Dawn Myers and Dari DeSousa, SDSU Global Campus HR Instructors

Dawn Myers and Dari DeSousa, co-instructors of SDSU’s HR Certificate Capstone course.

SDSU’s Professional Human Resources Management Certificate program is designed to make you a leader at your organization — much like the instructors teaching the courses. 

Dari DeSousa and Dawn Myers co-teach the capstone course of the program: Applying Human Resource Management. Before completing the program, you’ll learn from two of San Diego’s most seasoned HR professionals. 

DeSousa and Myers became part of each other’s networks during their day jobs. DeSousa has long worked in the hospitality industry and is currently an HR consultant at her own firm. Myers consults at Barrett Business Services. Myers previously led the HR department at San Diego Marriott Gaslamp Quarter and Pendry San Diego for 16 years. 

DeSousa and Myers have seen the industry change year after year. Both women have made it a focus to keep innovating in their field. Along the way, they’ve found that the core skills every HR professional needs to be successful remain the same. 

A Conversation with Two HR Experts

Can you tell me a bit about your professional journey? How did you start working in HR and how did that take you to where you are today? 

Myers: After working 14 years as an Office Manager for a large non-profit, I decided I wanted to explore a career in hospitality and took a temporary position in Human Resources at a small downtown hotel. I quickly realized that I had found my home, not just in hospitality, but in Human Resources. I have always had an innate desire to help people succeed and was able to do this in HR in ways I never thought possible. My temporary position turned permanent and I stayed 16 years at what is now Marriott Gaslamp Quarter.

It has been through a strong built network which includes SDSU Global Campus HR Certificate Advisor/Instructor, Dari DeSousa that has kept me growing and moving in my career. I left the Marriott to take on an adventure with Pendry San Diego for two years prior to moving on to my dream of consulting with Barrett Business Services (BBSI) in 2019.

How does one continue to adapt and innovate in Human Resources? 

DeSousa: I feel that it is important to always reinvent how things are done. I’ve had a few roles in my career that lasted for multiple years in the same position. I have always felt that if you bring the exact same game every year, rinse and repeat then not only will it become boring for those on the receiving end, but it will also become boring for me as well.

I believe in being a lifelong learner. When I attend a class, or a workshop – I look for ways to bring in an idea I’ve learned and apply it to something in the workplace. I love the challenge of always “doing it better” next year. This can be something fun such as an employee recognition event, or it can be a training initiative or it can be a communication – the philosophy applies to anything. I received an informal recognition a few years ago with Marriott from my boss – he gave me the “Madonna Award” (the singer). He said I, like the singer, strived to always reinvent my work to keep it exciting for my “fans” aka employees. That has been my favorite recognition to date. The key though is exposing yourself to new ideas through blogs, podcasts, books, articles, speaking engagements, etc. 

What are two or three of the main skills that someone needs to become successful in HR? 

Myers: Critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and flexibility

DeSousa: Critical thinking, strong ethics, and employee relations skills

How have the duties of an HR professional changed over the past several years? What can you do to adapt to changes in the industry? 

Myers: The HR industry has changed dramatically over the last several years. It used to be viewed as a more tactical role (administrative). It is now looked to as a strategic partner. The HR Certificate Program is a great way for those interested in becoming a HR strategic partner to get the learning, real life stories, networking, confidence and personal/professional growth.

How do you bridge the gap between enforcing company policy and labor laws, and maintaining a positive work environment?

DeSousa: I have found this to be the hardest balance. I feel a great approach is to talk with leaders directly, “what is it you are trying to accomplish and let me help you get there legally”. HR can’t be the “no” department 100% of the time. Leaders need to know you are there to support them. We should help our company develop meaningful rules and guidelines the company feels is critical to success. Omit silly, overly complicated rules that you can’t show the importance or value of.

HR should teach every single person that works for the company what those guidelines are and why they are important. And then ensure consistency in the application of those rules. The “why” is key – that helps with understanding and with the bigger picture. If you are thoughtful and transparent and you provide a legal/ethical path to “yes” then, on the occasion, when you must give a hard stop to something, you will be listened to. I think a strong message to the employees about rules is, “we have some, we will hold everyone accountable to them and we have a supportive work environment”. These two positions are not mutually exclusive.

What tips do you have for someone who’s new to HR, but wants to become better at their job? 

DeSousa: Find a mentor that doesn’t work for your company, or doesn’t work in your direct workspace/site/building. I believe that a leader in any discipline can always benefit from either a mentor or a coach. Someone who can challenge you, someone you trust that they are giving you information from a safe space of truth for your own growth. Someone who won’t let you make excuses, someone who will spark ideas for you to explore.

Self-evaluation is important for personal growth. If you don’t have an outside perspective, I think it is hard to see where you can best use a personal development plan. If you don’t have someone that can act in that capacity – then find other ways to get feedback. 360 degree feedback tools, anonymous surveys, asking your direct supervisor for specific feedback after a work product is completed or a project is finished. The key to asking for feedback is be ready to accept it, and not argue the result, feedback is a gift after all. I have found that when feedback stings, then you care enough to make the change. Find a way to understand the critique, read a book on a supporting topic, find a webinar with tools to use and then implement a change and see if the result produces a better outcome.

Advance Your HR Career with Human Resources Management Certificate

SDSU’s Professional Human Resources Management Certificate program can help you take your career in human resources to the next level. With online courses taught by HR experts and a customizable curriculum, you’ll acquire the in-demand HR skills that employers are looking for.

Visit neverstoplearning.net/hr to start your journey.