Julie Kellman, CCP, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, is a true human resources generalist. She is currently the total rewards director with Pepper Construction Group in Chicago. She has over 25 years of experience leading human resources functions in a wide variety of industries, including social service, chemical manufacturing, high tech and construction. Julie holds a bachelor’s of arts degree in English from the University of Iowa and an MBA with a labor relations concentration from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Q: What is the No. 1 career assist you received?
A: For my very first professional job following graduate school, I was hired into a position that I was completely unqualified for, both on paper and in reality. I was hired to report to the CEO as the director of human resources for a 300-plus employee social service agency. Obviously, I was hired based on my character and intellect — not on my experience. My boss knew I was smart enough and committed enough to learn and get the work done. He had complete faith in me. I took that faith, learned about HR and became a successful professional. He spent time coaching me, and his investment in me and the risk he took on me were priceless. I challenge myself and others to select employees based on more than the resume and the answers to behavioral interview questions. I challenge them to look at the person through the usual recruiting noise.
Q: What is key career advice you would give to others?
A: Never stop learning. Be mindful and keep all your skills up to date. Never let yourself or your skill set become obsolete.
Q: What is something HR can’t live without?
A: Everyone in HR needs to be able to manage through ambiguity. Our world consists of many shades of gray. Anyone seeking a black-and-white space should stay away from HR.
Q: What are two out-of-the-ordinary skills every rewards professional needs?
A: Context: Without understanding how to apply the fabulous benefits we offer and programs we create, we are nothing. We must understand and know the context in which our rewards programs will function and serve employees. Flexibility: I have Gumby and Pokey figurines on my desk to remind me to adapt to the circumstance, place, time or thing. We need to be able to adjust the things we offer to best serve the employees and the company.