Category: Blog

The #1 Lesson from ACT-W PDX

I’ve been thinking about ACT-W PDX since it wrapped up last weekend. Trying to absorb all the wonderful tidbits of information and deciding what my biggest lesson was – which is no easy task!


Especially when you look at the lineup of fantastic speakers. These were just a few of my favorites.

  • Let’s give it up to @perrysetgo who gave a wonderful performance as the very first MC of the conference
  • CEO and founder of ChickTech, @jlevenha shared a very personal story of how ChickTech came to be
  • I loved the keynote from @jillnelsonpdx who reminded me that if you do what you are passionate about, you won’t let anything get in the way.
  • A super informative session from @WhataTiberius on salary negotiations – who by the way I was super excited to meet. She too has an HR background before transitioning to engineering!

But by far, I think my favorite session was the last one of the conference.

When @AndoTheRando taught me to break shit! Weird I know.

But he reminded me that sometimes, you have to break something before you can fix it. It’s ok to not know the answer.

Write down your question and your hypothesis. Then look it up and write down what you found.

Doing this makes the information stick!

Pick something, google it and look at the documentation. It will sink in so much more when you are looking at it for fun rather than because you have to!


The other lesson I learned from him, read what the method does!! Don’t assume what the return value will be. That caught me a few times!

Why Development? Why Now?

I was reflecting recently about why I decided to transition from HR to engineering.

First a little history

I have 10+ years experience in human resources, and noticed I never really showed the real me. Not many people know who I am or what I have to say because in HR, I learned to be guarded. To share just enough so that others think they know me, but not so much that I was vulnerable.

Why? Because at some point, I may be at the other end of a table with a severance check in hand and wishing you well in your future endeavors. When I got to the point of being numb to letting people go, I knew something wasn’t right.

I took the Insights Discovery assessment a few years ago, and I remember the instructor looking at my profile and said “Hmm!” in one of those, well that’s interesting sort of sounds. I asked him if he saw something concerning and he noticed that my conscious persona was conflicting with my less conscious persona. He told me that I need to allow the real me, to be me. I’m essentially fighting internally with how bold vs calm I am because my conscious was trying to be assertive but my unconscious was trying to be relaxed.

No wonder I always felt conflicted.

I learned a lot about me

Each new year, I set mantras that will guide me through the next 12 months and help me to stay focused. They aren’t resolutions because we all know those don’t work. A mantra is a statement or slogan repeated frequently.

    2015 – All about me. Do only what makes me happy
    2016 – Feel good, eat good
    2017 – Be brave
    2018 – Be kind to myself and don’t be so hard on myself

I found myself asking the questions regularly over the last few years. Was I happy? Did I feel good? Did I enjoy my work?

2017 was the year of being brave. In early January, I was so giddy to dye my hair purple, green and pink because it’s not what a typical HR person would do. I felt brave! (I like to live dangerously)

I had been sitting on the executive team at my company for the past year and in late January, I began an advanced management training program on the path to VP of HR. In the program, there is a lot of work around the health of an organization. I looked at myself as an organization. Did I know what my values were? Did I know my purpose? Did I have clarity around what I wanted?


That summer, I realized I wasn’t happy in my position. I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing every day.

I looked back at my skills. Many years ago, I was posting a job to Craigslist. At the time, Craigslist required you to use HTML if you wanted your post to look anything more than a bunch of words. I remember feeling so excited that I taught myself how to add bullets and paragraphs. Seems small now, but at the time, I was amazed at the control I had.

Fast forward a few years and I asked myself what it was that I always wanted to try. Oddly enough, that was software development. It was the year to be brave after all.

Holy crap! That means Starting over!

Fall had arrived, and I wanted to decide if I was going to continue in my current job while learning software development or leave my job and focus on learning full time. At this point, I had dabbled a bit in engineering through Free Code Camp but it was once a week and not enough to really make a difference.

In November 2017, I signed up for The Tech Academy, and began my studies while working a demanding job full time. I also have a family which meant my days were packed. Most days I was up at 5am and didn’t go to bed until after midnight working a full-time, demanding, high stress job while trying to study 40 hrs a week. For some, this may work. For me, not so much.

I did this for a little over a month and I just couldn’t do it anymore. I wasn’t focused on my work and was often distracted in my studies. Plus we were dealing with a difficult landlord and trying to move in 2 weeks. I couldn’t put all the weight on my husband and my five year old who, although she was super proud of me, missed playing with me – and reminded me of this all the time. #bestmomever

So I transitioned out of my company and focused on studying full time.

