Author: Wendy Berry

What I Learned from the Super Bowl 52 Halftime Show: Part 1

Hold on. This isn’t about the quality of Justin Timberlake’s dance moves during the snippet of “SexyBack” (yeah!) or how the show would have been SO much better with an N*SYNC reunion. Give me a couple of paragraphs worth of time to explain this.

One night, in a bout of typical insomnia, I noticed one of the local Minnesota news stations asking for people to sign up to work during the Super Bowl Halftime Show since it was hosted in Minneapolis. Because it was 3am and I was lacking sleep, I signed up. I assumed there would be 6,000,727 other people that did the same.

Two days later, I got an email congratulating me for being selected as a Field Team Member for the Halftime Show. I had no idea what that meant or what I’d be doing, but OKAY LET’S DO THIS. That was in early December.

We had our orientation in mid-January at a church that was being used as a hub for a lot of training, located right in the middle of the chaos that was being built up in downtown Minneapolis during that time. Roads were closed. It was cold. Parking garages were taken over by weird equipment. There were gigantic tents built in empty parking lots. I was whiny and told my wife, who I was leaving at home with our three year old and two week old, that if orientation was dumb, I wasn’t going to do it.

This is what it looked like while we waited. It’s pretty top secret:

After about 400 people checked in to this optional orientation, we started by watching the Lady Gaga Super Bowl Halftime show. It’s worth sharing.

Then we’re introduced to a guy named Cap Spence. Bookmark this link to read about him sometime. I wish everyone could work for a Cap Spence at some point in their life. He has stories and, man, does he have stories.

For 1.5 hours, Cap made sure we were clear about our expectations in being a Field Team Member. We would be putting together the stage for the halftime show. AWESOME. We would not be watching any football of any kind during the Super Bowl, nor would we be standing around watching a Justin Timberlake concert. We especially would not be playing “grab ass” with JT. Cap’s words, not mine.

I wanted to live tweet the whole thing. I decided it’d probably be a bad idea to do that once Cap told us all we “need to quit nursing at the digital nipple” and be completely present in rehearsals. Made sense to me.

What did I learn from the Staging Supervisor for the past 17 Super Bowl Halftime shows?

I learned I had to trust that he knew what he was doing. There were 21 carts full of stage parts that were going to need to be put together in less than six minutes and he was going to show 500 volunteers with zero experience how to do it with six rehearsals. Completely out of my control.

I needed to only focus on my job for those six rehearsals and trust that everyone else was doing the same thing. It worked for Lady Gaga in 2017, for Katy Perry and Left Shark in 2015 and for Prince and his amazing stage in 2007. Somehow, it’ll just work.

On the train ride home, I unequivocally knew it was going to be awesome.

Photo by me.

Phone Interviews: You Called, I Can’t Hear a Thing

Hello, hello, baby. You called, I can’t hear a thing.
I have got no service in the club, you see, see
Wha-Wha-What did you say?
Oh, you’re breaking up on me
Sorry, I cannot hear you, I’m kinda busy.

– Lady Gaga

My first gig in HR was as a recruiter/staffing consultant/placement specialist (or whatever title they wanted us to use at any given day) for a smaller temporary staffing agency. There was no training. I don’t think I even shadowed anyone prior to jumping on the phone and doing my first phone interview. I started out just interviewing candidates to fill data entry or basic reception positions. I’d never done either, so it was really a trial by error situation. But then that was my gig, all day, every day.

In my world, here are the things that have helped me not only become successful when it comes to recruiting, making recommendations to hiring leaders and getting some pretty amazing people started in their career:

  1. KNOW YOUR HIRING MANAGER. Get to know them. If you think you’re going to get the hiring right for someone without having some really in depth conversations, you’re wrong and you’re just causing yourself more work. Even if you’ve hired for the manager one million times before, you still need to check in with them. You need to know what’s working and what’s not working for their team. It’ll help. I swear.
  2. LISTEN. Seems easy, right? But we have the distractions of open offices, emails coming in, to-do lists growing, etc. and that’s fine for you to deal with on your time. Not the candidate’s time.
  3. ENGAGE. That means don’t treat your standard list of questions like a checklist. I’m sure you’ve asked the same questions for the same position for years on end if you have that one role that you’re always recruiting for. I don’t care. That candidate has never interviewed with you, so don’t take it out on them. They’re talking to you with the idea that this could be an amazing opportunity for them. And it’s one for you, too – you could be getting the ball rolling for hiring someone fantastic.
  4. ASK. As much as the questions you’re asking are probably somewhat canned, so are the answers you’re going to get. Nobody’s fault! It’s your job to go past those canned questions with words like “why?”, “tell me more”, and “what did you learn from that?”.
  5. LEARN. You can learn SO much when interviewing someone for any position. It might be something you’ll never even need to think about again, I get that. But in your role as an HR person, that should be far from the truth. I like to make the candidate the expert in whatever work it is they do and I’ve learned so much. And really, the more I learn from a candidate, the more I want them to move on to the next round and the more I’ve increased my knowledge of something else, which is always a good thing.

This stuff is all Interviewing 102. Interviewing 101 should be where you learn all that legal stuff, okay? And we all need constant reminders of both of those when it comes to interviewing. If we don’t have them, we end up doing the same thing over and over and that’s rarely the right thing to do.

Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

Back from #PaidFamilyLeave

I started a paid family leave on January 3rd, when my wife and I welcomed Baby Ellis, as his big brother calls him, into the world. I just made the transition back to office life from my six week stint at a stay at home mom.

I’m incredibly fortunate to have an employer who introduced six weeks of paid parental leave as a benefit for all employees last year around this time. The intention was to provide our employees with time to spend bonding with the newest member(s) of their family without worrying about the amount of vacation/sick time they had stored up or what they’d do if they didn’t have a paycheck coming in. When you remove those kinds of stressors, it creates a healthier environment at home for all that good stuff to happen.

When our three year old was born in November 2014, we didn’t have that benefit. Not a lot of companies did. I used two weeks of sick time to be there during his birth, our hospital stay and about 1.5 weeks of being at home. My wife had an emergency C-section after 44 hours of labor and ended up needing a blood transfusion while she was in the hospital.

And then she struggled with postpartum depression, along with 15% of women that give birth, as she adjusted to being alone with a newborn seven days after major surgery with complications. That’s a brutal thing we ask parents to do and yet, as a country, that’s what we expect them to do.

I’m not saying anything could have made her PPD not happen three years ago. Those things happen. But what would have made a world of difference to our family is knowing that I could be there to support our transition of adding another human to our family.

Parents and children deserve the right to start off their lives together with as much support as they can get. We need to keep talking about it. If it doesn’t apply to you directly, I guarantee it will impact someone you work with. And you know it’s easier to work with someone that’s not stressed out all the time, right?

Keep talking. Keep telling your stories. Encourage your non-HR friends to start the conversation, too. This isn’t a controversial topic, you guys. We can all work on making this happen together.

Photo by Amy at Amy Wurdock Photography.