Tag: personal

It’s Been 4 Months

It’s been four months since I’ve hit the publish button here. There are at least half a dozen posts sitting in draft status and approximately 45,338 ideas floating around in my head. Not an exaggeration.

In those last four months, a lot has happened. A lot, a lot. You get bullet points, because despite what some may choose to believe it hasn’t all been shared via social media and isn’t always covered in rainbow tinted glitter. But it’s real life and I’m all about real life.

  • I dove head first into a grassroots groundswell of activism led by an amazing group of intelligent and passionate women driven towards change in our community. I’ve never felt so empowered. I also announced my intent to run for West St. Paul City Council. (You can watch the video clip here and visit my campaign site here.) I didn’t know one of the perks of being a local politician would be getting to know so many amazing people and building true friendships with them.
  • I didn’t get to go to #SHRM18. It was ultimately my decision, but looking back, definitely one I regret even though it seemed like the right choice at the time.
  • We went to Des Moines to see Hamilton. It was life changing and I don’t care how cliche that sounds. I want to see it over and over.
  • My wife got pneumonia and was out of work for three weeks. The whole family passed around mystery viruses for a good week during that time.
  • My grandma was given a month to live. We drove to Missouri to see her while she was still well enough to see us and we could still talk. It was a beautiful visit. She died less than a week after we got back. We went back for her funeral. She was 92, but when you lose one of the most amazing pillars of your life, it doesn’t matter how old she is. I think of her daily and I always will.
  • Won my primary election. In a big way. On to the general election in November!
  • Accepted a job offer. It was easy to accept. I had a really positive feeling about it during the whole interview process and can’t wait to start in a few weeks.

And that’s my last four months in a nutshell. Is it all HR related? Nope. But it’s human related and that’s what matters to me.

My Five Year Woriversary

Five years (and one day) ago, I walked into the doors of a medium-sized credit union as the newest person of their HR team. And, oooh, boy. What. A. Ride.

I wasn’t looking for work when I applied to work where I’m at right now. I had s job. It paid the bills. I was good at it. It was comfortable. And part of that job was finding people to do customer service people for the call centers of that medium-sized credit union.

They were so obsessive about what they wanted in candidates and it was killing me. The candidates needed to really get what it meant to go above and beyond with customers and how to really get to know them, but it was totally cool if they didn’t have any experience.

The whole role, I kept hearing about the “culture” at this credit union and I had no idea what that meant because where I was working didn’t know what that really meant either. And whether it was fate or luck or pure randomness, one night I got an Indeed alert that they’d posted a job in their HR department. I thought about it for 12 seconds, updates my severely neglected resume, and applied.

I got a call on my birthday to schedule a phone interview and that whole culture thing started making itself incredibly evident during the entire interview process and I REALLY WANTED TO WORK THERE.

And here I am five years later.

I’ve learned a lot. My leader asked last Friday about some of my best moments here. At the very top of the list was being on stage in front of the entire (now large-sized) company when someone from my team got to announce that we were rolling out a six week paid parental leave. And it’s also anytime a leader calls me ready to offer a job to someone I’ve told them they’re gonna love or another leader wants to tell me that they’ve been working with one of their employees on something and they can see it start to click. Those are the best. Those are my jam. Those are why I <3 HR so much.

This company, the people I work with and the people that lead me have been incredible guides for the past five years in my growth every day, both professionally and personally. I feel like I got a pretty good deal with this job!

Here’s to five more!

This is 40.

I actually don’t care that it’s 40. It could be 372 and the only thing I’d care about was the fact that I was catching up to Methuselah as the oldest person EVER, if we’re pretending that story is exactly accurate.

My birthday was this past weekend. I’ve always been super nerdy about knowing who I share a birthday with for some reason. Probably in case we ever ran into each other on March 18th and wanted to have celebratory beers. Seems logical to me. This year, I looked again to see if there was anyone super exciting to add to my bday bud list and actually realized these folks have some great reminders for me.

Lady Gaga: “Don’t you ever let a soul in the world tell you that you can’t be exactly who you are.” And “You have to be unique, and different, and shine in your own way.”

