MyHR Story : Colleen Young Patterson

MyHR Story : Colleen Young Patterson

“When I was doing my first degree, I couldn’t afford to buy books. I couldn’t even copy the books because I was paying my tuition out of my little salary. So even KFC was a luxury. I made a lot of sacrifices on my journey. People assumed I had it made. They don’t know, and so when I did my Masters at FIU, I got comments like “you don’t look like a government employee”. I don’t like that because, how does a government worker look? I don’t put myself in that box. I did things to make sure that I would be able to work at IMF, Google, wherever! I’ve set that standard for myself as a public sector employee,” Mrs Young Patterson says.

She noted that “when I completed my first degree, I told Ms. Francis that I wanted to be in HR. She said she’d let me know if a slot opened up, but never actually called. I kept calling for a while, until one day I got bold and just went to her office. Again nothing was available, but there was someone going off for a short 10/15-day leave. I jumped at the opportunity for the experience- that was in 2004; I never went back to that post since then. That’s how I got into HR!”

The OD Director advises persons to “set a standard for yourself, be professional and be on time for meetings” adding that “I try to represent my own brand very well. I read Harvard Business Review amongst other things, so I’m not locked into just public sector things. I set myself apart.”

Mrs Young Patterson notes that she has been at TAJ for 10 years – since 2009 and that she loves being in HR “but I’m also at a crossroads. I’m in organisational development which is more the transformational part of HR rather than the transactional, more interactive part. We look at change management, so I don’t get to focus on the softer side of HR. I do get to look at the people side of change, but a part of me is longing for the other part like talent management. So I’m conflicted about going back to the core of HR or staying in organisation development [OD]. I love OD, because it’s extremely important and impactful but I also love core HR for the connections I get to make with people.

It sounds cliché but if you don’t like people, if you’re moody, if you take everything personally, then don’t go into HR. You need empathy, it isn’t just about getting a job, you need emotional intelligence for HR because there are constant interactions. You need to have a love for people and a certain level of tolerance.”

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