I Know What You Did Last Summer

Exactly one year ago, I remember sitting in Gerlach Hall room 265 listening to returning 2nd year Master of Human Resource Management students talk about their experiences with summer internships. One comment from a classmate and future friend of mine, Shane, stood out to me as particularly memorable. He said, “you won’t believe it now, but next summer will change you.”

Just as instructed, I didn’t believe him. I remember thinking to myself I already have work experience. I already know myself—this is just another job. I didn’t consider at the time that this would be a summer of firsts—my first experience working in corporate America; my first time working in an HR department; my first time regularly interacting with directors, VPs, and senior level executives; and my first time having the opportunity to make a significant impact on a large organization.

Well, of course I was wrong, and he was right (but you already saw that coming). I admit it now– here on the internet, where it will live forever:

Shane, you were rightthis summer changed me.

Wendy’s may be the home of old-fashioned hamburgers, but check out that modern corporate office.

I was fortunate enough to spend the summer here in Columbus with Wendy’s at the Dublin Restaurant Support Center. I interned on the HR Generalist team under an incredible supervisor who also happened to be an alumni of the Fisher MHRM Program. I like to say that I spent the summer championing “the employee experience.”

Tactically, I had two main projects: the first focused on internal mobility and the second on our onboarding process, but the thread that tied them both together—and the lens through which I was approaching them—was the employee experience. How do employees move through our processes? Do they feel connected to our values and our customers? Do they come home after their first day energized and excited? Are they inspired? Do they feel that the company is investing in their successes? And how do we ensure that every employee has a positive and meaningful experience as part of the Wendy’s family? These are some of the questions I found myself asking this summer.

I think my biggest “takeaway” from my summer at Wendy’s was learning that HR is both a science and an art. Allow me to explain.

In HR, we do one of two things (and oftentimes, we do both):

We create tools, systems, and processes to enhance the employee experience.

Exhibit A: Here we see science happening.

It is our role in HR to use our functional knowledge and expertise to help people do their best work and to build the most effective teams possible to accomplish the organization’s objectives. We design performance management systems, compensation packages, training programs, and learning frameworks to motivate, incentivize, and develop employees.

And then…

We empower managers to use them.

This is the “art” part.

One of the most critical functions as HR professionals (generalists, in particular) is empowering managers to manage. We give them these tools, the guidance, the skills, and hopefully some confidence, and then they transform these raw materials into success on their teams. We coach them toward productive conversations, we challenge them to challenge their employees, and then we let our managers manage.

In other words, we create the conditions for people to succeed.

What a powerful, yet humbling position to be in. We are influencers, advocates, champions, and often times, the “ethical heartbeat” (credit to MHRM Professor John Schaffner for that phrase) of the organization. I feel particularly fortunate to have witnessed each of these roles in action this summer at Wendy’s, and I can’t wait to share what I’ve learned with my classmates and professors this coming year.

The Frostys didn’t hurt either.

Reflecting on MHRM – Year One

What a year it’s been!

For those of us who took time between undergrad and grad school, the idea of coming back for another couple laps on this track of academia can seem pretty daunting. I know it did for me. The year was full of “firsts,” but also full of “agains,” since moving back to my home city and revisiting all the familiar people, places, and things that I left behind in 2014. In the spirit of reminiscing, I thought I would catalog my favorite moments from the past year in pictures.

Before the Michigan game. Easily the most memorable of the season, and arguably one of the best games of all time. Derek has a no-shoes rule, which is why we’re all wearing socks.

 

Fisher Scavenger Hunt/Bar Crawl with, You know, some Pokemon.

 

Pre-Fisher Halloween bash with my favorite bird of paradise? (Katie, please confirm your costume)

 

Internal Case Competition sponsored by Pepsico. An opportunity for us to dress up, match outfits, and win.
A fancy evening at the Fisher Follies auction! We clean up well, don’t we?

 

My beloved external case competition team. This is a ride-or-die friendship right here, and a win that we’ll never forget.
Getting’ fancy again (and silly) for Fisher Formal.

 

Pedal Wagon shenanigans in the Short North arts district for a double-MHRM birthday! Happy Birthday, Kate and Matt! You’l notice everyone was required to wear a hat to ride.
Honored to have a photo with the Dean (and my best MHRM buddy Chris Schoo) on Donor Day. Thanks Fisher donors, for making our experience the most stellar possible.

