On Thursday, March 23rd, the SHR center students embarked on their first ever center trek to Chicago, Illinois for two days of company visits, learning, and team bonding! We departed Thursday morning and arrived at our first stop, Claire’s Inc., that afternoon. We were welcomed by alumnae Jordana Kammerud (’00), CHRO and Head of Strategy and Transformation, and her team. She presented to us the company’s strategy both from the business as well as people and culture sides. We heard about the transformation of Claire’s over the many different phases of its history. The best part of our tour was seeing the model mall, with all the different store designs and products. We even got to take some swag home with us!
Next, we headed to Accenture where we were greeted by Nick Suckle, Innovation Consultant, who gave us a tour of the Innovation Lab, where we saw the cool technology they were working on. Then, Managing Directors Gerarda Van Kirk and Shawn Snow led a discussion about their findings and understanding of different trends in human resources. It was so interesting to hear about different HR challenges and how Accenture has been able to consult for so many different companies and propose lasting solutions to these challenges we are facing. We ended the day with a cohort dinner debrief at Maggiano’s Little Italy, which was a delicious spot in the River North neighborhood. It was a great opportunity to catch up with one another, get to know one another more deeply, and debrief about the day.
The next morning we were up bright and early. Our first session was an industry panel at the hotel in which we were joined by our fellow badgers in the Master of Science-Business Analytics program. The panel was made up of Nadine Merheb, Sr. Manager of Data Strategy and Analytics for Chicago Bulls; Devon Johnson, Sr. Manager Life Sciences Practice, Deloitte; Matt Schmidt, Sr. Consultant, Human Capital Practice, Deloitte; and Patrick Connor, Director of Alliance Operations and Decision Sciences, United Airlines. During this panel, we learned about business analytics and how each of our panelists used data to improve their business and make informed and strategic decisions. It was exciting to hear that the technical skills we are building in our MBA program would add real value to the work we would soon be doing in our internships or full-time jobs.
After that, we headed to LaSalle Network where we met Laura Bellis, Senior Relationship Manager, and Katie Struve Binswanger, Campus Recruiting Manager. We toured their facilities and heard about how their staffing and recruitment firm was instrumental in helping many businesses and people find the right fit. I was most impressed with their giant wall of awards showing their dedication and commitment to excellence. Then we had lunch at Rivers Restaurant with industry professionals including Erich Kurshat Founder, HR Hot Seat; Paul LaLonde, Vice President of People & Culture, CEDA; and Jerry Spearman, VP, Leadership and Development Program Manager, Fifth Third Bank. We had a delicious lunch while networking and connecting with these professionals who gave invaluable advice as we begin our journeys as HR professionals.
1WorldSync was our next destination, where we met Eileen Timmins, CHRO; Katherine Glesser, HRM; and Johnny Pliego, HR & Facilities Specialist. Here we discussed a global approach to HR and learned the challenges and strategies behind managing HR in several different countries. My favorite part was touring their beautiful office overlooking the river.
Our last stop was at Lyric Opera House where we were greeted by Jennifer E. Boyd, VP of People and Culture; Anthony Freud, General Director, President, and CEO; Jon Siner, Senior Director of Gift Planning; and Camilla Fernandez, Talent Management Coordinator. Here we learned about their unique perspective on HR and their commitment to Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access. It was so interesting to hear about HR from the perspective of a performing arts business and the unique challenges they manage. We ended the visit with a tour of the historic and beautiful Opera House, a perfect way to end the day.
Overall, the trip was a success and I was so grateful to have this opportunity to connect with my fellow SHR students, network with industry professionals, and dive deeper into learning about current HR topics. The conversations we had over these two days will surely guide the beginnings of my own HR career and beyond. It was incredibly valuable and motivating to hear about the real-world challenges and projects these companies and professionals are working on, and to consider what strategies and tools I can bring into my own future HR career.
Thank you to the companies who welcomed us with open arms, the faculty and staff involved in making this trip happen, and to my fellow SHR students for continuing to fuel my learning experience each and every day. After this trek, I know we are more motivated and excited than ever to begin our journeys as HR professionals.