Anessa Fike

Fractional Head of HR, Fike & Co

1. Who was your favourite teacher at school and what did you learn from that person?

I’ve been lucky to have a lot of great teachers. I was a public school kid – and super glad that I was. I had wonderful elementary school teachers and middle school teachers – all the way up to high school. My favorite teacher was probably my first grade teacher though because she had several large impacts on my life. She understood early on that I thought about the world differently and asked tons of questions. She insisted that I take the test to get into the gifted program and also had me do extra schoolwork to expand my knowledge because I was through with the entirety of the first-grade curriculum in about 4 weeks. So she didn’t stop my learning, she kept it moving forward. She also was the person to talk to my parents about what I would later come to learn was my underactive thyroid and Hashimoto’s diagnosis (it’s an auto-immune disorder where my body attacks healthy thyroid cells). She saw me doing my work and getting tired quickly at the end of the day, and after talking to my parents, they took me to a specialist who gave me the diagnosis. I’m not sure how long I would have gone on in life without knowing that I had Hashimoto’s unless she sparked that discovery. In fact, when I was 8 years old, after doing a bone scan, the doctor informed us that my bones were only the age of a 5 year old – so my thyroid had already stopped working 3 years prior.

2. What seemed like an inconsequential decision at the time but in hindsight turned out to fundamentally reshape your life?

This is a tough one to think back on and a very existential one at that, but I think that a decision that seemed inconsequential at the time but impactful now was the ability to take risks after college. My husband and I decided to move to a town in NC where we knew no one to start jobs after graduation. That move spurred not only lifelong friendships but also the ability to take a risk and realize the reward. We have since moved to various cities for jobs that catapulted our careers – but many people wouldn’t take that much risk and basically move every 3 years during their early professional life. We did, and it’s how I was able to have the title of Global Recruiting Director and managing a team in my mid-twenties. I’ve also come to realize that we aren’t risk adverse – we’re thoughtful and like to think we take calculated risks – but we aren’t afraid of risk. I think that openness to risk has given us far more rewards even though it’s always a bit scary in the moment.

3. What do you think is true that most people think is false? What do you think is false, that most people think is true?

I’m not sure if this is a thing that most people believe is true when I believe it is false, but I would say that I believe that most people are too confined in their own bubbles. What I mean by this is that far too few people look outside themselves, their privilege, and their bubbles to figure out how they can help out others and humans that don’t look like them. For me, it’s something that has always come natural to me. Maybe because I’m an empath and can sense vibes and auras from people quickly, but I always try to look outside of my bubble to ask what other people may think and what other people may be experiencing. I think that you can both take care of yourself AND be helpful to other people – each and every day. I also try to amplify voices as much as I can, especially from historically marginalized and underrepresented groups. And I think more people who look like me need to do way more of that.

4. What are the three books that you would unhesitatingly recommend to others? Why?

For years, I didn’t get to read much. I was a mom to a little one and building up my own business, so reading was not something that fit so well into my life. Now, you can typically find me reading multiple books at one time. Three books that I’d recommend to others are:

John Graham’s Plantation Theory – it’s a truly real book about how corporate America is a different version of being on plantations and how most corporations want to hear from their employees but only in ways and instances where it doesn’t make the corporations do too much. It is a much needed callout for corporations – and I love John’s writing. It’s direct and precise while being authentic and real.

White Women by Sairo Rao and Regina Jackson – If you are a white person, you should read this book. And stay with it. If it makes you uncomfortable, ask yourself why. And then keep reading. This book for a lot of white people will require internal work to be done, and it’s absolutely needed.

I love the writings and the similarities of James Baldwin and David Sedaris. I actually did my thesis for my master’s degree on this years ago, and when you read both of them, you’ll see ties in their writing styles. It’s fascinating to me. It’s hard to pick just one book from each author, but I’ll say this – I read Go Tell It On the Mountain and If Beale Street Could Talk first, and the intensity with which Baldwin wrote was amazing. It’s also hard to pick just one Sedaris book, but again, Me Talk Pretty One Day was the first that I read of his, and I was compelled to read more.

5. What personality trait has got you in the most trouble? What kind of trouble does it get you in?

I’m direct. And when coming from a woman, often this communication style can get me in trouble. I’m able to navigate different social settings and situations, but what you see is what you get with me. I’m authentic and the same person at home as I am with friends as I am on LinkedIn and as I am on stage. There isn’t a different version of me that comes up with one group of people and another version with another. Where this gets me in trouble is with people who are intimidated by my directness. I don’t know how many times I’ve had to say in my career, “I’m not intimidating. You are intimidated. There is a difference.” I also am not afraid of confrontation, so if it needs to be confronted to move us forward, I will do that. Especially when it means confronting those that don’t treat other humans well. I’m a truth-teller at heart, and I call out things that need to be called out. But I do it with kindness and directness in a clear way.

