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If you're a member of Linked:HR, you are among more than 940,000 HR professionals networking in the largest LinkedIn group for professionals—and you may recognize the name Pamela Harding, SPHR.
That's because as Next Dimension Media's (NDM's) chief human resource officer and director of corporate operations, Harding brings together 1.5 million professionals as they network within more than 100 groups and subgroups on LinkedIn. She is community chair of Linked:HR, one of the four largest among 2 million groups on LinkedIn.
In her role as NDM's top HR executive, Harding is responsible for corporate services that support business-to-business marketing for the organization's Fortune 500 clients. She also manages all of NDM's business operations and is manager in a number of the businesses' LinkedIn groups.
For many, LinkedIn has become far more than just an online resume database. It's a place where people find jobs, grow their connections and enhance their knowledge by networking online with others in their profession.
Harding's own LinkedIn profile showcases her tremendously varied work history, which ranges from the military to HR to needle art.
From the Navy to HR
How did a young woman go from a small town in the shadow of Mount Rainier (Enumclaw, Wash., population 11,000) to great heights in HR?
First, she enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1975. "I was 17 years old and was in the Navy when there were very few women in the military," she says. She hadn't intended to make it a career, but she quickly began rising through the ranks and blazing her trail. Her military career ultimately spanned 24 years, and she reached the level of senior chief petty officer. A single mom, she also raised her son, Jason, who followed in her footsteps to become an intelligence specialist in the Navy. The two even served together on a Navy warship.
It Started with a Class
It was in the Navy that Harding fell in love with HR.
"When I was stationed in Hawaii, I got a bachelor's in business administration and one of the core classes that I took was an HR class," she says. "I knew I was probably five or six years away from retiring from the military, and I thought, 'Hmm, I'm already doing performance management. I'm already doing discipline. I'm already doing a lot of the HR competencies.' "
She went on to earn her master's in HR before retiring from the military in 1999, working her way up by taking jobs as an HR analyst, consultant, business partner, manager, principal and director in sectors as diverse as government, transportation, hospitality and technology. In 2010, she also received an associate degree in accounting.
Harding holds two HR certifications and is looking forward to earning a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) competency-based certification in 2015.
"I'm going to have certification with three different organizations," she says proudly. Harding has been a SHRM member for 24 years.
As for her work, Next Dimension Media is more than the world's largest independent owner and operator of LinkedIn groups. The 50-person firm also specializes in developing and running professional communities across the social media arena, where professionals network and discuss topics related to their businesses and industries.
Harding has just one other person on her HR team. In addition to managing many LinkedIn groups for clients, the fast-growing company runs more than 100 groups and subgroups of its own from offices in the U.S. and the U.K., using a team of specialists from Germany, Canada and New Zealand. NDM is expanding globally in Asia, Australia, South America and Central America as well.
"We're very technology-driven," Harding says. NDM also runs the largest technology forum for enterprise software company Oracle. "We are looking at other ventures that are outside of LinkedIn platforms," she notes.
A Passion for Needlepoint
In her spare time, Harding enjoys skiing, which she took up last year; teaching; and doing needle art design, which she picked up in the military. When she was stationed in Adak, Alaska, daylight was limited, and she had plenty of indoor time to perfect her craft.
"When I moved to Washington, I discovered guilds and started going to seminars across the United States and taking classes from teachers from all over the world," she says. Harding eventually joined the Embroiderers' Guild of America and the American Needlepoint Guild, where she is the director for educational services. She has held offices in both groups for more than 20 years.
"It's not your grandmother's needlepoint," she quips. "It's not the piano bench covers."
Some of her work takes years to complete, and she has won awards for it.
Harding says needlepoint satisfies her need to be creative and quenches her "thirst for knowledge" in much the same way using social media can invigorate HR professionals.
"Never stop learning," she says. "There's always something new around the corner."
Aliah D. Wright is an online editor/manager for SHRM and author of the best-selling book A Necessary Evil: Managing Employee Activity on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn … and the Hundreds of Other Social Media Sites (SHRM, 2013).
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