Meditation app Headspace brings on former Netflixer Dolores Tersigni as chief people officer

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Dolores Tersigni was hoping she would be taking a long-overdue vacation after leaving Netflix earlier this year — and instead, she was spending a lot of time talking to the team over at meditation app Headspace.

Now she’s landed a job there as the chief people officer, starting full-time this week. The conversations actually led to a little bit of an involvement throughout the year, but now she will be working to craft the company’s culture and help recruit new talent to the meditation app. Tersigni is the second big executive hire in the past month and a half or so, with the company bringing on a new chief business officer in June.

“A bunch of people in my life were talking about Headspace,” Tersigni said. “People were just telling me to use the product because I’m very much into mindfulness and yoga and meditation and integrating that into Netflix. On another front, some people that I knew from a business perspective were really just interested in the business model. I knew some of the investors first or second hand. It came up 4 or 5 times in 2 weeks. I kept thinking, I wonder why this company keeps coming up, and that led me to think more about what the company culture would be like.”

Tersigni was previously the VP of talent at Netflix, where she spent four years working on building up a team on the content side. Now, Netflix’s original content efforts have exploded into a multi-billion dollar effort — and revving up Netflix’s growth engine as it looks to expand internationally.

“They haven’t really had anyone in my role before,” Tersigni said. “Trying to define what does that mean, how do you bring the culture to life, how does everyone in the company speak the same language, that’s going to be the big challenge. How do you recruit and retain talent against those values and behavior.”

The role comes with plenty of unique challenges — many of which aren’t actually measurable. The role will be judged in terms of hiring and retention, but a lot of it will be touchy-feely (to borrow the phrase for a class at a business school) and ensuring that the team is able to grow while maintaining its culture. That means sending out surveys, getting feedback and then trying to gauge whether or not people are actually enjoying their time at the company.

The latter of that is critical in terms of retaining talent. And it might be a little more difficult given that Headspace just went through a small round of layoffs. The company raised an additional $37 million earlier this year to fuel that expansion. It may be in a better shape to continue to attract new talent and hold onto its existing employees. But for a meditation app, building that culture of mindfulness that the app is literally built around may be more of a challenge than expected.

“We have a lot of employees and we’re seeing increased complexity in the business,” Tersigni said. “In any startup in the initial phases, it’s all hands on deck and everyone does everything. As you start to mature, it gets more complex, and you create more functions, your roles are more and more defined. You’re less of a generalist and become more of a specialist. At that point, you have to start defining what does [success] mean. Right now is the time in that organization, what does my career look like. Really creating a framework and road map, how they’re able to define success, that’s gonna be my first 30-60 days is mapping that out so people have an understanding.”