6. What is your untrainable superpower?

I’m able to see 12 steps ahead. I’ve always had this ability since I was younger. I think forward to what people will do and say, how steps will be put in place, and areas of concern that may not come until step 10 or 12. This superpower is why I started a Fractional People and Talent leadership business nearly a decade ago – and now it’s a huge wave for people to go fractional in 2023. My mind doesn’t stop at the here and now – it goes to what it could be and the myriad of pathways something may take.

7. Have you always had the same political beliefs? If so, why do you think you have held them so long? If not, what event caused you to change your view?

Anyone who knows me knows I’m progressive and super liberal. I push and poke the status quo often, and I’ve always had democratic thoughts and behaviors. I think that we should all look out for each other, and that we should be building longer tables to include more people at. I believe in humanity, and I want to be a person that helps others because what does Taylor Swift often say, “Karma is my boyfriend”?

8. What do you think is acceptable today but will become taboo tomorrow?

The word “blindspot”. It’s able-ist, and I think that as we move away from having able language, white, heterosexual, cisgender, and male be the default in a lot of our societal settings, we can also talk about inclusivity of groups that have been othered in the past, including those that are neurodivergent and those that have invisible disabilities.

9. What is the best purchase you’ve made recently? Why?

I love coffee. And even moreso, I love oat milk lattes. During the first few months of COVID, I splurged on a Breville Oracle Touch espresso machine, and it was the absolute best thing I could have purchased for the last 3 years. I now have the problem of stopping myself after 2 lattes each day so that I’m not over caffeinated!

10. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?

Writing a book – and I did! It gets released Feb 2024 (as of right now). It’s called The Revolution of Work, and it’s about how work needs to change, and we have a small piece of time to do it right now. I put it off for years because I never had the time, and in Nov 2022, I decided I was going to start because Forbes had reached out and asked me to write a book. I ultimately decided not to move forward with them as my publisher but it was the push I needed to get started.

11. If you were to survive the zombie apocalypse, what role would you play in the new society that would follow?

Whew, honestly, I’m not sure I’d survive a zombie apocalypse, but if I did, I’d probably be the new mayor or person trying to put together a society and GSD in gathering necessary items needed for a community to thrive.

12. Aside from family & friends, if you could invite any 3 people - living or dead - to your final dinner party before the end of the world, who would they be and why?

AOC (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) because I adore her directness and ideals around most items politically and think she’s a badass, Robin Arzon similarly because she is a mega strong female figure in our world today who knows what she wants and goes after it, and Maya Angelou because she had such a zen-like presence and wise words of wisdom.

13. Can you give an example of a time when you had to learn the lesson the hard way?

When you own a business, you learn lots of lessons the hard way. I have so many that it’s hard to pick just one. I’d say that I trust people easily – and often I’ve thought that people “got it” when it came to People and Talent or DEIJ elements, but I was disappointed when I realized that they didn’t. Now, I’m fully aware that as a Virgo, some of this is my fault of having high expectations, but I also have high expectations of myself. I’ve learned though over the years that you do what you think it right and best in the world, and you put it out there – and if it comes back to you in the form of great karma, awesome. Removing expectations of how others are supposed to receive gifts in any form is hard but something I’m doing better with.

14. What's a skill that isn’t on your resume, but your former bosses would recognize as one of the reasons you are successful?

The ability to figure things out quickly. I also GSD. So those may not be listed on the resume – but I’ve consistently been the person that my bosses over the years could count on to get the job done and done well.

15. What’s the one bad quality you wouldn’t mind in a colleague? Why?

Directness, even if it wasn’t tempered at all. I’d rather know where I stood with someone, even if it was hard to hear, instead of constantly guessing and having to determine their real intentions/thoughts/motivations.

16. What role do you find yourself playing when you join a newly formed team? Can you explain why this happens?

As a Fractional People/Talent executive, I’m often brought in to help an organization during a time of change, transition, or transformation, so I’m often leading a team. I’m good at assessing what the underlying issues are and solving for the root cause instead of the symptoms. And people really like that because I save them time and money for years to come.

17. What’s one industry challenge you don’t actually think will ever get solved?

Recruiting and TA – people hiring people. We are flawed on both sides. So we won’t ever get it right 100% of the time because we can’t. Unless we are robots hiring robots, there are still unknowns, and that’s okay.

18. What common wisdom in our industry needs to be debunked?

I hate cover letters and thank you notes….and reference checks. They all need to be thrown out. Are there real reasons for these, or are they just so that the candidates have to do more work? They also add in more bias into the hiring equation AND tend to show data-wise that they only help further white privilege more in hiring.!

19. If you could add a question for the next person to answer, what would it be?

If you weren’t doing what you are doing now, what other jobs would you want to do?

20. Who would you recommend to do the next 20 Questions With … ?

Hebba Youssef (she’s fantastic) or Elena Valentine (again, totally amazing) or Tara Turk-Haynes (amazing badass)

Thank you to Anessa Fike for taking 20 Questions for The Brainfood Tribune. Make sure to follow Anessa Fike on LinkedIn.

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