Think Globally, Act Locally

Heather Hoerdemann
Heather Hoerdemann,
Vice President of Talent,
Synopsys Inc.

Synopsys is a publicly traded global technology organization that has its hand – or more specifically, its software – in almost everything. From cars to computers to medical devices, Synopsys provides the software, IP, and services used to create the advanced chips and systems running a vast array of electronics, gadgets, and more. The company, which was founded close to 30 years ago, has been on a steady growth trajectory thanks to continual product innovations and several successful mergers and acquisitions.

With growth came some challenges – specifically in regards to local management. Heather Hoerdemann, Vice President of Talent, saw the opportunity to support global growth by focusing on leadership development in the emerging markets. Because the company had an expanding workforce, particularly overseas, Heather and her colleagues realized that Synopsys sites around the world needed to better equip local talent with the skills to continue the company’s path to success.

They wanted to ensure that newly recruited or promoted on-site managers understood the Synopsys growth strategy and had the tools to inspire and engage their people to deliver results. While most organizations focus on the U.S. region first, using that as a model for the rest of the world, Heather had a different idea. She wanted to flip the paradigm and start a program in the emerging markets – where the need was greatest – and then modify it for the Americas.

To get insight as to why Heather did what she did, we sat down with her to learn more.

The Need

In May 2012, I was in the initial stages of creating an executive development program. But after talking to team members and receiving feedback from regions outside of the U.S., I soon realized it wasn’t only the executives who needed training, but our managers. As we were hiring quickly, there was a big demand for guidance. New managers were looking for additional information about the company, our goals, and our strategy, and their role in driving success. With plans to keep expanding the Synopsys footprint across the globe, we needed stronger in-market leadership and a new way to equip local managers with the knowledge necessary to lead their teams with skill and confidence.

Since the biggest need was in our emerging markets, that’s where we focused first. I quickly shifted my focus from executives to managers, specifically those with fewer than five years of people-leadership experience. It was clear that they needed insight, a shared focus, and a simple set of tools to help them develop and drive highly technical teams aligned to regional and corporate goals.

I began looking for a partner with a well-proven solution that could be easily customized and would resonate with our global audience. I needed to move fast,f – and I needed something practical, useable, and implementable. That’s not asking too much, right? Advantage Performance Group (APG) recommended Root Inc. and its Root Compass® Manager Development product. Root Compass® was a perfect fit because of the novel and engaging delivery methods, as well as the ability to scale and deploy quickly. Its emphasis on leadership fundamentals including delegation, coaching, and building trust, fit our needs. Plus, it put a laser focus on how each manager could connect their team’s work to our greater business goals. The content was right on target for our managers and the perfect solution for our challenge.

The Process & Goals

I relied heavily upon my colleague Anshuman Ray in India. Anshuman pulled together his team and key line leaders into Bangalore so they could experience the program, provide feedback, and recommend adjustments for their local markets. This proved to be an invaluable step, as the pilot session informed the customization of our specific Root Compass® materials and helped to build early advocates for the program in overseas markets. We knew it was critical to gain quick buy-in. If you don’t have support for a new initiative, it will easily become the flavor of the week and forgotten. Thus, getting our people engaged in the success of the program from the outset was really important.

After the pilot, Root finalized the Synopsys-specific Root Compass® offering and conducted a four-day train-the-trainer program in April 2013. We held the session in India and catered to our growth markets of Armenia and Asia Pacific. We decided to take a leader-led approach and trained a combination of HR professionals along with business line leaders. In partnership they delivered the Root Compass® experience to local managers in small group settings in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Noida, Armenia, and Taiwan.

What Worked

I found a lot to like about the program. I appreciated its straightforward materials and focus on the fundamentals. While our managers are smart and capable technicians, Root Compass® helped to ensure they would also be exceptional team leaders by arming them with knowledge and skills to manage people and engage their teams in our business.

The fact that Root Compass® is a peer-led, hands-on program also proved to be a key success factor. Line leaders relished the opportunity to contribute to developing talent, and their involvement signified this was a business priority for managers going through the program.

The use of local trainers, as opposed to having a team of corporate personnel travel to offices, really served our culturally diverse participants well. Local trainers brought their region’s unique perspectives and circumstances to the group conversations. It was a very inclusive experience and a perfect way to transcend cultural boundaries. Additionally, the small group format created a safe environment where everyone could fully participate in a way that was comfortable for them. I believe this contributed greatly to the success of the program.

Results & Next Steps

To date we have trained just shy of 300 managers across our organization in the Root Compass® experience. What began as a standout success in India, Armenia, and Asia Pacific, has translated beautifully throughout Europe as well. Recently, the class was offered for the first time in North America, with instructors from the first train-the-trainer session in India serving as the mentors to our North America delivery team.

I believe our success can be attributed to several things. First, the decision to involve regional leaders in the planning and pilot program was instrumental in giving our team a voice in the process. This was reinforced when local team members were trained to deliver the program to peers in their own markets. Additionally, the methodology of Root Compass – asking questions and creating inclusive conversations instead of delivering one universal answer – was perfect for Synopsys because it engaged our incredibly smart people to come to their own conclusions and transcended geographic and organizational boundaries. While a challenge in India might be solved differently than the same challenge faced by a manager in the U.S., Root Compass ensures that everyone – regardless of location, culture, or language – shares a common goal and uses a common framework to engage their teams to deliver results.


Heather is a human resources executive with 20+ years of progressive experience within the high-tech industry. As the head of Talent, she is responsible for the oversight of Synopsys’ integrated Talent Strategy worldwide. Heather’s team includes, Global Talent Acquisition, Performance Management, Technical and Management Training Operations and Executive Development. Her mantra is “Llead from where you are,” and she is passionate about equipping leaders at all levels of the organization with the knowledge and skills necessary to build a successful future. A native of Southern California, Heather lives in Brea with her husband and three sons. She holds a communications degree from Biola University.