#SHRM17 The Conferencing Commences

I sat my alarm for 7am even though the conference didn’t technically start until 12:30. What kind of savage would I be if I didn’t take advantage of our hotel’s free breakfast? It didn’t disappoint. They had Fruit Loops. Totally worth getting up that early. I knew I had a couple hours to burn before I had to be anywhere, so I took two hours to myself to walk aimlessly through the French Quarter.  Those two hours led to a whole bunch of sunshine in my face and being able to really soak in the absolute beauty in the streets of New Orleans. I also got hustled by a guy named David who tried to polish my canvas shoes with something that looked like lotion. It’s all good – he gave me some beads and I gave him a handshake. 

I headed back to the hotel to change, pack up the backpack and head to the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center for the first session of the day. There were shuttles that were scheduled to pick everyone up from their hotels for the duration of our conference, but I don’t think they were quite ready to roll on Sunday morning. We were lined up at our designated bus stop by 11:30 in order to get there in time for the 12:30pm session, but after waiting 45 minutes and having two buses drive by that were already full, we realized that wasn’t going to happen. We buddied up with some other couple that was waiting inline and dropped a cool $11.50 for a ride instead. We still didn’t make it in time, but we were able to grab lunch before the opening general session. 

My co-worker asked her phone what restaurants were nearby and we wound up at Cochon Butcher. I’m telling you right now if you’re ever in New Orleans and don’t visit there, I am silently judging you. Best Cubano ever plus Coke in a glass bottle. And only a quick walk from the convention center. Hell of a beer menu, too, but it was only noon. C’mon, you animals.

We got back in time early enough to get a pretty good seat to hear Kat Cole deliver the opening session. I. Love. Kat. Cole. It’s a business-boss-lady, awesome-human-being crush and I’m not even ashamed to admit it. When SHRM announced she’d be a keynote speaker, I was stoked. She spoke last year at the 2016 SHRM Talent Management Conference and I was blown away. She could have delivered the exact same talk and I wouldn’t have even cared. She didn’t. Instead, she delivered a story of how she failed in her own leadership, how she worked through it and how she regained the trust that was lost because of that. That story has stuck in my head and in my heart ever since I heard her talk about it. There’s so much more to dive into with Kat’s story and what she brings to a group of HR professionals. It’ll be a revisit sometime because I owe it to myself to really process some of those things I took away. 

After Kat, the Exhibition Hall opened up, which meant over 15,000 people were about to go get their free swag on and I was right there with them. Let me be completely honest with you for a second. I hate vendor stuff like this. My hate slowly disappeared when the first booth we stopped out was pouring a red solo cup of Zima if you gave them your business card. Totally worth the price of a couple of sales calls, if you ask me. They also included a Jolly Rancher. Hello, junior year of high school. It’s been a while.

I’d never been to a room that large filled with that many vendors, all there to talk about HR stuff. It was insane. There was typical swag: pens, tote bags, chip clips, magnets, the other things you pick up and then accidentally forget in your hotel room. And there were rubber ducks and fidget spinners (way to be relevant!) and t-shirts all over the place. It was enormous. Here’s an idea of some of the other swag vendors were handing out:

If you pour the drinks, people will come. I think anyone there was very comfortable with the fact that those free cocktails were going to wind up with some sales people calling us in the next couple of weeks. 

We went through a few areas of the rest of the exhibition hall, but knew we wouldn’t conquer the whole thing because we had dinner plans with some other HR folks that also happened to work in the credit union industry. It was a small group, only seven of us, but World of Beer was the perfect place for us to drink, eat and chat about credit union life on the HR side of things. 

(Side note: If you would have asked me 10 years ago if I’d be totally geeked about sitting at a table sipping blueberry wheat beer from a local brewery, followed by some amazing cider shipped over from Sweden, while talking about talent management, policies and procedures and HRIS systems with other adults, I would have punched you in the face because I was probably drunk on Bud Light, eating a Nacho Bell Grande and about four months away from getting fired from a software sales position.)

