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Member Spotlight: Damona Barnes

HR director, Warren Easton Charter High School, New Orleans

A woman in a pink dress standing in front of a building.

Change has been the one constant in Damona Barnes’ life.

As a college student, she was forced to change universities after damage from Hurricane Katrina caused her first choice to shut down in 2005. She then graduated during the Great Recession and, after building her skills at a range of employers across Louisiana, persevered as an HR department of one through the pandemic at a New Orleans high school, where she juggled COVID-19 protocols and teacher absences plus another hurricane in 2021.

“I believe through these unusual times, I’ve found ways to take things as they come,” says Barnes, SHRM-SCP.

She volunteered with the Greater Baton Rouge chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) for several years until she moved in 2016. Last year, as president of the New Orleans chapter, she shepherded the transition to virtual programming to help the chapter’s 550 members through tough times. 

In her role as co-leader of about 500 volunteers at the SHRM Annual Conference & Expo 2022 in June, she’ll be welcoming HR professionals from around the world to New Orleans.

What’s your work philosophy?

Work hard and work smart! Everything doesn’t have to be difficult. Figure out ways to improve processes and workflows. Also, find time to step back. I encourage my leadership team and staff to take personal time off, and I have to practice this too by shutting down periodically and enjoying downtime. 

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

“Be where your feet are.” I received this advice from a seasoned business leader when I was working in the construction industry. His point was to always make sure that you are present wherever you are—at work or at home. I draw on this advice daily, especially when I feel pulled in many directions.

What do you enjoy in your spare time? 

When I’m not working on my master’s degree in business administration at the University of New Orleans, I’m enjoying New Orleans’ festivals, traveling, and spending time with family and friends. Also, I cook an amazing gumbo! 

Photograph by Jordan Hefler.


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