#SHRM22 Recap – Let HR Be Your Safe Space

I recently returned home from #SHRM22 after an action packed five days of learning, connecting, networking, hugging, tweeting, and so much more. It was great to see so many of my #HR friends that I hadn’t seen since 2019. Even though I was a bit under the weather for the duration of the conference (not COVID), I still tried to make the best out of the experience. I attended many great sessions featuring speakers like Steve Browne, Steve Gilliland, Alexander Pullen, Bruce Christopher, Tina-Marie Wohlfield, Johnny C. Taylor, President George W. Bush, Jeff Nally, Claire Petrie, and others. I connected with a few exhibitors like TOOTRIS, Apple One, TicketsAtWork, Paylocity, Paycor, BambooHR, SHRM, Nationwide (Pet) Insurance, and many others. I met a ton of new people, but feel like I will stay connected regularly with about four to six of them; three new connections was my goal! Overall, it was an incredible event.

SHRM Influencers & Friends Dinner at Katie’s Restaurant & Bar in Mid-City

I always like to share my main takeaways after a SHRM conference. Today, I will share my top three takeaways, which was hard to narrow down since there were so many. But first, let me share a little story with you.

This year, my goal was to focus on sessions and speakers that were important to me. As you may recall, the theme of the conference this year was Cause the Effect, and my declaration was that I would Cause the Effect by changing the mindset that people have about HR’s reputation. So I wanted to attend sessions that could help prepare me for doing just that. I wanted to better understand what I could do to show people that HR is human and we care about our people. As a freebie takeaway, Steve Browne said, “if you don’t believe in your people, then get the hell out of HR.” I believe this whole-heartily. We need to put our people first, believe in them, and be a safe place for them to go to. The three statements / takeaways below prove exactly that.

  1. “Be a people first organization.” – Steve Browne
  2. “Psychological safety means that every single employee feels safe enough to speak up in their organization.” – Alexander Pullen
  3. “As HR Professionals, if it is safe for you to be out at work, then be out. It will allow you to be a safe space for others within your organization.” – Jeff Nally
How will you #CauseTheEffect ?

I plan to always put my people first and advocate for them. I also promise to give them a safe place to come to if they need it. I never want anyone in my organization to feel like they don’t belong.

With that being said, I will share one last freebie takeaway and story with you. I believe it was Brian McComak that asked during the session “Welcoming All LGBTQ+ Voices – Through the Four Lenses of Representation” – how many times have you come out during #SHRM22? They used a Menti quiz to poll the audience and the average answer fell between zero and one times; my response was zero.

Now anyone that saw me knows that I was representing with my Pride pins and keychain. They were very subtle attempts that many probably just saw and thought I am an ally. Not many people commented on them and I rarely brought them up. But right before I started writing this blog post, I finished watching the final season of “Love, Victor.” In the last episode, Victor gave some incredible speech about being brave and it really resonated with me. If I want to show people that HR is human and we care about our people, I need to be vulnerable. Those closest to me know that I am not straight, but it is not something I share with everyone. It’s not something that I try to hide, but I’m also not announcing it for the world to know. First of all, I hate labels. And second, I also hate that people have to announce that they are a part of the LGBTQ+ community. However, in this very moment in time, I feel that if I want to make a difference, I need to be my authentic self, and this is me. I am the HR Panda and I am a part of the LGBTQ+ community.

Chew on that, social media.

The HR Panda is Heading to New Orleans!

The 2022 SHRM Annual Conference & Expo in New Orleans is quickly approaching and I am getting super excited! The conference is June 12 – 15 and will be at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. With more than 200 sessions to choose from, there will be something for everyone, no matter where you are in your HR career.

Each year, I like to share my tentative schedule with my readers in case you are trying to figure out what sessions you should attend.


BTW – if you are still on the fence about attending (virtually or in-person) and have yet to register, there is still time! Please visit  https://shrm.co/shrm22-influencer to register now.

So without further ado, my #SHRM22 schedule…

*All times below are in central time zone

Saturday, June 11

I always enjoy registering the day prior to the conference starting. The line is usually much shorter and you don’t have to worry about it the morning of the conference. Registration will be open from 10 AM to 5:30 PM and you will probably find me there somewhere around 11 AM-ish. The SHRMStore will be open at this time as well.

There are quite a few pre-conference gatherings happening on Saturday and Sunday as well. I plan on attending a Happy Hour at Broussard’s at 3 PM on Saturday organized by Ashley Hale from the SHRM 2022 Young Professionals Facebook group. I also recommend checking out the Unofficial SHRM Annual Conference Networking & Events Facebook page for events that you can network with conference goers. You can also sign up for Jess Miller-Merrill‘s VIP Text Alerts from Workology’s Party People. Text “SHRM” to 512-548-3005 and get live updates on where all the activities are taking place.

Sunday, June 12

10:30 AM – Conference Orientation featuring Jeanne Morris, Karen Maldonado, and Claire Stroh Petrie. If this is your first conference, I highly recommend attending this orientation. If this is your tenth conference, you should still attend! They will share insight on what is new for #SHRM22.

1:30 PM – SCALE Your Influence: How to Elevate Your Influence, Respect, and Impact in HR presented by Vivian Hairston Blade.

3:00 PM – General Session: Finding the Right Balance: How Employee Benefits Attract and Retain the Best Talent featuring Bruce Broussard and Timothy S. Huval of Humana

4:00 PM – Expo Opening Reception: Check out the SHRM Expo for the opening reception where you can make new connections with members of the SHRM22 community. Drinks and appetizers will be served.

Monday, June 13

7:30 AM – Empathy: The New Work Culture Norm presented by Jeremy York

9:00 AM – General Session: HR’s Defining Moment is Now featuring SHRM President and CEO, Johnny C. Taylor

10:30 AM – Hide Your Goat presented by Steve Gilliland. Steve is a member of the Speaker Hall of Fame and his sessions fill up quickly. Arrive early if you plan to attend this one.