We paid our tabs and next thing you know, someone from our group had an Uber sitting in front of the restaurant waiting to take us to Frenchmen Street. Um, okay! We caught a bit of music at the Spotted Cat and then crossed the street to Snug Harbor when the band at the first place took a break. Because we’re mature credit union professionals, we weren’t out too late and all took a group jaunt back to our respective hotels. After all, we had a 7am session the next day and we had bets on who would actually show up in time for them all. Good news is most of us did.

#SHRM17 Upon Arrival

\We flew from Minneapolis to New Orleans with a three hour layover in Atlanta. I would have preferred to have a conversation/fan girl moment with Jimmy Carter, but for whatever reason, he’s never at my gate waiting for me in all of the times I’ve had a layover in Atlanta.

But almost just as awesome, the #SHRM17 Twitter feed started blowing up and it was as ah-maz-ing. I legit started geeking out. Some dude (actually Matt behind True Faith HR) tweeted about having Chick-Fil-A at the Atlanta airport and HOLY CRAP, I was right by there. Next thing I know, I’m in line at the Southwest gate saying hello to Matt, which turned into saying hello to a handful of other SHRM-goers.

Someone sat next to me on the plane and asked how I knew Matt and I paused momentarily before I just decided to own my answer: TWITTER. I’ve met people from the internet before (e.g. my wife, my best friend, way too many people that have recognized me as “Wendy from the internet”), but it was a whole different opening of a door that I didn’t know was even there.

We landed, got our luggage and checked into our conference at the airport (!!!) before heading to our adorable hotel (the Dauphine Orleans) just a block off Bourbon Street. Unpacked, settled in and headed off to find dinner. Both Killer PoBoys locations were less than two blocks from our hotel, so that seemed like fate. And, yes, they were killer.

We went back to our hotel rooms with tentative plans to stay in for the night and catch up on a few work things. I lasted until about 7 before I went into full on #SHRM17 Stalker Mode. There were people out and about all over the place, so I hit the French Quarter on my own determined to find another HR/SHRM person somewhere.

I saw Kate post about being at a bar only a few blocks from my hotel room, so that’s where I headed. And I walked past the bar because, NOPE – couldn’t muster up the intestinal fortitude to go in. I KNOW, RIGHT? I sat down on a bench and texted my co-worker who was back in her room finishing up some homework to see if she wanted to join. She was game, so we were off. I totally needed a wingman to meet HR people. Best thing I convinced myself to do the entire conference.

Pat O’Brien’s kept the hurricanes flowing and so did the HR twitter people. A couple of folks I’d followed on Twitter for a long time ended up joining us, along with their spouses. And then randomly enough, the lady I sat next to on the plane showed up because, wouldn’t you know it, she’s there for the SHRM conference, too. I mean, there were over 15,000 of us. I guess I shouldn’t have been that surprised. She recognized me. I did not recognize her and I still can’t remember her name, but her husband and I definitely talked about whatever PGA golf tournament had just happened.

Day 1 in New Orleans and I was pretty jazzed (oh man, no terrible New Orleans pun intended, I swear) to have put names to faces, actually talked to other conference attendees and realized not all HR folks are like the “standard” HR folks. The conference hadn’t even started and I was already feeling the energy.

#SHRM17 Bound

I’ve been looking forward to this for months – it’s my first Annual SHRM Conference. I went to the SHRM Talent Management Conferencr in 2016 and it was incredible. Since then, I’ve moved into a leadership role within HR and have been seeking all the knowledge I possibly can to level up. (Sorry – the dudes next to me on our Southwest flight are playing Pokémon Go, so that phrase felt right. 

My conference last year was eye opening in a lot of ways, some in incredible ways (so many great takeaways!!!) and some, not so much. The biggest thing I regretted from the whole conference was just not putting myself out there to meet other HR people and not realizing the value of an HR network. It’s shocking to a lot of people because I am not a natural networker.  Not without a couple of drinks anyway. I’m a fan of cider, by the way. 

