Betsy Ferronato: Tech Startup Needs HR Leadership

By Kathy Gurchiek Jun 10, 2016
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Betsy FerronatoBetsy Ferronato says the Open Science Center, a nonprofit technology startup company in Charlottesville, Va., where she works as a human resources assistant, lacks senior HR leadership—and she’s hungry for HR knowledge. 

She has worked in HR for a year and a half, and her current role includes creating job descriptions, checking job candidate references, evaluating hiring policies and procedures, organizing and participating in recruiting events, personnel management, and benefits planning and administration.

“We learn through seminars, mentors in the field, and doing our own research,” Ferronato wrote in her application for a SHRM Foundation scholarship. 

She will be learning even more as one of seven recipients of the 2016 SHRM Foundation Annual Conference & Exposition Scholarships.

The Foundation launched the scholarship initiative in 2015. The nearly $2,500 scholarships give HR professionals who might otherwise be unable to attend because of a lack of financial support the opportunity to experience the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) 2016 Annual Conference & Exposition. Each scholarship comes with full-conference registration, four nights’ housing at a conference hotel and a $500 travel stipend. Five scholarships are awarded to SHRM members from each of five regions of the U.S., one is awarded to a SHRM student member and one to a veteran who is a SHRM member. 

Ferronato, of Charlottesville, Va., is the recipient from the Southeast region of the U.S. 

In addition to working at the tech company full time, she is an online instructor for the University of Phoenix and is a member of the Charlottesville SHRM chapter. She is the mother of a 3-year-old boy and acts as a single parent during the four months of the year that her husband deploys on military/federal government-related assignments.

Making the Most of Annual Conference 

Because her company is a startup, “there are many things that lack a formal process. One of these is compensation and pay,” Ferronato noted. She plans to attend the concurrent session on “Compensation Program Design and Administration” to get a better understanding of that process and the resources available.

She also wants to learn more about immigration as it relates to hiring.

“Being a nonprofit tech company, we are seeing increases in H-1B and J-1 visas. We employ a large number of interns and have completed a few of these requests,” said Ferronato, who wants to become an expert in this area. 

She thinks sessions on Affordable Care Act (ACA) compliance also could be helpful to her and her organization.

“We had to investigate and navigate new ACA rules and regulations independently, and [we] are still a bit shaky on the details,” she said. “This seminar alone will give me greater confidence in what we’ve already researched and help me pinpoint any mistakes we’ve made, or would potentially make in the future as we move into the large-employer category.”

Ferronato is working on her doctorate in organizational psychology and development—she will graduate in December 2016—and dreams of becoming an HR consultant. 

“The SHRM Annual Conference will help me meet my career goals by broadening my knowledge base and understanding of relevant HR concepts that I am dealing with on a daily basis,” she said. 

Kathy Gurchiek is the associate editor at HR News. Follow her @SHRMwriter.

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