When I started my professional career, a friend recommended that I check out a Support Technician job at an Internet Service Provider. Since I had a lot of exposure to computers at an early age, I thought the role would probably be a good fit, so I began my career in IT. The biggest hurdle in this role was learning to provide technical support over the phone, something that I frequently do with clients in my current consulting capacity. The company provided two weeks of coaching and training, and after that, I was then on my way, as they say. In this role, I worked out of a call center environment, so I was physically near other people. Still, consistent high call volumes resulted in little opportunity for interactions with other Support Technicians in my area. Solving customer support problems in this environment forced me to learn several fundamental lessons: learning quickly, the ability to solve problems independently, and how to be resourceful.
As time went on, I was promoted to a support lead position, where my primary responsibility was troubleshooting issues that were significantly more complex. This role had the added benefit of increased interaction with the company’s business leadership team. In this capacity, I continued to develop my communication and interpersonal skills, which are essential in any job you work, but especially critical in consulting. As I collaborated on software projects in this role and thought about my next career steps, my initial inclination was to pursue a Cisco certification and move into networking and IT. After a promotion and move to a project team that focused exclusively on anti-virus software, I quickly realized that I enjoyed solving complex technical problems. So, my career focus shifted to supporting enterprise software systems. Exactly which enterprise software systems I wanted to specialize in was yet to be discovered, but I knew this would become clear to me if I expanded my software support horizons.
About those expanded software support horizons – I knew that I’d have to make a move to further my career and have the opportunity to work with new systems, so I took a leap of faith once again. When my wife, who was working as a recruiter for a well-known IT staffing agency, needed to fill a contract opportunity in software support for a large healthcare company, my interest piqued. This company was renowned for offering a great work environment and had a reputation for hiring contractors who were top performers. I threw my hat in the ring and had the opportunity to interview. I researched the different areas of business that this company provides so thoroughly that I impressed the hiring manager. I happily accepted an offer for the position.
In this new role, I had the opportunity to own a software project entirely from start to finish. For that challenge, I was thankful. This project was a phased implementation of a brand-new Pharmaceutical Prescribing software system. This system was new in general, with only two completed implementations, as well as new to me. To get up to speed quickly, I cross-trained with the core product support team to understand the nuances of their implementation methodology and learn the software platform inside and out. While I was training during working hours, I was networking during my lunch hour. I bonded with a lively group of people who ate at the same time as me every day. Our lunch hour coincided with the time the “Price is Right” game show aired. I bonded with my lunch hour crew over the game show and other non-work-related commonalities. These people were senior-level HR information systems (HRIS) leaders, whom I’d shortly get the opportunity to work with directly.
My excitement about my first start-to-finish implementation turned to disappointment when the company pulled the plug on the implementation project. After being informed of the project cancellation, it wasn’t a surprise when my direct manager let me know that this also meant the end to my contract assignment. That was difficult because I left a stable job to get my foot in the door with this company. When I mentioned my assignment ending to my “Price is Right” lunchtime crew, I learned that there was an opening within their department. The role focused on working with the corporate HRIS team supporting their Applicant Tracking System (ATS), and I interviewed for the position the very same day.
The specific system that the position within the HRIS team revolved around was an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) called Taleo. Although I had never supported an ATS before, the skill set the HRIS team needed was support-focused. As you now know, this perfectly aligned with my experience. Before finishing up the workday, I received a call from the corporate recruiter. I was offered the role in a contract to permanent capacity. I gladly accepted it. Going from potential unemployment to landing a new position, all within the same day, was probably one of the most stressful days of my career.
To prepare for my new role, I began researching the Taleo platform. A substantial online knowledgebase gave me a solid foundational understanding of baseline functionality. Getting underway, I not only enjoyed the camaraderie I felt with the HRIS team, but I found that I also enjoyed working with SaaS software. Additionally, I appreciated the impact that improving recruiting and onboarding through Taleo would have on the overall organization. Coming from a support background and leveraging my colleagues’ system expertise, as I do in HRchitect’s Center of Excellence today, I was able to apply the methodology I learned to streamline and develop procedures that significantly improved our adherence to the service level agreement the HR team had with other business users.
As I continued to expand my Taleo knowledge, I learned more about why the HRIS team selected Taleo, and the initial system implementation project, which had been completed one year before I started my new role. The HR team had selected HRchitect as their implementation partner for a phased implementation across the company’s four divisions (corporate, hospital, nursing center, and rehabilitation) and subsequent system optimization. In my role, I came into lock-step with the HRchitect team, who was working on system optimization. My focus area for this part of the project was support and training focused. End-user training was particularly complicated for this project, as each division had unique processes and use cases for the system. One particularly impactful project I worked on included the development of a Taleo knowledgebase, complete with division-specific training. This significantly reduced support issues and requests related to training and high turnover for managerial staff and Talent Acquisition staff. The focus was on anticipating training needs for different roles throughout the company and providing all of the tools and information those users would need to become self-sufficient and gain an understanding of the system.
After six months in this contract position, I transitioned into a full-time employee role in HR. I built a great relationship with my teammates and others within the HRIS and Data Center teams. We made sure to celebrate our successes as a team, and our team’s celebrations allowed me to get to know people on other groups within my office building. One group that I got to know better was the Information Systems team. Through conversations with that team, I developed a better understanding how all of the IS teams worked throughout all four of the company’s divisions. In my full-time role, I took on projects of increasing size. I started to train as a Business Analyst, in addition to my waning Taleo support duties.
