Talent Development and Acquisition: Cheryl Petrash, Director of Human Resources U.S. Operations at Coupang and Sonny Bains, Human Resources Director at Citi Trends

Hosted by Chris Dyer, the CEO of PeopleG2 – TalentTalk Radio features engaging conversation with CEOs, thought leaders and HR executives.  TalentTalk connects professionals who care about talent development and acquiring the best talent available.

Today’s guests are Cheryl Petrash, Director of Human Resources U.S. Operations at Coupang; and Sonny Bains, Human Resources Director at Citi Trends.  Both of them believe in the equipping their teams for talent development and talent acquisition in a rapidly changing environment. To hear the entire show, click here.

Both of today’s guests nod to the need for HR professionals to adopt to the changing dynamics in the workforce today – whether a young corps at a quickly growing international company or a nationwide retail business. That said, they both attest to the idea that timeless principles of communication and talent development lead to success.

CHERYL PETRASH talent development

Cheryl Petrash is Director of Human Resources, U.S. Operations, at Coupang.  Her HR career spans two decades, leading to her current role with the fastest growing e-commerce company in South Korea and its U.S. base in California.

In HR, people do need to keep up with knowledge and training.  Petrash comments of the industry: “It’s changing every day and you need to take the steps towards professional development. I encourage that with my staff. I get them educated and I get them certified.” 


According to Petrash, technology has changed the HR industry in ways both positive and negative. 

“Millenials have revolutionalized the workforce.  As employers we have to adapt. They are highly educated. They’ve been born and raised in this technology era,” says Petrash.

She recently came across an article that reported Millennials have an 8 second attention span while a goldfish has a 9 second attention span. Petrash comments that most millennials “don’t have the interpersonal skills; they talk in emoticons.” So, she says, developing these skills in the new workforce is extremely challenging, and takes intentional talent development. 

When searching for candidates, Petrash still believes the best place to find them is via personal networks.  She also relies on LinkedIn and networking with industry contacts. The benefit of an online search is the ease in discovering information. “It doesn’t give you a whole lot of places to hide. We’ve rescinded offers based on social media,” comments Petrash.  


Petrash has developed a reputation as a collaborative leader. She has learned not to react too quickly and to allow all sides to be heard. Petrash tries to bring a calm and honest approach. “People do not like to deliver bad news, but if you do it in a concise, direct manner, it can allow for progressive conversations rather than ones that will escalate,” says Petrash.


The company’s culture was established in South Korea. Coupang has more than 2 million subscribers and 1,500 employees worldwide.  They’ve seen over a billion in growth sales in less than five years. 

The company holds five core values:  Wow, Focus, Fail Fast, Be Open, and Believe.  Petrash explains that these values directly relate to the success of the company.

What are you Reading?

Petrash is reading “Leaders Eat Lastby Simon Sinek, which includes the concept of building a circle of safety to help improve performance results.

How Can People Connect with You? Via LinkedIn.

SONNY BAINS talent development

Sonny Bains is the Human Resources Director of Citi Trends, bringing with her more than a dozen years of experience in HR. Citi Trends has 502 retail locations and more than 10,000 employees in the fashion retail industry.

Talent development and acquisition are clearly their biggest challenges.  “Making sure your people are driven towards the strategic goals of the company, making sure they are passionate about what they do and that they know it has meaning,” Bains says, is her ongoing focus.

It’s critically important because “making sure the associates are aligned with the company ensures they can provide great customer service.” 


As Bains says, “People work for people, not for companies.”  At Citi Trends, they want people to really understand why they are there as well as to see opportunities for their own growth.

One critical effort HR can do to ensure success is hiring associates who are aligned with the company’s goals, and then utilizing solid talent development strategies to maintain those employees.  Bain explains, “It’s not only do we like you, but do you like us.  Do you believe in our philosophy?”  They aren’t seeking people who are just looking for a job to earn a paycheck. 


According to Bains, the culture at Citi Trends is a successful one, due to good communication.  From the district managers to the associates on the floor, there needs to be the same message all around. 

Bains believes management always needs to be asking its associates the right questions in order to approach talent development the right way.  When it comes to recognition, they are moving away from individual accolades to honoring the whole team.  “It’s definitely a team celebration,” says Bains. 

What are You Reading?

She is reading both The Seven Spiritual Laws of Successby Deepak Chopra and The Power of Nowby Eckhart Tolle.

How Can People Connect with You? Via LinkedIn.

Remember, do what you love….and show the world how talented you can be, today.

Date: November 4, 2014