawyer by trade and I still head up the international legal team. When this role came up, I was asked to come in and lead the HR team as well. It’s not that usual to do both, but there are a lot of synergies between what HR and legal do in terms of strategy and employment law – everything from hiring and contracts through to employee relations.

What do you enjoy most about it?

CV: Tiffany Lathe

  • 2013: VP of Legal and HR International at Rackspace Hosting.
  • 2010-2013: VP of Legal International at Rackspace Hosting.
  • 2007-2010: General legal counsel at Rackspace Hosting.
  • 2003-2007: Intellectual property and information technology solicitor at Martineau Johnson.

We call our staff “Rackers”, and for me, it’s all about them. It’s really rewarding to be able to help them to develop their strengths, knowledge and skills. Not only that, but I also love being able to influence how we maintain our strong values-based culture. We’ve gone through massive growth recently so it’s been a real challenge to hang on to and sustain that culture.

What do you find difficult about HR?

One of our values is to provide “fanatical” support to all of our customers, both internal and external. Last year we recruited more than 300 people, and we need to be careful not to just put bums on seats, but to make sure they’re the right fit.

This year we were ranked seventh in the Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For list, jumping 89 places from our rank in 2012. I think that’s because the year before, we weren’t as focused on engagement and culture as we could have been. So we’ve spent the past year really drilling down into what matters to our Rackers – how we attract the best talent, how we onboard that talent and keep our culture alive.

What has been your greatest career achievement?

The Sunday Times Best Companies ranking. To be part of the leadership team that drove that improvement was awesome, a really proud moment. The other thing has been coming into Rackspace and setting up the legal team from scratch six years ago, and ultimately being offered this position. I’m seeing parts of the business I would not have been involved with from a purely legal perspective.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career?

Never settle for bums on seats. Always hire the right cultural fit. That’s been a huge lesson for us as a company over the past couple of years. Once you’ve found that fit, never take your eye off the employee engagement ball. Hire the right people and look after them properly.

What has been your biggest challenge so far?

Taking on this job was very scary, being a lawyer. But I’m really enjoying getting to grips with it and I love working with people. I still love the legal side – the contracts, the process – but I love the people side just as much.

What do you think will be the next big thing in HR?

I hate buzzwords, but it will probably be big data. How we capture and analyse data will be crucial. One of the positives of the recession is that organisations have had to look more closely at their internal resources, and we want to use data capture to provide employee intelligence to drive our growth strategy. Things like attrition rates, for example. We can see who’s leaving, why they’re leaving and their average tenure.

Who do you look up to?

I look up to people who value engagement. The big inspirational leader for me is our chairman Graham Weston. Five minutes in a room with him is like being sprinkled with fairy dust. He’s totally focused on the individual and the belief that leaders are there to serve the staff, rather than the other way around. He’s the driving force behind our values-based culture and I find him really inspiring.

If you weren’t in HR, what would you be doing instead?

I think everyone has a book in them, so I’d love to write a novel. Whether or not it will actually come to fruition is another thing.

If you’re thinking about the next step in your HR career, visit Personnel Today Jobs.

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