1:30 PM – HR Revealed !! – Transforming from Support Role to Strategic Leader presented by Steve Browne. You will not want to miss Steve Browne. He is one of the best people I have ever known and he will make you laugh and cry while teaching you how to be the best YOU you can be.

3:30 PM Option 1 – Do’s and Dont’s of an Inclusive Hybrid Workplace Culture © presented by Sonia Aranza

3:30 PM Option 2: How BMW Leverages Emerging Technology for People and Talent Needs presented by Joe Ziska and Erica Young

Tuesday, June 14

7:30 AM – More Than Feedback: How Receiving Feedback Can Impact Trust and Safety presented by Sarah Noll Wilson

9:00 AM – General Session: Shifting Mental Health Awareness into Action in the Workplace featuring Arianna Huffington of Thrive

10:30 AM – Becoming a Strategic Leader, Thinker and Value-Adder: The Role HR Must Play in Organizational Strategy presented by Richard Fagerlin

2:00 PM – So You Have a Diverse Workforce, Now What? Learn How Hubspot is Accommodating Belonging presented by Alexander Pullen and Erica Young

3:30 PM – When Pay Strategies Fail – Why HR Needs to Act Now presented by Tina-Marie Wohlfield. Gotta support by #HRCommunity friend!

8:00 PM – Brad Paisley in concert! This will be my second time seeing Brad, I am super excited! Hopefully you will find me front row!

Wednesday, June 15

7:30 AM Option 1 – Sought-After: What It Takes to Be Heard, Be Trusted, and Be Recognized for Your Expertise presented by Karen A. Young

7:30 AM Option 2 – Helping Humans “Home from Work” – How to be a Mental Health Ally presented by Andrew Morton

9:00 AM – Welcoming All LGBTQ+ Voices – Through the Four Lenses of Representation presented by Jeff Nally

10:30 AM – Closing General Session featuring President George W. Bush and SHRM President and CEO, Johnny C. Taylor

As part of the #SHRM22Influencer Team, I will be sharing highlights of these sessions LIVE on Twitter as they are happening, so make sure to follow me at @TheHRPanda! I’ll be using #SHRM22 and #SHRM22Influencer in all of my tweets so it’ll be easier for you to track!

I look forward to seeing you at #SHRM22! Please make sure to let me know if you plan to attend so we can meet up and take the obligatory #SHRMSelfie!

***Please note that this schedule is subject to change based on seating availability, or simply being tired and returning to my hotel room to take a nap.***

It’s Okay to Say NO!

A few weeks ago, I tweeted this: “For the past 7+ years, I’ve volunteered with various HR orgs & even when I say I’m going to take a break, I always get pulled back in. For the 1st time ever, I am putting my foot down and saying NO. I am retiring from all volunteer work at the end of 2021 for at least 1 year.” I followed that up with “I feel a blog coming on…” Here is that blog.

It has been seven years since I moved to Florida to pursue a career in Human Resources. I originally moved to the Orlando area because I had been accepted to the Rollins College Master of Human Resources (MHR) program. Prior to starting grad school, I didn’t have any HR experience or knowledge, other than one undergraduate Introduction to Human Resources class. I knew that the quickest way to advance my career would be to get involved wherever I could. Before leaving West Virginia, I joined SHRM and the Greater Orlando SHRM (GOSHRM) chapter. Within a week of being a Florida resident, I was attending my very first GOSHRM meeting. I met many wonderful people at that first meeting that I still talk to to this day (John Kinloch, Wendy Sellers, Tina Kuga Garrell, and Kim Ouellette, just to name a few.) I remember sharing with them how I had just moved to the area and would be starting school soon. I remember the advice John gave me about furthering my career; he told me that I needed to get into an office environment and out of retail (I was working for Sam’s Club at the time.) After leaving that meeting, I started applying for any and all entry level HR and admin jobs I could find. It wasn’t long before I landed an internship at a beer distributor that I would call home for a couple of years. During that first GOSHRM meeting, I also remember meeting Keith McCloud. If I remember correctly, he was the College Relations Director for GOSHRM and I was interested in learning about a student chapter at Rollins. He was able to connect me with Ivette Dupuis, who was entering her second year at Rollins in the same program I was joining. Ivette had been working to re-activate the student chapter at Rollins and was looking for some MHR students to get involved. For those of you that know me now, you would probably not believe this, but I was one of the shyest people I knew. I didn’t want to be in the spotlight and I didn’t want to be the one in charge. But through the conversation, I finally agreed to be the student chapter secretary. And that folks, was just the beginning.

I spent my first year at Rollins as the secretary for the chapter and spent time just trying to learn how to do things. The chapter’s president was graduating in the spring of 2015, which left an opening in our executive leadership; I decided I was up for the challenge and took on the role of President. It was an amazing experience and I had a great team! I got to work with some incredible people (as pictured below.)

From left to right: Lorena Pabon, Sara Schmedinghoff, Loren Burns, Amanda Brunson, Lacy Albaugh, & Kylee Boggs

This is also when I met Lorena Pabon, co-founder of this blog “The Future of HR.” I graduated in the Spring of 2016 and left the chapter in great hands. Though it wasn’t the original plan, Lorena ended up being President for the upcoming school year and I stayed on as an assistant to the assistant advisor (Ivette.) Over the next couple of years, I remained involved with the chapter in various capacities as I wanted to see it remain successful. I was also asked to join the GOSHRM board in August 2016. There was a need for a Director of the SHRM Foundation. The role included fundraising to support the SHRM Foundation. If you aren’t familiar with the SHRM Foundation: the Foundation is committed to elevating and empowering HR as a social force through its innovative solutions to workplace inclusion challenges, programming designed to inspire and empower the next generation of HR leaders, and awarding scholarships and professional development grants to educate and develop students and HR professionals.  I quickly learned that the board would need a social media director for 2017; I jumped at that opportunity. I continued my role with GOSHRM through 2019, though the responsibilities increased as I became the Director of Communications & Marketing (which included social media) in 2018. I was also interested in joining the 2019 HR Florida Conference Team, but due to health issues at the end of 2018, I ended up stepping away from that. However, I did re-join the team for the 2021 conference and was part of the conference marketing team.

