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Planning the next move in your HR career? Curious what it’s like to hold a CHRO role? As part of an interview series to address this topic, we sat down with Navistar CHRO Donna Dorsey to learn more about her career journey and how she approaches her job.

If you can’t remember the last time you had fun at work, it’s important to take a step back and evaluate.

HR Leader: Was human resources always a career that interested you? What have been some of your favorite parts of your job? What have been some challenges you’ve faced, and how have you overcome them?

Donna Dorsey (DD): Like most kids, what I wanted to be when I grew up remained a mystery until it wasn’t. In grade school I thought I wanted to be a teacher. I always admired the way teachers could make even the most complex things “make sense.” At the same time, I was highly influenced by so many experiences. I remember coming to understand “the first civil rights movement” as my grandmother explained unions to me. Experiences like these helped me develop an appreciation for workers’ rights. I started to understand how important it is that people look to be treated fairly, to support their families. That moved me to go to law school after college, with the goal of becoming a labor and employment attorney. As a part-time law student I was also a full-time HR employee, and that was when my HR career really began.

One thing I treasure about my job is that it lets me connect with employees on a regular basis. These connections and knowing that the work my team and I do have impact on the lives of over 14,000 employees make my work meaningful.

There are always obstacles no matter the career you chose, and for me, those obstacles usually show up when I am overly critical of myself, either personally or professionally. To overcome that I find it helpful to put on something soothing, whether it’s good music on the radio or one of my favorite podcasts from Tara Brach.

HR Leader: Do you have any tips for professionals who aspire to become a CHRO?

DD: The best thing I can think of is to have as many diverse experiences as you can. Those experiences can be in different industries, different companies or even different roles within the same company – just broaden your perspective! I think it’s also important to stay in tune with the HR community and the things that are changing. We are the tip of the spear for many of the changes facing our businesses, so it’s critical that we know what those are.

HR Leader: CHROs help shape the talent of an organization. What are your top tips for addressing talent needs and desires given the tight labor market?

DD: Know the business – sometimes we have to be the voice of reason and reality as it relates to current and prospective talent.

Don’t let development efforts stop. Some people just need a jump start or a reset, and they can be tremendously successful when in the right role at the right time.

Start early. The talent market is hot, it will take time to find the talent if you need to hire externally. As time goes on, our managers can grow impatient and just get butts in seats. It’s our job to insist on patience to wait for the right person.

HR Leader: How has technology changed the role of HR? What are some important technologies that all firms should consider?

DD: We are on the technology journey. I always feel like we are chasing the latest technology or the next cool thing. At the end of the day, I think the movement around the employee experience has been the most helpful for us as we consider that we have actually moved away from the personal interactions that are the cornerstone of HR in favor of a technology “solution” to speed things up or make things easier. The truth is, there are places in the business of HR where technology is not the answer – human connection is an essential part of the work and we shouldn’t lose sight of that.

HR Leader: What is the best career advice you ever received?

DD: Do what you love and don’t apologize for it! Just make sure it doesn’t consume you. If you can’t remember the last time you had fun at work, it’s important to take a step back and evaluate.

HR Leader: What is one podcast you highly recommend?

DD: I like listening to Tara Brach. One of my teammates recommended her to me and I’m so glad I checked her out. She has podcasts that are great for my long commute into the office. She also has guided meditations, though, of course, those are not recommended during the commute!

HR Leader: Share 2-3 things you must keep at your desk when working in order to maximize productivity.

DD: Not so much on my physical desk, but on there are three apps I have to have.

  1. Cozi – a home calendar app
  2. OneNote – I take most, if not all, of my notes and build to-do lists with this app
  3. OneDrive – for quick access to all my files