To leverage functionality in the latest release of Taleo (Service Pack 10), including a new interface and configuration changes, I connected with HRchitect for a second time. The company brought in HRchitect to help with project management for the changes that came along with Taleo 10. My manager asked me to take the lead on this implementation. It was a huge responsibility – the scope of the implementation was broad, and the timeline was aggressive – 3 to 4 months. HRchitect lead project management activities, while I was responsible for interfacing between the different divisions, the Data Center, the Tier 1 support team, and Senior Management. HRchitect came onsite and we collaborated for several working sessions to gather additional requirements needed for the new functionality that came with this upgrade. These requirements gathering sessions gave me an opportunity to do something that I was not accustomed to – public speaking in front of large groups. Although public speaking is nerve-wracking, I knew my material and felt confident after the first few minutes of leading the working session. Once the initial requirements were gathered, I worked closely with HRchitect to build out the system and conduct unit testing. Simultaneously, I worked with the Training and Change Management teams to organize training sessions and demonstrations of the new interface to different end-user groups across the four divisions. After training was completed, we decided on a final go-live date to execute the cutover. At the same time, Taleo was acquired by Oracle. This acquisition added some complexity and confusion to the project. Some examples of hiccups which I worked with HRchitect to navigate included the support portal being shut off, as it was being migrated to Oracle’s support platform, and system instability due to backend network issues. Oracle provided us with a dedicated group of support techs to help us overcome these issues, which we did successfully. Vendor mergers and acquisitions are common in the HCM technology space, and working through these circumstances as a practitioner would leave me prepared to guide my future clients through similar situations in the years to come. Overall, the project was a success – the end-user groups were thrilled with the new user interface and functionality. This was a challenging project, but it was rewarding to be able to work on a project of this size after being with this team for two years.
As time went on, I started to diversify into SAP and other HR systems but kept a primary focus on Taleo. I became an expert on Taleo Reporting, Integration, and Performance Management. After a while, I felt that familiar itch that told me it was time to make a change to grow in my career even further. I thought about my experience working with HRchitect and my role with project management. As luck would have it, I recieved a call from a former Talent Acquisition leader whom I had helped tremendously with Taleo while she was working at the healthcare company. She had called to make sure I was aware that HRchitect was hiring for a consulting role that focused on supporting their Oracle/Taleo client base in a Remote System Administration capacity, and she asked if I would be interested. This would be a major career move, leaving an established position to take another step into the unknown. But, the leaps of faith I had taken previously in my career had served me well, so I thought, “What did I have to lose?”
After all, I had some contacts at HRchitect, plus I had been working with Taleo since 2009. I had learned valuable lessons in my career thus far that I thought would translate well to a consulting capacity. I took the leap and applied. Following interviews, I found myself with a job offer and a potential new career track in consulting. When I discussed this with my manager at the healthcare company, who had worked with HRchitect on many projects, my manager was incredibly supportive of me making a career move, even if it meant me leaving my current employer. This was the additional assurance that helped me take that giant leap of faith, and accept the role with HRchitect, once again stepping into the unknown.
When I joined HRchitect, the Taleo practice was extremely busy, and a dedicated resource for Remote System Administration (RSA) was needed. The existing support infrastructure had the implementation consultants responsible for providing post go-live support for clients. This format posed a challenge in terms of response times. Most of the implementation consultants traveled 25% or more, which made it difficult to address urgent issues. This new position, which I would be filling, gave the company and me the opportunity to focus on our RSA clients and to provide answers to clients’ questions in a much shorter timeframe. New to this role, it was daunting to think about how to best support so many clients with so many different business processes. Addressing broad client needs is a challenge that comes with consulting, but is best learned by jumping in headfirst and figuring it out. I did just that with my first client meetings, where a client had several complex reports needed urgently, and have done the same with every client need since. My Taleo experience and the fundamental lessons I had learned over the years helped set me up for success, and I’ve happily been supporting clients and delivering with a high standard of quality since day one.
I cannot believe it has already been over five years working for HRchitect as a consultant. I have been incredibly fortunate to have worked with, and continue to work with, amazing clients across industries such as healthcare, hospitality, manufacturing, insurance, and many more. I have been involved in countless HR technology system implementations. I have had the opportunity to expand my skillset and work in multiple implementation practices, mastering new systems, and expanding my knowledge every day. As I reflect on my career thus far, the common underlying theme seems to be that sometimes you must take a leap of faith to get to the next step in life and your career. I am certainly glad that I’ve taken leaps of faith throughout these years and that I continually push myself outside my comfort zone. I hope you’ll do the same in your career path.
If you are preparing for an implementation, in the middle of one, or just completed a project, be prepared and set up the support plan that is best for your organization. At HRchitect, we not only have years of experience guiding clients to the system that’s right for their organization, we also have years of experience implementing HCM systems and partnering with our clients to train, manage, and support them post-go-live to ensure their new HCM investment continues working best for them long after the implementation.
If you have enjoyed this post, be sure to check out my other Tech Trends posts to learn more about Ongoing Support, Documentation and Onboarding Best Practices.
Steve Glaser is a Senior Implementation Consultant who has been with HRchitect since 2014. He’s helped hundreds of clients successfully implement and support a variety of HR technology systems.