Matthew Schuyler may have recently changed high-profile jobs, but his commitment to the basic tenets of HR remains steadfast. Understanding the responsibility that comes with the impact HR can have on employees is "touching and humbling," he says. HR leaders should also learn to keep each day's events in perspective.
For ancient mariners, following a siren's call usually foretold certain doom. But for Matthew W. Schuyler, heeding that call has led him to a very successful career in HR, with a far-flung stop in the Muddy City for good measure.
Schuyler was recently appointed executive vice president and chief human resources officer at Hilton Worldwide, with its headquarters in McLean, Va., where he reports to the company President and CEO Christopher J. Nassetta.
Schuyler's prior position -- and the one in which he was named to Human Resource Executive®'s 2007 HR Honor Roll -- was as chief human resources officer at Capital One Financial Corp.
He says being named to the magazine's Honor Roll was a boon for both himself and his employer at the time.
"It brought notoriety to the company and improved the brand," he says. "But it also made me reflect on my career and what I've accomplished so far, and what I'd like to accomplish in the future."
Prior to the Capitol One post, he was a vice president of human resources at Cisco Systems Inc., and he has also served as a partner in the global HR group at PricewaterhouseCoopers.
But to fully understand the journey that has, to date, led him all over the world, is to also understand his commitment to the humans that make up human resources.
It first hit him while he was an auditor in the Pittsburgh office of Price Waterhouse, shortly after graduating from Penn State University with a degree in business administration. (He also holds an M.B.A. from the University of Michigan.)
"As an auditor, I really loved the people aspect of my work," he recalls nearly 20 years later. "That really resonated the most with me. I felt like there was a siren call to get involved with HR activities and helping people."
Human resources, he says, has a real impact on people's lives and "that has meaning beyond anything I could describe. It's touching and humbling at the same time. You want to make the most of that every day and not take it for granted. The moment you take that for granted is probably the moment you lose your edge in this business."
Speaking via phone during a business trip for Hilton from the Malaysian city of Kuala Lumpur -- which translates in English to "Muddy City" -- Schuyler says the best piece of advice he's ever received was from a former boss who preached the power of perspective.
"He encouraged me to keep things in perspective," he recalls. "Every day provides a new opportunity for change and what feels insurmountable today may not feel that way tomorrow. ... I reflect on that almost every day, how agitated people get about certain elements of their day. But tomorrow's always a new day."
When asked what advice he'd pass on to the next generation of HR executives, Schuyler stresses the importance of doing your homework.
"Get to know your business," he says. "Show up as a businessperson first, then as an HR person second."
He also advocates HR executives become better acquainted with cutting-edge HR technology.
"Become an expert in HR information technology and the power of technology, as it relates to productivity. That's the future of HR," he says.
"We're not going to be pushing paper or processes around in the future; we're going to be partnering with IT organizations to provide productivity strategies. So if you're not steeped in IT, learn as much about it as you can. It will serve you well."