SHRM Emerging Professional Champions: Mary M. Rydesky

Andrew Deichler By Andrew Deichler April 28, 2021
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SHRM Emerging Professional Champions: Mary M. Rydesky

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 Mary M. Rydesky, DBA, owner and CEO of Transition Management Consulting; professor of business management at Wayland Baptist University in Anchorage, Alaska; and a student chapter advisor.

Mary M. Rydesky became a manager early in her career. She found herself drawn to projects that performed upwards evaluation of managers and quickly realized that companies generally need more human resource expertise. "We have a good number of people out there who have the accounting and finance background in our companies. And often it's the HR that is overlooked and undervalued," she said.

While working as a manager and earning her second master's degree in business, Rydesky observed that companies often prioritized having employees meet certain company targets. But there was little emphasis on the employees themselves and how their well-being needs to be part of the overall strategic thinking of a company. She eventually became committed to shifting workplace culture.

After joining SHRM, Rydesky found a community of HR professionals who shared her interest in and dedication to reshaping workplaces to be more employee-centric. As founder of her own consulting firm, she has worked for many years to help HR departments refocus on individual employee growth.

She also took up teaching because, she said, the sooner HR professionals can grasp the evidence-based mindset, the better. "We've got a lot of knowledge stored up, and now we need to see how we can get people who are out there practicing it," she said.

Rydesky doesn't see education as something that occurs in stages; rather, it's a lifelong, collaborative process in which people of all skill levels can learn from one another. Within her SHRM student chapter in Anchorage, Alaska, she matches students with professionals in the community so the students can learn from experts. She also helps young professionals find opportunities to teach in public school classrooms. When speaking about careers, young professionals see how they can relate to younger people, and students learn what HR does. "Anything that is a real-world opportunity for coupling a student with a professional has been my modus operandi," she said.

Mentorship—and Rydesky's unique approach to it—is a critical component of the process. She has students engage with HR professionals for extended periods to work on projects together. Rydesky believes that a project-focused approach to mentoring is more preferable than simply having mentors periodically check in with students; having a project to work on together ensures the mentors and mentees achieve results.

Anchorage's unique economy has also presented opportunities for Rydesky as a professor and a career coach. Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson is the largest employer in the area, and one of her many roles is helping military service members transition to civilian careers. Their unique experience and training often make them prime candidates to work in HR.

"These men and women, from around age 20, may be put in charge of 400 people," she said. "They're taught very carefully about many of the underlying things that are so important to what we do in this career, from trusting and listening to record-keeping to disciplining. So, if I help them to recognize what skills they already have, they might start thinking, 'Maybe I want to be an HR professional.'"

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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