MRX Profile: Q&A Session with SSI’s Mary Rusterholz

By the Editors

In honor of SSI’s 40th anniversary, we are sitting down with some of the organization’s standout employees to ask them a few questions about their years of experience in the MR industry.

Mary Rusterholz has served as SSI’s Chief Human Resource Officer since 2012. She has successfully spearheaded the organization’s global growth and maturity in recent years.

Q (the editors): What role does talent management play at SSI?

A (Mary Rusterholz):  Finding and developing the right resources for the organization is essential for our success. Great products and a strong strategy are useless without the right people to support and drive it.  HR’s role is to partner with the business to continue to identify and develop the resources to support our immediate and long-term needs.  We are fortunate at SSI to have a great mix of tenured employees and new resources which provides a good balance of history and consistency with fresh thinking.  As we grow, it is imperative that we continue to select those resources that are looking to be part of a growing company, are intellectually curious and embrace change as a natural part of personal and company growth.

Q: What can SSI employees do to deliver on alignment between HR programs and organizational strategy?

A: HR programs are designed to support the business and the employees. The key is to ensure that the employees see the connection between the company goals and the role they perform.  This is done through open, two-way communication, clear goals and delivering results.  This year with our focus on Customer Centricity – we look for each employee to ask how he/she can impact the customer experience. It is our collective work that leads to results….everyone is essential for the company to be successful!

Q: What is the secret to success when putting together staffing plans during political cycles?

A: Patience, creativity and a great team to support the process.  During a political year, we will hire over 2,500 employees between our domestic and Philippines-based locations.  The teams must identify creative avenues to quickly attract resources without losing sight on the quality of our employees who will support our customers. It is always crazy but a great accomplishment.

Q: What is the single greatest challenge facing the market research industry today?

A: Market research is rich in history yet similar to all industries – it is essential to embrace and respond to the changes in technology, privacy and customer needs.  It is exciting to be part of a company that is a leader in partnering with Market Research to support this evolution.

Q: What do you like to do when you’re off the clock?

A:  I love a relaxing day with my family, my dogs and a good book that allows me to escape.  And I spend a great deal of time in ice hockey rinks with two sons that play the game.

Q: What role would you play in a group of 20 people in a post-apocalyptic scenario?

A: Planner and therapist.

Q: How do you think market research will evolve over the next 40 years?

A: The need for valuable data will never go away yet the manner in which we gather data will continue to change. Staying on top of technology trends and consumer expectations will be essential to the industry.

Fun facts about Mary:

  • I started my university studies as an Accounting Major – quickly realized that was not me
  • I was a competitive gymnast for 10 years
  • Early my career, I earned my small forklift license

Prior to joining SSI, Rusterholz spent 14 years with Affinion Group, a $1.4B global industry leader in affinity marketing based in Stamford, CT. She held the role of Executive Vice President, Support Services from 2002-2012, responsible for global human resources and facilities management, supporting 4,500 employees across the US and 12 European countries; and Senior Vice President, Human Resources from 2000-2002.

Before Affinion, Rusterholz spent 14 years with French-owned group DANONE in their US Water Division as Vice President Human Resources within the Dairy Division, where she held multiple roles including Manager of Organization Development, charged with driving efficiency in structure and process.

Rusterholz earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Human Resource Management from Pace University, New York.