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HR in the Car - Episode 12: "There's an Oven at Hannaford, Too"

Miriam and Tom are co-hosts of HR in the Car. We don't like to tout or own horns, but we're the fun bunch (as you've heard from previous episodes). Our combined experience in HR, along with our general sunshine, rainbow, and unicorn approach to things sometimes gets us into trouble.  All kidding aside, one of the main reasons we started this podcast was to be a resource and highlight our many guests on the show. We love being matchmakers - that's what recruiting is all about!  You can learn lots about us in this episode, but also on, LinkedIn, and the great beyond. Enjoy the show and share with your friends!

Voiceover: Welcome to HR in the Car with Miriam Dushane and Tom Schin of Alaant Workforce Solutions, where exciting HR professionals and business leaders share laughter, insider stories, and maybe even a few tears about HR in today's world. Buckle up for the best half hour of your week.

Miriam: Tom, our Alaant team has doubled in size over the last year and a half.

Tom: It's crazy, isn't it? It was number 10 and we're at 21 now.

Miriam: I know. How crazy is that?

Tom: Year and a half.

Miriam: So that means we have 10 new people just on our team alone. And so we were thinking about different podcast ideas and so we went to the team and we said, "What do you want us to talk about?" And we literally, I'm looking at this compilation of questions, I can't count, but I would say it's at least 50 to 75 long questions. And so we thought it would be fun to do a lightning question round where I pick some questions and you pick some questions. Now, we've seen the entire question bulk, but we don't know what the other one is going to pick. So it's going to be a little bit of a surprise which way we go. And there's personal questions, there's fun questions, there's work- related questions. And so sit back and enjoy, and you get to learn a little bit more about the crazy people behind the microphone, me and Tom. Okay, so lightning round. So some kind of first reaction to the question. Don't think about it too much because I'm not giving you a lot of time.

Tom: I should have done my homework and read through these beforehand.

Miriam: I should have at least had an idea as to what of the hundred questions I might pick.

Tom: Right.

Miriam: Are you ready?

Tom: Ready.

Miriam: Here's my first one. And this screamed Tom, which is why I picked it. All right, so if you were a superhero, who would you be?

Tom: I'm Batman.

Miriam: All right. I need to know why.

Tom: Right? And it's funny because when I used to set up user accounts, this tangent story with this part is I would set up Batman as the password for new users for different accounts. If you can't do it yourself, your password's Batman. Or "What's your favorite superhero?" was the secret question. Batman would be there. I don't use it for those of you checking me out online. But I don't know, I think growing up I had the Batman figure, action figure. It was more of a doll, let's be honest, squishy head and all that. And it was the old Adam West Batman character. But a kid down the street had the original bat cave. I'm dating myself. I know.

Miriam: Oh, my God.

Tom: But that was the show at the time, right? You saw Batman.

Miriam: Oh, I know.

Tom: Right? And so we talked about TV nostalgia. Batman was just, he struck home with me. And it's funny, my kids will ask, or different people will ask, Do you follow DC and Marvel? For you comic book nerds.

Miriam: Yep.

Tom: Oh, I don't follow DC, I just really like Batman.

Miriam: You just really like Batman.

Tom: The wits, the intrigue that come up with MacGyverism kind of stuff. It's just Batman spoke to me.

Miriam: So you would get along well with my daughter's boyfriend because that's his favorite superhero too.

Tom: I'm Batman.

Miriam: You're Batman. All right, so to go along with that, and I guess it doesn't have to relate, so I was going to say, okay, if it's Batman, then what's the superpower? But the big controversy about Batman is he doesn't really have a superpower. He's got gadgets.

Tom: Gadgets and intellect.

Miriam: Okay, so is that, would that be what your superpower is?

Tom: Well, you know this about me, so I like to build and tinker.

Miriam: You're a tinkerer.

Tom: And so I'll fix my lawn... I have to call it a lawn tractor because Mattie makes fun of me and calls it a lawn mower. But I like to tinker, I like to fix things. I like to build stuff, not because of a necessity, but because I want to figure things out. So I love the trinkety aspect and the challenge of trying to mechanically orient how is this going to work? And I have tried to teach my kids this. One of them is an engineering major, so hopefully that's part of the reason why. And the other one just likes to build stuff. So it's worked out pretty well.

Miriam: All right, next question. If you weren't working in HR, what industry do you think you would be in?

Tom: I have thought about this over the years. I'm like, I should have been a comp- sci major just because I love computers and all the things that it can do. And I think by this point I would've been one of those Clark Foleys who are in that game era or something like that. Right? I think that would've been really cool to be on the forefront of all this technological change that we've had on a programmatic side. And I think, not necessarily behind the computer 100% at this stage, but I've always been fascinated about what computers can do. Cyberdyne industries and Terminator euphemisms aside. But I think comp- sci would've probably been it.

Miriam: So it's funny because that was my next thing is like, okay, so Tom, the classic stereotype for computer science is the person who sits in the corner or an introvert. And so with that comp-sci, how do you think you would be able to leverage your strengths as the amazing outgoing person that you actually are?