Queen Latifah: “You almost have to step outside yourself and look at you as if you were someone else you really care about and really want to protect. Would you let someone take advantage of that person? Would you let someone use that person you really care about? Or would you speak up for them? If it was someone else you care about, you’d say something. I know you would.” (from her book Put on Your Crown.)

Grover Cleveland: “A cause worth fighting for is worth fighting for to the end.” and his supposed last words of “I have tried so hard to do the right.” (Not gonna lie. I don’t even think about Grover Cleveland and Googled the crap out of this one, but the guy had some quotes that really hit home!)

Kat Cole: I’ll wait right now while you do your research on who she is and then follow her on Twitter. While you’re doing that, I’m going to try to decide which of her ONE MILLION awesome quotes I want to leave you with.

These are two of my favorites: “Focus on things that are small enough to change, but big enough to matter” and “Have empathy, gratitude and respect for every position in the company”. There’s one more quote that has been stuck in my head almost every day since I listened to her speak for the second time at the 2017 SHRM Conference, but it’s actually a quote from her mom: “Don’t forget where you came from, but don’t you dare let it solely define you.”

Here’s to 40 and here’s to being 100% authentic to myself, not giving up the fight for what’s right for myself and those around me and continuing to learn more and move forward every single day.

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.

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.

What else can I get for you?

First things first, here’s your formal introduction to Ellis Berry. Born on January 3rd at 2:49pm. He weighed 9 lbs 14 oz and 21 inches long at birth. I can confidently say we’re all in love over here.

We experienced a lot of really amazing care from everyone during our hospital stay – nurses, doctors, acupuncturists, nursing assistants, room cleaning folks, you name it. It’s been exactly what we’ve needed to get through these last few emotion-filled days.

What I’ve noticed is that we were constantly asked, “What else can I get for you?” by these folks. And they mean it. It’s not a yes or no question, because we’re all “fine” and don’t need any other help because we don’t want to put anybody out or be a burden or all those other things we tell ourselves because we don’t want to ask for help. And it’s because these people who work at this hospital are working in a culture where they really want to help.

It’s pushed me to realize there is zero reason why I shouldn’t do that every day as an HR professional and as a leader. Think about the millions of applicable ways you can fit that question into your world.

Here are a couple from mine:

  • Employee has a question about X benefit. You answer exactly what they ask. But benefits are tricky sometimes. You ask them what other questions they have about it. You just opened a door that will all you to make them confident on something that impacts their lives. With one extra question.
  • As a leader, you try to meet with your employees regularly, right? Maybe it tends to be just a bunch of status or project updates or maybe it’s a difficult conversation for one or both of you. Before that meeting is over, what if you said, “What else do you need from me?” after every single meeting? (To be fair, I’m stealing this example from a couple of incredible leaders I’ve had.) That builds a partnership and a piece of support that encourages your employee to feel comfortable asking you for help.

In both examples, you will build trust. You’ll be able to better help the next person. You can begin to identify areas of improvement in what you, your team or your company does. You’ll be able to keep open lines of communication and foster so much more collaboration.

As long as you’re genuine and authentic in asking, I don’t know how you could possibly go wrong with asking just one more question.

2017 in Review

I’ve been reflecting so much on the past year. I’m usually in the camp that moves forward at 12:01am on January 1 because, hey, that stuff is in the past. This year was different for all sorts of reasons, some personal and others professional. There were amazing things, many amazing things.

There were some not great, heartbreaking, absolutely crushing things. I breezed my way through some things. I limped through others. And there were even some that I pretended didn’t even happen because it was easier that way. Or maybe I clicked the like button on Facebook when someone I knew was leading a march for justice of any kind or I clicked on the sad face when someone was assaulted or murdered because of their color or gender or beliefs. That’s not me. And if it is, I want and need to change that.

2017 had some things that definitely fell into the Giant Thumbs Up category.

