Alison Oshodi may be a senior director, but at Robert Half, her company of 17 years, she feels like so much more than a title.
“They haven’t treated me any differently from any other employee,” Oshodi said. “I really feel that Robert Half treats everybody as an individual, and advancement is based on merit. They’ve given me opportunities when I’ve shown drive and ability. Just like they’ve given the next person and the next person opportunities.”
And there certainly have been opportunities. Oshodi recalls one episode toward the beginning of her tenure at the global specialized staffing firm when a manager gave her the chance of a lifetime.
“My CIO at the time asked me to go check out the Birmingham office while I was in England visiting my husband’s family. He wanted to get some eyes on the ground during a management change over there,” she said. “When I came back, he said, ‘How’d you like to live over there?’”
Oshodi and her husband made the call to move abroad in all of six weeks, securing her a promotion to senior manager in the process. And today, as a senior director in IT, she oversees applications that support the company’s global corporate accounting and temporary services needs internationally.
As she’s moved through the ranks over the years — all without moving companies — Oshodi has learned a thing or two about leading with authenticity, taking risks and pursuing one’s purpose. She recently spoke to us about all that and more; check out what she had to say below.
How long have you been with Robert Half? And what drew you in?
It’s been 17 years. One thing that really stood out during my interviews — and I interviewed with several managers — is that I saw everybody living and breathing the company’s principles regarding ethics, openness and excellence. That's something that echoed through all my interviews.
And, of course, the company’s mission of finding jobs for people — while I’m not in the field doing that, all the work we do to support that overall goal is quite rewarding.
Tell me about some of the roles you’ve held at Robert Half and how you progressed to them.
I started with Robert Half in 2003, as an IT manager. My degree is in business administration, though I stumbled into IT at a previous company, where I received training for and worked on process automation. They said it was easier to teach us programming than teach the programmers about the business side. So that’s how I transferred into IT.
When I joined Robert Half, our subsidiary, Protiviti, was launching, and we were building and supporting applications for them. I had a team of developers and business systems analysts, and I handled project management in my group. I did that for a few years, and then I did an expat deal over in the U.K.
My CIO at the time asked me to go check out the Birmingham office while I was in England visiting my husband’s family. He wanted to get some eyes on the ground during a management change over there. When I came back, he said, “How’d you like to live over there?”
My husband and I literally made the decision to move in six weeks, and it came along with a promotion to senior manager.
The business was growing over there, so I needed to build an applications team and an infrastructure team to support the EMEA and APAC regions.
How did it go when you came back from your stint abroad?
I came back after two years and was promoted to director. But currently, I’m a senior director in IT with responsibility for applications that support Corporate Accounting globally and Temporary Services outside of North America. I also still have responsibility for the international region, and they’re primarily taking care of all of the back-office activities outside of North America.
What is it about Robert Half that’s enabled you to develop your career there, rather than moving to different companies for advancement?
Part of it is there’s always been some change coming along, and I’ve welcomed those changes as opportunities for professional development and paths to advancement.
Robert Half moves very quickly. We have a lot of business needs that require technological solutions. That’s created a lot of opportunities, not just for me, but for many people. And that’s what’s kept me engaged, excited and motivated.
Has Robert Half been supportive of your advancement, or have you had to overcome bias and other obstacles?
The main thing is that they haven’t treated me any differently from any other employee. I really feel that Robert Half treats everybody as an individual, and advancement is based on merit. They’ve given me opportunities when I’ve shown drive and ability. Just like they’ve given the next person and the next person opportunities.
They’ve helped coach me in certain areas regarding leadership abilities and technical skills, but exactly the same way they’ve coached anybody who shows determination and promise. Robert Half doesn’t let gender, race or those kinds of things become factors. Anyone’s voice can be heard here, and anyone can earn a seat at the table based solely on merit.
With the idea of bringing your whole self to work becoming more prevalent, how do you incorporate that into your professional life?
I’m just a person. It doesn’t matter whether you report to me or you’re my peer or an SVP, I will tell you exactly what I think. I’m going to be very forthright so you understand the situation. My team knows I’m always going to be authentic and tell the truth.
And I don’t hide my weaknesses. For example, I tell my team in a minute that I’m in a finance area and can’t stand doing budgets. I’m just not a natural numbers person, and I’m really honest about that. But I have numbers people on my team, so we work together.
Women in STEM roles can be a contentious issue — how do you see that taking shape at Robert Half?
It’s starting to be more balanced at Robert Half. For example, software engineers on my team used to be all guys. But now there’s a woman on my two-person U.K. team, and a woman and three men here in the U.S. And the business systems analyst team has more women. At the leadership level around me, it used to be three women and three men, but one woman retired.
But that’s just here. Elsewhere, I don’t see it shifting as much. Representing Robert Half in tech, I go into meetings with other companies and I might be the only woman in the room.
How have you prevented that type of bias from holding you back in the tech industry?
I think it’s twofold. Part of it’s my upbringing. My father talked me into starting off as a tech installer and repair person. And I was the first female in that role where I worked. Those guys used to give me a hard time. They’d say, “A girl can’t do that, blah, blah, blah.” So I’d come home discouraged, but my father encouraged me. He told me, “Don’t let someone say you can’t do something. Just go out there and show them up.” So it’s like that. I know I can do it if I put my mind to it.
Secondly, my grandmother would always tell me that I need to be able to take care of myself, and those kinds of things really ingrain in you and build up your character. And that’s what you need to succeed, especially in the down times.
What’s one misconception you think people make about your company?
I think most people don’t realize that we have career opportunities within the company. They think of us as a specialized staffing company and not one where they can grow a career. There have been large efforts to change that.
What’s the best piece of career advice anyone’s ever given you?
Years ago, my CIO was trying to convince me to go for a senior manager position. I didn’t want to because I don’t play office politics. He looked at me and said, “You don’t have to. You need to understand the way politics are played, but stay true to yourself and don’t get pulled into it.” So I understand the game but I won't play it.