Tom: Oh, beyond throwing the computer across the room when it doesn't cooperate?

Miriam: That's not what a comp-sci major does.

Tom: No, Right? They have to be friendly. Well, if you think about how computer science folks, IT departments are thought of, and interviewers will recognize this. They always found them to be very quiet. They don't answer questions really robustly, and they don't like to go out and service the people inside the building. My first exposure at Delmar Publishers way back when, we had an IT department, and they would come talk to you and you have relationships with you and talk just in terms of conversation. How are the kids? You had kids around the same age. And so that was the example. And so I think I would be in that line of how can we help develop the strategy and lead folks, help them be independent, learn how to use tools, eventually kind of bridging towards more of that training guide on how to use technology. I think that's how I would've leveraged that.

Miriam: Yeah, I think so too. I totally agree. All right. So this is a burning question. And remember I do sign your paycheck. Who has better team, Mets or Dodgers?

Tom: Oh, Dodgers. 111 wins this season.

Miriam: If you're just going on wins, I can't argue with you on that.

Tom: But you look top to bottom defensively, they're rock solid and all the... You think about when the A's were successful back in the '90s with Canseco, and McGwire, and Giambi, and so on and so forth. They had all these utility guys that could move from position to position. Your Tony Phillips type of characters. And that's what the Dodgers have built. You've got mostly people who can move from one position to the next.

Miriam: You're describing the Mets too, right now. Let's talk about McNeil. Luis Guillermo, Brandon Nimmo. He's mostly in the outfield, center field, but we have that too.

Tom: Right. But that staple was built by the Dodgers.

Miriam: That doesn't mean that that's the best team right now.

Tom: No.

Miriam: Just saying was. And this'll air after the World Series is decided. And so the laugh will be on us when neither one of our teams are holding that trophy.

Tom: That's sacrilege.

Miriam: Yeah. How many people do you think you have interviewed over your lifetime in this career?

Tom: Boy, I tried to calculate this once on a yearly basis and I couldn't even do it then. But I know there were times where you were doing 20 interviews a day way back when. So I have to say 10,000 or more. I would be my guess.

Miriam: I think you might be right, because I was talking to a colleague about this when I saw this question, and I was trying to calculate my own. And I went super conservative, figuring for the 15 years that I was really a recruiter before I became in management and whatever. And I went light, I said figured maybe three to five interviews a day, four days a week. I came up with about 10,000. It was just over 10,0000. I bet you it's probably between 10 and 15, but I think you'd be somewhere-

Tom: Somewhere around there. Because I add into that. I also factor in the 10 years before I got into the recruiting, I would interview folks and I had folks from agencies coming to work for me. So you had to interview them too. And it's got to be close to that.

Miriam: Oh, God. Yeah. Absolutely. All right. I really liked this question. What is the best advice you can give someone who's starting out in their career?

Tom: Don't be afraid to fail. I think that it's that FoMO message. You have that fear of missing out on things. And your friends are going to do this, and you have to participate in everything. You're not going to be able to participate in everything. You're not going to see everything. You're not going to be in the cool kid club every day. Don't worry about those elements. Have some failure in your life. You'll learn from it. Some lessons will sting a little bit more. It's like relationship advice really, right?

Miriam: Yeah. Yes.

Tom: I think you have to fail to succeed and you have to stumble. You have to... We joke in our office about my gym accidents at the crossfit gym that I go to. But you learn those moments from scrapes and cuts and bruises to not do those things or to do them better the next time. Or give advice to somebody on, this is my life experience. Take it at face value. It's not you, it's not that you're going to do this, but I think those give you life lessons to share with others. And I think that's the most impactful part.

Miriam: So one of my favorite movies growing up with my kids, and what I mean is the movies my kids watched was the Robinsons. Have you ever seen that movie?

Tom: Yeah.

Miriam: And they would celebrate every time it didn't work.

Tom: Yup.

Miriam: And I walked out of that movie, like bawling my eyes out basically because it was such a good life lesson. So go watch the Robinsons.

Tom: Meet the Robinsons.

Miriam: Is it Meet the Robinsons?

Tom: Yeah. It's a cartoon.

Miriam: It is a cartoon. It's a Disney cartoon. Rob Thomas sings the song at the end. So, of course, I remember that part a lot. But again, I wish we could come up with a new word that meant the same thing as failure but didn't sound negative in connotation.

Tom: Well, I think that's just it. Why does failure have to be negative?

Miriam: Right. It doesn't. It absolutely doesn't-

Tom: You hear about teachers. And we talked about this in one of the prior episodes.

Miriam: Well, I think it comes back to school. You fail a class, you fail a test. That's a bad thing. And so I think unfortunately, it's in our education system and it kind of just goes from there.

Tom: That whole A through F kind of mentality and flunking out and so forth. But I think if there was a different word to choose there, not that you ask that question, I would just say opportunity to do it different.

Miriam: Ah! I like that. Best way to grow your network.

Tom: Ask somebody to help.

Miriam: Tell me more.

