I Can’t Think About #HRTechConf Right Now

hr tech, conference, tech, hr

On Monday, I got a dose of reality and was sent a huge reminder that there is something that is bigger and more important than any HR Technology Conference. My 11 year old Pomeranian, Willie passed away. It happened between meetings in Chicago. It seems silly to mourn a dog. Afterall, he’s just a dog. But, to me he was more than that. He was someone who was my husband and I’s first baby. Someone who loved me no matter how many tweets I sent, HR tech product demos, phone interviews I did or how good or bad my last keynote speech went.

No, this post isn’t about the sexiest new HR technology products and service out there. I had originally planned on writing about all these things and making sure I talked about the hottest trends I’m seeing. I do this mostly because this conference provides me and my blog a lot of visibility and an opportunity to connect with new readers or reconnect with those I might have lost along the way. This post is not about video interviewing, artificial intelligence or machine learning. It’s not about the startup pavillon. It’s about me, a moment of sadness and a hug that happened in my moment of need.


And yesterday, while I took the lonely ride up to the elevator to my hotel room trying to keep myself under control, someone of course spotted me who I knew. Doesn’t it always happen that way? I’m spotted at the Starbucks by some high school friend I haven’t seen at years when I haven’t showered, have no makeup and look like death walked over me. This always, always, always seems to happen to me.

While I had myself together in that moment, I was one breathe from losing myself completely and hanging on waiting for that the 17th floor so I could get off and sob quietly alone in my hotel room.


But it didn’t happen that way. My friend saw me on the elevator and took the ride up the elevator to catch up with me like a friend would do. Not knowing what to say I told my friend in the most akward way. I told him that my dog had just died, and that I was sad. I must have looked really sad. And in that moment he hugged me, and I lost it. Upon exiting that elevator I couldn’t hold it in any more, and to the lady that walked by me as I sobbed on the way to my room, I’m okay. I just needed a moment to collect myself. Thank goodness she wasn’t from the conference too, or maybe she is. If so, I guess I’ll see you at the opening reception later today.

Why the HR Community is Special

For all the talk about HR technology and how it’s going to make HR great again, I think that HR is great the way it is. My friend didn’t hesitate when I told him about my dog. He just gave me the biggest hug without hesitation. We are a community of people who will take a ride of the elevator with a friend and be compelled to hug them when we, meaning me, decide to drop what could have been an uncomfortable bomb on them. I don’t think you can truly explain how special this community of people is to a venture capitalist firm or angel investor. We’re not just an industry. We’re a group of people who are in some ways an extended family, and for all that we fight, we love our industry and dare I say we love and respect each other.

Getting access to the community that is HR and talent acquisition isn’t easy. We’re a cynical bunch and for many of us, we’ve been in this industry for more than 15, 25 or even 25 years. We love technology but we don’t always embrace change. But for those of us who we get to know, I believe we build bonds that are forever. And while not all of us might feel compelled to share personal information like I did with my friend, I do believe that we understand that we can rely on each other in our moments of need no matter how small or large they may be.

So I’m taking a moment to give a little brevity and reflect on this industry of ours. We give back. We build not just processes or HR technologies that create unicorns or transform businesses, but are family. It’s moments like these that I am reminded that no matter how much technology we use in our roles, we can’t fully take the human resources out of HR or our technology. There’s not an artificial intelligence bot that can automate a hug like the one I got at exactly the right moment randomly in an elevator yesterday. You can’t take the HR out of HR when I think about the friends, family, frenemies, peers and colleagues I’ve gotten to know along the way. You might be snarky, grumpy or gruff but when it comes down to it, I know you would support me.

Thank you to both Imo Udom and Jan Schwarz. Your show of friendship and support might seem small, but it was big to me.

Posted in ,

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.


Pin It on Pinterest