If all of those responsibilities weren’t enough, I also was accepted onto the SHRM Young Professional Advisory Council in January 2018. This was one of my proudest accomplishments, as only 15 Young Professionals across the nation are accepted to this council. What was meant to be a two year term, has turned into four. I’ll never regret a moment of it, though some moments have been tough. #CallieStrong

From left to right: Kayla Despres, Andrew Marcotte, Callie Zipple, Amanda Brunson, Lina Le, Erica Davis

So we’re just over 700 words into this blog and the title was called “It’s okay to say no” but all I’ve talked about thus far is everything that I’ve been involved in over the past seven years. So why exactly am I saying that it’s okay to say no? Well – after seven years and 10+ volunteer roles, I am BURNT OUT! I have decided that I will be stepping away from all of my volunteer responsibilities in 2022 and will focus primarily on my day job.

What does this mean? Well, I’ll have more time for ME!!! I will have more time for Disney!!! I need to start planning my trip to Disneyland in October 2022!!!  I may even start bowling again (I just to be really good at it…)!!! I still plan to attend HR conferences and events, but I will actually get to ENJOY them!!! I would like to get back to writing more and I may even work on presenting more too. On a personal level, maybe I’ll even be lucky enough to get back into the dating game too 😉. I just need more me time, and the only way I am going to be able to make that happen is by saying NO!

See the source image

And that’s okay! It’s been hard, believe me. I have an opportunity to stay on the YPAC for another year, and believe me, I strongly considered it; I truly enjoy the perks that come with it! I was also asked to be on a committee for GOSHRM and I know HR Florida wishes I wasn’t stepping down. But I have to do what is right for me! I have felt bad when I’ve had to tell people no, or that I was stepping down. I have felt like I was letting my teams down. But in all honesty, if I kept it going, I would be letting myself down. I need to let myself unwind and recharge. When I make a commitment to something, I am all in. But right now I just feel that I wouldn’t be able to give 100% to anything right now and that wouldn’t be fair to my teams either.

As I have shared how I am feeling with friends and colleagues, I’ve got nothing but support from everyone. In fact, I have been commended for recognizing the fact that I need some me time. Everyone has assured me that it’s okay to take a break, which is why I wanted to put this blog together. I want everyone reading this to know that it’s okay to take a break every once in a while! Don’t feel like you have to give all of yourself away all of the time and don’t feel like you have to always say yes. Everyone needs a little “me” time. People will understand that YOU come first, every time!!!

So with that said, I look forward to the next few months. I’m sure you’ll see more of me here on this blog and on social media. You may even see me pop up on the speakers list for future DisruptHR events or maybe even HR Florida, dun dun dun. We shall see. 😉 In the meantime, enjoy a little YOU time and say NO at least once. I want to hear about it when you do!!!

See the source image

TheHRPanda is Heading to Las Vegas!!

I cannot believe that I haven’t written a blog since April 2020. Actually, I can, because I have been suffering through major burn out this past year. (More to come on that in a future blog…) However! I am here and preparing for the SHRM Annual Conference and Expo, happening September 9 – 12, 2021 in Las Vegas, NV. I’m slightly disappointed about the fact we’re going back to Las Vegas, but I am excited to see my friends that have decided to attend. I will miss seeing all of you that will not be in attendance!

So anyway – I stole Claire Petrie and Jeff Palkowski’s idea, and decided to share my #SHRM21 schedule with all of you in case you need some ideas of what sessions to attend.

Lina, Steve, Jeff, Kyra, myself, Callie, and Claire at #SHRM19

BTW – if you’re still on the fence about attending (virtually or in-person) and have yet to register, there is still time! And I can save you some $$$ if you use promo code SHRM21_ INFLUENCER. In fact, you will save $150 and you’ll receive a SHRM21 X Life is Good co-branded t-shirt!

So without further ado, my #SHRM21 schedule…

*All times below are pacific time zone

Wednesday, September 8th

I always enjoy registering the day prior to the conference starting. The line is usually much shorter and you don’t have to worry about it the morning of the conference. Registration will be open from 2 PM to 6 PM and you will probably find me there somewhere around 2 PM-ish. The SHRMStore will be open at this time as well.

Thursday, September 9th

1 PM – HR on Purpose!! Five Ways to Own, Lead and Integrate HR Throughout Your Organization, Presented by Steve Browne. Steve is my HR hero and I’ve been told I am the next Steve Browne, so I have to attend his session to kick off #SHRM21.

Steve & I at LaRosa’s in Cincinnati, Summer 2020

2:30 PM – Opening General Session featuring Brian Niccol and Marissa Andrada from Chipotle Mexican Grill.

3:45 PM – What I Wish I Knew – Emerging Professional Insights featuring five members from the SHRM Young Professional Advisory Council, including myself! Crystal Granger, Rebecca Rowe, Kirk Wyman, and Claire Petrie will be joining me during this panel event for the Student Track.

Claire and I @ #SHRM18 (Totally forgot this picture existed..)

4:45 PM – Opening Reception in Expo – This is always an amazing experience. The vendors pull out all the big stuff, including drinks, snacks, prizes, swag, games, etc. Oh, did I mention the swag?

Friday, September 10th

7:30 AM – Sometimes it’s good to have a couple of options in case your 1st choice is full…

Option 1: Defining and Communicating Your Personal Brand to Help Your Career and Your Organization Grow, Presented by Jennifer McClure

Option 2: Dear Helga: You Won’t Believe What My Employee Did This Time, Presented by Michael S. Cohen

9 AM – Morning with Michael Phelps, SHRM CEO and President, Johnny C. Taylor, will be moderating

10:45 AM – The Cherry on Top: How to Add Value to Your People, Products and Services, Presented by Steve Gilliland.  Steve is a member of the Speaker Hall of Fame and his sessions fill up quickly. Arrive early if you plan to attend this one.

