“I believe in paying it forward. “
Of the many things that propelled Renuka Adnani’s successful transition from a career in IT to one in human resources, it’s the people she has met along the way that have helped her the most.
“There are a good, solid 50 people in my network that I reach out to quite often when I’m struggling with things,” she says. “I ask them what they think about a situation.” They’ve also got mentors and “they’re more than happy to give back.”
For Adnani, PHR SHRM-CP, a human resources business partner at Samsung Research America, it’s taken time to develop her community. She remembers what it was like to first step into a room crowded with networking professionals and reach out to strangers.
“Networking didn’t come easy for me,” she says. “At first I was very uncomfortable. There were big people talking about big things. But, I was brave enough to go in and sit down and listen.”
Silicon Valley-Style HR
Adnani found UCSC Extension shortly after moving to the U.S. and to the Bay Area from India where she had been working in IT for a pharmaceutical company. She had a Bachelor of Commerce degree and a Human Resources Diploma, a year-long condensed study in the field. Once she was in Silicon Valley, however, she needed U.S. experience, particularly to understand HR methods in the region where new business cultures were evolving every day. Taking classes at night meant her husband could care for their small child while she was in school. She was expecting her second child as well.
“On-the-job learning is one thing, but I wanted to give myself a boost,” she says. “Extension was the perfect balance because I could space out my courses while having a work-life-education balance and building a network.”
Initially she made it a point to attend conferences and seminars whenever she could. By the time she graduated from the Human Resources Management certificate program in 2010, she had gotten to know her instructors and other serious students who would become her peers in the industry. It provided a good, solid foundation for her to build her career, she says.
“I definitely enjoyed my classes,” she says. She learned a lot and appreciated the pace of the study. “It’s a very supportive program. The engagement within our class was great. We learned from the professors as well as our classmates.” Soon she was applying for her PHR and SHRM-CP certifications.
In the decade since, she has taken positions at numerous major companies and startups in Silicon Valley—KLA-Tencor, Tabula, Tavant, and Duarte—juggling work and family as an HR business partner consultant. It’s been a way to continue to have a balance between family and work, familiarize herself with best practices at Fortune 500 companies, and keep learning new things along the way.
“I’m a mom first. I have two kids and I’m a lifelong learner. Every six months to a year, I make sure I add one tool or training to my toolkit. It helps me to be in touch with the new and the now.” Adnani is currently pursuing a Master’s of Science degree in Organizational Development from the University of San Francisco.
“My whole journey has been about getting to the next level. I networked. I learned new things, and networked some more.”
Make a Good Impression
“It might sound shallow but the way you dress and present yourself shows you’re serious about the work you’re doing,” Adnani says. “I’m not saying you have to wear designer clothes or wear a suit all the time, but if you want people to take you seriously, you need to take seriously how you present yourself.” You never know when you get a chance to meet your potential boss or manager.
The second impression is about the conversation you have. Do some research about what people’s interests are and where they come from. Be ready with a couple of thoughts. When Adnani was just getting started, she would let people know that she was just getting her feet wet, that she was still learning. It helped break the ice with strangers. It also helped them know that she was not coming to them with a job request.
“Never ask for a job when you meet someone for the first time,” she says. “The worst thing you can do is say, ‘Hey, I’m looking for a job. Can you help?’” Instead, ask people about what they do, tell them that you are interested in learning something new, and if they will be willing to share their thoughts or guide them. Be comfortable with yourself.”
“Show genuine interest,” It’s all about learning, especially early on in your career.” When Adnani hears about certain tools and models that other HR specialists or leaders are using, she takes notes.
“Later, I Google those terminologies or tools to understand what they’re talking about,” she says.
Remember, it’s fine if you don’t feel any connection at all with someone. Just politely move on.
It’s all about learning, especially early on in your career. When Adnani hears about certain tools and models that other HR specialists or leaders are using, she takes notes.
Take Notes & Reconnect
If someone shares a business card with you, then make a quick note on the card so that you know what you discussed and reference that can when you reach out to them via LinkedIn after the event. Do some research so you know a little about people you plan to talk with.
“It should not sound rehearsed. But, if you know somebody has done something, it gives you the opportunity to add to the conversation.”
A message might lead to coffee sometime. But, remember to be genuine and thoughtful about how you approach them. “It should not feel like a task for them to talk with you.”
“One conference connection in another state led to a volunteer opportunity for me here in Silicon Valley at a local California SHRM chapter.”
Volunteering is a way to learn how things are done in an organization. Adnani who is part of the Emerging Leaders Group with the Bay Area Human Resources Executive Council (BAHREC) which is an association focused on networking and professional development opportunities for strategic HR leaders. She heads up the membership responsibilities for the organization and serves on the BAHREC board.
Pay it Forward
“I believe in paying it forward. Many people have helped me in the past when I was growing up in the HR field and so I try to help others, to talk with them, and give something back.”
All excellent tips for HR professionals growing their career!
HR policies lay down the boundaries within which people are expected to operate. While essential to managing the employment-related risks of a business, HR leaders are wise to avoid an overly prescriptive approach or demanding style. Leverage policies to explain the rules of engagement, but allow room also for people to use their judgement.