Enter Twitter. Despite my penchant for drunk tweeting when it first rolled out, it’s been an immeasurable tool in learning how HR works outside the confines of my office, which is all I really know. Outside perspective in genius, you guys. And Twitter has ultimately put me in touch with so many of these folks that share the same passion as I do for the entire Human Resources field. I’m really hoping to finally connect with some of them over the course of the next few days. 

I’ve got my eye on a couple things to take care of over through Wednesday:

  • Learn all the things. Or at least some of the things! 
  • Implement some of the some of the things when I get back to work on Thursday. Or, you know, maybe Friday. I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself…
  • Meet some of these people I feel like I’ve gained so much knowledge from for the last year!
  • Meet some new people, too. I hear 10 a day is a good goal from one of my favorite HR bloggers, Steve Browne
  • Have fun. 

I never in my life thought I’d wind up in HR. I didn’t even know what HR was until I walked into an HR office and got fired for being absolutely terrible at sales. I would imagine there are thousands of people headed to New Orleans right now that might be in that same boat. Probably without the firing part, but hey, it’s all part of my story, right?

More from this conference to come and I’m hoping this outlet gives me a chance to do more reflecting of the things I learn. 140 characters on Twitter just isn’t enough sometime.  

This is an HR Blog.

I gotta be honest. I tried to tell my wife that I was using this empty domain I have had for years as an HR blog and I couldn’t even say the words out loud. She tells me I spend a lot of time with my work, more than makes sense to her. I can’t fault her for that, because I do. I’ve finally been able to articulate that it’s not that I’m working when I’m nose deep in “HR stuff”, because it’s… for fun. Whaaaaat.

I technically started in HR in April of 2008, at a staffing agency. I’d been unemployed for six months after a four year stint selling educational software right around the same time the public school system as a whole lost a ton of grants and funding. Nothing quite like calling up some middle school social studies teacher and trying to convince her to spend what little grant money she does have on some software that didn’t quite make sense that long ago. I got fired from that job. By HR. That was in 2007 and my first experience with anything at all that was officially related to Human Resources.

When I had an interview at the aforementioned staffing agency, I was… probably desperate. I interviewed first with HR person there. I typed fast and I was able to communicate clearly, so I got moved along in the process and eventually got hired after interviewing with the CEO, who talked to me about horoscopes for 30 minutes. (I’m a Pisces, in case you’re curious, and she sent me home with a post-it-note full of horoscope websites.) I got hired as a “Staffing Consultant” and stayed there for two days shy of five years. And took a selfie in the bathroom with my flip phone during my first month there and it had amazing resolution (not at all):

I learned a lot about HR things there. Some were good, some were bad. All helped me figure out my future in the field before I even realized that was the trajectory of my career. I moved on from there to a credit union, on the other side of the Twin Cities that added at least a half hour to my commute twice a day in an industry where I was pretty clueless about to a department that didn’t have anybody that could focus on recruiting. It’s funny the little things that impress you when you’ve been there for two days, and even funnier that they’re still some of the things that impress me about being there four years later where I’ve moved from Specialist/Recruiter to Generalist/Recruiter to Assistant HR Manager.

I continue to learn things where I work now that are amazing. HR continues to be an area that fascinates me daily and I’m thankful that the human side is so important to my current organization. I don’t think I could be somewhere it wasn’t. I love HR. I love to learn about HR. And I love to share what I know about HR.

I’ve been a blogger since before it was cool. We’re talking the 90s here, man. I haven’t been consistent, but when is life consistent? I tried to workout combining my personal blog and something where I focused mainly HR, but couldn’t quite get there in my head. I’ve been able to intertwine my social media accounts as one in the same, but this is different. And this is new and who knows what will happen from this point. I like writing and I generally enjoy writing about myself way too much than the average person, so who know how this will all turn out.

In the meantime, I’m gonna have some fun with this whole writing about HR and getting the millions of thoughts out my head to a place where someone else might, if nothing else, pause at a different perspective the might not have thought about in the past.