12:30 PM – Coaching Strategies for Leaders, presented by Jennifer Currence on the Smart Stage. The Smart Stage sessions are only 20 minutes

1 PM – PMQ – Better Managers, Better Workplaces, presented by Nick Schacht on the Smart Stage.

2 PM – It’s Okay to be Human!! Proven Ways to Effectively Lead Your HR Role, Presented by Steve Browne. I would sit through 100 Steve Browne sessions if given the opportunity.

3:45 PM or 4 PM – Two more options… One to support a fellow #HRCommunity friend and one to support me in my role at my organization… How to choose?

Option 1: Stop, Collaborate and Listen! Mastering Strategic HR Through the Art of Collaboration, Presented by Tina Marie Wohlfield.

Option 2: Becoming a Strategic Leader, Thinker and Value-Adder: The Role HR Must Play in Organizational Strategy, Presented by Richard Fagerlin

5:30 PM – HR Florida Reception at Firefly. All HR Florida members should join us!

Amazing HR Florida friends!

Saturday, September 11th

7:30 AM – If I can get up in time for this early session, I’ll be attending: Turn Off Worry, Turn on Resilience, Presented by Marissa Afton.

9 AM – General Session Featuring SHRM President and CEO, Johnny C. Taylor

JCT & myself – #SHRM19

10 AM – Networking Peer Group Ideas Swap: Saturday – Technology, Led by Julie Dalton

11 AM – Expo, Lunch, and Prizes – I couldn’t find any sessions during this time that interested me enough. Plus, I always like to spend a little time in the expo checking out the vendors and their SWAG before they shut down.

1:45 PM – Grand Prize Drawing in Expo – Win a trip for two to the SHRM 2022 Annual Conference & Exposition!  By completing the entry form, you are also entered for a chance to win either the $500, $1,000 or $5,000 Grand Prizes.

2 PM – Inclusion, Equity, and Diversity Council: A Bottom-up Approach to Building an Inclusive Workplace Culture, Presented by Mary Cheddie and Gennady Babankov

Mary Cheddie & I @ #HRFL20

2:15 PM – Transforming Culture, Transforming Values, Presented by Kate Gebo of United Airlines. I work for a company that supports United, so I thought it appropriate to attend this session.  

4 PM – Once more I am conflicted with two different sessions….

Option 1: Women, Diversity and Inclusion: Tools to Achieve a Collaborative Workplace Culture, Presented by Frieda Garcia

Option 2: Mental Health in the Workplace: Practical Tips and Tools to Support Your Staff, Presented by Andrea Herron

Sunday, September 12th

9:15 AM – The REAL HR of Small and Midsize Business, Presented by Christie Engler. Gotta support my #HRCommunity friend before flying back to Orlando! ❤

10:45 AM – LIFE IS GOOD: Optimism, Overcoming Hardships, Motivating Teams, Featuring Bert Jacobs of Life is Good. As much as I wish I could attend this session, I’ve got to be at the airport between 11:30 AM and 12 PM, so I might go for the announcements and then head out.

As part of the #SHRM21Influencer Team, I will be sharing highlights of these sessions LIVE on Twitter as they are happening, so make sure to follow me at @TheHRPanda! I’ll be using #SHRM21 and #SHRM21Influencer in all of my tweets so it’ll be easier for you to track!

I look forward to seeing you at #SHRM21! Please make sure to let me know if you plan to attend so we can meet up and take the obligatory #SHRMSelfie!

***Please note that this schedule is subject to change based on seating availability, or simply being tired and returning to my hotel room to take a nap. 😊***

A Lot Has Changed Since Then

As I procrastinated a bit this past Saturday morning (instead of doing the cleaning I had originally planned to do) I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and then saw a notification to check my memories from “this day”.  The first memory that came up was my post from last year; the day I learned Lynda Rodriguez, my good friend and mentor, had passed.  As I read through my post and looked at our pictures together, I couldn’t help but remember that morning.  I had woken up a bit exhausted that Thursday morning because I had come back from #SHRM19 in Las Vegas the day before.  I started getting ready when I had this weird feeling that I should check my email. When I did, I saw where Nate Shannon, our GOSHRM president, had told us the terrible news.  I remember automatically calling my friend Joan. I don’t remember what I told her and I can’t remember what she said to me; all I remember was crying.  I knew this day was coming; things hadn’t been looking good with her health, but nothing could prepare me for that type of devastation.

As I was coming back from memory lane, my boyfriend Samir could tell something was on my mind.  I showed him the post from a year ago.  He kissed my forehead and said “Wow, it’s been a year already.  A lot has changed since then.  Are you okay?”

Indeed, a lot has changed since then.  I stopped blogging because I couldn’t get inspiration, and every time I found myself a bit inspired, I felt like I was betraying her by not writing about her.  But I couldn’t write about her, it was too painful.  So, I kind of ignored our blog page (for over a year) and tried to focus on other things.

One thing I did take from Lynda’s passing was that life was too short and you just don’t know when your time will come.  I think this pushed me to move out of my comfort zone.

I started applying for jobs because I had finally accepted I wasn’t happy where I was anymore and it was a long process.  There were times where I didn’t get any responses from my applications, and there were other times where I did get a response, but the recruiter would then ghost me. Then there were the interviews I went to, but still didn’t end up getting the job.  I didn’t let these things stop me though.  When I had no clue what I was doing I would make up conversations with Lynda in my head and followed what I thought would be her advice. So the day that Heather Deyrieux, HR Florida President, called me about the Social Media chair position on the HR Florida Council, I decided to talk it over with my family, my job, and also in my mind with Lynda.  As you probably know, I said yes and started my new responsibility in January. This role has been a great and challenging experience and I wouldn’t change that for the world.

At some point in February, talks about COVID-19 were intensifying, and soon after, it reached us in Florida.  After a few weeks of it hitting Orlando, my employer at the time decided to lay off a bunch of people, myself included. I thought it was the end of the world, until I realized it wasn’t.  As I had mentioned, I wasn’t happy there anymore. I was craving change and had been craving change for months at this point.  Additionally, the job was affecting me emotionally, even though I tried to not let it affect me.  After a few days of shock, I started feeling relieved. Don’t get me wrong, I was freaked out because I was without a job in a time where everyone was losing their jobs, but I was also emotionally relieved.   I had no idea how stressed my job had made me feel and how stuck I was.  This pushed me to apply to MANY jobs.  It didn’t matter if I was overqualified for it, I still tried because I knew that at some point unemployment benefits were going to expire and I would then have to depend solely on my savings. 

