Trish Maxson is a human resources group regional director. She earned a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley, then went to Rohm and Haas as a research scientist. Eventually, she moved to a more people-oriented career, and now supports the company by managing its people.
What you need to succeed in this field
- Fundamental interest in people
- Understanding of organizational design, and how companies make money
- Analytical skills
- Comfort with IT tools, such as spreadsheets
- Ability to be both tactful and tactical
- Chemistry or other technical background
Until recently, Trish had oversight for the business human resources (HR) departments for Rohm and Haas's three coatings businesses, as well as acting as the global strategic HR business partner for the largest of the coatings businesses.
As the company restructured both the business and HR, she spent about half of her time defining the new organization, spelling out roles and competencies for HR employees, and providing guidance for HR processes such as compensation structure and talent assessment. The remainder was spent on workforce planning, organizational design, and talent assessment and development support, and her favorite part—individual coaching—listening to people's issues, fears, triumphs, concerns and helping them achieve their professional goals.
After graduate school, Trish went to Rohm and Haas as a research scientist. After a few years, she learned about organizational design, to help upgrade the organization's ability to work in teams, improve project management, and so on. She spent a year helping people to be more effective in their work, and really paying attention to interpersonal dynamics.
Trish realized that she was happiest when solving people problems, not lab problems. She decided to go back to school in psychology to pursue a more people-oriented career. In order to continue her income while attending school, Trish took a temporary position in the HR department. As her temporary assignment kept getting extended, Trish slowly realized she was using both her people skills and her technical background, and truly enjoying the work.
Trish helps HR people and line managers all over the world in a fundamental way (which often involves helping them gain insight into themselves), as well as being affecting organizational change. She influences the direction of the organization to an extent not many other jobs offer.
Since September 2006, Trish has been in Paris as the HR Director for about 4000 people in 14 different countries. The HR country managers and staff for the European countries report to her, and she is responsible for all aspects of HR—compensation and benefits, recruitment, talent assessment, employee development and training. She is now learning how to do business in multiple countries, with multiple cultures at play. The challenge is in identifying top-notch people and retaining them in a sometimes difficult business environment that is not the company's headquarters location.