I could never have imagined that this semester would lead me to a room filled with some of the most influential Human Resources executives in the world. It was a surreal moment when I received the honor of attending the National Academy of Human Resources Annual Meeting and Induction of New Fellows Ceremony in New York, New York to represent the School.

The excitement began at JW Marriott Essex House, where 27 master’s students, including myself, gathered on the edge of Central Park. We dove into breakfast conversations eagerly, fueling our anticipation for the discussions that followed. Guided by two revered scholars and two incredibly accomplished Chief Human Resources Officers, our talks covered a vast array of topics, exploring the pivotal role of HR in shaping the future of work. We delved into HR leadership, strategic alignment, and the ever-evolving workplace landscape.

Amidst these conversations, the concept of ‘value-added’ work emerged as a beacon of significance. Our leaders highlighted its importance, shedding light on how this framework could elevate our approach to tasks, making our work more impactful and meaningful.

In the intricate choreography of organizational success, strategic alignment took center stage—a fusion of personal values with the company’s mission that not only catalyzes workplace change but also influences vital stakeholders. One leader aptly pointed out that being a true ‘student of the business’ means understanding organizational pain points to advocate effectively for the people you support.

As an HR professional, mastering leadership is pivotal. Throughout our discussions, it became clear that the most demanding aspect isn’t the technical facets but navigating challenging conversations with your team and wielding impactful influence. Embracing a value-added skill set—courage, resilience, active listening, and empathy—was underscored as the cornerstone of effective leadership. It’s crucial to ‘speak truth to power’ when making decisions, advocating for your people, and bringing the human element to human resources.

Our conversation also touched upon the burgeoning impact of artificial intelligence in the workplace and how we can harness this practice as a value-added asset. HR’s role as a change agent involves applying critical thinking and humanizing AI, aligning it strategically, ensuring ethical practices, and balancing it with human insight.

Being among these influential leaders was a turning point in my career journey. It ignited a passion within me, painting a vivid picture of myself as a future leader among these exceptional individuals. The enriching discussions, eye-opening revelations, and connections made with these outstanding people became guiding lights for my aspirations. While the immediate path back to such an esteemed gathering may not be clear, my goal remains—to carve a path similar to the remarkable professionals I had the privilege to engage with at Essex House. I’m deeply grateful for this opportunity—a catalyst that will not only shape the start of my full-time role in the new year but also steer the trajectory of my future endeavors.