Winterim in the Desert: Global Talent Management in Glendale, Arizona

By: Emma Livingston, Staff Writer

While some T-Bird students were flying to Geneva, Santiago, New York and Hong Kong this winter, a group of 24 students were participating in an equally informative Winterim much closer to home. The object of the Global Talent Management Winterim, as described by MBA student Neetika Varma, was “to visit organizations from different industries, meet their HR team, and try to understand how to best utilize human resources and be a strategic business partner with the executive team.”  Led by Thunderbird associate professor Mary Sully de Luque, the students spent two weeks visiting companies such as American Express, Intel, Bellagio, Infusionsoft, and Zappos in the Phoenix metro area, Tucson, and Las Vegas.

Photo Courtesy of Xu
Photo Courtesy of Xu

For Neetika, participating in this Winterim was an “obvious choice”.

“My interest lies in Talent Management. I think as organizations grow globally they’re trying to make the best of the human intellect, and that is how they gain success. I want to be that person who is seeing to the development of the employees, seeing that they’re engaged.”

Another T-Bird who participated in the Winterim, MA student Xiaolin Xu, also foresees a career for herself in an HR function.

“I used to intern in Siemens as an HR intern to train their high potentials in the Asia-Pacific area. I enjoyed doing so, so maybe in the future I can do the same thing.”

Xiaolin also had a less academic reason for choosing the Talent Management Winterim: “New York is very expensive and cold. I’d like to stay warm in Phoenix.”

Both Xiaolin and Neetika said that many of their fellow students were more skeptical of the HR Winterim at first.

“People usually hate HR,” Xiaolin told me. But Professor Sulley de Luque addressed this issue head-on by assigning for their first reading the article ‘Why People Hate HR’. By the end of the program, when the students were discussing their main takeaways from the Winterim, Neetika says that a student who had been one of the initial HR skeptics told the group:

“’Now we have seen how HR can turn around organizations, how HR can hit the bottom line of the organization.’ So that was a big thing coming from a person who was not interested, at first.”

The Winterim wasn’t made up solely of company visits; there were also many cultural excursions as well.  Xiaolin said one of her most memorable experiences was visiting the Biosphere outside of Tucson. “I read it in my textbook before, and you see that it’s real. You feel amazing.”

Photo Courtesy of Xu
Photo Courtesy of Xu

For Neetika, one of the best experiences happened when she and fellow T-Bird Michelle Monteiro stayed behind to chat with Rita Palmer, VP of Human Resources for Riviera Casino in Las Vegas. Ms. Palmer invited the students, along with career advisor Dodie Busch and Professor Sully de Luque, to have dinner with her at one of the Riviera’s most upscale restaurants.

“It turned out to be one of the fanciest dinners I’ve had ever. It was great dinner, great company, great conversation.”

Both students were very happy with their choice of Winterim. Xiaolin said, “Before I went on this Winterim, I thought it might be wasting money, but after I think it’s worth paying so much because I’ve never been to the US before, not mentioning going to visit a US company. So hearing how the business works and how HR works is useful to me.”  She said the Winterim also taught her an important lesson that she will take with her into her future job search:

“When I’m choosing my career, I’ll not only focus on the brand of the company, or focus on the salary, I’ll also try to find whether this environment is fit for me, whether the people I really want to work with, and what the company culture is.”

She gives the example of Zappos:

“Zappos is a company that is famous for its creativity. But, I think people there are usually extroverts. And I’m not an extroverted person. So if I was in that environment every day it would be too tiring for me.”

As for Neetika, when I asked her what her main takeaway was, she was very clear:

“More people should go on the Global Talent Management Winterim. It just opens their eyes to how important human resource is in whatever field they are… I think that it’s the most strategic function in the entire industry.”

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