A Bridge between Worlds

This article accompanies Great Reports.

Combining his passions for business development, technology and media, Turner Broadcasting's Tushar Trivedi is giving HR a decidedly nontraditional look.

By Michael J. O'Brien

It was a counterintuitive thought, but Tushar Trivedi knew it was right when it first struck him: In order to advance in the field of human resources, he would have to leave it.

At the time, Trivedi was midway through what he calls a "long, wonderful career" at Google, which he began as a quantitative compensation analyst and continued through a two-year stretch assignment as the regional HR/compensation leader responsible for managing the strategy, design and implementation of Google's compensation analytics function at its Asia-Pacific headquarters in Singapore.

(His tenure at the Internet giant also included a mentorship under HRE's 2010 HR Executive of the Year and Google's Senior Vice President of People Operations Laszlo Bock.)

"I want to be a long-term HR professional," Trivedi says, "and I knew [then] that getting out of HR would give me more credibility. I've always wanted to get closer to the business side of things, for me to really know it, but it's hard to make that transition."

To that end, Trivedi next took on a sales and business-development role while managing the Google TV + Video Ads business upon his return from Singapore.

It was then that Trivedi's unique skill set -- combined with a bachelor's degree in management from Purdue University -- made its way onto the radar screen at Turner Broadcasting, says Chief Human Resource Officer Loretta Walker.

"We managed to hire Tushar away from Google to help support HR for a newly acquired [sports reporting] business in San Francisco called Bleacher Report -- a $200 million acquisition," she says. "He has played a hugely instrumental role in leading our acquisition-integration efforts for this technology business into a much larger media organization."

It is largely for his dual-footed role -- one planted in HR and the other on the business side -- that Trivedi, now the director and division head of HR for Turner Sports, has been named one of this year's HR's Rising Stars.

Armed with a self-professed "passion for tech and media," Trivedi was fully prepared to handle the wicked bounces and unexpected curveballs that would come his way while integrating the sports-centric Bleacher Report website into Turner Sports' main mission -- broadcasting sports programming on Turner cable channels such as TNT, TBS and TruTV.

In fact, he'd already seen many of the same compensation challenges in 2006, when Google acquired the video-sharing site YouTube.

"When I came [to Turner]," he says, "I already had an understanding of what happens when a company gets acquired and some of the pain points around how people got paid, so it gave me a line of sight to try to make sure the same things wouldn't happen with Bleacher Report."

He says it "took a lot of convincing" at the company's New York headquarters (Turner Sports is a division of Turner Broadcasting System, which is a subsidiary of Time Warner) to gain support for his novel HR ideas for Bleacher Report, born from the lessons he learned working with both Silicon Valley's talented techies and the bottom-line-driven business leaders who sign their paychecks.

He recalls his main point to Turner's leaders was that "we're talking about [the $200-million Bleacher Report acquisition] here, so let's not screw this up over nickels and dimes to push this thing forward."

For example, when it came to recruiting new technical talent for Bleacher Report, "we were still using Time Warner letterhead," he recalls. "In terms of employment branding, engineers are not going to identify with Time Warner. You have to be interesting and maintain that 'cool factor.' "

Initially met with "a lot of resistance from HQ," Trivedi reports the change to Bleacher Report letterhead "has been able to bring in great talent" while also underscoring its "start-up" culture.

Trivedi has also been instrumental in implementing many of the change-management strategies involved in the acquisition process, having spearheaded a Fair Labor Standards Act study that resulted in significant organizational change, including the conversion of 100 workers from exempt to nonexempt status.

He recently also built a partnership with Time Warner's headquarters that lets him use their existing resources for leadership development for 25 of Bleacher Report's young leaders.

"Google's a young company," he says, "but Bleacher Report is a really young company. We have a lot of first-time managers who've never had to have performance-management conversations with their direct reports."

And while the lessons those leaders have learned will no doubt benefit the entire organization, Trivedi expresses pride at the internal value those workers reported afterward.

"The employees felt it was really good for their own growth and development," he says.

As for his own growth and development, Trivedi says his long-term career ambition is to become an organization's chief talent officer. Walker says his unique combination of business acumen, HR expertise and global mind-set is already shortening the distance between himself and that goal line.

"I strongly believe he will be one of the most sought-after HR leaders for the top job in a few years," she says.

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Tushar Trivedi

 

Jun 9, 2014
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