Core HR

How I Got Here: My HR Story

It seems to me that no one ever really plans on going into Human Resources. It just sort of…happens.

I ended up in HR because I hated accounting.

I was three semesters into an MBA program and was already questioning if the degree was focused on what I wanted to be doing. While I appreciated the big-picture business perspective I got from my classes, I didn’t always appreciate the lack of focus. I also didn’t appreciate how my accounting professor thought calculating amortization schedules BY HAND was a good use of my time. (This was around 2004, so it’s not like Excel didn’t exist…). So I decided I needed to do something else.

One class I really enjoyed was my stats course. We used the Deming Methodology, so the focus was on both process improvement and predictive modeling. It was there I found out that people get paid to help businesses work better. (I know…late to the party. Hush, you.) I switched my masters to Instructional Learning Technology, got a job in learning and organizational development and the rest is history.

Looking back, it makes sense. I am, at my heart, an intensely curious person. I want to know why things work – or don’t work. I want to know why people make the decisions they do, and how those decisions impact an entire system. I want to solve all the problems, too. I’ve always been drawn to challenges. I like to push, rock the boat, innovate, break down silos. I’ve worked at organizations that were built that way. I’ve also worked for organizations that weren’t built that way…but needed a kick in the butt anyway. If I don’t have interesting work to do, I get frustrated.

This is why I was so excited to be able to join IA. As an advisor, I get to do what I love: come into an organization that needs help, solve messy problems, build new solutions…and move on to the next organization that needs help. It’s ideal. I’m like The Wolf from Pulp Fiction, except the issues I help with are more of the “help us improve our culture” and less “help us hide the body.” Which is a good thing.

Not that improving culture is easy or less messy. In fact, I think it’s one of the most daunting challenges an organization can face. What makes it so daunting, in my opinion, is the inability of leadership to understand that culture is more than just people and attitude. It’s the way a company does business (systems and processes), and measures and rewards success (talent management and total rewards). That’s what really shapes how human beings respond to each other and the business itself. By helping businesses find ways to do their work better, I am ultimately helping them find ways to be more human.

While I’ve worked in all areas of HR in my career, my roots remain firmly planted in the world of curiosity and asking, “What if?”

I can’t wait to get started.

Written by:

  • A principal with IA, Mary has more than fifteen years of experience working within organizations undergoing HR transformation. At her core, Mary is a builder and a problem solver. Her HR experience includes operations, learning and development, leadership and organizational development, and performance management.


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  1. Pingback: Carnival Of HR: February 2019 Edition - Laurie Ruettimann

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