June 23, 2016

Behind the Scenes with John Callery: Applying Lessons from NASA to Talent Analytics

John Callery

John Callery


As global head of workforce strategy at BNY Mellon, John Callery champions a data-driven approach to organizational change. Since joining the company in 2015, he has led a team charged with carrying out important aspects of the strategy to increase and focus investment in employees globally. At first glance, John has an unconventional background for a global investments organization— but his experience spotlights how the company’s dynamic thinkers and leaders come from all walks of life.

You’ve followed an unusual flight path in your career.

That’s true! I went directly from an undergraduate degree in applied mathematics at Ohio State University to a systems analysis role at NASA’s Langley Research Center. Even as a preschooler, I was always drawing pictures of astronauts and spacecraft. Growing up, I went to Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. I was very deliberate in focusing my job search after college on the aerospace industry. I was lucky enough to land at NASA, where I spent the first couple of years of my career analyzing what travel will look like in the future, where demand will come from, and how the U.S. would need to invest in infrastructure and technology to support this growth.

It sounds like your dream job. Why did you move on?

It was magical driving past the gates every day to a NASA facility, and the work was incredibly challenging and important. However, when you work on a project at NASA, you often don’t get to see it happen in your lifetime. I wanted my work to have a broader and more immediate impact, so I left to expand my experience across the aerospace industry.

NASA exposed me to complex systems, deep science, and really large, complicated questions. From there, I went into a consulting role at an engineering and manufacturing solutions firm, PTC, that gave me a strong business focus. I came to see that you can look at all the data you want, but you can’t draw successful conclusions until you understand the business implications. I also gained experience managing large teams, and that’s where I started to get involved in HR analytics. My next position was with AOL as director of people analytics – and that position gave me a perspective on the complexity of running a really large organization from the top, and it led me directly here. Along the way, I earned a master’s degree in business analytics from New York University.

Can you describe your role at BNY Mellon and explain what drew you here?

The workforce strategy team at BNY Mellon is part of the Global Talent and Development organization and includes an analytics group and a planning group. We support the broader strategy to further integrate talent and learning and more effectively serve our global businesses and business partner groups by working across the organization to answer questions such as: What talent do we need to execute on our business strategy? What is the marketplace for that talent? What location strategy makes sense, and what technology is needed to support it?

The bottom line is that we are striving to understand the effects of our existing processes and investments on the well-being and satisfaction of our employees.  Workforce strategy is a big and holistic undertaking on the part of BNY Mellon, but it’s crucial to being a high-performance, team-based organization.

I’ve always been drawn to solving interesting problems, and the work experience I’ve had all melds together into what I do now. Training in applied mathematics gives you the tools to address problems in any industry or complex situation. I’ve worked on exciting problems in science and business; however, I can’t think of a bigger issue in the corporate world today than making sure you have the right people in the right place at the right time to execute on your strategy. Solving that problem -- while also keeping people satisfied and limiting attrition and frustration over career paths -- is a critical component of our future success.

I had never really envisioned myself in the investments business, but Monique Herena, our senior executive vice president and chief human resources officer, changed that. She had a vision for the role I could play at BNY Mellon. The idea that we could use talent analytics to accelerate business transformation and help this company achieve its full potential is very inspiring. I’m fortunate to have joined a team with diverse experiences and perspectives who are working collaboratively on a broad talent change agenda. An attitude that “the sky’s the limit” is what fueled my excitement about aerospace, and that belief is in the air you breathe at BNY Mellon.