Ekta Vyas Finds Fulfillment Through Being a Lifelong Learner

A “scholar-practitioner,” Ekta Vyas immerses herself in thought leadership while educating the next generation of HR pros

Leading companies through transformational change is Ekta Vyas’s calling. “Throughout my career, I’ve joined organizations at a time of profound change, when they’ve needed a program to be rebuilt, or when their team was not optimally functioning,” says Vyas, who is the human resources director at Stanford Children’s Hospital.

The work of managing big company shifts resonates deeply with Vyas, who calls herself a scholar-practitioner with a deep need for continuous learning. She believes change management can’t happen successfully with a one-size-fits-all model and begins each project with a period of research.

“Every transformation I’ve led has needed something different,” said Vyas, who earned her terminal master’s degree in industrial and organizational psychology and doctorate in organization and management. The topic of her PhD research focused on the relationship between leaders’ emotional intelligence and staff work engagement during transformational change.

Ekta Vyas
Ekta Vyas, Stanford Children’s HealthPhoto: Joseph M., Snapper

“At the outset of each project, you have to look into who has done something similar before,” she explains. “Why did they fail? Why did they succeed? You may not be able to immediately translate that knowledge to the situation at hand, but you can learn a lot from other people’s failures and successes.”

At Stanford Children’s Health, Vyas has navigated numerous strategic initiatives. Most recently, she joined the Stanford Medicine Diversity Cabinet, representing the pediatric hospital of Stanford Medicine, and is assessing the organization’s current state of diversity and inclusion to inform a strategy and program that addresses the identified gaps.

Talk to Vyas for any length of time, and her appreciation for the power and value of technology in the workplace becomes evident—it has played a starring role in most of the change she has undertaken at Stanford. She has led lean process improvements and technology implementations, including building recruitment infrastructure and workforce analytics functions from scratch. “Being an industrial/organizational psychologist, I’m driven by evidence-based management. Data analytics gives us insight into our workforce and informs significant components of our strategy,” she says.

Technology also played a key role in Vyas’s work in establishing an employer brand when the expanded facility of Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford opened in December 2017, which doubled the size of Stanford’s pediatric facility. “We filled almost five hundred new positions on top of the turnovers and vacancies we manage on a continual basis,” Vyas said. “This high-volume recruiting was made possible by an all-encompassing recruitment suite we integrated with our core human resource management system.”

Ekta Vyas
Photo: Joseph M., Snapper

Her expertise and experience with HR technology led to Vyas joining the board of the International Association for Human Resource Information Management (IHRIM) in early 2019. IHRIM is the only association in the industry specifically dedicated to HR technology. Vyas oversees its educational programs, including webinars and the Human Resource Information Professional (HRIP) Certification. Just a few months after joining the board, she took on the revamp of the HRIP Certification platform and is collaborating with industry subject-matter experts in updating the program’s content.

Vyas is molding the next generation of HR leaders as an adjunct faculty member at San Jose State University of Business. She teaches Society for Human Resource Management certification courses. “To be a teacher, first you have to be a lifelong learner; I like teaching because it encourages me to stay abreast in my field outside of my immediate work,” she says. “It’s gratifying when my students go on to becomes leaders in the field in their own right.”

The industry at large benefits from Vyas’s expertise as well. She regularly writes articles and appears at conferences, speaking on multiple HR and management topics related to HR and organizational processes and strategy. She recently spoke on a panel about HR technology at the second annual HR Tech Online Summit North America, presented a keynote on workforce planning at Human Capital Institute’s People Analytics & Workforce Planning Conference, and spoke at HR West 2019, the largest annual HR conference on the West Coast. She’s been interviewed on the PeopleScout podcast, as well as on the Go Lean Six Sigma podcast in August 2019. Vyas has penned bylines in Forbes, HR People + Strategy, International Journal of Strategic Management and other industry publications. She also draws on her PhD research to lead webinars and presentations on the topic of emotional intelligence and change. One day, she hopes to publish a book.

Being involved in all this, she said, ensures that she’s exposed to the entire ecosystem of HR, not just siloed in her day-to-day work. “I’m leveraging learning with everything I do,” Vyas explains. “If I’m writing about performance management, I’m also teaching performance management. I’m speaking about employer branding because I’ve done that as a practitioner. Every activity I do reinforces another part of my career.”

She admits the balance can be difficult, but her family provides a strong support system. Vyas refers to her “three Ms” in addition to her family support: music, meditation, and movies. Ultimately, her involvement at Stanford Children’s Health, with IHRIM and San Jose State University—as well as her frequent sharing of her expertise via speaking engagements, articles and podcasts—brings credibility and fulfillment.

“You can stay in one field of expertise, but I chose to spread my wings and make myself open to learning about the whole HR ecosystem, from human resources and human behavior to organizational science,” Vyas says. “After more than a decade of that young ambitious blur of striving, I feel fulfilled and grateful for the struggles I had, because struggles shape you.”