Street Level Influencer: Get to Know Sue Oswalt
“Show me a successful individual and I’ll show you someone who had real positive influences in his or her life. I don’t care what you do for a living—if you do it well I’m sure there was someone cheering you on or showing the way. A mentor.” — Denzel Washington
Sue Oswalt, VP of HR at IPMG. She’s an street level HR influencer and all around awesome person!
In a recent blog post, I wrote about the power of the Street Level Influencer. I argue that some of the most impactful people in our lives are right in front of us! We just need to remember to tap into those around us for their wisdom and influence.
So, I wanted to put the spotlight on some HR pros in my network who have provided me with life giving energy recently! My next few blog posts will be a series where I get to share stories of some amazing invididuals that you should connect with!
I continue this series by introducing you to Sue Oswalt. I first met Sue when I began attending the Illinois Fox Valley SHRM Chapter several years ago. Sue served on the Board of Directors, and she was very outgoing! She came right up to me and introduced herself, which helped give me a sense into who she is as a person. I could tell she was warm and accommodating. Sue has a passion for HR and expanding her network, and most importantly, she is passionate about adding value to those in her network!
Sue has helped me so much over the years as we’ve gotten to know each other. She has provided me invaluable feedback, advice, and mentoring. I deeply value Sue’s mentorship and friendship! She is genuine and kind, and my favorite time with her was when we recently had cup of coffee at the local coffee house in St. Charles, Illinois.
I asked Sue some questions, and this is what she had to say!
Where do you currently work and what is your role?
I am the Vice President of Human Resources at Insurance Program Managers Group, IPMG in St. Charles, Illinois. I’ve worked at IPMG since 2008, handling all HR aspects as well as assisting with marketing. IPMG currently has 106 employees and is a 100% Employee Owned ESOP. We’ve been voted as one of the best places to work in insurance since 2011 and held both Best Places to Work in Illinois and Best Places to Work in Chicago titles. We have a really dynamic bunch of people that makes it an exciting place to work.
What do you like about HR that keeps you in the profession?
There is so much I enjoy about HR. I revel in the variety HR affords, as each day is different. In all of my HR roles throughout the years, I’ve noticed that HR is the “go to” for just about any task that needs to be completed. This has led me to dabble in customer service, professional insurance, marketing, building maintenance, and so much more. I like the challenge HR brings like rolling out a new policy, working with strategic change management, and developing plans and programs to help our employees prosper, grow and have a little fun. HR allows you to see a company from a bird’s eye view which makes you a critical part in implementing solutions that best suit the company as a whole. I love getting to select who works for our company, and seeing great people grow and prosper in their roles. I like being there to calm someone down and help them get to the root of their issue by diffusing situations before they turn ugly. I also love the HR community and how we are all eager to help each other. The Illinois Fox Valley SHRM chapter, where I am VP of Membership, is very special to me and helps me stay on top of what I need to know to do my best.
What was your biggest HR success? Why was it important to you?
In my previous job, I worked for an international company and had exposure to people from around the world. I hadn’t realized before working with this company that I had been pretty insulated. The new exposure was eye opening for me. It taught me to appreciate different perspectives and to be a much better communicator, as well as how to efficiently pack when traveling abroad. In that same role, I was part of a post-merger integration project and was able to assist all employees that were not being taken on by the new company to find jobs. It was probably not my biggest accomplishment, but it was certainly the most memorable because it was so rewarding.
What was your biggest HR failure? What did it teach you?
Oh wow, this is one that took me awhile to learn, but, boy, did I learn! In my early days of HR, I believed that all managers managed their employees well. They would come to me with their employee woes; and after asking many questions, I would offer up suggested routes they could take to correct the situation. I was surprised when they would come back a month or two later with the same issue and would learn they had not even begun the conversation with the employee or taken any steps towards resolution. Through this process, I learned many valuable tools to add to my HR toolbox. One, there are always two sides to every story. Two, some managers are terrified of confrontation, and they needed training in this skill. Three, that I needed to follow up with the manager to ensure they were addressing the issue. And four – most importantly – to document the situation on my own.
Who’s one person in your network that readers should know about?
Oh my, I could not just name one person. With all the social media networks and my SHRM affiliations, there are too many to mention. What I can say is I recommend to anyone new to HR or in HR who is not connected to make sure to join a local SHRM chapter or local networking group. There is a world of knowledge at your disposal to share ideas and nurture new relationships. I endlessly listen to podcasts and Ted Talks of all sorts.
How can people connect with you?
You can find me at my LinkedIn Account https://www.linkedin.com/in/sue-oswalt-3210794/, or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am open to chat with anyone. I recently discovered on LinkedIn that you can sign up to assist other LinkedIn members seeking career advice and have since worked with three candidates, and it is a total blast! I am always open to helping job seekers polish up their portfolios.
What’s one thing you think the world should know about you – personal or professional? Have fun with this one!
I have test anxiety and didn’t enjoy high school very much, which resulted in me having no aspirations of going to college post-graduation. Therefore, I don’t have a bachelor’s degree, but I recently completed my Associates of Liberal Arts degree. I graduated with honors and additional certifications while my kids were in school and I was working full time with a 3 hour daily commute. Insert cheers! Do I want to go on and get my Bachelors you ask? Nope. I learned through the Associates process that each class made me eager to learn more and take a deeper dive into subjects that intrigued me. I have since sought out the topics that interest me and self-study. If you see me at home working in my garden, you will also see me wearing earbuds, as I’m always listening to a book, podcast, or Ted Talk. I pepper the serious stuff with silly Snapchats from my son or listening through “speak” on my iPhone to my daughter’s blogs. I will forever be a student.