With over 30 years of experience spanning pretty much every aspect of human resources and organizational leadership, Phil DeCocco can say a lot about how HR should function. But in his first months at Mini-Circuits, he’s been more focused on listening.
“I know that it’s really important to build relationships with people, first and foremost,” he said in a recent interview via Zoom. “If I don’t take the time to learn the business and the people and what makes it all tick, then just practicing the craft of human resources falls flat.”
Phil’s affinity for people and the care he takes in getting to know the company come as much from his upbringing as his education and professional experience. The oldest of six siblings and the son of a human resources executive for General Electric, adapting to new situations and building strong relationships runs in his blood. GE, often seen as a vanguard of management excellence in American business, had a policy of moving executives to a different part of the country or a different business unit every three years. That meant moving from place to place was a way of life for Phil’s family, which he looks back on as formative to his character, and ultimately his career path.
“I think as a result of that experience, my brothers and sisters and I are all super friendly and outgoing,” he said. “Moving around, meeting new people never really bothered any of us. I had lots of great friends, but they were all over the country. That’s just the way it was for us.”
It should come as no surprise that Phil hasn’t had much difficulty hitting the ground running at a new company in a new industry. He spent his first week and a half at Mini-Circuits interviewing team members at all levels of the organization. His approachability and natural talent for connecting with people probably have something to do with the relationships he’s been able to cultivate in such a short time, but speaking with him, he’s more inclined to credit the team’s warmth and willingness to share what they know.
Beyond establishing meaningful connections across the organization, Phil counts establishing credibility and leading by example as key measures of his success. Those ethics guide his leadership style – along with never forgetting to have fun.
“We all spend so much time at work already. As a leader, you should be creating an environment where people like to come to work and enjoy being around the people they work with.”
When Phil first learned that Mini-Circuits was recruiting for the top HR role through a contact in the recruiting field, he recognized the portfolio of products, world-class quality and customer service that make the company a leader in its class, but it was the people and the culture that he says attracted him to the opportunity. He recognized Mini-Circuits’ core values as in line with his own and shared the belief that a culture of honesty, integrity, trust and respect “not only makes work more enjoyable, but creates an environment where people care about their teammates.”
Phil points to Mini-Circuits’ family environment and entrepreneurial history as differentiators from other companies, which may explain his vigilance in getting to know the company before instituting changes. “This company’s been around for fifty years, and it will be around for another fifty years – or a hundred and fifty years – and we want to make sure we’re making enhancements, and not just change for change sake.”
While he’s made it a priority to preserve the character of the company as it grows, the enhancements he refers to signal some exciting developments ahead. His goal, he says, is to build a best-in-class human resources function. That means building out additional functional expertise within the HR team in areas like benefits, compensation, and learning and development. It means developing a competitive total rewards program that equips to the company to attract, retain, develop and engage the best talent. It also means cultivating an outstanding experience for members at every stage of their careers from onboarding through to continuing professional growth after ten or twenty years.
Beneath it all is Phil’s firm conviction that “the foundation of any organization, Mini-Circuits included, is its members.” It’s a sentiment that echoes remarks from company events in recent years, and one that will only grow stronger as the HR function continues to evolve and mature.
Phil is a leader in and outside of work, and he’s dedicated to community involvement for several worthy causes. He has served as President of the Silicon Valley Monterey Bay Boy Scouts of America, an advisory board member for Rancho Cielo (a non-profit social services and learning center for underserved youth), and an industry member affiliate of California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo.
His talents as an HR leader may be matched by his talents in the kitchen. After earning his Bachelor’s from St. Michael’s College in Vermont and before embarking on his journey in the corporate world, he cut his teeth as a chef, a restaurant general manager, and restauranteur. His restaurant, the Sunset Café had a successful run in Hanover, New Hampshire before Phil decided to pivot to a career in HR. His wife of 25 years, Sarah, also has a culinary degree, so while Phil’s moved past fifteen-hour days in a commercial kitchen, their household ranks high on the list of places friends like to come for dinner. The house rules are clear, though, that an invitation comes with the expectation that guests put in work preparing the meal.
“I tell people, I’ll get them their first beer, but they’re on their own after that,” he jokes.
Phil and Sarah share their home with their two dogs, Sampson and Winston, and they’re in the process of moving from Carmel, California to New York to be close to Mini-Circuits’ home base. Their daughter, Isabelle studied Marketing and now lives in Reno, Nevada. Their son, Philip, is currently a junior at Marquette University with ambitions for law school and a career in public service.
Phil credits his grandmother with the best career advice he’s ever been given, and it speaks to both his humility and his values: “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.”