Overall, I have to say this year was one of friendship, challenge, and growth. The Fisher MHRM program has to be one of the best decisions I’ve made for myself in my adult life, and I am so excited for what the 2nd year has in store.

In the meantime, I’d like to wish all the best to the 2nd year “MHRMs” who will graduate this Sunday– as they launch into their careers as HR professionals! I can’t wait until our paths cross again. Until then, I’ll miss you all!!!

Signing off

-Jen

Student Perks: D-Tix

Of the many perks available to Ohio State students, I think one of the neatest and least advertised is D-Tix (abbreviation for “discount tickets”). Through OSU’s vast network of community partnerships, the school is able to offer general discounts and discounted tickets to special events through an online lottery system. Everything from Hocking Hills zipline tours, passes to the Columbus Zoo, and gift cards to local restaurants may be available at any given time on D-Tix.

The website is set up similar to Groupon, but with a lottery component. Undergraduate, graduate, and professional students can enter the lottery for any particular event they are interested in, and if selected they pay a discounted price for the tickets (anywhere from 25-50% less than face value).

Obviously, the popularity of the event determines the probability of being selected. The recent John Mayer concert at the Schottenstein Center was quite popular (by the way, Chance the Rapper will also be performing there next month), but for other lower-key entries (gift certificates to local restaurants, for one example) students have a relatively high chance of being selected. Also worth noting—for any unclaimed tickets, they are sold first-come, first-served at the Ohio Union.

One of the benefits of attending a large, public institution like Ohio State is that perks like D-Tix come at a very small cost to each student and are included in the student activity fee (hello, economies of scale!). Let us also not forget the general student discounts afforded to students at various establishments around the city by simply presenting your BuckID. I am grateful that we’re able to enjoy so much of the city, even on a student budget!

Glory to Columbus!

As a Columbus native, I celebrate just about everything unique to this fine city. However, one aspect I feel I’ve neglected during my 26 years of life and love for Columbus is the Crew team. Columbus has an MLS soccer (or football, for the purists) team smack dab it its own backyard–literally a 20-minute walk from campus.

This past Saturday I attended my first game in 6 years, and man how I’d missed it. We played the Portland Timbers (I lived in Oregon the last two years, so this was an uncomfortable limbo for me to exist in. But come on, we all know where my loyalty lies.) As is typical in soccer, we were tied up for most of the match. But as expected, the Crew scored in the final few minutes to pull out the win.

“All we do is win.”

The Crew team has some of the most fiercely loyal fans in the entire MLS, I’m convinced. Led by fearless leader (and brand ambassador, and retired Crew player) Frankie Hejduk, they have conceived a parody of nearly every popular and unpopular song, eloquently replacing the words with some crew-related lingo (hint: “you” and “Crew” rhyme, so that really opens up a lot of possibilities). You’ll find the lyrics to a few of my favorites below:

Frankie Hejduk has not missed an entire Crew game since he retired. I cannot confirm this is true, but it is how I feel based purely on his team spirit. Just look at him.

500 Miles (The Proclaimers)

I would walk 500 Miles
And I would walk 500 more
Just to be the fan who walked a thousand miles
To fall down at Crew’s door
Call: COLUMBUS
Response: COLUMBUS
Call: COLUMBUS
Response: COLUMBUS
Da lat da (Da lat da), da lat da (Da lat da)

Yellow Soccer Team (Yellow Submarine – The Beatles)

We all Cheer for the Yellow Soccer Team,
The Yellow Soccer Team,
The Yellow Soccer Team,
We all Cheer for the Yellow Soccer Team,
The Yellow Soccer Team,
The Yellow Soccer Team

(repeat, forever)

You Got What I Need (Just a Friend – Biz Markie)

Oh baby Crew
You got what I need
And it’s never going to end
And it’s never going to end

All in all, I feel lucky to be a part of a city with a variety of activities to do on the weekends. I wouldn’t consider myself a die-hard sports fan, but it is fun to always have the option to go to a Columbus Clippers (baseball), Blue Jackets (hockey), or Crew game when the mood strikes. And, I feel fortunate to have a MHRM “Crew” of my own to accompany me.

“Go Sports!” -the MHRMs

MHRM External Case Competition – What a Weekend!

All you loyal blog followers might recall my post about the OSU MHRM Internal Case Competition way back in November. Well this past weekend, three of my classmates and I had the honor of representing the Fisher College of Business at the annual MHRM External Case Competition against Human Resources master’s students from 7 other schools—Cornell University, University of Minnesota, University of South Carolina, Texas A&M, University of Illinois, Rutgers University, and West Virginia University. Fisher hosted at The Blackwell Hotel, and the event was sponsored by PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay Division. It was a strenuous and rewarding few days. I’ll share some highlights below!

