The Talent Nurturer

Power Suit in the Executive Suite

Amy Cappellanti-Wolf, the CHRO of Cohesity, deftly navigates today’s slippery talent landscape

Amy Cappellanti-Wolf grew up in a close-knit Italian family in West Virginia, the child of first-generation immigrants. Her father owned a restaurant, where he worked six days a week, roping in young Amy and her siblings at every chance. What she lacked in big family vacations, Cappellanti-Wolf made up for in a strong work ethic. After graduating from West Virginia University with a degree in journalism, she went on to earn a master’s in industrial and labor relations. That was where she found her fascination with HR.

“I’d never thought about human resources as a career,” says Cappellanti-Wolf. “I didn’t even know what it was. But as I went through the curriculum and landed some internships, I realized this is my calling.”

Three decades later, after lengthy tenures at firms including Frito Lay, Walt Disney, Cisco, and Symantec, Cappellanti-Wolf still pursues her HR passions at Silicon Valley–based data management firm Cohesity, where she promotes equity, excellence in talent acquisition and retention, and a sincere mission to promote growth at all levels in businesses and people alike.

Diversity Woman spoke to Cappellanti-Wolf about why work cultures must be adaptable, making tech welcoming to all, and why the Great Resignation might be a blessing in disguise.

Diversity Woman: Why did you join Cohesity?

Amy Cappellanti-Wolf: I joined Cohesity in May of 2021 to head up People and Places—essentially our human resources and real estate groups. It’s a high-growth company with this super leadership team I could really bond with. After so many years in large tech enterprises, I missed that start-up-type environment where you almost can’t keep up because you’re so busy. Also, I wanted to work for an organization that’s disrupting the market with innovative ways to think about data management.

DW: Are you leading any DEI initiatives there?

ACW: I’ve done a lot of DEI work, along with building culture. The two are intertwined. Culture matters because the culture that got you to where you are may not be the one that gets you to the next level of growth. What’s that mean, right? Well, think about gas-guzzling muscle cars. They were a big part of our culture in the ’50s and ’60s, back when car adoption was going vertical, but they’re completely out of sync with modern needs and priorities. Culture should ask, how do you hold on to beliefs and practices that work and shed the things that no longer serve you? Bringing those questions to Cohesity has been a wild ride, with lots of building, creating, designing, and applying ideas to help make this company incredibly successful.

When I got here, we established a DEI council that is representative of leaders across the organization, both geographically and functionally. The council developed work streams to make certain we had well-distributed representation and closed gaps in different parts of the organization that needed more diverse representation. We also got very serious about neutralizing job descriptions and taking bias out of the interview process.

DW:Which initiatives have you launched around workplace culture and advancing belonging?

ACW: We’ve worked hard on policies and programs that create a diverse organization, things like health benefits, parental leave, and transgender surgery. I’ve also made sure we have strong employee resource groups—ERGs. When I joined Cohesity, we had just one: the Black Cohesity Network. We just launched the Women’s Impact Network for Cohesity, and I’m going to be leading another one on mental health. All these ERGs are bubbling up, and we’ve created a playbook, so they move from idea to reality with a proven, streamlined process.

DW: How is the Great Resignation discussed among CHROs? What best practices can help retain talent?

ACW: We’re all grappling with this. I’m on several CHRO roundtables, and everyone’s talking about people having more choice and flexibility. Some workers opt out entirely of the traditional workforce, and others get ridiculous salaries because they’re great talent and can go anywhere. We ask people: Where are you at? What’s important to you? What motivates you? How can I make certain that the job you’re doing allows you to be your best person? It’s a conversation between manager and employee that very often gets overlooked because we’re usually in task mode and not relationship mode.

Secondly, difficult as it’s been, I believe this Great Resignation could potentially be a long-term gift to businesses in that people can now work from anywhere. Before, companies gravitated around their real estate footprint. But now, facilities and campus locations are shrinking. Fewer people come into the office every day. Therefore, we can open up our aperture and look for talent across different geographies, which we would not have done previously. This also means opening ourselves to different communities that we would not have in the past.

DW: What are the challenges for human resource professionals in tech, and how are you addressing them?

ACW: Start-up founders tend to invite people they knew from school. A lot of them are bromances. Sometimes, that works, but too often it leads to this cripplingly narrow leadership view. To combat that tendency, we have to build deep relationships with technology leaders in different communities and draw them into the company. But you can’t make it into some transactional quota. Sometimes, people say, “Well, I hired 30 people of color,” and the next year they’re all gone because the environment wasn’t supportive. You have to attract, curate, and build relationships. Then, when you bring people in, make sure there aren’t internal toxins that will push them right back out because you haven’t done the work around environment and inclusion.

DW: What career advice would you give a new college graduate looking to break into a Fortune 1000 company or a start-up? What about advice for a mid-career woman wanting to advance?

ACW: It’s a buyer’s market right now. A lot of the talent asks, How does this place operate? Will it embrace me? Can I be successful here? Will my ideas be heard? I would tell anybody now to understand how the company operates.
Get to know its values and whether you’re likely to be embraced and successful. The culture should fit you. You shouldn’t have to fit the culture.

Right after earning my master’s degree, I had the privilege of standing on the shoulders of the pioneers at Frito-Lay who helped get HR a seat at the executive table. Hopefully, some women can stand on my shoulders too. But we still have challenges with access, sponsorship, and mentorship. So, find somebody at your company whom you really admire and trust. Build a relationship with them so they can guide you, whether through a sponsorship or access to other ways of learning and growing.

And advocate for yourself. Very often, once we’re at the table, we tend to conform because we fought so hard to get there and don’t want to screw it up. Resist that. Being a team player is important, but your real value is always in your unique perspective.

Lastly, take risks in your career. I always raised my hand for the jobs that were not sexy. Sometimes, the groups were even broken, but they were in areas where I knew I could learn a lot. There’s no place to go from there but up, so why not try that? Don’t settle for easy areas where you’re not going to learn as much. You might have superficial success and notoriety, but you walk away with only that, not the deeper skills you build when dealing with adversity.


“Sometimes people say, ‘I hired 30 people of color,’ and the next year they’re all gone because the evironment wasn’t supportive. You have to attract, curate, and build relationships. Then, when you bring people in, make sure there aren’t internal toxins that will push them back out.”

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