HR Practitioner Spotlight: Joel Peterson, @joelyoh

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Tell us about yourself.

I was born in Brazil and grew up in the Pacific Northwest. I obtained my undergraduate degree in theater and worked in the Seattle area as an actor while simultaneously working office jobs in industries ranging from international education to bio-pharm, digital media and television. Upon being accepted into the Master’s of Fine Arts program at The Actors Studio in NYC, I moved across the country and started a new chapter in the Big Apple. After a number of years as a professional actor, I transitioned into the architectural industry where for the last nine years I have worked as a Human Resources professional partnering with the firm leaders to direct the business and shape the staff into the best architectural talent they are capable of being.

My passion for human resources has expanded beyond the architectural industry as well. I am active in the NYC chapter of SHRM where I served as a member of the programs committee and the social media team. I am also the current Director of Social Media for the New York State Council of SHRM. And this year will mark my first year as a member of the #SHRM15 national conference blogger team.

My volunteer interests extend beyond my profession. I actively volunteer for the New York State Special Olympics and will soon take on my first volunteer assignment as a member of the technology team for the Special Olympics World Games taking place in Los Angeles in July 2015.

I am the son of a Lutheran minister and missionary. I have four siblings and am the proud uncle of three nieces and two nephews. I have lived in Manhattan for 13 years and thrive on the dynamic and intense energy, diversity, and creativity of this amazing metropolis.

Why HR? What made you pick this field?

I think Human Resources picked me. Groan and eye roll if you must but I truly am by nature a people person and am fascinated by the inter-connectedness of humanity. When I decided to transition away from my career as an actor, the Human Resources profession was the field that offered the best outlet for my passion for people development. It allows me to utilizes the best aspects of both my creative nature and my rather pragmatic brain for the betterment of the business and the people at the core of the business.

What inspired you to first start writing your blog?

Writing has always been a part of my life. I wrote stories and anecdotes as far as back as grade school. My writing was always just for me and my personal circle of friends and family. As my human resources career took shape though, I was encouraged by mentors and friends to start blogging. They had read some of my other writings and felt I had a natural affinity for communicating via the written word and a unique voice and perspective about life and work.

Initially, I decided against blogging because quite frankly, there are already so many people blogging on every topic under the sun.   Within the human resources profession alone there are a plethora of bloggers already covering our industry in detail. Adding my voice to the bloggersphere just didn’t seem necessary. That was a few years ago now.

I ultimately chose to start blogging because of the diligence of my friends and mentors who over time convinced me that I needed a broader audience for my accounts about work and life. My initial venture into blogging is a series I started in January of 2015 called Life as an HRDEPT1. It is a series about and for human resource professionals who are, like me, functioning as a department of one.

I still remain skeptical about the need for my voice in the already jam packed bloggersphere. But the feedback from readers has encouraged me to continue the journey for now. And I mean, why not? I love writing so I’m happy to combine my love for the written word and for all things human resource related as long as it inspires people to connect, think and most importantly share with one another.

What’s your spirit animal and why? See quiz.

According the quiz, my spirit animal is the crow.

“The crow is associated with life mysteries and magic.  The power of this bird as totem and spirit guide is provide insight and means of supporting intentions. Sign of luck, it is also associated with the archetype of the trickster; be aware of deceiving appearances.  If the crow has chosen you as your spirit or totem animal, it supports you in developing the power of sight, transformation, and connection with life’s magic.”

What’s your favorite social media channel?

Twitter is my favorite for dialoguing. I enjoy the challenge that the 140 character limitation presents and I love twitter chats a lot.

Instagram is great for visual connections. I love seeing how people present themselves and their view of their world.

What’s happening in HR that has you most excited?

Right now, I am most excited about the challenges and opportunities presented by the constantly shrinking world we live in. By that I mean, there was a time when the world felt and was vast. But because of modern technology, that is no longer the case.   What’s happening in a country on the other side of the world has more and more of impact on our daily lives each day. We are having to adapt to an understanding that we are more interdependent in business and in life than ever before. That is so exciting.

And I am excited by the multi-generational workforce that exists right now. It’s a challenge and a great opportunity for H.R. professionals to bring all the various generations together and to get them to collaborate with each other. The more we can show them how similar they are the more successful we will be at getting them to work together.

I’m also excited that now more than ever, the role of the Human Resources professional as a Business Partner, is so crucial in business. The economy continues to strengthen which means that the world of business speeds up faster and faster. Change is constant. The needs and desires of the workforce continues to evolve. And technology continues to advance at lightning speeds. It’s a hugely dynamic time for the HRBP who can actively demonstrate they understand the challenges that all of the above represent for their business.

In one word, what does the future of HR hold?


How can people contact you?

I’m everywhere! I can be found on Twitter and Instagram as @joelyoh. I have an active presence on Facebook and Linkedin.

My writing can be perused on LinkedIn as well.

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  1. What a great spotlight feature! It’s been my pleasure to share many communications with Joel over the last several years. Very nicely done!


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