Anchor List: Heather Doshay, VP People at Webflow
The Anchor List recognizes extraordinary operators in the startup ecosystem. Learn more at anchorlist.com
In our highlight reel of Anchor List honorees, Heather Doshay deserves special mention in our Talent category for her work initiating and leading Webflow’s people team from scratch to success.
"The best leaders identify strategic ways to get results rather than following a best-practices playbook. It takes this kind of thinking to evolve what best practices are.” - Heather Doshay, VP People at Webflow
Originally a university administrator and professor, Heather was already interested in the intersection between culture and impact before pivoting to her role leading talent in the startup sector. She served as the head of people for two startups before arriving at the no-code design and development platform Webflow in early 2019.
When Heather joined Webflow as the company’s first non-founder executive, the company had no recruiters, no people ops employees, no application tracking system, and no clear interview process. Having built Talent, IT, Executive Support, and People functions from scratch, Heather now leads a department of over 30 and has grown Webflow to nearly 300 team members distributed all around the world.
Reflecting on her success, Heather is careful to note the value of resourcefulness. A true business generalist, she pulls from the skills she learned as a university faculty member, a professor, and an office manager in her current day-to-day work as a strategic executive.
Many of her most successful hires were people where she was able to see beyond the job titles and industries on their resume to identify transferable skills in their non-traditional backgrounds. Many of these non-traditional hires have gone on to be successful leaders of people ops and even founders in their own right.
In advising other talent professionals, Heather recommends “seeking talent where it is.” One of Webflow’s biggest wins, for instance, has come from its distributed hiring and pay strategies that allow webflow to acquire incredible talent from diverse locations around the world before they’re tapped by other businesses. Since the best people are not concentrated in one city, remote work is a big perk for both the company and its employees, a tactic that has helped Webflow form a more diverse and effective team long before the pandemic.
After the initial hiring, when enabling her team’s success, the intentionality behind Heather’s actions stands out. She is quick to say, “Culture is not built accidentally” and “Everything has to layer on top of clear expectations.”
Even when Webflow was small (under 100 people), Heather prioritized the building of clear career pathways, an uncommon activity at most small startups. This practice enabled the company to standardize and scale job descriptions, interview processes, compensation bands, and promotion criteria in addition to creating an internal culture where employees have the clarity needed to grow. Approaching the industry as a whole, Heather believes the operationalization of career pathways will soon become a game changer and foundational layer for companies in general much earlier than it has historically been seen.
Reflecting on Heather’s success, we’re particularly impressed by her ability to operate as an empathy-driven generalist. Heather consistently identifies the strategic methods for achieving results instead of simply following standard practices. From her recruiting of diverse top performers to her innovations for internal company culture, Heather is a true pioneer, paving new ways forward for herself, her company, and her people.