Q&A: Pete Gioacchini, CIGNA - Part One: Career Path
Name: Pete Gioacchini
Title: Senior Director, Talent Acquisition
Length of Career Path to Date: 14 years
Joined CIGNA: December 2006
Time in Current Role: Promoted in July 2009
Previous Employer: Johnson & Johnson
Education: Siena College: BA Political Science (completed 1995). Minor in Psychology. Concentration in Peace Studies.
Rutgers: Masters in Human Resources Management (completed 2006).
Question: Describe your job
"I manage the entire domestic recruiting function for CIGNA. So I have a team of recruiters, of talent sourcers, university relations, and our contingent labor group that handles our contractors and our temporary labor reports into me as well. Pretty much all talent flow into the organization, at least domestically. We have a separate international group that works on our international roles, although we do partner with them as well. So I head up that function."
Question: Is your current position the kind of role you'd always seen yourself in?
"Given where I am in my career…I'm happy to be at this level. As I came out of school, I hadn't necessarily picked recruiting or talent acquisition or human resources as…my focus area. In terms of the initial job that got me into this area and this function, I actually had answered an ad for more or less a sales position with a management training track, and it turned out to be a recruitment agency. And so that's how I fell into recruiting and have been doing that ever since."
Question: Has your Masters degree been helpful to your career?
"Definitely. Having only worked in recruiting, it helped from a rounding standpoint with the other centers of expertise and areas within HR. So: compensation, employee relations, learning & development. Also—the program I went to is actually at Rutgers—the program also gives you a great rounding on the business side as well. So, it had a mixture of client & business interaction classes, finance, and also the core HR elements as well. It's a great program."
Question: Are there any leadership/management books you've found to be particularly helpful in your career?
Talent Force: A New Manifesto for the Human Side of Business—Rusty Rueff, Hank Stringer.
"When I joined CIGNA, our VP of Talent Optimization had suggested reading it, and it's kind of the philosophy that we've employed here. The interesting thing is that it’s actually a lot of the work that we were beginning and starting in certain areas at Johnson & Johnson before I left. Here at CIGNA, I've gotten the actual opportunity to work on that and implement a lot of the progressive thoughts that are captured in Talent Force. So that's one in particular I think is relevant to my current role—and to anyone who is in the recruiting field. I think it's definitely one where it gets you to think a little bit differently if you're not already. And if you are [thinking differently] already, it has some great suggestions and ideas for carrying those out."
What the CEO Wants You to Know—Ram Charan.
"A really quick read, but one that has always stuck with me. It takes you through…how do you step up as a leader within an organization that is going to really show and hone your business acumen? I read it when I was going back for my Masters, so it's always stuck with me as a very quick read, but it's pretty insightful."
Question: What's the most rewarding aspect of your job?
"Getting to work with such a talented team…the recruiters, the talent sourcers, the University relations team, and the contingent labor team…they're excellent, and really, really top notch individuals with a lot of recruiting expertise. They have a lot of passion—not just for recruiting, but for the mission of CIGNA in terms of us bringing in top talent to bring that mission forward."
"Also, working in recruiting, and having done that now for my entire career…being able to see [recruiting] at the enterprise level. With the talent that we bring into the organization, or the internal talent that we help move within the organization…just being able, at an enterprise level, to affect the careers of so many people and help them realize their objectives and their goals while moving the goals of the organization forward—it doesn't get much more rewarding than that, especially in a tough economic time like now, still being able to help people do that and continue to further their own development is really rewarding."
Question: Do you have any advice for peers/people seeking to get to your level?
"I think there are a couple of things: One is…my approach has always been pretty upfront and honest in terms of sharing feedback, and if there are issues, calling them out and working constructively to address them—whether that's with a client, with a customer, with an internal business partner or a direct report. I think having that style has helped me because people know where they stand, and also feel free to give the open and honest feedback in the other direction as well—to share their thoughts with me."
"Another thing that has helped quite a bit is something that one of the first leaders in the agency that I worked for had shared with me: the idea of "Perfect Practice." Even when you are practicing something, making sure that you do it as if it were game time or a live scenario, and always focusing on 100% perfect practice. That's something I've always carried with me, whether it's on the job or elsewhere; I coach sports teams and it's the same thing. If you treat every situation like that, you're always going to be able to enhance your performance, and hopefully the performance of others around you as well."
"Third: If there's any confusion, or a lack of clarity around something, just ask and clear it up instead of moving forward with false assumptions or assumptions that weren't clear. A lot of times—I think especially as you get to a more senior level in an organization—there can be a lot of assumptions that are made about things, and I think that the more that you can work as the leader to clear those up and drive clarity around whatever you're working on—whether it's a business decision or a vendor selection, or whatever it is—just making sure that all of the parties involved have that clarity so that the best decision is made the first time around."
Question: Any other career advice that you've picked up along the way?
"The main thing I would say is when you think about your career overall, take chances. A couple of examples: not being afraid to change organizations, change functions, make a move from a geographic standpoint, if you think it's the right move. I've moved a little bit in my career. I spent some time in Atlanta, and then worked in a few other places as well, and I think making those moves not only helped me from a business aspect, but also a personal aspect too—to learn and grow completely. It's interesting to say that, because when our interns were here over the summer, one of the conversations I was having with them was about that: not being afraid—even if you don't know any one in a certain location, which was the case when I moved down to Atlanta, giving it a shot—you can only grow and learn from it if you throw yourself into it and give yourself a shot, one hundred and ten percent. Whether that's moving companies or functions or just taking on new assignments—asking for them or, if they’re thrown at you, not looking at it as a negative, embracing it and getting something out of it. It's always helped me, and that's something that I try to inspire in others also."
To read the second part of this interview, click here.