Alumni Spotlight – Christy Choe, SHRM-CP

Christy Choe is a 2017 O’Neill School alum who majored in Human Resource Management. She currently works as a Total Rewards Analyst for Niantic in Seattle, Washington. Below are insights on Christy’s journey and advice for current O’Neill students:

  • Can you tell our students a little bit about yourself and the work that you do?

I graduated from the O’Neill School with a major in human resources management in 2017. My first job out of school was as a human resources assistant at Emarsys. I did a little of everything in that role—employee benefits, onboarding, payroll, pretty much anything that came up. This is pretty common in human resources for your first job, especially at small and medium-sized companies.

Your first HR job can help you figure out your path forward in the field. After my first role, I realized I wanted to specialize in an area of human resources rather than work as a generalist. After working at Emarsys, I got a job with American Air Filters in Louisville as an HRIS administrator. From there, I switched to working primarily in compensation and benefits. I enjoyed this work and was eventually promoted to a compensation and benefits analyst. All these experiences helped me land the job at Niantic that I’m starting this month.

  • What did your professional journey look like from college to your position today?

I started working with HRIS when I got the job at American Air Filters. This has proven to be useful in my current work because a lot of people who work in compensation don’t necessarily have that experience. I decided I wanted to focus on a more technical approach and bring that to an organization. That led me to my role in compensation at AAF. Compensation is a major focus area in HR right now and it’s continuing to grow, so there are many opportunities out there.

  • What advice do you have for someone who wants to follow your career path?

Make sure to take advantage of the resources offered to you through O’Neill. For example, being in the Human Resources Association as an undergrad was helpful. I was able to get to know people within the organization and take part in a case competition which helped me network and build my skills. The amount of opportunities in O’Neill is so big, but the number of people who take advantage is small, so getting involved can really make you stand out.

You should also talk with your professors and get to know them. This can open a lot of doors for you. My O’Neill classes on benefits, compliance, and strategy have been particularly helpful in my career. Keeping your GPA up and surrounding yourself with career-driven people will also pay dividends in your internship and job search.

When it comes to your career path in HR, research what you specifically want to do. This helps you to identify people who hold similar positions to what you want, which means you can network with them to learn more about their work and career path. Networking is scary but as a student you have nothing to lose; people want to talk to students and help them out. I recommend interviewing someone you truly want to know, not just based on where they work.

Finally, apply for internships and jobs even if they are out of your comfort zone; the worst they can do is say no. It is okay if you don’t believe in yourself yet—you will one day!

  • What skills are most important in your role?

Learn Excel! Excel skills are super important. I ended up teaching myself a lot about Excel on the job. I got a lot of questions about Excel in my interviews as well. Knowing functions and how they work is critical. Analytical thinking skills are also important, and you can build these throughout your time in school. Learn why you are doing something, not just how to do it.

  • New professionals are often told to “pay their dues,” what is your advice for a successful first year in the workforce?

Every organization I have worked for has said some iteration of that, and it is probably true if you want to stay at the same company for life. I interpret “paying your dues” as skills you build in your first year to advance your career, such as mastering time management and knowing when to ask for help with projects. Make sure you are in a role where you are learning new skills and earning an appropriate salary. Sometimes that first role doesn’t work out. When that happens, take advantage of the fact that you’re young and can switch roles if necessary. Be sure to pay attention to the company culture and do your research when you are looking at companies in your search.

By Carlin Way
Carlin Way Assistant Director of Career Services