Meet Camille J. Bryant, an HR executive who was recently added to the Board of Directors at Workforce Opportunity Services (WOS). WOS is a leading non-profit organization dedicated to connecting individuals from underserved populations with transformative career opportunities.
Bryant brings over 14 years of HR experience to her new board position—a unique opportunity for an HR professional and one that comes with a lot of potential to make a positive difference in people’s lives.
What drew you to HR in the first place?
“I chose a career in HR as an alternative to becoming a lawyer. My inner drive and passion have always been around curing various inequities in whatever environment that I’m in. HR offered an alternative because I love the idea of helping people in the fairness and inequity realm while also helping the company be successful. Grad school was my first intimate look at the world of business, and as I learned more, I saw that opportunity for me to meet my need for purpose in my work with various inequities, but also to do that in the context of a broader mission to help a company be successful. It was a new world that offered great possibilities for me, so I jumped in. My first role was part of GE’s HR leadership program, and I had a great experience and a great opportunity to have an effect.”
What’s your favorite thing about HR?
“My favorite thing about HR is advocacy. It’s the delicate balance of being a voice in a position of influence to support employees, while also ensuring the success of the company. On the one hand, I love working and supporting employees in their goals whether it be their career, working through different employee relationships, or leadership development. On the other, I love working with the company side, creating this environment where there’s this collective success. That’s what I love about HR.”
How did you end up on this board?
“I ended up on the board because of my role at GE as an executive HR business partner. I actually was a customer of WOS, and so I had an opportunity to work very intimately with their team to bring people into GE and integrate the program. I learned a lot about the program and was very vocal, and I would consider myself a strong partner in providing feedback to WOS and working with our internal leaders to create something that worked for this diverse talent and GE.
“The reason I accepted the position on the board is because of the mission of WOS. From a personal perspective, having grown up in an underserved community, creating opportunity for people who probably didn’t think they would have an opportunity to get $65,000-a-year jobs after a year with the program was exciting to me.
“Doing that with an organization that could target specific demographics—be it veterans, female tech talent, or underrepresented minorities—and building that capability quickly was amazing to me from an HR perspective. It hit on both my personal purpose in terms of providing fair and equitable opportunities for people but also from an HR perspective.”
How well do you think your experience in HR translates into your position on the board?
“I think it translates well in terms of the perspective I bring to the board to help the organization to grow. When they bring talent into the corporation, that talent has to fit with the culture. Their program is very dependent on the managers and leaders in that organization operating as mentors and on the job trainers to continue to help the WOS consultants to grow.
“From an HR perspective, people are coming in helping WOS and program managers on-site understand what’s important for our culture to integrate and how to become a part of it and feel comfortable. There’s a huge role that I play and a strong perspective that I bring in terms of helping leaders understand how to integrate diverse talent and continue to develop that skill from a leadership development perspective that absolutely transfers and translates.
“I think my experience from a diversity, training, recruiting, capability building, culture shaping, and overall talent management translates to the board—because they need to know from a customer perspective what needs to be done to make WOS programs more sustainable. What do we need to do to cultivate more HR champions within corporations?
“And I think it’s important that more HR people understand the value that they bring in terms of bringing in diverse talent and training—and all at a very quick pace.”
What advice would you have for other HR professionals that aspire to be in executive leadership roles or even to be on a board of their own?
“What I would tell people is that one of the best things that they can do to position themselves for success is find their true North and get comfortable in their skin so when something comes up that’s a passion of theirs or there’s a conflict with something they believe, that they have the courage to speak up, stand out, and be distinguishable from everybody else.
“It’s the voice that we bring to the table, our unique perspective, that drives us to champion things that others wouldn’t risk. Those are the things that allow you to leave your mark on an organization but also bring visibility to you and make organizations say we want you as part of their team—because you have a voice that others listen to. That passion and that perspective shines through.”
What is something from your time in HR that you will never forget?
“We were at a leadership course, lots of future HR executives for GE. We were doing a teambuilding, creativity exercise one evening. The team that I was part of had to perform Up Town Funk by Bruno Mars. There was a big box for every team to choose from, and we had to take costumes [from the box] before we knew what we were going to be performing. So, we got in, we had to quickly figure out who was going to be Bruno Mars, and based on the formulation of the team, luckily, we had some women to back him up. Our introduction was to perform in front of all of our classmates, which was about 50 people. All I am saying is there was whipped cream, tables, chairs, and fake guitars involved. It was hilarious. And what I got from it was, in HR, we are often so very buttoned up all the time that it’s just great to let your hair down, and I do think that it would benefit people to see more of that side of HR—that human, fun, open, creative side of HR—that they can relate to you. I think it’s fun and it’s great. For me it was just hilarious, and I was grateful that the company would sponsor such an experience. We had such a great time.”
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