As head of global talent acquisition at Microsoft, Edward and
his team help the tech giant’s workforce embrace the same growth
mindset by reinforcing a commitment to relentless improvement.
He and his team support 110,000 employees in 100 countries.
Before joining Microsoft in 2004, Edward held senior HR
roles at PepsiCo, Cigna Healthcare and 3M. His experience
working at Fortune 100 companies has taught him a lot about
the impact HR can have on a business.
“Early on, I felt like HR’s job was helping fix problems, so
I thought I was a fixer,” Edward says. “What I realized rather
quickly is that HR is about creating systems and processes that
make things work.”
He recently spoke with HR Magazine about his career journey.
I grew up outside of Milwaukee. My parents were both teachers,
so being a good student mattered to them and whether I would go
to college was never a question. My mother’s parents were immigrants from Croatia, and neither of them had a college education.
They saw earning a college degree as a natural progression for
As an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin in Madison,
I majored in psychology. One of my first jobs was working in a
group home for people with disabilities. At that point, I assumed
I would go on to become a psychologist and that would be my
career path. But then I went to a brown-bag lunch that the university hosted for undergraduates where they brought in people
to talk about jobs in different specialties, and organizational psychology was one of the options presented. That caught my attention. There was something about social psychology in a business
setting that piqued my interest.
Being a Quick Study
I chose the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management to earn my master’s degree in human resources. I hadn’t
really worked in business up to that point, so I didn’t have the
level of experience that many of my fellow students had. It was
a bit intimidating. All these big-name companies were coming
on campus the first semester to hold interviews for internships.
I remember thinking, “Wow, I have a lot to learn. I need to better myself.” In some ways, I didn’t yet feel qualified, but I knew
I had to get there fast.
Raising His Game
I played basketball in high school. It helped me develop a sense of
competition and scrappiness that made me determined to excel.
I kept that mindset when I was applying for jobs in grad school.
I found that I would do well in the first round of interviews, but
my lack of business experience was hurting me at the finish line.
I just wasn’t getting the jobs I wanted.
So, to bolster my resume and gain more experience, I took an
unpaid internship my first summer. I also went through the phone
book and cold-called recruiting and staffing agencies and offered
my services. When I rolled into my second year of grad school, my
resume looked awesome! I landed one of the best jobs offered in
that recruiting cycle as an HR manager for 3M. I started work-
ing there the following summer and immediately entered into a
structured job rotation program within HR. It was the best thing
for me. It rounded me out fast and gave me a breadth of experi-
ence in a condensed time frame. I moved into a different HR role
every 18 months. I didn’t look at it as “sink or swim” at the time,
but in retrospect I realize I was being stretched and pushed into
doing something I didn’t feel quite ready for.
I was a regional HR leader at Pepsi, which at the time owned
Pizza Hut. It was quite different from HR in a manufacturing
setting. Pepsi is known for having a great HR culture. Stepping
into that role was like earning a doctorate in human resources. I
learned a ton about the customer side and operations and truly
embedding what you do as a business into HR. HR people were
charged with being part of the business every week—sampling
products, visiting restaurants. It really was hands-on HR.
What He Loves About His Job
The combination of being able to do my best work as an individual and creating a culture that contributes to others’ success.
At Microsoft, people don’t need to “know it all,” but they must
want to “learn it all.” The message to our employees—who are
well-educated individuals who have excelled in their careers—is
that it’s OK to know a lot, but it’s more important to remain open
to absorbing new skills and information because that’s how you
get better every day.
Who He Looks to Hire
One thing I’ve never forgotten was something a manager at
Cigna told me. He said, “Don’t be afraid to hire someone who
could be your boss. You don’t need to have all the answers to
empower someone else to be successful.” Sometimes you know
you’ve found the right person just by the questions they ask in an
‘Ultimately, the role of HR is to
question the unquestionable.
But to do that, you have
to know the business. Go
deep. And ask, ask, ask. The
question to always answer is
“Why? In service to what?” ’