SHRM Emerging Professional Champions: J.D. Conway

Andrew Deichler By Andrew Deichler April 15, 2021
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SHRM Emerging Professional Champions: J.D. Conway

As part of an effort to recognize the next generation of human resource leaders, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is naming students, alumni and others who work on behalf of emerging professionals as SHRM Emerging Professional Champions. This week, we're looking at J.D. Conway, head of talent acquisition at BambooHR and director of college relations for Utah SHRM.

It's often said that many HR professionals get to the profession in a roundabout way. But J.D. Conway may be the only one who found his way to HR by studying dead languages and ancient civilizations.

Originally intending to become a professor in Assyriology, Conway majored in Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. "I studied Egyptology, Hebrew and Levantine studies," he said. "But about three years into my undergrad, I knew I would not be happy being a professor and would have to go through, like, 12 years of grad school to do anything with it. I loved the idea of teaching, but I wanted to make an impact on people’s lives faster than that."

At the time, Conway was working for his father's third-party recruiting firm, sourcing and networking for mining and water resource engineers. That experience, followed by recruiting stints at Adecco and a hyper-growth software-as-a-service (SaaS) company, made Conway realize he didn't just have a talent for helping companies find qualified employees. He also saw the importance of having strong, structured HR capabilities.

Conway eventually moved on to BambooHR, an HR SaaS company. As the head of talent acquisition, he helps the organization in its growth and teaches top-tier companies how to innovate in their talent acquisition and retention strategies through regular webinars. The company has grown over 500 percent under his leadership.

He became involved with SHRM in recent years, after talking with peers who are members. "I saw the value that they found being a part of SHRM," he said. "SHRM has so many resources and is such a good centralized authority. I wanted to help people see and experience the value of it."

Being part of a structured organization that supports the profession truly inspired Conway. "Seeing and experiencing the value of SHRM and being a member has been really cool," he said. "It's been great to be a part of a network of people that see the same value in changing HR into something new, and who volunteer their time to advance the profession."

Currently the director of college relations for the Utah SHRM chapter, Conway works to create more value and assets for student chapter members. He provides students with valuable insights that they can use in class and connects them with other student chapters and the broader SHRM community. "We're trying to help each student chapter grow, while helping students understand more about what they can expect in their careers," he said.

One initiative that Conway and Utah SHRM have engaged in is creating a centralized database of HR professionals who are open to working with students. The database allows advisors, professors and student members to reach out to these professionals about guest lecturing and for insight on best practices and the latest HR trends.

"Innovations in HR are moving at lightning speeds," Conway said. "Student members need to be able to talk with seasoned HR professionals, as well as network across other student chapters. They're going to be co-workers in a few years, and we provide an apparatus for that."

Do you know an outstanding SHRM student leader? How about a former SHRM student member who is achieving great success professionally? Or maybe a SHRM professional member, student chapter advisor or professional chapter that is advancing student membership and emerging professional programming? Nominate them as a SHRM Emerging Professional Champion today.

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