  1. I stood up in front of 500+ of our employees during our annual meeting and got to see the reaction on their faces when we announced two amazing new benefits: six weeks of paid parental leave and a paid day off on your birthday. I have a fear of public speaking. For real. But I liked it a lot. Challenge accepted and won. I’m ready for more.
  2. We finally, on our last attempt at creating a human that would have been mostly covered by insurance, managed to conceive our soon-to-be baby boy. There were strings upon strings of follies that we ran into during this round of insemination, so it wasn’t too shocking that it worked. I’ve decided that Science + Prayer = Miracle. I can’t wait to meet him.
  3. I went to #SHRM17 and because more involved in social media surrounding HR life. It’s been slow going for me to find relationships with people in my field for many years. I managed to find this crew of folks that know and understand what a day in the life of my job often is has been phenomenal when it comes to expanding my knowledge in HR. I still have infinitely more to learn about this world and it’s easier to do it when you surround yourself with others you connect with and believe in.
  4. I read more. After I graduated with my BA in 2016, I vowed to read more and I did. True crime may very well still be my favorite, but I’m also a sucker for a good memoir, the occasional self help book and a sprinkling of chick lit. YES, I ADMITTED TO THAT. You can find something in everything you read that will open your eyes to someone else’s world.

2018 will undoubtedly come with its own mountain of challenges. One is scheduled to be here on January 3rd and will be a challenge for 18 more years. The rest, I’m as ready as I can be for them, whatever that might look like. I’m with each of you in any way you need it.

Happy New Year, friends. Let’s take ’18 and own it.

Sneak peak of Challenge J Berry:

Less creepy alien picture coming soon.

Embracing Twodolla

For years, I’ve had the internal debate on my twitter handle. It’s @twodolla. Pretty professional, yeah? To be completely fair, when I first started using Twitter, it was when you had to text in what you wanted to tweet to 40404 and you had to manually count those 140 characters. And when I start using Twitter, it was usually happening at the bar after shots and 2-for-1s. Now that I think about it, Twitter was just kinda for nerds back when it rolled out. It definitely wasn’t used by, oh, HR people or CEOs or those kind of folks. And, let me tell you, I was pretty good at it. Some real riveting content.

 

Backing up 10 more years before Twitter even started and blogging was just barely a thing is when twodolla came to be. You can read that story here. The whole thing stemmed from my days of working in a pizza delivery restaurant, where my buddy Kevin and I used to blast this song and dance around like fools anytime we worked together. (You’re welcome for this.)

 

And it stuck.

I tried dual tweeting for a while. Locking one down to private mode and using it for personal stuff and then having one with my whole name in it and using it for professional stuff, but that’s hard to do, man. You logout from one when you go to a conference you’re pretty sure your “normal” friends would have no interest in, tweet all about HR-related stuff that you’re completely geeked about. And then you forget to logout of your professional one and start tweeting to those people about your crush on a bartender and things get real weird, real fast. (I’m also kinda lazy, so this could just be me.)

I posted somewhere – probably Facebook or Twitter, but I don’t remember exactly where – not too long ago about trying to come to a decision on what I should do about my Twitter handle as I got more and more involved in tweeting about professional stuff. I contemplated using my name, but the same person that uses @wendyberry also owns wendyberry.com.au, which means I get a LOT of her email, including credit card invoices, random family holiday pictures, etc. Maybe that means she would be willing to give it up considering she hasn’t tweeted since 2011, but I have better things to do.

In the midst of my social media whining about this silly sort of drama, someone I really admire when it comes the whole grownup business lady world, Nancy Lyons, set me straight. I’m paraphrasing because I don’t where I’d originally posted it, but it was something like this: Knock it off. It’s part of your story and that’s what makes you you. (Sorry for completely botching whatever you said whenever you said it, Nancy…)

So here I am. If you search for “two dolla”, the first thing that shows up in Google is an awesome definition in the Urban Dictionary. The second is a scene from the movie Better Off Dead, the third is the Wikipedia entry for a two dollar bill and the fourth is my original personal blog. I’d say I’ve hit the big time, you guys, so why give up who I am now just because I’m almost all grown up, right?

It’s kind of like work life balance. It doesn’t exist. It’s just life balance. Well, sometimes there isn’t a black and white when it comes to personal and professional. If there was, I don’t think I’d like myself very much as a “professional”. I mean, look at me now – I’m blogging about my work life on a Saturday night while my son is singing a song that apparently has a line in it that goes “Where is Daddy? Where is Daddy?”

