Alumni Interrogatory: Kristen Ludgate '98
Chief People Officer, HP
Last year, Kristen Ludgate ’98 became chief people officer for Palo Alto, California–based HP, which boasts a global workforce of more than 50,000. Previously, she worked at 3M for more than 12 years, including as the Minnesota-based company’s chief human resources officer.
What is your day-to-day like as chief people officer at HP?
I split my time between working in
person in Palo Alto and working
remotely from home in St. Paul.
Sometimes I’m in all-day meetings
with HP’s people team, the executive
leadership team (ELT), or the board.
On other days, I’m on Zoom from
morning to night, on many different
topics with people all over the world.
I try to balance spending time with
my team, engaging with employee
groups, networking externally,
working with my ELT colleagues
and our CEO, and staying current
on business trends inside and outside the company. I look forward to traveling more when the pandemic allows.
What inspired you to move from corporate counsel roles to HR leadership?
It was an evolution. 3M offered me an opportunity to take a role in HR to gain different experience. After several months, I moved to lead corporate communications and enterprise services, my first role reporting to the CEO. I landed back in HR as CHRO in 2018. I love the scope of HR leadership roles: the opportunity to work with all aspects of the organization, advocate for employees, and impact many different business priorities. Now I am learning a new industry, experiencing Silicon Valley, and leading a talent, culture, and change agenda, which is very energizing. So while I did not really plan to move to HR, it has been a great career decision for me.
How do you think your legal background connects to leading an HR department?
I actually gained a lot of HR experience as a lawyer and was on the HR leadership team when I was 3M’s chief employment counsel.
I use my legal background all the time at HP—to understand global regulatory environments, anticipate risks, provide advice, assess business opportunities, and work on environ- menal, social, and governance topics.
What are a few trends in HR?
There are so many! We are in an era of unprecedented talent mobility and facing a shortage of critical skills. This leads to a big focus on talent acquisition, upskilling current teams, and creating compelling career experiences. The future of work is another priority, given the pace of digitalization. Creating workplace environments where people from different backgrounds can thrive is a top focus. This means working on diversity, inclusion, transparency, trust, resilience, and wellness.
What are a couple of memorable experiences you had at Minnesota Law?
The faculty was fantastic. Two great examples are Professors Steve Befort and Laura Cooper, who sparked my interest in employment law. Professor Cooper’s conflict of law final exam was probably the toughest test I have ever taken in any setting. I also learned a lot by writing a law review article, though I am happy to leave all those footnotes behind.
Why did you originally decide to go to law school—and why Minnesota Law?
I’d been working in higher education for 10 years and knew I needed an advanced degree. I chose law school because it offered so many different career options. Once I was there, I loved it, and it turned out I loved being a lawyer. I chose Minnesota Law because it was a top-tier law school with a great reputation, and I didn’t need to relocate to attend. We are lucky to have such a great law school here in the Twin Cities. It was an easy choice.
What have you learned in your career path that you would like to share with newer lawyers and law students?
Stay flexible and be open to different kinds of opportunities. Be both broad and deep—you need subject matter expertise, but you also need wide perspective to give the best advice, relate to different clients, and adapt to change. Finally, careers are marathons, and you get to set the pace. I navigated my career in the way that worked for my family, which meant turning down career opportunities that came at the wrong time. There are always other opportunities. You can wait for what’s right for you.
What do you do to maintain wellness?
I try to keep to the basics: eat well, exercise, spend time with friends and family, get outside, and sleep. Also, take a walk if the stress is piling up. This always works for me as a quick reset.