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It’s time for the next installment of our “Career Corner” series, which comes during Women’s History Month. To celebrate, HR Leader sat down with female leader HRMAC member Deirdre Drake, who is CHRO of U.S. Cellular. Read on to hear Drake discuss her career and the advice she has for aspiring CHROs.

HR Leader: Was human resources always a career that interested you? What have been some of your favorite parts of your job? What have been some challenges?

Deirdre Drake (DD): My undergraduate degree is a B.S. in business administration with a major in human resources (HR). I’ve been interested in HR since my junior year in college. I love that human resources has the potential to influence change through others without formal authority. It is our role to be the vanguard for progress, but to do it from a position of strategic support.

My career has now spanned over 30 years, and I have moved/relocated 11 times. It is hard to establish roots when you average less than 3 years in any one location.

HR Leader: Do you have any tips for professionals who aspire to become a CHRO?

DD: Ensure that you are rounded in each of the functional areas of HR. It is important to have a working understanding each facet, and to spend some time in each area as you mature in your career if you aspire to the top role.

Additionally, have your business fundamentals well in hand. It goes without saying that you must understand the economic model of the company you are working for – and the industry you are working in – to develop human-capital strategy to support its success.

HR Leader: CHROs help shape the talent of an organization. What are your top tips for addressing talent needs and desires given the tight labor market?

DD: For our team at U.S. Cellular, our culture helps us attract talent. In many areas of our operating footprint, unemployment is at record lows. In the face of that challenge, we hold our own in terms of attracting top-tier talent to the organization. Our associates tell us that we provide them with challenging work and a fantastic work environment, and that word spreads to our prospective associates. If you create a climate and culture where people want to come to work, then they will serve as your best recruitment ambassadors.

HR Leader: How has technology changed the role of HR? What are some important technologies that all firms should consider?

DD: Technology has changed all areas of business, including HR. Like other areas of business, HR is beginning to implement technological tools that improve our decision-making, speed and efficiency.

Firms should consider any technology that fits into their strategy that delivers tangible improvements to the business. For example, U.S. Cellular is using artificial intelligence (i.e., chatbots) to assist us with interview scheduling and helping candidates navigate our process. The goal is to improve speed to hire and time to productivity – key metrics that we monitor.

HR Leader: What is the best career advice you ever received?

DD: Very early in my career, a mentor told me to carry myself daily like I was in the job I aspired to – not the job I was in. That advice helped form how I thought about jobs, relocations, development and who I chose as mentors.

HR Leader: What is one podcast you highly recommend?

DD: My favorite podcast is “Revisionist History” by Malcolm Gladwell. In each episode, he challenges our conventional wisdom about a topic, often with a fascinating point of view.

Aside from “Revisionist History,” I enjoy National Public Radio (NPR) and listen to many of their shows.

HR Leader: Share 3 things you must keep at your desk when working in order to maximize productivity.


  • A webcam – To interact in a more interpersonal way with folks not in my location.
  • Water – I drink nearly a gallon per day; hydration is important!
  • Reading glasses – I can’t see anything without them!

HR Leader: What is your favorite place to visit in Chicago?

DD: The Harold Washington Library is my favorite place to visit in the city of Chicago. Many people don’t know that there is an event space on the top of the library called “The Winter Garden” that is one of the most beautiful spaces in the city. Another cool tip is that you can take a walking tour through the library to explore one of the nation’s coolest public art collections.