  • The case: The case was unique in that it had a relatively narrow focus. Parameters like this can sometimes make it difficult to get creative. Personally, I think the goal is always to find the intersection between simplicity and cleverness. Being creative with existing resources presents its unique challenges, and is far more difficult than imagineering a lofty, ethereal idea. I also think the former approach is more impressive when done well.
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Strange snack combinations: another example of being creative with existing resources.
  • The chemistry: I truly could not have imagined better team chemistry. The weekend was a magical mixture of hard work, dad jokes, and Shia LaBeouf Youtube videos. We all brought different strengths and each of us contributed to the end product in a unique way. You could really tell that we were all crazy about the idea we were presenting, and we respected one another throughout the entire process. It really was the definition of synergy.

16 hours in a conference room really bonds you.

  • The presentation: Our brilliant coach Marc Ankerman challenged us to take a seamless approach to presenting, which is more organic and adaptive than traditional presenting. The presentation itself felt more like a conversation than a formal pitch. Nailing this style is more difficult to execute because the presentation tends to look slightly different each time, and you have to be prepared to talk about any piece of the presentation on the fly. Challenge accepted.

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  • The win: I am proud to say our 16 hours of prep on Friday paid off! It’s such an honor to be able to bring home the win for a school and program I adore. We also had a ton of support that day from faculty, staff, classmates, and friends that came to watch and hug us after it was over. What a cool thing.

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I also had the opportunity to meet and mingle with the other teams. I’m about as extroverted as it gets, and I love hearing other people’s stories and experiences. I hope to keep in touch. After all, we’re really all on the same team when it really comes down to it.

 

Where should I live?

Many people don’t realize that Columbus, Ohio, is the 15th-largest city in the United States with nearly a million people living in and around the metropolitan area. With big cities come LOTS of options, particularly, lots of housing options.

As a Columbus native and having attended undergrad at Ohio State, I’ve lived in many distinct areas around the city including Upper Arlington, Victorian Village/Short North, Old North, and Central Campus. Currently I’m living in Old North Columbus, which is just north of Ohio State’s campus. It is by far my favorite area I’ve lived in. Now I’m going to tell you why.

The Old North is located just north of Lane Avenue on the edge of campus, and extends up until where Clintonville begins further north. Cost of housing here is some of the least expensive in the Columbus area. Most of the houses in the area were built in the 1920s and have a lot of personality. Front porches and backyard space is common, and off-street parking is abundant.

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Old North Arcade is a bar+arcade combo located in Old North. They do a mean trivia night on Mondays and you’re likely to catch a team of MHRMs (“merms”) in the lead.

The Old North tends to be an area where Ohio State students move when they’ve had just about enough of the somewhat more raucous atmosphere that is more common on central campus. The Old North “scene” is a bit dive-y in that the restaurants and bars themselves are older, as is the crowd that frequents them. This area tends to attract young people in their mid- to late-20s and early 30s, resulting in a fun, eclectic, laid-back vibe. The area tends to be more bustling than Grandview or Upper Arlington. I personally think it’s a really accessible, no-frills area for people that still want to be connected to the social scene of Columbus, but don’t necessarily want to be living in the middle of it.

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An Old North favorite: The Blue Danube is a popular restaurant with incredible, cheap nightly specials and they serve breakfast all day. “The Dube Special” is a bottle of Dom Perignon champagne and two grilled cheeses for $160. I’ve never seen anyone order it, and it is a bucket-list item for me.

I know from my experience in moving to other cities that housing complexes can be appealing in that you know exactly what to expect and you don’t have to worry about finding roommate. My one piece of advice for anyone coming from far away is to consider looking for a month-to-month housing option for when you first arrive. Then as you explore and acclimate to Columbus a bit more (and meet classmates who could be potential roommates) you’ll know better what area you might want to be in longer-term (for the next year or two of your life—or longer… Columbus tends to have a magnetic effect and it is difficult to leave).

I have heard from some of my classmates that they wished they had done more research, because the area they are living in is not necessarily where they spend most of their time, and they would like to be closer to the Short North, Old North, Grandview—wherever it may be. A great resource for locating housing aside from some of the bigger, more advertised complexes is the Off-Campus Housing website. You can search for available housing with filters for # of bedrooms, pets allowed or not, and other amenities. I’ve found some stellar places through this website and would highly recommend.

