40 Under 40: Kristen Phillips
“If you don’t try anything new or take any risks you won’t have the chance to succeed. That has always stuck with me and helped me pursue challenges in life…”
Kristen is the Director of Human Resources at Implied Hospitality. Aside from having over eight years experience in human resources and start-ups, she also founded The Wofa Way foundation to help children in a third-world country receive an education.
Congratulations to this week’s 40 under 40 honoree, Kristen Phillips!
Can you tell us a little about your responsibilities and accomplishments in your current position?
As the Director of Human Resources at Implied Hospitality I am in charge of crafting the internal culture and team at each of our hotel properties. At our property in Tahoe, The Coachman Hotel, I worked to create a new training program for employees, have helped with their seasonal hiring, and most recently developed “The Valuable Work Initiative”. We observed that service industry workers are often taken for granted, and so through the Valuable Work Initiative we’ve dedicated ourselves to changing this reality by providing our teams with living wages, desirable benefits, and career advancement opportunities. Our people are what make our properties shine, and they’re the reason I love my job. Being able to work so closely with all of our employees, here in Tahoe and further afield, and being a helpful resource to them is what makes the work I do so worthwhile.
What has been your favorite professional moment in the last year?
Along with becoming the Director of HR and opening our new Implied hotel in upstate New York — for which I hired the team and was able to travel to this spring to meet all our new employees, implement the training program, and outline The Valuable Work Initiative — I also run my own non-profit, The Wofa Way. Last year we published our first children’s book, The Perfect Picture, which was a huge milestone for me. We are working on another Tahoe-inspired book currently. All profits from the book sales go to an orphanage in Africa I lived and worked at several years ago, paying for the education of the children there.
Do you have a professional/life mantra that you try to live by?
As cheesy as it might sound, “be fearless”. Before I started at Implied, I worked for the same CEO across multiple tech start-ups. He always told us to be fearless and to never be afraid of failure. If you don’t try anything new or take any risks you won’t have the chance to succeed. That has always stuck with me and helped me pursue challenges in life that I might normally avoid. After losing my job during the pandemic, I was offered the job at Implied. My whole career had been in tech and hospitality was completely new to me — I decided to “be fearless”, take on the role, and have never looked back. It’s a dream job for me.
Who is your role model?
My role model without a doubt is Cristal Kelshaw. She was the VP of Human Resources at the start-ups I mentioned above. I started with her as an intern at 19 years old and was fortunate to have her (alongside Steve Shillingford and Ken Saunders) as my boss and mentor as I grew into my full-time role as HR Manager. I worked with them for 3 tech start-ups and Cristal taught me so many valuable things, showing me the full scope of what Human Resources can really be for a company. People might think of HR as just a boring disciplinary team, but Cristal brought so much more to the table and made HR the people’s place. She provided an example of someone who truly cares about her employees, and who is so creative in how she runs her department. I took this with me into my current role and strive to continue to change the way Human Resources serves a company. Cristal also taught me that you can have it all! Not only was she inspiring in the career she built, but she had a great work-life balance with her family and hobbies and I always admired that. I will always be grateful for the years I spent working on that team.
Why choose Tahoe to make your home and career?
Before I moved to Tahoe, I was living in a city and while I loved it at times, I also knew it wasn’t really my preferred choice of lifestyle. I grew up not far from Tahoe, and 3 years ago I had the chance to work remotely, so I decided to make my way here and of course fell in love for all of the reasons everyone does. I bought my own home 2 years ago and the community here is so great that it’s hard to feel like this hasn’t been my home for much longer.
Are you active in any volunteer roles or community groups?
As I mentioned earlier, my non-profit is working on a Tahoe-themed children’s book and I hope to get The Wofa Way more involved in the community. At Implied, we continue to work on getting The Valuable Work Initiative 501©3 status and hope to be a thought leader in our community, given that a large chunk of workers here are in the service industry. Our goal is to create an environment where other service industry companies can join The Valuable Work Initiative so we can all work together to provide quality jobs to people here in Tahoe.
What is your favorite thing to do outside of work?
I am a big runner, so in the summertime you can find me and my golden retriever Scout out on the trails. We are big hikers, too. We love the lake, paddle boarding, kayaking, boating — all of those good things. In the winter, you can find me on my snowboard, or recently my boyfriend and I picked up snowshoeing, it gives me my hiking fix in the winter. On really cold days I love a good fire and a great book.
Where are your favorite South Shore stomping grounds?
It’s hard to name them all, so a few of my favorites when I am outside would be Grass Lake, Aloha Lake, Dardanelles Lake, or Maggie’s Peaks. Those are some of my favorite hikes I do every year. We spend a lot of time on the Upper Truckee River too — it’s a great spot to take the dog and hang out. I love a good drink at The Hangar, sushi at Naked Fish or Off the Hook, a delicious bagel at Tahoe Bagel Co., and without being biased, I do love The Coachman for a glass of wine or for their s’more hour.