Background Checks for Employment

Conducting a background check is very important for businesses when considering to hire a candidate. Doing your due diligence will provide reassurance that you have done your research on a candidate. This can range from Googling a candidate online to completing a consumer report. Some key points to keep in mind though no matter what direction you go in.

Consumer Reports

If you choose a consumer report or background check, be sure you follow the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requirements. You must provide in writing that you will be conducting a background check on the candidate and provide an authorization form which they must sign prior to your search.

Wellness Programs

I recently attended a wellness summit put on by the American Heart Association and found it very interesting. There are so many things business can be doing to improve the overall health of their employees.

  • Biggest Looser contest
  • Walking meetings
  • Health assessments
  • Health fair
  • Providing healthy options in the lunch room
  • Onsite gyms
  • Lunch presentations put on by local companies
  • Snack exchanges
  • Competition for most weight loss or biggest drop of cholesterol
  • Company cookbooks
  • Yoga classes
And so many more. We also discussed how to reward employees. But what I really want to know, is what are you doing to improve the health of your employees? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Importance of Instant Coaching

If you’re anything like me, you thrive on instant feedback. I find it refreshing when I get feedback or coaching right away because I know immediately if I did something wrong. How do I know unless you tell me, right? Right!

Time after time, I hear about an employee who was terminated and had no idea of their poor performance. It is no easy task to tell an employee, a peer or perhaps your boss that you disagree with their decisions or actions. It’s our job as professionals and leaders to ensure we give feedback right away.

Tips on how to give instant coaching

  1. Provide your expectations right up front
  2. Explain specifically what they are doing wrong and what you want changed
  3. Explain the why behind the expectation so they understand where you are coming from
  4. Determine why their performance is poor and how you can help improve the situation
  5. Write developmental goals and set expectations with milestones
  6. Explain what happens if the change isn’t made
  7. Follow up

Sometimes, we hear what we want to hear and no matter how many times you coach someone on poor performance, they simply do not change the behavior. If performance is not improving after multiple coaching sessions and you have done everything in your power to change the behavior, it might be time to part ways. You are only as strong as your weakest link.

HR Groups in PDX

Below are just a few of the most popular human resource groups in Portland, Oregon. There of course are so many meet ups, committees and events that you could attend, however that would take forever to list. So these are the most popular groups that I recommend.

  1. HR Network (Jennifer Johnson Network)
  2. Portland Human Resource Management Association – The local chapter for Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).
  3. Special Interest Groups within Portland Human Resource Management Association:
    1. Global HR SIG
    2. Active Search
    3. Benefits and Compensation
    4. Diversity and Inclusion
    5. Employee Relations
    6. Recruitment and Selection
    7. Training and Development.

Networking is key in the PDX Metro area, so if I missed a group that you feel is a must, let me know.

Work Life Balance

For those of us who are workaholics, now is the best time to set boundaries. The holiday season can be so stressful. Most likely, you are worrying about holiday shoppers, traffic, the gifts you still need to buy and travel arrangements to Grandma’s house. You are also stressing about year end projects and deadlines, budget cuts in the new year, goal setting and so much more. I for one would rather burry my head in paperwork and just ignore the holidays all together. Right?

Wrong! Family and friends are your support group and it is important to set time aside for them. Use the holidays to create a plan and implement it.

A few tips:

Leave On Time

If your schedule is 8am-5pm, but you usually leave around 7pm, then leave at 5pm. Compromise if you need to and leave at 6pm instead. Sometimes, the work will just have to wait until tomorrow. Plus, stepping away from what you are working on can give you a fresh look at the project. Let your co-workers know when and how to get ahold of you during specific times and stick to it. It is to easy for us to get caught up in our work and we forget what time it is, so set an alarm on your calendar or phone to remind you to leave.

Drop Unnecessary Activities

Make a list of what is truly important to you and a list of what you can pass off to someone else. You might be surprised to find that a lot of the work you do, is because there was no one else to do it. Or you might find that what made sense to do 6 months ago, does not make sense anymore and it can come off your plate. Evaluate your priorities and make cuts where needed.

Turn Off Your Cell Phone

If you set aside time to complete tasks and its time to go home, turn off your cell phone. You should have specifically provided times you will be available by phone and email, so if its outside that window, turn it off. You wont be tempted to answer any calls, check your voice mail or your email if its off.

Work Remotely

If you really must work, work remotely.  A change of pace can do wonders for you. Not saying that you wont be distracted, but spend a few hours working from home or at a coffee shop. The break from the hustle and bustle will help clear your mind so when you get back to work, you will feel refreshed. Still set limits as to how much you are working. You can just as easily work a 10 hour day at a coffee shop, assuming they are open, as you can at the office.

Think of it as your New Year’s resolution that you will continue day after day and month after month. You will feel better to get a break from work and your family will love that your home in time for dinner.