Evening Classes?!

One of the unique aspects that differentiates the MHRM program from the other full-time grad programs at the Fisher College of Business and many other Master’s-level HR programs is that classes are held almost exclusively in the evenings. I have to be honest here—this was a big reservation of mine when I was considering the program. I wasn’t sure that I would be able to adapt my lifestyle to accommodate that sort of schedule—I was sure I wouldn’t be able to concentrate as well at night and I was worried that the schedule would cut into my hobbies (I’m a big fan of live music, trivia night, and happy hours).

I challenged myself to see the forest beyond the trees and keep an open mind about the class schedule. It would require a little “schedule Tetris” on my part, but I knew the program was an investment in my future—and something that I could justify making some lifestyle changes for. Here’s what a typical day in Jen’s life looks like since beginning the MHRM program:

8 AM             Wake up (okay, my alarm goes off at 8:00, 8:15, 8:30, and                                8:45, so, let’s call it 8:45 in the spirit of full transparency)

10 AM           Work-out

11 AM            Read for class/eat lunch (each class’s reading typically fits                                into a two-hour timeframe for me)

1 PM              Go to work

5 PM              Dinner (*options, see below)

6:15-9:30     Class

9:30 PM        Relax at home/socialize with friends

1) Make dinner in advance and bring it from home: this is a popular option for those who plan their meals in advance. I am not one of these people.

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I mean, I really wish I was one of those people.

2) Bring a Lean Cuisine or other frozen meal: When I have them in the freezer, I absolutely opt for this option. Quick and easy– and we have three microwaves in the graduate student lounge so that makes things very convenient.

Microwave station. (Also, that is a coffee machine next door)
Microwave station. (also, that is a coffee machine next door)

3) Order food: Sometimes I wait until the last minute to figure dinner out. It works because of technology. Jimmy John’s delivers “freaky fast,” Panera is within walking distance, and UberEats caters to a wide variety of tastes.

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Deliciousness delivered right to your classroom door. (Disclaimer: I do not actually recommend delivering directly to your classroom; the front door of Gerlach Hall is a safe bet, however)

I quickly realized that with a little pre-planning and self-discipline, I would still be able to fit everything in without compromise. The other important note here is that some of my classmates have turned out to be my best friends, so we can hold one another accountable to a) get our school work done and b) make certain we are finding a balance between work and play.

Sincerely, “Always Late”

Let me preface by saying I am the queen of biting off more than I can chew. I think it comes from the fact that I am a “Type 7 Enthusiast” according to the Enneagram personality assessment. In short, that means I am “extroverted, optimistic, versatile, and spontaneous. Playful, high-spirited, and practical, they can also misapply their many talents, becoming over-extended, scattered, and undisciplined.”

With this in mind, I made only one resolution for this year:

Be on time.

As you might suspect from the description above, I am the type of person who was supposed to be somewhere five minutes ago and still whole-heartedly believes she has enough time to make and consume a panini.

I don’t typically struggle with this with regard to “formal” obligations—class, work, appointments, etc. When it comes to social engagements, however, my punctuality is absolutely abysmal.

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I had this realization after arriving nearly 30 minutes late to lunch with a friend. When trying to coordinate arrival time, I asked him if he was “one of those people who says they’ll be there in 10 minutes when they really mean 25.” He vehemently denied it. When I arrived, he told me I was exactly 25 minutes late.

Although I don’t consciously hold the belief that my time is more valuable than anyone else’s, I do believe that routinely arriving late sends a certain self-important message. I don’t want to be that person.

What’s the plan for my punctuality reboot, you ask? Wake up earlier and set an alarm deadline for me to be in the car and on my way. No last-minute paninis. I think the conscious awareness around how others could perceive my lateness as disrespectful is also helpful. I care about these people who I’ve made plans with, and I should show it. It’s also fantastic practice for the fast-paced world of business where deadlines and commitments are expected to be honored.

So, new year, new me.

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So far we’re doing pretty well. And, if anyone has any tips & tricks for this type of endeavor, I welcome them in the comments!

So You’re Stuck in Columbus Over Winter Break?

Well, get excited.