A month before my state unemployment benefits ended (two months before federal benefits ended), Amanda referred me for a job in an airline company.  I wasn’t too sure about it because of the current climate but I had nothing to lose so I went for it. I contacted the HR Manager and he told me he was going to start interviewing in early June and said he would be in contact with me later.

I didn’t think much of it; I was interviewing for other jobs as well and I honestly thought he was going to forget about me in June, but to my surprise, he called me June 1st to set up an interview.  The interview was a few days later and I thought it had gone well.  I learned that this airline focused mostly on cargo flights and charter flights, so they were doing very well despite the pandemic. A few days after that interview I got a job offer for another place I was interviewing at.  I wasn’t too excited about that offer, but I accepted it because I was afraid of my benefits expiring and being jobless. I was getting ready for a start date of 6/16 which was a Tuesday and was looking forward to being back at the workforce.

Monday afternoon on the day before I was supposed to start the new job, a few hours before the end of business day, Jonathan Fantauzzi, the HR Manager at the airline, called me to offer me the job and he wanted me to start as soon as Thursday if at all possible.  This job was it! I was finally going to have the job title I wanted, with an excellent commute, good pay, and benefits, and most of all I was going to work with an HR team! No more department of one for me! I accepted and the rest is history :D.

A few days after I started my new job, I was talking to Jonathan about HR Florida, GOSHRM, Disrupt HR; basically, we were talking about networking events and conferences in general.  After a while he said, “wait you must’ve known Lynda Rodriguez, she was my neighbor and she helped me prep for the SHRM-CP exam”.  As he said that, my eyes watered; he continued talking about her and the impact she had on his life.  While I listened, I couldn’t help but smile and see this as a sign.  Lynda had been supporting me all along and that brought me to where I was in that specific moment.  I do not think that was a coincidence.

A lot has changed since Lynda’s passing.  It still is sad to think about her not being here with us, but it is also nice to think about her.  She was a very positive influence in my life, and I know she would’ve been cheering me on and pushing me to be my best despite any obstacles I might face along the way.  I don’t know if the writing bug will hit me again any time soon, but I am glad it hit me this time so I could tell you this story.

Inspire. Connect. Encourage.

Guess who’s back… back again… The HR Panda’s back… tell a friend.

Last week Jenni Stone challenged me to post an album a day for 10 days; an album that influenced my musical taste. As I write this, I have completed six days of the challenge. However, my first post was a no brainer, I had to choose Eminem’s “The Eminem Show.” This CD was released in my seventh grade year, I was about 12. As you probably know Eminem probably isn’t the best music for a 12 year old to be listening to, but I was hooked! And because I was 12 and naive, I thought the “Parental Advisory Sticker” meant that it was edited. It was the first CD I had ever asked for with this sticker, so my mom didn’t know either. We both learned pretty quickly. I don’t remember now why she allowed me to keep it, but she did, and I listened to it on repeat. Maybe that is why I struggled with other challenges in my teenage years. I didn’t realize it then, but Eminem has a weird affect on me. I love his music, but I now know that if I listen to his music on repeat, I start getting angry, moody, and depressed. So although I absolutely love Eminem and would do anything to see him live, I know my limits with his music now.

So back to the album challenge. I’ve been posting a lot more on Facebook recently than I normally would; I have a lot more time on my hands, like most of us do. A lot of my posts are silly stuff, the majority is Disney related. It’s been exactly 1 month since I was last at Disney, but I feel like it’s been a year. It’s also been a little over a month since I spoke at DisruptHR Daytona. This was the first DisruptHR event for the city of Daytona and it was hosted by my very good friend Sommer Sherrod. I just have to give Sommer so many kudos because she is an incredible person and she knows how to throw a party. (Please connect with her on LinkedIn if you aren’t connect with her already.) She also knows how to make people do things they don’t really want to do. The one and only Ricky Baez was dressed in a muumuu, Luke Messer from Paylocity was dressed as a Strong Man, and I was set to speak first. We all were champions even though it was far from our comfort levels.

Image may contain: 13 people, including Amanda Brunson, people standing and indoor

The fact that I was even there to speak was a miracle because for several months leading up to the event, Sommer kept asking me to speak. It wasn’t until the beginning of January that I finally gave in and signed up. For those of you that know me, I really need to have something that I’m passionate about before I’m willing to get up in front of 75-150 people and talk for 5 rehearsed minutes. But as I was finishing my drive back to Florida from West Virginia from Christmas break, I started thinking about a lot of different things. In fact, my exact text to Sommer was:

“So it’s a lot and I need to figure out how to tie it all together but these are the ideas that inspired it. (1) Erich K.’s post about who will inspire you in 2020. (2) How I’m blessed to be part of such a remarkable circle of HR people. (3) People that attend DisruptHR are wanting to be involved in HR and be better HR people so this would be how disrupters can use their positive attitudes to be an influencer/mentor. (4) There are more young HR pros entering the workforce daily and they want mentors. And how there aren’t enough mentors to be had. (5) How there are just bad HR people. And we need to spread positive vibes to others that experience bad HR peeps. It’s going to be called something like Inspirational HR or something with inspiration in it.”

