Practitioner Spotlight: Robin Schooling

headshot..Sept 2014 copy
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Practitioner Spotlight: Robin Schooling

Tell us about yourself.

I’m an HR veteran and a proud card-carrying HR lady. I started when we were still called Personnel and have been working in human resources now for 25+ years. I’ve worked in a variety of industries including gaming, health care, non-profit social services, logistics (petro-chemical industry), and banking. I’ve worked for organizations with 100 employees and I’ve been a cog in the HR wheel for companies with tens of thousands of global employees. Over the course of my career I’ve been an in-house Recruiter, a Recruiting Manager, an HR Business Partner, a Manager, a Director and a VPHR. I’ve worked in every sort of ‘culture;’ I’ve had CBAs (collective bargaining agreements) that outlined when employees could go to the bathroom or get a new uniform and I’ve had “unspoken agreements” with a CEO that allowed our staff to shut down the office every Friday afternoon, turn off the phones, lock the door, and open a couple bottles of wine.

Two years ago I opened Silver Zebras, LLC where my mission is to make organizations better by making HR better. To further that end I consult with organizations, I advise HR teams, I speak, and I write. And I still do HR practitioner tasks; all the unsexy – but very necessary – things like writing HR policies, revising job descriptions, and coaching managers through unpleasant conversations; “OMG Robin…how do I tell Joe he has body odor?”

I like the variety of working with different teams and different companies but do have to admit that I miss working within an organization to drive sustainable long-term change. Someday I may return.

I live in Louisiana, I’m a die-hard Saints fan, and I’m active with SHRM, ATD, and the Baton Rouge Social Media Association. I’m also a dog lady and proud mother to Libby, Marley, Frank Lapidus and Mr. Crumples.

Why HR? What made you pick this field?

I’m one of those people who “fell” into HR when I began working at a staffing agency before moving into in-house recruiting at a bank. I’m glad I started in talent acquisition (although, of course, back then we didn’t call it that) because connecting the right people to the right jobs and opportunities is critical for business success. I found that I enjoyed the foundational aspects of HR (employment law, benefits, EEO/AA, etc.) so I moved into HR leadership roles and even created two HR departments from the ground up.

I love that HR promotes business success by leveraging the capabilities of individuals and groups; whether we’re involved in change management initiatives or strategic implementations we make a difference.

What inspired you to first start writing your blog?

In 2009/2010 I started guest blogging for a few friends – including here on Blogging4Jobs! I was hesitant to start my own blog but had a lot I wanted to say so in September of 2010 I started writing at the HR Schoolhouse. Get it? “School”ing? Being a responsible HR leader I told my CEO of my plans; not only did she fully support the idea she regularly read and retweeted my content. Which was pretty cool.

I found writing to be cathartic; it allowed me to tell a story, state an opinion, or pose a question and then fully explore it merely through the act of writing.

We do a lot of foolish shit in organizations and in HR and one of my goals has always been to make it OK to point out the absurdities, unravel the complexities, and laugh at our own ridiculousness. I want HR professionals and/or leaders to ask the question “why, in the name of all that is holy, do we keep doing this stuff?”

At the same time I want to connect people (the readers!) to ideas, resources, and different points of view. I want to connect people to other people. And I want to make people understand that HR professionals are also human beings…including me.

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

I was told my spirit animal is either an owl, a shiba inu, a moose, or a crow. I’m a mashup apparently – like the sphinx or a centaur.

After reading the definitions, I sort of gravitated to the Crow because it informed me boring people annoy you, especially the ones that are uptight.” I can get behind that; it sounds like a lot of the folks I run into at SHRM chapter meetings.

What’s your favorite social media channel?

Twitter. The cliche that it’s like stepping into a cocktail party is true; I can grab a drink (Deep Eddy Red Ruby Grapefruit vodka!), circulate, and jump from conversation to conversation. I love Twitter and always have.

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

I sense a shift, imperceptible perhaps, in the way human resources is viewed amongst the larger business community and I’m energized by the focus that young HR practitioners are bringing to the profession.

There’s much more clarity around how HR adds value and the newest wave of HR pros understand the need to be agile, proactive, and manage ambiguity. I see this in the willingness, more so than ever, for HR professionals to challenge long-held assumptions and past practices. It’s not an easy road to travel; HR has set some lousy precedents in a number of organizations as either policy police or out-of-touch hermits. I’m sensing a restless energy though; human resources professionals in their 20’s and 30’s are not content to settle for anything less than changing the direction of HR.

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


How can people contact you?

You can read my blog, reach out on Twitter, and connect with me on LinkedIn.


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