9/11/2001: How Can I Forget?

9/11/2017 – I can’t believe it’s been 16 years since the tragic events on 9/11/2001american-airline-flight-11-crashes-north-tower, yet it still so fresh in my memories what happened that day. I’m sure I am not alone. For many, that was an unforgettable tragic event. For some, they were too young to remember, and the rest haven’t been born yet. I remember being awaken by a phone call from my sister, frantically and emotionally asking if I have seen the news.  My husband and I got up and immediately turned on the TV to CNN.  My husband and I were both horrified to see the devastation and seconds later saw the second plane crashed! Both our hearts sunk as we embraced each other. We were both emotional. We were both angry at what we were seeing on the screen.

What made this day even more memorable for me was, I started working for an aviation company just 6 months prior. I was their first HR Manager. I was also their Administrative Services Manager. I oversaw at least 40 satellite offices nationwide. Majority of our staff are pilots, flight attendants, and mechanics. Many of them are current/former commercial airline pilots.

Once I regained my composure, I told my husband to stay home with the children, called my mother and told her not to take the subway home. As the HR Manager, I felt the obligation to report to work. This was before smart phones or the ability to work from home as possible options.  Everything I needed to work were only accessible in my office. On my way to work, I called my staff from my cell phone to give them the option to stay home or report to work.

I went to work for moral support and helped in our call center. I met with the executives and reviewed our safety plans, ensured that our staff who were away from home due to work can call in to let us know that they are ok in case they can’t get a hold of their families.  We have employees in NY and the other affected areas.

I was a Girl Scout growing up. I also went through ROTC. I was also a HR Pro in an earthquake prone zone. I grew up learning about the importance of safety, preparedness, & survival. We go through drills, we have a checklist of necessities, emergency contact, etc. I implemented those same concepts at home. Once I knew it was safe to drive to work, I got ready to go.  My husband understood why I needed to be at work. He knew that is where I was needed the most. We knew that he and the kids will be safe at home. We had enough food and water to last us a month so we didn’t need to run to the store for any food, emergency kits, etc.

As I drove to work, it was weird to see all the planes grounded, the freeways empty. It was one of those days you wished for the typical SF Bay Area commute.  For someone who lived and worked next to the San Francisco International Airport, the next few days were just as eerie. I cried every time I passed by it. I cried every time I read or watched the news. I cried tears of joy with a sigh of relief every time we heard from staff across the globe and be able to share it with their loved ones.

I remember to be awaken at midnight to hear the sound of a plane passing by…and all I could say to my husband…YES! We’re flying again! It was a joyful day to drive to work, back to the traffic, noise, and flying planes.

After 9/11, many cancelled their flights. We didn’t! We had a planned family trip to Hawaii two months thereafter. Many told us that we were brave to continue with our plan when there was so much uncertainty. We said, so much of life is full of uncertainty. Why succumb to fear of what we don’t know? Why let the unknown keep us from enjoying ourselves? Yes, the airport experience was horrible because of all the changes and having to rechecked our luggage every step of the way. Other than that, our vacation in Hawaii was all worth it!

The horrific event on 9/11 is forever engrained in my mind and in my heart. Two years after the 9/11 event, I worked as the HR Generalist at San Francisco International Airport, one of the busiest airport in the world. I worked for a contractor with Homeland Security and we hired TSA passenger screeners and baggage handlers. After OJT, part of their graduation ceremony, they watched the footage from 9/11. The faces and names of the first responders who lost their lives were shown. I don’t know how many times we have shown this montage of videos with every new hire we had. I cried every time it played. It tugged my heart each time.

However grim that day was, I never lost faith in humanity, I never condemned any religion, especially Muslim. They too were victims on that day. 9/11 victims vary in religion, race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. Many signed up to serve our country regardless of ethnicity, gender, religion, or sexual orientation after 9/11.  Why is it 16 years later, it seemed our country is more divided.

