Okay, so I want to backtrack a bit from last week and explain how I even ended up in HR. HR and quality engineering are almost on separate sides of the continuum as far as career fields go.
Shortly after high school, I joined the military. After that, I went to school on the G.I. Bill. I always loved teaching. I was still part of that women’s history where you were encouraged to be a teacher or a nurse; so, I received a lot of support when I decided to be an elementary school teacher.
Through a series of events much too tedious to explain in a blog, I came to Denver from Austin. This was in the late 1980s. To teach school at the time in Colorado, employers were requesting an additional 12 to 18 months of school to do what I already had been doing for three years. Since I was close to finishing my master’s degree in Education this seems like a totally ridiculous request. So, I took a job at a temp firm and decided to finish off my education and reenter the job market as perhaps an assistant principal. Oddly, at the time, it was an easier job to get with my future credentials.
I had a couple of rather simple temp jobs where I mostly answered the phone and ordered croissants for the executive team. When the temp service sent me out they would promise the employer that I was “really really smart and had a degree and everything”. So purportedly, I got the higher-level admin jobs. I met some people and sometimes the responsibilities were easy enough I could study at my job. It was very low stress and seemed perfect for someone who was working on their master’s degree. Even though they were temp jobs, I was often on the same assignment for several weeks at a time.
On my fourth assignment, with the agency, they sent me to be an HR secretary at a psychiatric facility. I explained to the temp firm I knew nothing about HR and wasn’t even technically a secretary – – unless they counted answering the phone and ordering breakfast. But, they felt I could handle the assignment and I was sent anyway.
This HR department of one was being run by a woman who did not seem all that interested in being a director of HR. Monster was in its early stages and she scanned the job boards constantly. It sounded like a miserable job and I was glad that I was just providing clerical support. Then, one day, she literally threw her arms up in the air and walked out mumbling a few curse words.
I was called into the hospital administrator’s office and told I would just have to manage things until they found someone and that he was naming the Interim HR director. I tried to explain that I was just a temp, but he just waved his hands and asked the secretary to get me out of whatever contract I was in. He then proceeded to offer me a salary five times that of an elementary school teacher. He assumed that I would not be in HR secretary if I didn’t know anything about HR, but he was wrong. So, I learned the hard way and changed my master’s program to HR. This was a relatively new degree of the time and so they transferred most of my credits.