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Someone asked me recently, “Why are you involved in HRMAC?” That is a great question.

Like many of you, I assume, I first became involved because my boss joined and told me he wanted me to attend a meeting. Even though it was more than 20 years ago, I remember that first meeting. It was quite a scene to behold. I recall being so impressed by the attendees, by the quality of the discussion and by how connected everyone seemed to be. It made me feel excited to be a part of such a vibrant community and among so many smart, accomplished HR professionals.

My boss at the time had a policy: If we were going to join anything on the company’s dime – whether it be membership in SHRM, OD Network or HRMAC – we had to “get involved.” He believed that there was no value in joining something if you weren’t going to participate, and expected each of us to do something beyond just attending meetings. Before I knew it, I was volunteering on a committee and helping to organize speakers for meetings. I met amazing people and worked alongside them to create fabulous events. The next time I went to a meeting, it was like a homecoming. I was with my people. I was part of the amazing group of HR professionals I’d admired.

Over time, I have learned so much through participation as a HRMAC volunteer. Some of the lessons were about teamwork and getting things done with others on a deadline. Sometimes I was able to work on projects beyond what my “day job” allowed, expanding my skills accordingly. Other times the lessons were about myself: what I enjoy doing, the personality styles I work best with, what I hope for my career. I have also learned so much about different Chicago-area organizations, including how they are structured, how they address business challenges and what hurdles they anticipate.

With each year, my network expands. Through HRMAC, I’ve met people who have become my clients, who I have hired to be my colleagues and with whom I have nurtured lasting friendships.

Today, all of these things are still part of every HRMAC event I attend. I am constantly, gratefully reminded of why I joined this wonderful organization and why I stay involved.

I also worry. Today, demographics are changing before our eyes. Organizations are merging, relocating and restructuring. We all have less time than ever to focus on our own development or building personal networks that sometimes seem like something we’ll only need in the distant future. There are more options for where we get information, where we meet people and where we get inspiration. On top of that, while we’re helping organizations address how the gig economy and AI might change the nature of work for everyone, these trends are both subtly and majorly reshaping the HR profession, too.

Your HRMAC Board of Directors, while so very proud of the current strengths of this organization, is working to ensure that the next generation of HR professionals in Chicago has the opportunity to benefit from all the association provides. We are asking ourselves the tough questions about how we need to change and evolve in order to maintain what makes HRMAC special, while attempting to stay ahead-of-the-curve when it comes to what you, our members, need.

I hope my essay inspires you to take action and make the most of your membership by getting involved and taking advantage of this great community. Volunteering at HRMAC has made a great difference in my career and I hope the same is true for you!

HRMAC is your HR community. If you have suggestions for the future of HRMAC, please do not hesitate to email us at