Back in April I created a fun series here on my blog where I introduced my network to some amazing HR pros in my network! It was so much fun to highlight a variety of HR professionals in Buffalo which lead to great networking and discussion over on LinkedIn. (: I took May, June and July off, but decided to bring it back. I think we can all agree that we could use more fun, helpful content in our social media feeds that lifts each other up! I am so grateful to the amazing HR Community for showing up for each other and offering information and support during this challenging and unique time. You all are the best! If there’s anything I can help you with, please send me a message on LinkedIn or through the contact me area here on my blog.
Meet Jenn! Jenn will always hold a special place in my heart. She was my first HR Supervisor! I started my career as an HR Intern at Rich Products where Jenn was the Operations Recruiter. She let me do so much and helped me grow so much, way more than I thought I would get out of an internship. I will never forget the day she told me she was recruiting for an engineering role at one of the East Coast manufacturing facilities and she wanted me to do the phone screens with the candidates. I was like… REALLY?! I remember the wave of impostor syndrome and excitement that came over me as I reviewed her phone screen notes form to prepare. And then… I jumped in! I LOVED talking to candidates (big surprise right) and that’s when I knew I would love recruiting. She enjoys being a mentor, as you’ll read about below, and I was so lucky to have her as one of mine. Let’s learn more about Jenn!
My name is Jennifer Duer and I’ve had a long career in the HR field. My first HR job was 23 years ago with the Florida Department of Transportation. I’ve held HR roles in government, food manufacturing, healthcare, and technology. Like most of us, I didn’t plan my career in Human Resources, but sort of fell into it and found I liked working with people and helping my leadership find and nurture their most valuable asset – their employees.
Describe your current position and in what industry do you work
I am currently working as an Administrative Assistant to the Executive Director and Co-owner of a well-respected, local evaluation firm – Via Evaluation, Inc.
How has COVID-19 impacted you the most?
Initially, COVID-19 was like an earthquake far out at sea. I don’t believe anyone saw or was prepared for the tremendous and destructive tidal wave that would follow and who’s subsequent waves will continue to affect our lives and professions for many years to come.
Personally, I was forced to evaluate my priorities. My previous company was purchased and closed at the start of the pandemic, and I was out of work. My three young children were home and struggling through an ever-changing remote school platform. I give teachers so much credit for surmounting the herculean task of moving curriculum to remote all while having to deal with their own family’s needs. My brother, sister and brother in law are all in the medical field. It was an ever evolving and extremely scary time for them as they tried to figure out how to help the ill while staying safe themselves. My parents are elderly and have many health issues that would likely mean a death sentence should they become ill. It fell to my husband and I to ensure they had food, medicine and were safe. Working and my professional career had to take a back seat.
I was so fortunate to have a network of former colleagues that kept an eye out for me and provided a good word on my behalf. My job at VIA was a godsend. I will forever be grateful to Komami and VIA for the opportunity to take on a role that afforded me the ability to enhance my skills by learning new systems, allowed me to refresh my financial skills, and to contribute my knowledge of HR systems and recruiting all while providing me the work/life balance to care for my family.
What are you doing to practice self-care?
Deciding to take the Administrative Assistant role at a solid company with an aligned culture rather than continuing to seek out higher paying roles that may not have been a fit for me during this time or ever was a huge piece to my self-care. Reading and trying to eat well. Enjoying my family and being grateful for their health and safety. Gratitude for what I have now and helping others – that’s what I try to do every day.
What has been your favorite part of your HR career?
Systems that integrate with other systems and allow accurate information to be efficiently captured and used to enhance the performance of the business thrill me to no end. I love mentoring students and those new to HR – sharing my “war stories”, listening and learning from them and seeing them become successful. You can’t beat that! I love recruiting when your hiring managers recognize how important it is to collaborate from the start. If you are lucky to have that dynamic, recruiting is incredibly rewarding.
What is a word of advice or encouragement you’d give to other HR pros?
This too, shall pass. Lol! Remember and remind leadership that we need to be patient, safe and not forget that those names on your employee roster are humans. Understand that as an HR professional, you must be the model for leadership and employees. Your transparency and ethical behavior in your work goes a long way to ensuring the company, its leadership and its employees are too. Employees must be valued, cared for, listened to, taught, honored, and respected.
What can the HR community do to support/help you right now?
Slow down. This is an unprecedented time. We all need to care for each other, figure this craziness out, find that silver lining and learn from this pandemic. I’m not in the paper business and I feel bad for them, but I didn’t think I’d ever see the day when I wasn’t filing paper as an HR person. Guess what? Sliver lining of COVID – we have been forced to truly go paperless. Whoohoo! Let’s celebrate the good stuff!
Share something fun about yourself
I’m a geek at heart. I love Sci-fi, Fantasy and all that stuff. I love working with people smarter than me – engineers, coders, doctors, scientists, PhD’s and listening to them geek out on what they are passionate about. I get that love from growing up with my Dad, a former 40 + year employee and civil engineer at the NYDOT, who would take pictures of round abouts on our family vacations, expound on a bridge’s construction or marvel at Japan’s magnetic trains. Today at VIA, I get to listen to my colleagues geek out on pivot tables, logic modes and their process of figuring out how to translate mountains of data into meaningful information for our clients.