"A grateful heart is the beginning of greatness." ~ James E. Faust
I have been active with SHRM in one way or another since 2003 or so and, of course, know about the SHRM Foundation. I knew the Foundation did research, published its findings so we could all benefit from that research, assisted with the education and development of HR professionals and, in addition, offered scholarships for such. However, for the most part, I didn't personalize this part of SHRM.
I have now!
In June, I attended the SHRM15 Conference in Vegas and I had the pleasure of meeting the five HR Professionals who received, as scholarships, attendance to this conference.
Cindy King works for the Institute for Health and Recovery. This is a small organization and has never been able to offer much in the way of "professional development" to its staff. Cindy is a hoot! She has been the Director of HR for 1 1/2 years and when she learned that the SHRM Foundation was offering scholarships to attend the conference, she knew this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. When she heard she was one of the participants, she was ecstatic (seriously, she was ecstatic...I would have paid good money to see her when she heard the news!) She knew that networking was a given at a conference this large and working for city and non-profits her entire career had limited her ability to do so. So Cindy made plans to meet people, and meet them she did!
When I spoke with Cindy, the highlight of her conference thus far was the keynote address given by Marcus Buckingham; she was inspired by what he said about being a team leader and knowing your team on a personal level. She seemed committed to engaging in this manner and energized to take what she learned back to the managers and leaders she, herself, mentors.
Edna Lugo works as an HR Specialist for the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury in Lake Charles, LA. For about 2 1/2 years, she served this itsy bitsy organization doing HR project management work such as policy development, audits, etc. Edna is the wife of a military man and, like all the other spouses of military personnel, needs to be flexible in her own career as frequent "transfers" are typical. She doesn't regret this - she thinks of it as an opportunity to add breadth and depth to her knowledge and skill base. To date, has enjoyed the opportunity to meet so many HR professionals and learn about so many industries. When she learned she was a scholarship recipient, she also learned she was going to moving yet again. She paired the two ideas together and planned to network with HR professionals from her "new home" and perhaps find other work.
When I interviewed Edna, the highlight of her conference thus far was indeed meeting other HR professionals. In addition, she found that the conference had given her a small platform to share her "voice" regarding employing military spouses. Finally, attending the conference opened her eyes to SHRM as an organization and it appeared a seed had been planted in this young professional to volunteer for SHRM and/or advocate for HR professionals.
Jatisha Marsh is from Atlanta and I gotta tell ya, her energy was magnetic! Atlanta Pubic Schools has been fortunate to employ this HR professional as an Employee Performance Analyst for nearly two years. (I hope they appreciate it!) She was smart enough to know public sector "work" tends to be a bit archaic and sacred cows/historical processes were, more than likely, going to hold the HR program back in terms of efficiency, productivity, etc. Unfortunately, she did not have any exposure to private sector processes nor had she networked a lot with "private sector" professionals due to limited financial support for doing so. When Jatisha learned about the scholarship opportunity, she thought to herself, "if I can go to the conference, imagine all the resources I can bring back to my colleagues!" Indeed, she was gathering as many as she could! Whether it was taking away tons of information from the sessions, gathering business contacts as if they were wildflowers, or discovering easily accessible online resources, she was going to capitalize on the opportunities!
Jatisha couldn't articulate just one thing she was excited about so far in the conference; she was just amazed at how much help and assistance was immediately available, and she couldn't believe how many HR professionals were willing to be her mentor and/or available whenever she needed them. My goodness, I saw a "pay it forward" excitement in this young woman - watch out Atlanta!
Jonathan de Armond has worked for the Indiana State Government as an HR Generalist for the past 1 1/2 years. As we all know, government is a great training ground for HR professionals but it's all OJT - very few of them get the opportunity to go to conferences such as the one SHRM offers. Jonathan works on a recruitment team and was thrilled to see the numerous sessions on this topic alone! Amazed, he was, at what goes on in other sectors and what is possible with just slight changes to philosophy or policy! In addition, he was excited about the opportunity to attend the conference because he knew that he'd get quite a bit of "the other world" in not just employment sectors but other areas of HR. Jonathan was sure he could benefit from deepening his understanding about those areas to be a better rounded and knowledge HR Pro.
When I spoke with Jonathan, he couldn't yet pinpoint a highlight but he told me he was thoroughly enjoying the camaraderie and collegiality of likeminded professionals. He knew HR Pros were a "special group" but he said it was quite amazing to see SO MANY OF THEM at SHRM National, all being patient, being "herded" together, sharing resources and information, and enjoying the experience.
Ronda Wakefield is from Montana! (I love Montana and used to live in Libby!) For the past 2 1/2 years, she has served as the HR Manager for Nomad Global Communication Solutions in Columbia Falls. I liked Ronda straight away...perhaps it's a Montana thing! Seriously, I learned immediately that she's a volunteer addict and of course, I loved her! Ronda is the President of her SHRM local chapter and attended the Leadership Conference in DC this past year. While there, she thought to herself, "oh my gosh, I MUST MUST MUST do more of this type of thing!" Unfortunately, her local Chapter has limited resources and, in addition, her employer hasn't valued HR as it ought so "indulging" in an expense such as the one needed for SHRM National was out of the question. When she learned she was a scholarship recipient, she thought to herself, "there it is - exactly what I need!" Ronda knew she would be able to not only grow her own knowledge base AND bring back tons of resources and assistance to her own chapter.
When I met Ronda, she had split her conference time between learning about things that would benefit her employer and also learning about resources available to chapters. Astonished is a word I will use to describe her thoughts...she was simply amazed at the resources readily available during this conference. "And the people," she said, "you wouldn't believe how incredible it has been to meet them! I am truly blessed." Indeed, Ronda, you are blessed, as are we to have you among us!
I am a sole proprietor and not one who has an endless stream of checks coming in. I budget for every little thing and oftentimes, I go without. My own professional development, while crucial to my success, typically is low on my list of priorities because other things always, always pop up. I enjoyed meeting the scholarship recipients because they were interesting and personable humans but when it comes right down to it, what I enjoyed most is that they reminded me of how lucky I am!
Shoot, anyone who has the resources to attend the conference each year is lucky!
I hope this post has given you the opportunity to see the SHRM conference from grateful eyes. If you're a frequent attender, perhaps it gives you a new perspective and you'll head to SHRM16 in Washington, D.C. next year with a different outlook. If you have not yet attended a national conference, perhaps this long post will spark something in you and you'll start to budget for it now.
In sum, these six scholarship recipients were amazing, as is the SHRM experience!
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