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Meet Nikki Cunningham, MS, Senior Talent Solutions Expert

Nikki has a background in I/O psychology and works with clients to find the most impactful solutions to support their talent selection and employee development needs. She helps organizations to identify top talent across all their jobs, and then maximize their talent potential through targeted development solutions.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in the Land of 10,000 Lakes (a.k.a. Minnesota). It was a wonderful place to start my life and I still visit Minneapolis frequently. I do NOT, however, miss those frigid winters (I’ve traded them for 100+ degree summers in Texas instead).

Are you married? Children? Pets?

I am engaged! I’m in the midst of the wedding planning madness and am looking forward to having both of our families and friends together for a weekend in the Texas Hill Country this October. My fiancé and I are huge animal lovers and we have two cats and one dog.

What led you into this field?

As an undergraduate, I knew I wanted to pursue a degree that would ultimately allow me to help others. I decided to major in psychology and minor in counseling. I planned to follow the clinical path, but during the first semester of my senior year, I took an Industrial-Organizational Psychology introductory class and got involved in I-O research. I fell in love with the field.

What or who has influenced your career the most? 

A manager I had right after graduate school. She challenged her team, but also made everyone feel safe enough to take risks. This pushed me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to achieve things I didn’t think I could.

What do you enjoy most about your job? What do you find most challenging?

I enjoy conducting one-on-one development feedback sessions. During these sessions, we review assessment results with employees and discuss how they can leverage their strengths (and overcome innate challenges) to become better at what they do and/or prepare for future opportunities. These sessions are insightful and I love seeing those light bulbs come on! The most challenging part is definitely knowing when to shut down for the day (or when to say “no” to new projects). When you love what you do, it can be difficult.

What do you think it takes to be successful in your role?

It’s important to do what’s in the client’s best interest. It’s about sharing best practices while also realizing that a one-size-fits all solution isn’t always the right one. The ability to build strong, meaningful relationships is key.

Tell me about an interesting problem you’ve faced in your role and how you dealt with it.

Viewing failure as an opportunity. We talk about this all the time in our leadership programs, but it isn’t always easy to make this shift in mindset. I’ve started to realize that I need to take risks (and will sometimes fail) if I truly want to grow.

What are some of the industry-specific challenges you see for the future?

Providing real-time analytics on the impact of selection and development processes and tools is something that is already important now, but will become even more important in the future. Ensuring that this data is meaningful and can be used to continuously improve the organization is critical (it’s great to have a bunch of data, but you have to know what to do with it!)

What’s the best piece of work-related advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t wait for someone else to tell you what you should be doing—be proactive and look for opportunities to add value to your organization.

What’s your most valuable professional tool?

Prioritizing. I really try to be intentional about laying out the key things I need to complete each week (both in terms of my personal life and at work). Microsoft Outlook and OneNote are life savers.

Passions? Hobbies? Interests outside of work?

Like many others, I enjoy traveling and try to fit it in as much as possible (even if it’s just quick weekend trips or exploring new areas in Dallas). I love seeing new places, meeting new people and experiencing new cultures.

What is something no one knows about you?

I sing loudly in my car. I like to keep myself entertained while I’m stuck in traffic.

Favorite TV show? Why?

A British travel documentary/road trip comedy series called “Idiot Abroad” (available on Netflix).

If you could order anything for lunch at your desk, what would it be?
Chipotle. It never gets old.

You work hard, but personal time is important too. What’s been your best vacation spot? Do you have a dream destination?

I spent a month in Europe a few years ago and it was life changing. I visited Spain, Turkey, Greece, Italy, and France. I don’t have a favorite because each city was so different. Italy’s Amalfi Coast has to be one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. I’m looking forward to exploring Australia and New Zealand on my honeymoon!

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