Who We Are

Stories of Who We Are: Kaelysia Cooper: Opening Doors

Snapshot

Job title: HR project manager

Base of operations: Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Years at VMware: 8 months

Personal passion: Executive and leadership coaching

What do you do at VMware?

I found myself in a state of transition, exposed to both HR project management and planning and operations work. Before the transition, my main role was to understand the purpose of the project and outcomes, work with a team to track deliverables and ensure the team can achieve project milestones/goals within a specific timeframe.

You are a certified executive and professional coach. Can you elaborate on this passion?

Before COVID, I started a certification program and finished this past January. It’s become more than a hobby — it is a passion that I find so much value in. I connect with people, and my clients allow me to go on this journey of development with them, which can be quite intimate and vulnerable. Coaching is just having conversations, but I get to ask questions that provoke thought, and then I see lightbulbs go off. There’s this sense of awareness and clarity, and it opens up so many doors of possibilities. We all tend to put ourselves in this bubble and restrain ourselves, and by talking things through you start to realize your own abilities and power. This can all happen in a 30- to 45-minute conversation. I want to continue coaching, and my goal is to earn another certification by January of next year. 

Kaelysia Cooper, Professional Coach. Empowered Coaching
Kaelysia is the founder of Empowered Coaching. She hosts an Instagram coaching series called “MindShift Monday,” in which she offers an alternative perspective to overcoming obstacles many professionals face along their journey to career fulfillment.

What type of work did you do before VMware?

I am originally from Kentucky, and I came to Louisiana through the national service. I went through an AmeriCorps program, which led to about seven years of rewarding nonprofit work. I started as a volunteer and then moved into HR and talent acquisition work. I then became a talent development program manager for the State of Louisiana. After the pandemic started, I was trying to adjust to not being able to train people in person like I had been. I wasn’t actively looking for a job, but I was in a state of reflection. So many things were happening in our nation, and it pushed me to think about what I value and need. I was keeping an open mind to any possibilities that came my way. I recognize that I was privileged because I didn’t need work. I had a job, but I acknowledged that I wasn’t fulfilled and was open to exploring.

You were recruited during the pandemic. What was that process like? 

I just happened to check LinkedIn, and there was a message from a recruiter who said she thought I could be a good fit for a job she had available. I looked at the listing and I thought that I was doing a lot of similar work already. I called the recruiter, and she was so excited to connect with me, and I loved her positivity. Louisiana is not known for its tech presence, but because the position is fully remote, my location wasn’t a problem at all. As I moved forward in the interview process, I found that VMware matched what I was looking for in an employer — feeling safe while at work and being able to put my family first without question. It was a no-brainer for me to accept the offer when so many of my values aligned with VMware’s culture.

Kaelysia with her husband and daughter

Do you see any parallels between your work in the nonprofit/public spaces and your work at VMware?

While I was working at an education-focused nonprofit, you really had to completely believe in the mission to have the most impact in your role. When I think about the young candidates I interviewed, I really had to believe in our work in order to communicate how it would benefit them and those we served. VMware is also big on our culture and mission. I see an organization that doesn’t just say that we care about xyz, but it’s repeated multiple times by multiple people at multiple levels. Not just because people have drunk the Kool-Aid, but because these principles are interwoven into the design of who we are as a company. We all really believe in it.

What has it been like onboarding and working remotely?

When I was working for the State of Louisiana and the pandemic hit, we were not ready. But coming to VMware, even though most of the staff was not working remotely, there were systems in place for everyone to go remote. I have also worked part-time remote in another past role, and I had to provide my own technology and supplies to function in my role at home. Here, I got everything I needed, and it’s always been clear how our team operates remotely. Even though I joined well into the pandemic, I could tell VMware was proactive.

I also appreciate the flexibility we have. VMware’s culture is so different and more accommodating than other positions I’ve been in. It’s taking some time to get used to leaning into that flexibility. For example, a meeting got scheduled during some vacation time I was taking. My immediate plan was to bring my laptop, attend the meeting and take notes, and my manager had to tell me not to do that and to be on vacation while on vacation! 

Do you have any concerns as more offices begin reopening and people start returning to offices?

I do — I’ve come to the realization that working from home can feel lonely. I do have the concern that people in the office are going to connect a lot quicker than I’ll be able to. My team is spread all over the place, but I think for my role it could be beneficial to meet with a project group at the beginning. That’s when you’re trying to get on the same page, set expectations, and understand everyone’s roles. That in-person time could help lay a great foundation for the rest of the project.

Kaelysia with friends in front of a neon sign that says "There's no place like South Louisiana"
Kaelysia celebrates with friends at a local restaurant in Baton Rouge.

How have you overcome, or plan to overcome, your concerns with working remotely?

I began feeling distant from the organization and my team about three months after I started. It surprised me because I have worked remotely before and consider myself an introvert. For me, that means I like to recharge by myself, and I am a better socializer when meeting one-on-one. I have worked on many small teams (three or less) and thrived, and I typically turn into an extrovert only when one isn’t present in the group. I am still a people person and love being in the work environment.

When I found myself feeling alone, I reflected. I had to choose between feeling disconnected or doing something to change that. I chose my happiness. I scheduled one-on-ones to get to know people on my larger team — people from California, the U.K., and India. I connected with people outside of work. Some were past colleagues; others were brand new relationships I found through social media. More recently, I discovered that working from a coffee shop or library is a great way to interact with people, even if it’s only for five minutes. All these interactions give me a sense of belonging and community while I work remotely.

How have you stayed connected to the VMware community?

I’ve been able to make so many connections and relationships through VMware’s POD (Power of Difference) events.  Many people have also personally invited me to these events, and it means a lot that people want you to be included in their circle and activities. It is nice that there is a way to connect with people across the company, in a variety of roles and locations. It’s nice to feel like you found your people!

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