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It’s here! An all-new edition of our “Career Corner” series. To close out a dreary (snow covered!) Chicago April, HR Leader sat down with Jim Conniff, who executive vice president and CHRO of GATX Corporation and member of the HRMAC Board of Directors. Read on to hear Conniff discuss the best career advice he’s ever received and his favorite place in Chicago.

When you have a seat at the table, have a point of view!

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?

Jim Conniff (JC): My background is finance. Originally, I held roles in financial planning and analysis, and had no inclination for an HR career. As I became more involved with analytical support for labor and compensation areas of the organization, I began connecting the dots between analytics, people and strategy. Thankfully, I transitioned to the HR with a deeply rooted business mindset and have used that background to inform everything we do.

The most enjoyable aspect of the job for me is watching people develop and grow to meet their potential. As for challenges, over the course of any year you face problems that can be unique and difficult. Tackling these requires creativity and teamwork, which can make challenging times the most rewarding.

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

JC: Spend as much time as possible in the business to learn and develop perspective. Raise your hand to work on complicated problems. If you start in HR, advocate for a role outside HR and spend meaningful time there before you come back.

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?

JC: Having a strategic talent-sourcing mindset that is part of the DNA of each hiring manager helps move vetting and decision-making along with a sense of urgency. Achieving that mindset is difficult and is part of the heavy lifting great TA folks do on a regular basis.

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

JC: In my opinion, technology hasn’t changed the role of HR but it has helped HR measure outcomes/results or deliver solutions with impact in ways that are consistent with how other parts of the business measure their plans. This, in turn, has legitimized more HR initiatives to connect people strategy to business strategy in meaningful and measurable ways.

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

JC: When you have a seat at the table, have a point of view!

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

JC: Water.

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

JC: Wrigley Field. [When we can gather again, there’s nothing better than the] Cubs, summer and a cold beer.

HR Leader: Is there anything else you’d like to add that we haven’t covered?

JC: Whether you aspire to a CHRO role or not, remain humble.