Customer View: Making the Most of Workday Rising

If you could put your Workday Rising experience on a bumper sticker, what would it say? I posed this question to Tyrena Castro, HR director at Dell, who has been to three Workday Risings. (And if you want to know her answer, read on!)

I was delighted Castro agreed to meet with me to share her experiences and tips with other attendees. She has a ton of them, including the importance of asking questions, how to broaden your network, and how she and teammates divide and conquer at Workday Rising, which takes place in Orlando this year.

When was your first Workday Rising?

It was 2015, and there were only a handful of us from Dell. I’ve missed one since then, in 2017, when we were in the middle of a deployment. Then last year, Dell was able to send almost 30 team members, including members of our executive leadership.

When the session catalog came out last year, we made our own session coverage spreadsheet to make sure we didn’t double up anywhere, because there were so many things we could take advantage of. The volume of content has been great, and it’s increased over the years.

Nearly 30 people—nice! What areas of Dell did that group represent?

Tyrena Castro Dell
Tyrena Castro

Primarily HR, but we also had some IT representation. We had executive VPs, including my manager, and they were able to take advantage of some of the executive-focused sessions and really got a lot from them. Yet we also had product managers—primarily responsible for the configuration of Workday—and user experience team members, some of which report to me. So, our entire HR technology leadership team attended, as well as the majority of the staff that report to us.

Did you feel there was enough there for everyone?

Oh, without question. We have people coming in from Ireland, Panama, India, and all across the U.S., all specializing in different areas of Workday. They were able to find sessions that spoke to the areas they have passion for and have the most interest in.

Okay, hopefully a fun question: If you could fit your overall Workday Rising experience on a bumper sticker, what would it say?

Hmmm, maybe it’s: “Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” That’s not to say we’re getting flying cars instead of backpacks this year, but it speaks to the future-focused content of Workday Rising, and how it’s always looking at what’s coming next, and then also trying to make sure each year is different and better than the last.

Yes, for sure—it’s going to be bigger than ever this year. We’ll have about one million square feet of expo space in the Orlando Convention Center. What advice would you give a first timer?

Well, just thinking about the phrase “bigger than ever this year,” the first thing that popped into my head was to make sure you have the Workday Rising event app downloaded on your mobile phone and you’re familiar with it before that first morning—so you can really take advantage of the features in the app and know where everything is.

As far as networking, one of the best things you can do is be the person who asks questions. Sometimes you’ll get in a session, there are a ton of people there, and you’ll think, “Oh, that may be a stupid question. I don’t want to raise my hand.” But you have to keep telling yourself there’s no such thing as a stupid question, because there are probably at least five other people in the room with the same one. And that helps you find other customers who are having the same experience you are, and you can network.  

“I was pleasantly surprised at how much going to Workday Rising together builds up the camaraderie on our team.”—Tyrena Castro, HR director, Dell

A big priority for us this year is helping people find others who have similar interests and challenges, including some enhancements to our Braindate program.

Sometimes that’s the most challenging part—you don’t know how to find people until you hear someone talk about something, and you think, “Oh, that’s us! I need to go talk to that person.”

What have you found to be the most valuable use of your time?

I do like the breakouts, and anything that facilitates a lot of Q & A. We like to hear what other customers are doing.

Also, the keynotes are very beneficial because that’s where you hear a lot of that future vision and the direction that Workday is going. It’s important to know what’s coming down the pipeline with Workday, to get people excited and to be planning for it.

What about guest speakers, such as experts and authors?

Yes, I do like those, because it’s important to put the human back in human resources. At Dell we just had an HR symposium for our leadership team, and we had this speaker, Shawn Achor, who is a happiness researcher. (Ed. note: Achor spoke at Workday Rising in 2017.) When you’re in HR you deal with HR software, but in the end, we’re trying to help humans live happy lives. How can we facilitate people being able to do their job and feel accomplished at it, which ultimately leads to more happiness and a better home life? Those higher-level speakers take things a different direction and help to put a perspective around why we’re doing what we’re doing.

What’s been the most surprising thing about Workday Rising?

Personally, I was pleasantly surprised at how much going to Workday Rising together builds up the camaraderie on our team. I knew they would enjoy it, but you could see it on their faces when we would meet up between sessions; how much fun they were having learning these new things and being there together as a team.

You could try to explain to someone what Workday Rising is like, but only when they get there and experience it do they realize how much energy and excitement people have—it’s infectious. And again, coming from all over the world, it’s a great bonding experience for them.

That’s awesome. What do you do with all that information when you get back to the office?

Last year we had our session coverage spreadsheet, and we tried to pull together all of those things that each person learned and divide them up into a “let’s just fix this” moment for us; second, we looked at things we need to revisit and adjust to our roadmap because we learned something new. So, I think all of us being able to come back and do those things really was testimony for the overall value of us all going there.

At that recent in-house HR symposium I mentioned, they shared with us Michael Dell’s original charter from back in the ‘80s when he started our company. The last sentence was, “We will be the best at everything we do.” I think that Workday Rising contributes to that, being the best at our jobs, because we’re supposed to be providing the best technology recommendations for our company. Having the forward-thinking content that’s shared at Workday Rising, and the supportive atmospheres of other customers there, helps us to be better at our jobs.

Thanks to Tyrena for speaking with us! Learn more about what’s planned this year and how to register for Workday Rising, Oct. 14-17 in Orlando, and Workday Rising Europe, Nov. 12-14 in Milan.