Photography by Don Kadair
Position: Chief Operations Officer
Company: HR Solutions
Family: Husband, Chris, and a cat, Pablo
Hometown: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Education: Bachelors in Physics at LSU; Juris Doctor from LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center
What was your first job, how old were you and what was your biggest takeaway from the experience?
I was 18 when I got a job in a lab at the LSU Physics Department. I learned more lessons at this job than I can provide in a small paragraph, but namely that even if you aren’t the smartest person in the room, the willingness to accept new challenges and work very, very hard will pay off and carry you far. In fact, it carried me to Antarctica, but that is another story for another day!
We hear you are an avid rock climber. How did you get into the sport, and what have been your most memorable climbs?
A coworker introduced me to the sport at an indoor gym in Lafayette. I am blessed with more memorable climbs than I can count. When you love rock climbing, they are all memorable in some way. Right now, I am just so excited that Baton Rouge got an indoor climbing gym, Uptown Climbing. Go visit them!
Aside from rock climbing, how do you like to spend your free time?
In terms of hobbies, I am very one dimensional and pretty much just rock climb. I also enjoy running, my family and friends, and in a boring capacity, working. I actually love my job, so it is not boring to me at all, but probably boring to everyone else.
What’s the greatest personal or professional obstacle you’ve had to overcome, and how did you do it?
I lost my father suddenly in graduate school. It was very tough to juggle my own grief, studies and the compulsion to take care of my mom 24/7. I think I got through it with lots of prayers, sheer determination and some of the best friends a person could have.
About a year ago, you were promoted to chief operations officer after having served as director of human resources. What has been the most challenging part of making the transition?
Remembering to look at the bigger picture and how all pieces of the puzzle fit together, rather than the detailed workings of a single department. I now have a lot more overall accountabilities and employees to look out for and take the weight of this very seriously.
What’s a typical day at work like for you, and how do you get it off to a good start?
There is no typical day of work for me and that is what I love so much about it. I get off to a good start by spending time with my husband, Chris, and my cat, Pablo, as well as having lots of coffee. Don’t get me wrong, I have my days, but overall, I just feel blessed to work with a great team and with amazing clients, so the days can’t be all that bad.
You’ve spent your entire career in human resources. What are some of the biggest mistakes companies make in HR and how can they avoid them?
I focus a lot of compliance and just not getting “dinged” for little things that can be costly. A few examples for employers to check: Having a properly completed Form I-9, utilizing E-Verify, and having an updated handbook with harassment policy. Apart from compliance though, another big one is management training and making sure those who are responsible for others understand how to effectively train, coach, counsel and motivate them.
You’re taking me out to a business lunch in the Capital Region. Where are we going and what do you recommend I order?
Anywhere that has good dessert and I recommend ordering two desserts. I know I am supposed to say something fancier than that, but I think a lot of business lunches would be more effective and colloquial if there was cake or pie involved more often.
How do you try to motivate and reward your employees?
This is an area that is so important to me and I seek to learn more and improve in this area every day because our employees are wonderful and what makes everything about our organization tick. A non-exclusive list would be: Communication, being open to ideas and feedback, fun activities, and regularly letting them know I appreciate them with a thank you, gift card and other rewards.
Tell us about your volunteering efforts at THRIVE Academy and what inspires you about the students there.
I was a member of Baton Rouge Leadership class of 2017. We visited the school as one of our educational experiences and I was just so touched by the story and what is being accomplished there. (School founder) Sarah Broome deserves more accolades than anyone in Baton Rouge for her vision, hard work and accomplishments. The class decided to “adopt” THRIVE and we are just getting started with projects there. I am hoping to do more and more as our efforts progress. Next up, a tree planting project on campus.
You’ve been asked to put together a short playlist of five songs at a party. What are we going to hear?
My party songs are probably different than my everyday playlist because at a party, I just want high energy and everyone dancing and having a good time. This is my “disclaimer” on the following:
- “September”—Earth, Wind and Fire
- “Boogie Shoes”—KC and the Sunshine Band
- “P.Y.T.” or “Billie Jean”—or anything “dancy” by Michael Jackson
- “Brick House”—The Commodores
- “I Wish”—Stevie Wonder
Can you name someone who has had a great impact on you as a leader, or someone who has been a mentor to you in your life or career? How have they changed your outlook?
This is another area where I am so blessed to have worked for so many amazing leaders and to have had—and still have—phenomenal mentors. I wish I had a thousand lines to personally recognize them all. The standout though is Tom Besselman. He has not only continued to cultivate in me a desire to work hard and think big, he has rewarded me for doing these things and shown me the value and importance of fostering the same things in my own team, and in just being a kind and caring person day in and day out in all circumstances.
You were a member of the Baton Rouge Area Leadership Class of 2017. What was the greatest takeaway from the experience?
If I have to pick just one, I’d say it’s that we have some amazing people in our community who have dedicated their lives to making Baton Rouge a better place on every level you can think of. If the rest of us just did a small fraction of what these fantastic and dedicated folks are doing, we would see improvement—if not amazing results—in a quicker time frame than anyone can imagine.
What’s the best personal or professional advice you’ve ever been given?
Set goals and work hard (and smart) towards accomplishing them. Also, to not be afraid to think big and try new things and fail sometimes. Finally, just to live life by the “golden rule” and be as kind and understanding to others as possible.
What’s the best vacation you’ve ever taken and where would you like to travel to in the future?
My best vacation is yet to come. My 10 year anniversary at HR Solutions and with my husband is next year. I plan to celebrate in Kalymnos, Greece, which boasts world class rock climbing, as well as gorgeous beaches.