“The world is full of willing people, some willing to work, the rest willing to let them.” –Robert Frost

10 Questions You Should Never Ask During An Interview

I showed you 10 Questions To Ask During An Interview. Now lets look at 10 questions to avoid. Also, included are questions you can use instead to get the same result without getting into trouble.


  1. Are you a U.S. citizen?
    Instead, ask: Are you authorized to work in the U.S.?
  2. What religious holidays do you observe and would you need those days off?
    Instead, ask: Are you able to work with our required schedule?
  3. Do you belong to a club or social organization?
    Instead, ask: Are you a member of a professional or trade group that is relevant to our industry?
  4. How old are you?
    Instead, ask: Are you over the age of 18?
  5. Is this your maiden name?
    Instead, ask: Have you worked or earned a degree under another name?
  6. Do you have any children or do you plan to have children?
    Instead, ask: Are you available to work overtime on occasion? Can you travel?
  7. We’ve always had a man/woman do this job. How do you think you will stack up?
    Instead, ask: What do you have to offer our company?
  8. Do you smoke or drink?
    Instead, ask: In the past, have you been disciplined for violating company policies forbidding the use of alcohol or tobacco products?
  9. Do you take drugs?
    Instead, ask: Would you be willing to take a drug screen prior to employment?
  10. How many sick days did you take last year?
    Instead, ask: How many days of work did you miss last year excused or unexcused?

10 Questions To Ask During An Interview

There are so many interview questions to ask. Below are a 10 common interview questions you can ask depending on the job. These are just the basics as there are hundreds of questions and different ways to ask them.


  1. What interests you about the position?
  2. What are the top duties about your current or past position that you enjoyed most?
  3. What are the top duties about your current or past position that you disliked the most?
  4. What skill set do you think you would bring to this position?
  5. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
  6. Tell me a bit about your background? How do you think it relates to our current opening?
  7. What type of work environment do you thrive in? Very structured or more relaxed?
  8. Why should we hire you?
  9. Tell me anything else you would like us to know about you.
  10. What questions would you like to ask me?

What are some you have asked and how did they work for you?

What’s the Point of an Exit Survey?

First you ask, what is an exit survey?

An exit survey (aka exit interview) is often conducted when an employee leaves the company. Human resources can use exit surveys to better understand employee retention and satisfaction. The goal of an exit survey is to obtain knowledge as to why an employee is leaving and what they thought about the company during their employment so you can improve employee retention and reduce turnover.

Common question topics

  • Reasons for Leaving
  • Job Satisfaction, Performance and Responsibilities
  • Training or Mentoring Programs
  • Supervisors and Management
  • Peer Interactions and Communication
  • Benefits and Compensation
  • Company Policies and Procedures
  • Organizational Culture

An exit survey would only be given to an employee when they voluntarily leave and is recommended to be conducted by a neutral party such as a member of the human resource team or a third party vendor. The employee might be more sincere or honest if they dont have to worry about burning bridges or possibly retaliation even after they have left your employment.

If someone is involuntarily terminated, they would be less likely to provide a valid and thorough response without frustrations or bias from their recent termination. I wouldn’t recommend an exit survey from an involuntary termination. However, it’s not always a terrible idea either as long as your questions are consistant.


This information can be invaluable to a company no matter how big or small. For example, knowing an employee truly enjoyed working for the company, but had a family emergency could show you are doing everything right and they regret the need to end their employment. Just the same, knowing an employee left for a better paying job could show your pay might be low for the market.


Not everyone is going to love the way you run the business or department. You will find positive feedback as well as negative but it is how you put this knowledge to use is what’s important. If the surveys are consistently advising your training program is missing vital information for the job, you know where to focus your efforts. Acknowledging the company can and will improve is an important step to growth and stability in your workforce.


Never retaliate!

You asked for the information, so expect some negative feedback. A disgruntled employee is more likely to escalate their frustrations or disagreements with the company. You are more than likely going to see a higher number of negative feedback than positive. Lets face it, most employees who leave are leaving for a reason and its important to value their feedback and implement any changes you can.

Many companies employ a neutral third party to complete surveys which can now be done via email, face-to-face, phone or online. My personal preference is online, as you can create an anonymous survey where a departing employee would not worry about giving their name or contact information. Also, a face-to-face exit survey can be uncomfortable for the employee and they may hesitate to be completely forthcoming with information. It is also good to use multiple choice answers to compare results.

Let the departing employee know their feedback will be evaluated by a human resource representative or management and that their comments and feedback is important. They need to know the survey they are completing will be looked at and not lost in the shuffle.

Do you obtain exit surveys? Are they valuable to your company?