It wasn’t a very structured thought, but it was a beginning to the most amazing presentation I feel like I have ever given. It was humbling, heartfelt, and honest. I shared my practice video with my leader at work, and she had to call me to tell me how proud she was of me and that she wanted to share it with the entire HR team at our company; no pressure or anything. After the video came out, I watched it and I was so proud of myself. There are a lot of words that describe the type of person I am, but I think right now, confident feels right. My final presentation of “Inspire. Connect. Encourage” is exactly what HR professionals need right now. We are living in unprecedented times and we don’t know what is going to happen next. But we all need to stand together, inspire our colleagues to do the best they can with what they have to offer, connect with your friends and your family more now than ever, and encourage each other to stay positive through the tough times. Take pride in yourself, support your peers, be a friend to someone that could really use a shoulder to cry on, and just be an authentic human being. #CallieStrong


I don’t know when I’ll be back with my next blog post. This one kind of came out of nowhere. I was thinking about how I wanted to share my video again in case someone missed it the first time. Then I started thinking about how it’s been so long since I’ve written a blog, but wasn’t sure if this was the right time to write one, but then I thought about how silly that is because any time is a good time to write. It’s better than sitting in front of the TV doing nothing for an hour. I’ve been doing way too much of that and not spending hardly any time on the computer; I have been needing a break from the extracurricular computer stuff. But I felt like I needed to share with you. And while this blog might be all over the place, my intentions are from the heart.

So as I wrap this up, let me leave you with this. While you are staying at home over the next three weeks to a year, take time out of each day to check-in with a handful of people. Reach out to different people each day. Reach out to the people that would normally do the reaching out. Reach out to the people you haven’t talked to in months. Just reach out and let them know you care. They may need your kind words and you don’t even know it. Inspire. Connect. Engage. It’s as easy as 1 – 2 – 3.

Maya Angelou Quote: “The area where we are the greatest is the area in which we inspire, encourage and connect with another human being.”

Hum dei dei la la, la la la la la. La la la la la, la la la la. Hum dei dei la la, la la la la la. La la la la la, la la la la. Kids!

Eminem - Without Me (Official Video) - YouTube

Appreciate Today

Can you believe it is the middle of October? Where has time gone? I feel like I was just at HR Florida, but that was almost two months ago. But a lot has happened in two months. I’ve had a lot of blog ideas run through my head in two months. But life has found a way to keep me from having time to write; which is sad because I love to write. But as I wrap up my weekend, I decided to spend an hour writing instead of watching television. Please know, this is a longer blog than normal and it is rather emotional, but if you can stick through it, know that it would mean a great deal to me.


Just over a month ago, the world lost an incredible person. I know, the world loses incredible people every day. But on September 12, 2019, in a little town in Wisconsin, my friend, mentor, and role model, lost her life to stage four stomach cancer. I haven’t been able to talk about it or write about up until now; and I’m still not sure I can, but I’m going to try, for Callie. Just like the rest of us that knew Callie, we were all devastated to find out about her diagnosis back in July. But we were all confident that she’d be able to fight it and would come out on top. Sadly, just a couple short months later, she lost her battle.

A lot of people didn’t know this, but I thought the world of Callie. She and I had only known each other for about a year and a half, but I feel like I knew her for a lifetime. She and I met through the SHRM Young Professional Advisory Council (YPAC.) It was a dream of mine since I found out about the YPAC to be able to serve on it. My first year was also Callie’s first year leading the group. I knew right away that she was someone I wanted to be friends with. In fact, not only did I want to be her friend, I wanted to be just like her. I admired everything about Callie; her drive, determination, and authenticity. I even told her at SHRM18, that I wanted to be her when I grew up. She was in a career at age 30 that I had dreamed about but thought I was too young to be in. When I asked her how she did it, she said she just jumped. I’ve been trying to live in that mentality ever since.

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#SHRM19 with Callie and YPAC Members 

Then during our second year on the YPAC, Callie devoted time out of her busy schedule to have one-on-one calls with the YPAC members to talk about anything and everything. It didn’t have to be about the YPAC; it could be about work, home, animals, school, anything! She was always so selfless.  Callie made time for us and I don’t know about the

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Callie & I at #SHRM19

rest of the group, but I appreciated her so much for that. In fact, there’s a lot that I appreciated Callie for. Callie believed in me. She saw something in me and gave me so many opportunities to grow and shine. She recommended me to be a SHRM blogger, she gave me an opportunity to lead a networking session for students at SHRM National. She chose me to be the step challenge team captain too. At the end of last year, I told Callie I still wanted to continue with the YPAC even though I had a lot on my plate. However I wasn’t sure I could take on any leadership responsibilities, mostly because I didn’t want to let her down if I couldn’t fulfill my duties. But as the year went on, I found myself raising my hand on initiatives if she asked because I wanted to help her. I felt it was the least I could do for her with everything she did for me. I loved her dearly and I miss her like crazy. But one thing that is driving me crazy, I don’t remember if I told her how much I appreciated her.

When Callie’s family announced when her Celebration of Life would be, I knew in my heart that I needed to be there. It might sound crazy; traveling from Florida to Wisconsin to attend, but it was where I needed to be. I had someone looking out for me though,

Me and Mary Williams 

because typically I would never have enough extra money laying around to make that type of last-minute trip happen. But because of some planning for other expenses that I found out I didn’t actually need, I was able to allocate those funds to my trip. I was able to afford a flight into Milwaukee, about an hour and a half away from the services. Hotels in Milwaukee were also reasonable; but to add a rental car on top of that, I just couldn’t do it. But through the power of networking and blogging, I found out a great friend, Mary Williams, would be driving through Milwaukee to get to the services and she was kind enough to pick me up. I was able to make it after all. Thank you, Mary. ❤

At the services, I visited with Andrew, a fellow YPAC member. He and I had a conversation about how short life is and how we just don’t show our appreciation to people the way that we should. We realize that we take time for granted and think that we can just say thank you tomorrow. But what if someone doesn’t have a tomorrow? We have absolutely no way of knowing when a person’s life is going to come to an end. And I hate to sound so cryptic, it’s definitely not something I like to think about. But it is true. We need to stop taking life and time for granted, and we need to make sure that the people that we care about know that we care and that we appreciate them.

