Coworking with Kendyl Skinner

Director of employee experience and development at BARK
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· 4 min read

On Wednesdays, we schedule our weekly 1:1 with HR Brew’s readers. Want to be featured in an upcoming edition? Click here to introduce yourself.

Kendyl Skinner is the director of employee experience and development at dog supplies subscription company BARK. She started working at BARK seven years ago, at first in customer service and then in internal communications. At the time, the company had less than a dozen employees. As it grew, Skinner decided to make the leap to HR. She recently told HR Brew what it’s like to work for with dogs.

How would you describe your specific job to someone who doesn’t work in HR? I work for a company whose mission is to “make all dogs happy.” That puts our people team in a unique position. We’re making dogs happy indirectly by fostering an environment that allows all of our BARK team members to operate at the highest level. We do this by ensuring employees feel safe, included, and engaged.

What’s the best change you’ve made at a place you’ve worked? My team recently launched our first in-house leadership development program, called BarkLeads, which focuses on fundamental leadership skills including coaching, delivering feedback, effective meetings and one-on-ones, etc. All leaders in the company are invited to participate in the learning method that best suits them, including mini-lessons, live workshops, book and reading recommendations, podcasts, and more. We’ve received great feedback on the program so far, and have seen managers throughout the organization putting these skills into practice!

What considerations have you made when building a dog-focused workplace? We started thinking about, what is our experience for our employees at BARK and their dogs? Because it’s a given that you bring your dog to work when you work in the office. So, we had to make sure that our people were happy and their dogs who are coming to work with them were set up for success, too…Eventually, we had to start putting [rules] into place…Making sure that we have the right spaces for potty breaks….we built a whole dog park into our office and we incorporated dog bowls all throughout the space and dog-friendly materials on all of our seating and things like that.

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What’s the biggest misconception people might have about your job? [That] HR exists mainly to represent and protect the business’ interests rather than the employees’. One of the main tenets of our people operations team is “people over process.” We consistently advocate on behalf of the people that make up the organization and are dedicated to being a resource for them in whatever way that may be.

What’s the most fulfilling aspect of your job? Being the leader of my small-but-mighty team brings me so much joy. It took me a long time and many fails to find direction in life and in my career. I was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 30, and that was such a game changer for me. This [diagnosis] gave me the opportunity to better understand my strengths and how to lean into those to find a career path where I could thrive and am happy to be at work every day, which is so rare! Since then, I’ve had the privilege to build out my own team, and [I] consistently try to do the same for them by helping them understand what about their work sparks excitement and how we can structure their job so they are able to do more of those things.

What trend in HR are you least optimistic about? Why? This might be an unpopular opinion, but I’m not excited about the shift to fully remote work. Don’t get me wrong: I am a fan of the hybrid model, and I understand there are benefits to working remotely, especially for working parents and caregivers. That said, there’s no replacing the in-person engagement and camaraderie that comes with being together in the office. Things like collaboration, brainstorming, team building/bonding, etc., all feel more impactful when you’re doing them together. I’ve seen some of the greatest friendships, relationships, and even a few marriages result from being together in office!

Want to be featured in an upcoming edition of Coworking? Click here to introduce yourself.

HR is challenging. HR news doesn’t have to be.

HR Brew keeps you effective in the fast-changing business environment.