To remember those who lost their lives on 9/11, we must remain vigilant at the same time to never lose our heads. Courage is not just about killing, it is also about helping with whatever it takes, to keep the civility and not incite riots or civil unrest.  For me, we stand a better chance of survival and be able to move forward as a better and stronger nation if we work together in unity, cooperation, patience, use our collective strengths, skills, and intelligence to help one another. I think, if anything, the 9/11 event taught us to be there for each other, and together we can continue to overcome adversaries!



To Be an Effective HR Pro, You Have to Be Tech Savvy


HR Tech

When I started in HR, everythingwas paper driven, from employment application, personnel action notices, benefits enrollment, etc.

I was fortunate to learn every competency in HR, including payroll, and my experience has revealed the myriad ways in which administrative functions evolved with technology.

I can honestly say that my HR expertise evolved alongside the supporting technology…from the birth of electronic forms, to HRIS, Applicant Tracking Systems, online benefits enrollment, and automated billing reports from insurance carriers.  I am both a self-taught HR Pro and a self-taught HR techie. I learned HR systems hands-on in one organization after another. In some cases, I took part in the design and customization of those systems.

Many young HR Pros, especially those working with integrated systems won’t have the same experience. As a consequence, they may not have a chance to learn the technical underpinning of the applications upon which they depend. In addition, they may be saddled with products that were configured without tech-savvy HR input.

As we gear up for AI’s increasingly prevalent role, it becomes increasingly important for HR professionals to become technical conversant in the decisions that govern the way HR systems function. There is simply no other way of ensuring that they’ll work well enough to enable rather than hinder.

I am hopeful that AI will enhance our ability to deliver value as HR practitioners, but this is by no means assured. To see why this is the case, let’s think about the way the typical HR task load breaks down. About 80% of what it takes to excel in HR involves the inherently human aspects of our role, from recruiting to exit interviews. Most of AI’s value lies in that other 20%, the aspects of our jobs that are more dependent on organizing facts or crunching numbers, rather than composing strategy or judgement calls. The HR systems created in the 90s helped eliminate redundancy in data entry—a function clearly lying in that computational 20%. The next generation of products focused on eliminating paperwork and streamlining administrative processes. This left practitioners with more time and energy to provide work at a strategic level and provide face-to-face customer service.

In more recent years, the focus of HR software changed. Instead of a tight focus on the 20%, they began to include features that encouraged HR professionals to depend on them for the 80%, the aspects of the role requiring carefully considered judgement calls and nuanced interpersonal interactions. This includes functions like recruiting and onboarding—even exit interviews. This creates a new and fundamental challenge—we must avoid the temptation to depend on software for the activities most urgently in need of wisdom, humanity, and a personal touch. I fear that a lack tech-savviness on the part of those newer to the profession may make it difficult to meet this challenge. Mastering Snapchat requires a technical acumen much different from what is needed in an AI-driven enterprise. We must be prepared to deal with the impulses of automated systems that are prepared do our job for us, and not do it badly.

It is critical that we seek ways to change the equation. Training and education has to be provided that will prepare HR professionals to face these challenges. We as a profession need to protect organizations from purchasing systems that promise to “solve” the 80% of HR for which automation has little to offer. You don’t have to be a programmer to achieve this, but you do need to be able to look behind the curtain instead of buying into a slick sales rep’s unsubstantiated claims.

In additionto the challenges posed by the escalating role of AI, there are other critical technical issues that HR practitioners should understand. For instance:

  • Understand the cost gap separating “off the shelf” and “build to suit” systems. All-in-One systems may not be the best fit for your organization.
  • When you buy a-la-carte systems, make sure they can integrate with each other, and with existing systems of records in the organization. Failure to do so may lead to disastrous data integrity issues.
  • Understand data security issues and assess risks of data breaches. Don’t collect certain data before you need them. HR collects so much valuable employment and personal data from pre-hire to exit.