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So, as I wrap this up, I want to challenge each and every one of you to pick a day of the week (i.e. Wednesday.) Each Wednesday, I want you to reach out to someone in your life that you appreciate and tell them! It doesn’t need to be for the whole world to see; just send them a text, pick up the phone and call them, or send them a written note. If you want to do it more often, great! My goal has been to reach out to someone daily. It has been incredible. And do you want to know the most unbelievable part about it? Almost every time I have reached out to someone, they have thanked me because they really needed to hear that on that particular day. I didn’t know that before I reached out, but knowing that I could make even a small difference in their life, even if just for a moment, it made my heart happy.

So, make your heart happy, along with someone else’s! Call, text, write to your friends, family, colleagues, mentors, role models, etc. and let them know today and as often as you can that they are appreciated and that you care. It will only take a few minutes out of your day, but it could brighten someone else’s entire day. And never again will you have to worry that you didn’t get a chance to tell them what they meant to you before it was too late.

Callie, I miss you and I appreciate you. I’m glad you aren’t suffering anymore. #CallieStrong


#HRFL19 What a Fun Time

Between getting back to work and hurricane Dorian I have been sitting on this blog post I started writing hours after the #HRFL19 conference was over.  I had such a great time at the conference! I got to hang out with my out of state HR buddies Jon Thurmond, Wendy Dailey, Jazmine Wilkes, and Anne Tomkinson, had a fair share of Disney meals, walked my first 5k since 2012, I caught up with my favorite Florida HR peers, which include my GOSHRM family.  I think I went to more sessions this year than the last but I cut back time in the Expo Hall (can you tell I’m an introvert?). As usual, there is so much to do and see so it was impossible to do it all.

As we mentioned in a previous post, Amanda and I were chosen to be part of the #HRFL19 Social Media Team, which meant we had to not only help promote the event but we also were active using our social media during the event.  I was on my phone a lot during the conference and got to engage with other attendees via my social media platforms (mostly Twitter). Another fun thing I participated in while on the social media team was a recording of the HR Social Hour Half Hour podcast with Jon and Wendy for my 3rd time.  It felt great to come back and have a great conversation with them, Amanda, and Jazmine.

My favorite sessions were Jason Treu’s Secrets to Maximizing Employee and Team Performance; Derreck Kayongo’s General Session; Anne Tomkinson’s Improving Employee Engagement and Retention Through Your Managers; and Frances Rios’s Defrost: Warm up your Organizational Thermostat and heat Up profits.  I was super excited about meeting Jason Treu in person and thought it was so nice of him to find us in the overflow room and spoke to us in person as we did an interactive activity.

If you ask me what was my favorite thing in all the HR Florida Conference I do have to say it was the VIP experience.  When you upgrade to VIP there are so many perks that come with it like extra drink tickets that can be used for alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, which was REALLY nice when a bottle of water costs a fortune inside the hotel.  You also get access to pre-conference sessions.  Also, you get really good and exclusive seating in all the keynote sessions, and by really good I mean front and center. VIP’s get a very nice lounge that included refreshments; it was a nice place to hide from the crowds from time to time without having to walk out of the conference center.  Now, if you know me at all you know that anything food-related will make me excited. The VIP lunch was so delicious, instead of the predictable boxed lunches, VIPs enjoyed hot food. Monday lunch included salad, potatoes green beans and chicken with an assortment of desserts to choose from.

Tuesday lunch was even better since HR Florida decided to celebrate “Taco Tuesday” with build your own tacos!

I definitely am considering doing VIP next year! HR Florida knows how to throw a good conference. Even without being VIP or part of the Social Media Team I know I would’ve had a marvelous time learning and catching up with my HR friends.  It goes without saying that I will be back for #HRFL20. Hope to see you there as well!

Here’s Several Pictures with some of my favorite people at the HR Florida Conference!

Preparing for #HRFL19

I seriously can’t believe how fast August flew by! We are seriously just less than a handful of days left until #HRFL19! My goal leading up to the conference was to provide daily tips, tricks, and info regarding the conference via Social media. I started off pretty strong, but as time went on and other responsibilities became more adamant, I found I wasn’t able to post as much as I wanted. However, I wanted to take an opportunity to throw one more quick blog out there about preparing and packing for #HRFL19!

So, as you are throwing your suitcase together today or tomorrow, please consider using these tips below so you will be ready for a great conference experience.

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Things to Bring

  1. Comfortable Shoes – It might not be as big of a venue as SHRM, but it’s still a lot of walking! Wear comfortable shoes so you have a comfortable experience.
  2. Portable Phone Charger – It’s great to be social during conferences! Post about the sessions you are attending because it’s a great way to look back later and remind yourself about the key takeaways. But being social means draining your phone battery, so take a backup!
  3. Lightweight jacket or sweater – I know it’s Florida in August, but with 2,000 conference attendees, the hotel will keep the A/C cranked down low! The rooms may be chilly, so bring something to cover up with just in case!
  4. Email Confirmation/Barcode – If you want to have a seamless registration experience, bring your email confirmation/barcode sent from Tina Kuga Gaarrell with the subject line: “2019 HR Florida State Conference & Expo – Know Before You Go!” so there are no questions that you are meant to be there! If you didn’t get it and you are registered for the conference, check your spam!
  5. Business Cards – You never know who you will meet at HR Florida, so make sure to bring those business cards to connect with new people! You may also need them for exhibitor prizes!


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  1. Download the App – Whether you are using an Android or Apple, you can download the HRFL2019 app! The app has session info, where to find exhibitors, maps of the conference space, activities and event schedule, social media platforms, a chat feature, and more! Want to utilize the chat and ask question areas? Log in using your registration email as your user name is your and the password: hrfl.
  2. Upgrade to the VIP All Access Pass – New this year is the VIP All Access Pass. If you hate standing in line, love being pampered, drinking (free) coffee, want a hot buffet lunch, and/or want reserved seating or general sessions, consider upgrading to the VIP All Access Pass! VIP is only $199 more and it includes all of the perks listed above! I don’t know about you, but the hot buffet lunch and free coffee makes it totally worth it to me! 😉
  3. Participate in Evening Fun! HR Florida knows how to host a great conference! Not only are there great speakers, sessions and exhibitors, but they know how to throw a good party! Check out the Annual 5K on Sunday, the Lip Sync Battle on Monday, the comedians on Tuesday, and the Glow party following the comedians! It’s going to be SHRMAPALOOZA!