 

14 Years of Finding Strengths

The first time I ever took the StrengthsFinder assessment, I was working in a high volume contact center for a Fortune 500 company. It was the second job I’d had after moving to Minnesota in 2002, so I was feeling like kind of a big shot working for a company that was five times the size of my hometown. (I don’t even know.) The requirement of answering your phone after no more than two rings has been ingrained into my soul forever and I’m not mad about it.

I really wish I had those full results. I know our managers printed out all five of them for our cubicles, but I don’t ever remember going over them or knowing why we were doing it. I only remember one of my strengths: WOO. It stands for “winning others over”. It makes sense, right? I’m in my early 20s, fresh to a new state and a new company, and really only knowing about three people. I’mma woo the hell out of some people.

In either 2012 or 2013, I took it again. In my personal life, I was well into dating the person I would eventually marry and had managed to build up a pretty incredible group of friends. I was much more comfortable in my own skin, had more confidence in myself and had a better idea of what grown up life was about. Professionally, I was in my first HR job, working as a recruiter for a small staffing agency, where I’d started back in 2008. I was working 50+ hours per week and the culture was like riding a janky wooden roller coaster that could have fallen apart at any given time. But I loved what I was doing. All of that yielded these results, with my interpretation, of course. (Now, it’s no Buzzfeed quiz that tells me what type of tropical fruit I am based on the number of Kenny G songs I can identify in the first four bars, but stick with me.)

At this point in my career/life, these were my strengths: Activator, Command, Competition, Individualization, and Learner. Based on where I was both personally and professionally, I’d say it was pretty accurate!  I had a lot of metrics to knock out of the water, lots of things were time sensitive and it was a straight-up aggressive job where if you didn’t fill a position someone else was and you had to explain why.

I had to fill jobs and I had to fill them fast. I couldn’t quite grasp when people didn’t either didn’t want to or couldn’t do the same. Part of my job was putting together the puzzle of the right candidate for the right job and the evidence to that wasn’t often paper, so I had to know people – what they’d done, how that could match up to what we needed them to do in a job, where they’re at in their head when they go work each day. A resume wasn’t enough for that job (nor is it ever really…) and that’s where all the learning came into play. I had to at least understand things like polymer engineering, three way matching in the accounting field, and how pee samples were handled in the lab from start to finish. (I even made up a song about recruiting for that last position. I wouldn’t call it one of my greatest hits.)

My strengths in 2017 switched up a bit to: Activator, Developer, Maximizer, Communication, and Harmony. My personal life included being married for almost four years and having a two year old. My professional life was much different, too. I’m in a HR position that involves a lot more than just recruiting. I’m in a leadership position. I’m working for a company whose culture is consistently amazing and led with transparency and authenticity from the top down. I feel appreciated when I come to work every day and I feel like I make an impact every single one of those days.

I do hate conflict, but I also really love a healthy debate. If I don’t agree with you, it doesn’t mean I have to be right.  It means that I want to understand better. I’m not super into the whole sitting around the campfire, holding hands while we all agree about everything. That’s boring. The communication strength is also supposed to be something where you enjoy hosting or speaking in public, and noooooooo. I like to get shit done. I set my own standards high and sometimes that’s not a good thing, because not everyone does that. And that’s okay. I’m not surprised that my activator-like tendencies have remained consistent. I feel like it’s the most accurate of all five, especially when you consider that doesn’t always mean I’ll see it through to the end once it’s up and running. Area of improvement for this HR pro. No sense in hiding that! I think being in my HR role, often as a coach or someone to offer guidance, is what brings those developer and maximizer strengths to the top of the list, too.

Sometimes (okay, all the time), I wonder if this is similar to the whole chicken and the egg thing. I feel pretty confident saying my current position in my current company, where I feel like there’s a career path in place for me, are responsible for highlighting my current strengths to the top of the list. I’m fascinated with this type of thing and want to try to remind myself to take it every few years to see where things have changed. I can’t imagine you’re born with your strengths already picked out for you. Life hands you things and you get stronger from them… or so I hear!

Do you dig these kind of things? Are your strengths so far off that they make you laugh or so dang accurate that you’re a tiny bit scared? And I’m totally cool if you think it’s a giant pile of crap, too! I mean, after all, I’m all about harmony apparently.

 

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.