As many of my MHRM classmates wrap up finals and find their way back home via some combination of planes, trains, and/or automobiles, I am proud to say I’ll be staying in Columbus for the duration of winter break. Having lived in Oregon the past two years, most of my vacation time off work was spent traveling back home to Columbus (it took no fewer than 3 planes and a full day of travel each way). So, suffice to say I am happy to be able to hunker down and enjoy the next few weeks of break enjoying the holidays in this wonderful city. Here are a few of my favorite things to do during the holiday season (and colder months in general):

  1. Dollar Grilled Cheese Night at Bodega: That’s right. A hip little bar nestled in the Short North Arts District offers $1 Grilled Cheese on Mondays ALL NIGHT LONG. Come on. Who doesn’t love to warm up with a grilled cheese and bowl of tomato soup on a cold Monday night?
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nom nom nom

2. Wildlights at Columbus Zoo & Aquarium: The Columbus Zoo is already remarked as one of the best in the country. What makes it better? Gazillions of twinkling lights. My favorite moment this year was seeing a tiger family all cuddled up together in a big ball of fur to keep warm. If it weren’t for the signs (nevermind the obvious fear for my life), I would have climbed right in there with them.

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3. Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival: This was a first for me this year. Hundreds of elaborate lanterns handmade by Chinese artisans in Zigong, China are on display the entire month of December at the Ohio fairgrounds. There’s also a variety show at peak times, including mask-changing, bowl-flipping, jar-balancing, and acrobatic martial arts. The music in the background was an eclectic mix of electronic and jazz, and it was truly spectacular.

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This was my favorite display. Look how happy those little bees are.

4. Christmas Lights at Collin’s House: This is a funny story. As a kid growing up in Upper Arlington (just 5 minutes from OSU campus) my parents always drove my sister and me around in our pajamas to see the Christmas lights at least once a season (more if we begged, which we did). There was one house that always stood out among the rest, and the cars literally lined up in front of it every night so whiny kids like me could see the ridiculously elaborate display of Christmas lights. Fast forward 20.5 years to last August: on one of my first days in the MHRM program, I met someone named Collin who was also from UA. I asked him where, exactly, he grew up, and he said “I live in the house with the ridiculously elaborate display of Christmas lights.” My jaw dropped, and it was at that exact moment I knew we were destined to be friends.

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A snapchat from Collin himself. Like I said, cars literally line up in front of his house. He’s pretty much a celebrity.

5. The Nutcracker Ballet: At the Ohio Theater each year, Ballet Met puts on a spectacular performance of the Nutcracker. I missed it the last two years while living away, and I am really excited for it this year. For some reason, it just makes the holiday season feel complete.

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Gratitude Practiced Daily Becomes Habit

With the Thanksgiving holiday recently behind us, I’m trying to make more of a conscious effort to take time each day to reflect on things in my life I’m grateful for. This is something that we did with the clients each night at the residential treatment program I previously worked at, but it’s the first time I’m taking a stab at incorporating it into my own life.

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The reason, you ask? Here’s a logical one: Professor Will Shepherd recently cited a “Ted Talk” in which psychologist Shawn Achor argues that the formula most people use to govern their lives: hard work leads to success which leads to happiness, is inherently backwards. Research suggests that happier brains are more creative and productive than those individuals with negative self-talk. So, we ought to be thinking: how can we be happier and more fulfilled, leading us to achieve a higher level of success and productivity in our lives, leading to a higher level of happiness and fulfillment? And the cycle continues.

At the end of the 12-minute presentation (and I encourage you to watch the whole thing, especially if you’re a psychology nerd like me), Achor offers some suggestions for how this can feasibly be done. For 21 days in a row, consciously acknowledge and write down (that part is important) 3 events, things, or people, you interacted with or participated in that you are grateful for. How does it work? In simplest terms, given that our brains are plastic, we are able to reprogram our thinking by simply practicing thinking in certain different ways. By acknowledging gratitude, your brain actually rewires itself to scan the world for the positive.

So, here are 3 things I am thankful for today:

  • My work unit. I share an office with 4 of the kindest, wittiest, and well-informed individuals. I am constantly impressed by their positive outlook on the world and how they can take any mundane task and make it fun.
  • My job. I am biased, but I think I have one of the most rewarding graduate assistantships around. I get to talk about a program, university, and city I love every single day.
  • My friend, Tony. Tony works with me in the GPO (also a blogger here) and has become one of my closest confidants in the program. He is so open-minded and always challenges me in my thinking when I most need it. He’s always looking out for me and my best interests. Tony rocks.

This exercise is already helping me put things in perspective as classes ramp up around the end of the semester when projects are due and exams are scheduled. I encourage everyone to take time each day to be grateful. Do it for yourself!