Alumni from Google, Deloitte, HP, Bridgestone and P&G introduce the HR field to Owen students.

It’s never too early for first-year MBAs at Owen to begin their internship searches, but the sense of urgency often depends on one’s preferred approach and interest. The opportunities present themselves early and often — career fairs sponsored by organizations like National Black MBA Association and Prospanica let students network and interview with hundreds of companies just a few weeks after classes start (or, in the case of Forte, a few weeks before). Those looking to get ahead of recruiting cycles can also begin tapping into Owen’s vast alumni network to learn more about industries, companies, and potential internship openings.

However, with their heavy recruiting seasons several weeks away, most students can prioritize coursework, social calendars, and career evaluation as they re-acclimate themselves to academic life, build new friendships, and consider career options.

Unless they’re considering a career in Human Resources.

HR recruiters arrive on campus as early as September and begin interviewing in October. Students interested in the Human and Organizational Performance (HOP) track need to prepare early for a deluge of information sessions, networking happy hours, and interviews.

Heather Webb (MBA’07) chats with students

To help students acclimate quickly, the HOP Association kicks off the school year with an annual symposium designed to bring students a professional-level view of the career tracks within HR, an overview of the recruiting process, and an opportunity to meet alumni working at target companies.

This year’s event, held last Friday, underscored the diversity of roles in HR as well as the impact that Vanderbilt graduates have had on the profession. Alumni from Google, Procter & Gamble, Deloitte, HP, and Bridgestone offered students an insider’s perspective on their careers and the opportunities and challenges surrounding them.

“It was fun to see alumni from Google, Deloitte, HP, Bridgestone and P&G introduce the HR field to our Owen students. There’s so much to be learned in the classroom at Owen, but the real-world advice from our alums is invaluable.” – Katherine Calvert (MBA’18)

“It was fun to see alumni from Google, Deloitte, HP, Bridgestone and P&G introduce the HR field to our Owen students,” said Katherine Calvert (MBA ’18), President of the HOP Association. “There’s so much to be learned in the classroom at Owen, but the real-world advice from our alums is invaluable.”

THE SPEAKERS

Stephanie Levitt

As a manager in Deloitte’s Human Capital Organization Transformation & Talent practice, Stephanie Levitt has led change management efforts for multiple global clients. She spoke with frank enthusiasm about the highs and lows of being a consultant. “I’m very stimulated by the problems I get to solve everyday, but one of the big challenges is lifestyle,” she said, describing weeks where she visits 5 cities in 4 days. “Some weeks I want to pull my hair out, but last week I was in Chicago at a workshop that was so meaty and interesting that I left exhausted but energized.”

Janet Nelson (MBA’07)

Janet Nelson (MBA’07), Senior HR Manager at P&G, spoke at length about her path in Corporate HR, and the attractive levels of autonomy and collaboration that her position offers. “My boss has been so busy meeting partners, he expects me to run things,” she said. “But I also need to be collaborative, because I need people to buy into my proposals.”

Dan George (MBA’14)

A former consultant, Dan George (MBA’14) took a position in workforce analytics and strategic planning after graduating from Owen. After seven years of consulting, he got “burned out” from consulting (“when I got to Owen, I was happy to stay in one place for more than a few weeks at a time”) but he enjoyed the experience (“the fast-paced lifestyle is really fun.”) He spoke at length about the impact of analytics in HR, from reporting to predictive modeling, and demonstrated the tools he uses daily to assess information and present to teammates.

Google HR Manager Heather Webb (MBA’07) and HP HR Business Partner Kaye Luenprakansit (MBA’15) talked specifically about HR in the technology sector. They spoke about the rapid pace of progress and change at their companies, but both noted that keys to success in Corporate HR at Google and HP aren’t markedly different from corporations in any other sector. “All companies are looking for dynamic people who are good communicators and good with data,” Luenprakansit said.

THE TAKEAWAYS

Data proficiency is an expectation, not a nice-to-have. Every panelist, spanning positions in Corporate HR, Human Capital Consulting, and Workforce Analytics, spoke to the importance of data in their work. “Reports are being delivered, and we receive education on how to create reports,” added Nelson. “I have to use the (data analytics) systems to get the most out of them. The language of business is dollars and cents, so you need the numbers.”

“At Deloitte, it’s understood that you have to be data fluent,” said Levitt. “All Human Capital consultants are responsible for building reports that are truly measurable and tangible…that’s table stakes.”

Kaye Luenprakansit (MBA’15)

Know your audience. Luenprakansit and Webb spoke to the importance of understanding the roles, responsibilities, and even language of the employees HR partners work with. “Anytime I take on a new client group, I spend as much time shadowing as possible,” Webb said. “It’s not necessary to be ‘techie’ (to work at a technical organization), but it’s very helpful to learn the language your partners speak,” added Luenprakansit.

Webb made a good point about the impact that an appreciation and understanding of a company’s employees can have on the job search: “If you’re going to be a client partner and work with executives, think about the type of employees you want to work with. Are you interested in technology? If not, you may not like working with those who are.”