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Navigating Change: Pivoting from Engineering to Human Resources

By Prachi Garg

December 12, 2023

Prachi Garg

Embarking on a journey from the technical corridors of Infosys in India to pursuing a Master of Business Administration with a specialization in Strategic Human Resource Management at the Wisconsin School of Business in the United States might seem like a radical shift. Yet, for me, it was a calculated move fueled by a desire for more meaningful work and a passion for advocating for others in a professional setting. My foray into the world of Information Technology began with a bachelor’s degree from the College of Engineering Roorkee in India. For over two years, I thrived as a System Engineer at Infosys, reveling in the challenges that the tech realm presented. However, a growing dissatisfaction with the HR practices and leadership at Infosys prompted me to explore a new path.

The revelation came when I realized that many of my peers felt similarly disillusioned with the corporate culture prevalent in most multinational companies. The lack of employee focus, coupled with ineffective HR departments and a dearth of genuine leadership, led me to question the status quo. A pivotal moment occurred when I sought support from my HR department and was met with surprising indifference. It became clear that there was a need for advocates who genuinely cared about the well-being of employees.

Motivated by this realization, I made the life-altering decision to pursue a career in Human Resources. The daunting task of preparing for standardized tests, the emotional rollercoaster of applying to programs, and the anticipation of potential rejections tested my resilience. Fortunately, luck favored me. I secured admission to the Wisconsin School of Business, a place I had envisioned as the perfect setting for my academic pursuits. The SHRM specialization at WSB, ranking 8th nationwide, promised a rigorous and enlightening educational experience.

Adapting to a new culture and navigating the intricacies of academia in a foreign country were initial challenges. However, every hurdle became a steppingstone towards personal and professional growth. My mantra during times of uncertainty was a reminder that these moments of adversity would equip me with invaluable skills—time management, mental resilience, and adaptability—that would serve me well in the future.

As my first semester at Wisconsin School of Business draws to a close, I reflect on the myriad concepts I have absorbed, each laying a foundation for my future endeavors. From delving into the intricacies of financial accounting to understanding the nuances of data-driven societies, my academic journey has been enriching. The marketing class dispelled my self-doubt, proving I possess more skills in the field than I initially believed. The Operations Management class introduced me to the crucial principle, “It’s all about the puts,” emphasizing the significance of effective decision-making. Asset Management, particularly understanding risk free portfolio, tangency portfolio, and market portfolio, has become a vital aspect of my financial literacy.

 A standout experience was the “Leading and Working in Teams” course taught by the excellent professor Dr Laura Lang. This class went beyond traditional learning; it was a transformative experience. Practical insights on team health management, navigating challenging situations, and delivering constructive feedback were invaluable. A unique check-in activity shared by my core teammate Caroline McCloskey, who is an MBA student specializing in Risk Management and Insurance and a dear friend, “Crab or Cupcake,” became a staple in our meetings. This activity gauges the mood of each team member, fostering a positive start to our discussions. The addition of a “Cupcake with Crab Feet” category—indicating a happy yet stressful day—highlighted the camaraderie within our team.

Another highlight of my academic journey was the Human Resource Management class. It is disheartening to realize that misconceptions still exist about the role of HR, with some viewing it as merely organizing parties and picnics. The diverse spectrum of concepts, from recruitment and selection to performance management, evaluation, and labor laws, underscored the strategic importance of HR in any organization. Exploring Americans with disability act, pregnancy discrimination act, and types of discrimination revealed the multifaceted role an HR professional plays. It is not merely about paperwork and policies but about fostering a work environment where individuals thrive. As a future HR leader, these insights are not just theoretical knowledge but a toolkit for creating positive change within organizations.

While my academic journey has been transformative, the support and insights from my core team have been instrumental. Their willingness to answer questions about American culture and their diverse perspectives have enriched my understanding. Learning from each team member has been an education, emphasizing the importance of collaboration and cultural awareness in the ever-evolving global landscape.

In conclusion, my transition from engineering to HR has proven to be both challenging and gratifying. The Wisconsin School of Business has played a pivotal role in fostering an environment conducive to growth and learning, equipping me with the necessary skills for the dynamic challenges that await in the HR domain. It has been a pursuit of passion and a commitment to creating workplaces where individuals are valued and supported, and the challenges faced along the way have only fortified my determination. As I embark on the next phase of my academic and professional journey, I am excited about the positive impact I can make in the field of Human Resources.