When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people on the planet about what digital means to them, the answers are fascinating. This interview is part of an ongoing series that offers real perspectives from real leaders on the ubiquitous topic of Digital.

Sarah Gretczko is Senior Vice President Organizational Development & Chief of Staff for MasterCard. At MasterCard she is responsible for shaping the company’s culture during a time of transformative change.

Audrey McGuckin (AM) – Everything we read about right now seems to be about Digital. Can you share with us what MasterCard are doing?

Sarah Gretczko (SG) – We have “all things digital” as a central component of our business strategy. We are very focused on digital all across the organization, not just with our developers or with our innovation & labs teams but every team, every individual at Mastercard is responsible for this. Mastercard is an interesting company because on one hand designing and delivering innovative payment solutions is a core part of who we are and at the other end providing a safe, secure, reliable network for those payment transactions to move is also at our core. So there’s this interesting duality and tension between the speed we’re moving and the need to manage risk.

One of our mantras is to make payments more simple, safe and secure. Digital opens up some risk in this space and we want to be thoughtful in how we manage it. We want to be fast and get out there but we want to be safe. We have to manage the risks in a very intentional way.

AM – Sarah can you share what you’re doing in MasterCard at the HR and Talent level?


SG – As part of our HR transformation work, we have 7 work steams. One of them is focused on the employee experience in a digital era. It’s a tough challenge. We haven’t landed on the solution(s); we are working to define our overarching vision and just start moving the needle here.

We’re approaching this work by thinking about our employees in a similar way to how we think about our consumers. Consumers want to use our solutions differently, they want to engage with us differently than in the past. We need to enable easy access to tools and ways of working. We call it a consumer driven approach to HR but really it just makes good business sense. Happy consumers come from happy employees.

AM – Can you share a practical example of the challenge you’re seeing at the HR transformation level

SG – A very recent example. We wanted our CHRO to send out quick videos on progress we’re making. We found that we could do this at a desk top level but not at an iphone level because our firewalls. It’s crazy as individual consumers we’ve moved so fast in the digital space in their personal lives and yet it’s tough for organizations to keep pace.

AM – How are your thinking about this at the leadership level Sarah?

SG – We recognize the skills and capabilities needed for the leader of tomorrow is different than in the past.  For example, we’ve realized that many of our leaders in the future need capability and skills associated with collaborating with heads of government. But we haven’t built that leadership muscle today so we are working to do that now. And broader, when we consider the ecosystem that our leaders will have to navigate they will need to figure out how to lead in the digital era and that is quite different than what previous leaders needed to do. How do you connect, engage, and inspire in such a dynamic environment? How do you manage all of the diverse stakeholders essential to your leadership success? How do you provide clarity when you can’t provide certainty for your people anymore? And how do you approach dilemmas with no clear cut solution and turn them into an opportunity? It’s a big challenge all companies are grappling with right now.

AM – Sarah, what’s the one piece of advice you’d offer our readers that are embarking on a Digital journey?

SG – Just start!! I’ve found a lot of people, a lot of companies are spending time admiring the issue, talking about ‘digital’ as the big elephant in the room but not explicitly saying what it means for their company so everyone’s heads are spinning. Every journey starts with a single step. Once you make that first step, the momentum takes over and you start to make the change you believe in.

Sarah is a self-proclaimed future of work enthusiast and is a thought leader in Human Capital strategies that drive value and imact in a digital era!

Audrey McGuckin consults with top CEOs and HR Executives to solve their toughest and most complex talent and leadership challenges. To connect with Audrey on how she can assist you and your organization, visit our contact page or message her directly at audrey@audreymcguckin.com.