As of January 1st, 2011 I will be taking over as the new VP of Communication for the National Association of African Americans in Human Resources - Tampa Bay Chapter. This is truly an honor but also has my stomach in knots at the very thought of the expectations and responsibilities involved in this role. It seems almost like a dream the way this all played out...almost in hyper-drive, going from not even being a member of this phenomenal organization to now playing an integral role on their Board of Directors.
I remember when I was first introduced to NAAAHR. It was in September of 2008. A girlfriend of mine told me about a study group that she was had just signed up for to prepare to take her SPHR exam. I had always thought of getting mine certification, since I have been in HR for the past 13 years at this point. I had just never jumped out the window and did it. So, when my friend told me that she was going to this study group, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity and that there was really no time like the present, so I signed up.
The class was 14 weeks long and I was two weeks behind by the time I got started. The study group was long, tenuous but worthwhile and definitely necessary. The biggest thing that I think I took away from the class (besides my certification, which I passed!) was a network of HR professionals who not only understood the demands and pressures of working in HR but also the unique obstacles that african americans may face in the corporate world. This was certainly a group of individuals that I knew I would be connected to for quite a long time. Over two years later, I am happy to report that I am closer to some of these members that I have ever been to anybody else in my career. I have carved friendships that will last a lifetime and networks that intersect my personal and professional lives in ways that I could never imagine.
Being a recent transplant to the Tampa Bay area about a year and a half prior to starting the study group, I knew that I needed to join organizations that would allow me to better network and advance my career. I immediately joined larger, more recognized associations for the HR professions but was extremely hesitant about joining such a small, niche organizations. These associations' fees are not cheap (anywhere from $125 - $250/year) so I analyze the cost/benefits to determine if the expense is worth the reward. Initially, I will be honest, I did not believe that joining such an organization as NAAAHR would net me the reward I was seeking that could possibly justify paying the yearly fee of $125.
But, because the bi-monthly meetings were free, I decided to check some of them out. Over time, I got to know the other members better and built connections with them. I learned more about the organization, their goals and ambitions, and how they planned to help progress the HR profession and I must say, that I eventually became hooked. Their passion and excitement about the organization and the profession was infectious! You couldn't help but want to be involved in this organization after speaking with members and hearing their stories.
So, two years later, at a financial seminar hosted by NAAAHR, I got to talking to some of the members. A discussion ensued surrounding the future plans of the organization and how they were in transition as this was the final year for the current board and they were making plans to nominate new board members. In speaking with this group, we all got to talking about our stories and how we got involved in HR and what we wanted to do with our careers. I explained how I really wanted to give back to the profession and nurture future HR professional coming up in the field. This sparked a conversation about the S/PHR certification classes. I learned that we had a 96% pass rate in our certification class and that the rate stayed steady over the two years since I took my certification exam. But, I also learned that there was nobody to lead the future classes and that the fear was that they would have to do away with the classes. I was mortified! If it was not for NAAAHR and the knowledge that I gained from them during my study group classes, I don't know when I would have received my certification. I told them that we needed to keep the classes going and asked how I could help. That conversation led to me volunteering to the the Chair of the Certification Committee for NAAAHR, which ultimately, led to my membership in the association, which led to my nomination for the VP of Communications position when the old VP stepped down...all in a time span of 3 months!
Now, as I sit here and write this, I am one week out from taking over my post. I am preparing for our Strategic Planning meeting on Wednesday and brainstorming marketing plans for our certification classes. I am excited and honored to be part of such an amazing organization but I am also humbled and anxious about my ability to live up to the needs and expectations of this organization. I know that we can do great things and become a premier HR organization but we are only as good as our leaders. I can not let my profession or this organization. I have a tall order to live up to but I know we can and will be successful. I have the backing of a powerful group of HR professionals behind me. They will not let me fail and I will not allow myself to fail.