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  1. Thank Volunteers and Conference Team Members– The conference team members have spent the past year working to make sure #HRFL19 is a success! They’ve listened to your comments and concerns from #HRFL18, and they’ve made some adjustments. They are all volunteers that are giving their time and energy to giving us a great time, so make sure to thank them!                                                        Additionally, thank the volunteers! They’ll be all around during the conference in volunteer shirts directing us to the right places, checking us in for lunch, introducing speakers, greeting us into general sessions, stuffing our bags, and so much more! They are giving up their precious conference time to help make your experience a little bit better, so make sure to say thanks to them too!
  2. Follow the Social Media Team – The social media team consists of 5 very awesome HR peeps (Lorena Pabon, Wendy Dailey, Jon Thurmond, Jazmine Wilkes, and me) that are heavily active on social media, blogs, and podcasts! Want to know what’s going on during the conference? Follow all of them to stay up to date! Or… #NotAtHRFL19? It’s a great way to see all of the fun! Click here to find out how to follow of us!
  3. Support the SHRM Foundation – The local SHRM chapters throughout the state of Florida have donated a raffle item for the conference. There will be a table in the expo hall where you can buy raffle tickets to try and win these items! Sometimes they even have silent auction items. Stop by this table, buy your raffle tickets, support a great cause, and hope to win! Drawings will occur on Tuesday from 3:45 PM – 4:30 PM in the Expo Hall!


I know this is a lot of info to take in right before the start of an awesome conference, but make sure you check it all out! This is my 5th year in attendance and I feel like I learn something new each year. Make sure to follow me on social media by following TheHRPanda no matter what platform you use. Connect with me, connect with your fellow HR pros, and have a great conference! I look forward to seeing you all there!

LinkedIn Twitter Instagram Blog

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The Countdown to #HRFL19 is On!

Lorena and Amanda have been asked to join the 2019 HR Florida Conference and Expo Social Media Team this year alongside HR colleagues and friends, Wendy Dailey, Jon Thurmond, and Jazmine Wilkes! We are both honored to be a part of this incredible journey and we want to share with all of you everything that the HR Florida conference has to offer and why YOU should attend!

First the basics:

What: The 2019 HR Florida Conference and Expo

When: August 25 – 28, 2019

WhereGaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center

Who: HR Professionals from Florida and beyond

Why: The HR Florida conference offers a unique experience that allows HR Professionals from the state of Florida and beyond an opportunity to create connections, learn innovative HR techniques that can change how you work, and celebrate with friends and colleagues!

Now… a word from your favorite “The Future of HR” blog writers…


I’ve got to be completely honest with you all, I’m not sure where July came from! These last few weeks have been so hectic; between packing, moving, unpacking and traveling to Las Vegas for #SHRM19. It was a blur, that’s for sure! And while I would love to sit here and reflect on everything that has happened, I am finding myself excited for the next thing coming soon! As I write this, we are only 53 days away from the largest HR conference in the state of Florida, #HRFL19! And I am so excited to be a part of the Social Media Team with my friends! I love seeing Jon and Wendy at the SHRM conference every year, and to find out I get to see them two times in 2019 was fantastic. I of course am excited to see Jazmine again, since it’s been a little over a year! We all keep up on social media though. 😊 Hence, why we are on the Social Media Team. 😉

Anyway, I admit, I haven’t done as much promoting as I would have liked, but I had a lot of responsibilities for the SHRM conference, so I haven’t had much free time. However, now that we’re less than two months away, I can’t wait to share with all of you the things I am most looking forward to. SO! Make sure you are following me on Twitter and LinkedIn because I’m going to be highlighting one thing per day until the day leading up to the conference of things that I am looking forward to; whether it’s a session, a speaker, an event, a person, etc., I am committing myself to that! In the meantime, sign up for the conference! You wouldn’t want to experience the FOMO that comes from not being there. #NotAtHRFL19 ☹ #HRFL19 😊



Hey everyone !  I’m so excited to be part of the HR Florida Conference Social Media Team.  Let me start by telling you that HR Florida is a blast.  I personally love local conferences more than national ones because they are easier to navigate and everything is so close.  This is the second year the conference is being hosted at the Gaylord Palms and let me tell you, you are in for a treat.  I am especially looking forward to working with my friends Wendy, Jon, Amanda, and Jazmine.  I will be tweeting about the sessions I will be going to and the activities going, on so be sure to follow me at @lpabonhr and don’t forget to follow #HRFL19, but before we get there I want to help you get ready for such an exciting event!

  • First of all, USE COMFORTABLE SHOES! I cannot say this enough, your feet will hurt if you don’t and that can definitely ruin the experience.
  • Plan day and night outfits, once the sessions are over we still have entertainment for the night and definitely do not want to miss out.
  • Unless you registered for VIP upgrade, lunch will be in boxes; if you are not into that make sure you bring snacks.
  • Very important, if you do not have a twitter account, create one. Trust me on this, part of the conference fun is tweeting and reading people’s tweets.  Also if you follow #HRFL19 or anyone on the social media team for that matter, you will be in the loop on what is going on.
  • Take time to visit the EXPO Hall, even if you aren’t looking for anything new this time around or if you aren’t the decision maker in your organization. The EXPO Hall always has fun stuff happening, plus it is a good place to catch up with attendees and network!
  • Even if you live in Orlando I highly recommend you stay at the hotel (Gaylord is full but there is an overflow hotel that offers shuttles to and from Gaylord Palms). Sessions start really early and evening activities can last till really late.
  • This last one is for all my introverts out there (aka: me). You are going to be around people for a few days so be sure you have charged yourself up for this event, don’t get me wrong it is a good time but in order to enjoy and survive it you have to be in a certain mindset.

I’m sure there’s a bunch of other things I forgot to tell you, but again follow me on twitter
@lpabonhr and I will be sure to get the information you need out there.



-Amanda & Lorena