What does it take to be Chief People Officer at Matterport? Well, if you’re Jean Barbagelata, it takes confidence, experience, and a healthy dose of emotional intelligence.
For most of her career, Jean has been exploring her passion for the business of Human Resources in different industry settings and honing her abilities that would eventually lead to her leadership position at Matterport. However, being the people person she is today wasn’t always in the cards.
“I love playing the piano. I played the piano since I’ve been about 8 years old,” she said. “I was a music major my freshman year in college, and decided I didn’t want to practice eight hours a day and also attend class. So I explored some of my other interests and focused on obtaining a degree in business with a focus on retailing.”
While she still occasionally dusts off the keys to play some of her favorites tunes (especially anything by the Eagles), this change in major put her on the road to HR.
A career that started close to home
With her degree in business and retail, Jean was offered positions on the leadership track at some of the world’s leading department stores at the time: Macy’s in New York and Lord & Taylor in Chicago, despite graduating at the height of the 1980s recession.
At this pivotal moment in her career, Jean decided to stay closer to her home in Wisconsin to care for her ailing mother and accepted a role at a small local staffing company, thus starting her road to a career in HR.
“It was a very small staffing company, and we were placing mostly administrative and frontline, supervisory and management jobs,” she said. “I spent the next 10 years of my career doing that. And it was a great opportunity for me to cut my teeth.”
But after a decade, change was calling again. “I packed up my car and moved from Madison, Wisconsin, to San Mateo, California,” she said. The move was anything but smooth, as emergency surgery delayed her from starting a job at a new staffing company. So she adapted and did a number of different jobs from hostessing and professional fundraising to pulling 12-hour shifts at a pediatric clinic and becoming an office manager at a construction company.
No matter what she was doing, though, Jean was interacting with people. This ultimately helped her land a job at PricewaterhouseCoopers in its executive search practice. Throughout her career leading up to Matterport, she honed her HR capabilities in the technology and retail sectors with world leaders such as Oracle, PeopleSoft, Old Navy and Salesforce. Along the way, she also gained experience in the startup world; first with SchoolPop in the dot.com days and then with The RealReal.
Jean saw Matterport as the perfect fit for all her interests. Combining her love of technology, interest in the retail and merchandising fields, and of course her expertise in human resources, Matterport was the perfect fit. However, it wasn’t just the industry and unique product that attracted Jean to her current position, she also found a spot where she felt that her knowledge, experience and questions would be welcome by an engaging team of employees and supported by a leadership team that appreciates the need for a world-class HR function.
“I feel that I’ve found a spot where I can really be me,” she said about joining the company. “I’m able to bring my passions to work and share my expertise and experience with others.”
Moreso, Jean found a company where she could continue to take risks. Even after having years of experience in HR and having tackled some meaty issues in companies past, Matterport encouraged her to try strategies and continue gaining new skills. “We work for a company right now that allows us to take risks. I’ve worked for companies where that’s not the case, but Matterport is absolutely one.”
As the Chief People Officer, and a staple of the Matterport community, Jean has built an incredible team and is proud to be making a positive impact with her colleagues every day. Years ago, she started MatterportCares, an initiative she is very passionate about. And, she looks forward to building a more extensive social impact practice - or what we call Matterport for Good.
“We have values and a culture that we hold dear. So, we feel it’s important that our customers, prospective employees and the public understand what Matterport stands for and the work we are doing to make the world more inclusive and just.”
Advice from a leader
Throughout her career, Jean has listened to her heart to help make her decisions. “As I think about the head and the heart, the head being cognitive and the heart being the emotional thinking, there’s a lot of gray area between those two, right?” she said. “So I think we’re not always head thinkers. We’re not always heart thinking. I think we probably vacillate somewhere in that gray zone.”
She encourages other professionals to embrace this gray zone and life’s uncertainties. Ask questions when you don’t understand something and don’t shy away from tough tasks or unexpected roles. Take criticism gracefully, and don’t be afraid to have a sense of humor.
When Jean’s not at work, you’ll likely find her spending time with her college-bound son and rescue dog, going on long nature hikes, whipping up a fantastic meal in her kitchen, or giving back to her community.
Stay tuned to learn more about the hardworking and talented women of Matterport in our next installment. In the meantime, enjoy Jean’s favorite Matterport space - a 3D capture of the Rosa Parks Bus. You can explore even more 3D experiences on Destination : Everywhere.
“This immersive experience is an example of how Matterport can enable anyone in the world to walk through historical moments that changed the world. We’re really proud of how our technology can help bridge understanding.”
Due to the impact of reduced operations, museums like The Henry Ford are experiencing financial challenges that threaten closure. Matterport invites you to donate if you can.