Prologis Welcomes Colleen McKeown as New Chief Human Resources Officer
Colleen McKeown joined Prologis as chief human resources officer in July, taking the reins from outgoing CHRO Diana Scott. Prologis recruited Colleen from zulily, an e-commerce company she helped grow to more than 3,000 employees and take public. As CHRO at zulily, Colleen opened and staffed three major distribution centers in the U.S. and one in China, allowing her to experience the logistics real estate industry from a customer's perspective.
Colleen grew up in Minnesota and originally intended to join the Foreign Service. During her senior year at Tufts University in Boston, however, she learned she was one language short of the three required by the Foreign Service. Without missing a beat, she switched her focus to labor relations.
Colleen’s first two employers were consumer brand powerhouses Ford and Pepsi. She credits Pepsi for being an excellent training ground. After Pepsi, Colleen moved to Northwest Airlines, where she was tapped to run national and corporate sales and labor negotiations before being asked to run new product development. On track to lead an airline, Colleen heard a recruiter say, "If you only want to work for seven employers for the rest of your life, go ahead. But you’ll never work in HR again.”
HR is Colleen's true passion, so a role outside HR did not make sense. Colleen, a people person, calls HR “the best kept secret job in the world.”
What’s so great about HR? Colleen cites collaboration. She loves the stimulation of working with everyone across a company. She explained, “Most business issues either come down to cost of capital or the people side of the business. HR can come in, challenge leaders, ask the annoying questions and try to get to the root cause of the issue rather than just the surface issue.“
After committing to a career in HR, Colleen headed up the function for several companies owned by a private equity firm, including ON Semiconductor, where she led human resources, security and facilities to help complete several acquisitions. In seven years, she grew the company’s operations to over 24,000 employees.
When asked why leave the fast-paced world of high tech where she spent the last 10 years to work in real estate, Colleen said, “Real estate is more exciting than people give it credit. There’s a lot going on, and the industry is moving.” In talking to Prologis CEO Hamid Moghadam, Colleen realized that there’s much more to the business than putting up buildings. She was also energized by the idea of working with “a group of really smart people who thought of a roll-up strategy and were always thinking about what’s next.”
Colleen is energized by the question: How can we share best practices we’ve learned from our scale and experience to provide value to our customers, especially smaller and newer ones who might not have these insights?
As for her perspective on Prologis, Colleen offered, “This is a very successful company. We don’t want to break it.” She continued, “There’s no right or wrong way to do HR. One size doesn’t fit all. So it’s important for HR to figure out what works best to help the organization achieve its long-term vison and short-term goals” One of her goals is to ensure that Prologis is a great place to work and a place where people can be their authentic selves. “You don’t have to love everyone you work with, but you do want to feel valued for what you bring to the organization and value what others bring as well,” she said.
Colleen’s philosophy of being open to new things is what ultimately led her to Prologis: “The best advice I give people is to never say ‘no’ to an opportunity. You always learn something, whether it is about the business, yourself or what you like to do.”