Tom: It's hard for folks. I've got a friend, my buddy Lorielle she's going to laugh when she hears her name because I'm going to make her listen to this episode when it comes out. Afraid to network. Just the fear of public speaking when with people that you don't know. One on one, you can talk about anything twice till Sunday about things. I think having the ability to ask somebody to help you network, hey, bring me along.

Miriam: Yeah, be a wingman. Yeah.

Tom: That's it. You can be a fly on the wall.

Miriam: Absolutely.

Tom: You don't have to be the star of the show. You just talk about what you know and talk about your kids. Talk about something that's comfortable and easy. But the easiest way to get there to kind of improve the network is be okay asking for help. Don't ask 17 requests from people, by all means. I think that's kind of the kiss of death.

Miriam: No, yeah.

Tom: But if you ask one question, help me, go with me to a meeting, go with me to the store, go with me to the dance, the wallflower stuff, I think that's kind of where that starts.

Miriam: Yeah, now I am a wingman kind of person myself. I don't like to go to networking, in-person networking events. I hate going by myself.

Tom: Yeah.

Miriam: Hate it. I did it three times this week by myself and I thought to myself, "What the hell am I doing? I don't do this. Why didn't I have an Alaant buddy with me?" And I literally didn't have that at all this week. And I was just like...

Tom: I didn't hear my phone ring.

Miriam: No, I know. It's too late by the time I realize what I had done, I was like, "Oh , well, I'm just going to suck it up and go." And two out of the three experiences were fantastic. And I'm going to say two out of the three because there was one that wasn't so great.

Tom: It doesn't need to be all things. And that's part of that. It's like networking groups. Some of them have a life cycle that's starting to finish kind of window that fit for a period of time. And other times, you walk into event and you have a story 10 years later. Remember that time I walked into by myself and you were by yourself and we bumped into each other at the table and blah blah, blah. We go on and on and on that one.

Miriam: Absolutely. I totally agree. I also think I feel bad for the people who didn't take advantage of virtual networking during the pandemic. Because I actually think that broke down a lot of barriers.

Tom: Oh, absolutely.

Miriam: For people who weren't as comfortable networking.

Tom: There was a ton of people who were like, I can't do it. I won't do it. I have to be in person.

Miriam: And it's like, no, you're missing out.

Tom: You can miss so many more people.

Miriam: I had FoMO on that one. I had FoMO. I didn't want to miss a virtual networking event.

Tom: Always. I always hated it when there was more than one going on. I'm like, "Oh, which one do I choose?" But I think at the end of the day, it was a good thing. Not that the pandemic was a good thing, but the opportunity for technology to help us be more to one another.

Miriam: Yep. Agreed. I totally agree. And I wasn't going to ask you this question, but I do want to know this question. Because actually you know this question about me, because we talked about it ahead of time. And everybody, these are surprise questions. We got a big list, but Tom didn't know which ones I was going to pick off the list and vice versa. If you could only watch one TV show for the rest of your life, what would it be? Don't say Batman.

Tom: No, I would probably... I'm in the final season of rewatching Big Bang Theory and I love that show.

Miriam: Oh, that's a classic.

Tom: I love The Office. I know Olivia mentioned The Office. I've got to watch that. But I would say How I Met Your Mother is one of my absolute favorite comedies.

Miriam: Oh, Slapsgiving!

Tom: Right? Marshall, marshmallow. Lily.

Miriam: Yeah.

Tom: Barneyisms, oh.

Miriam: Oh, Barney, come on.

Tom: Yeah.

Miriam: Come on. All right. I love it.

Tom: Yep.

Miriam: All right, so I'm done. Your turn.

Tom: All right. So we are going to start. I've got four that I highlighted and I went rogue and added my own question on the other side of this.

Miriam: Oh, boy.

Tom: So what story in your career sticks out to you as a major lesson learned?

Miriam: Oh, my God. You're starting with a hard one. Oh.

Tom: Jump in the fire.

Miriam: Oh, God! Okay. So I think one of my major lessons learned was actually when I was a very new manager. And as a new manager with no training, by the way, a classic, you do really good at recruiting, now you go manage people. And for me, it was understanding that being a manager didn't mean micromanaging or having to know every single conversation or every single interaction that an employee had with a client, a coworker, or something like that.
And I made a lot of mistakes. And when I look back on it, I realize it was complete micromanagement, complete, not distrust, because I'm not a distrusting person unless you cause me to be that way. But it was just, I had no training and I didn't know what it meant to be a manager, didn't know what it meant to be a leader. I had good role models, but I hadn't really sat back and thought about how they managed me. And once I started to realize where I was, misstepping, thankfully I had very gracious people that worked with me, and we figured it out together. But I think for me, the biggest lesson at that point was, management doesn't mean micromanagement, it doesn't mean you have to know every single time they go to the bathroom or talk to somebody. Honestly, trust them to do their jobs. That's why they're there. They're professionals and they're going to make you look good.

Tom: I want to go so many directions with that answer. You think about these days, it's all about leadership. You hear the messages, the students these days are hearing those messages. But I don't know if you had this experience, but when I was younger and started to doing the mock interviews for our local SHRM tap chapter, CRHRA, when they invite you from the workforce development side, hey, come sit for two hours and help people with their resumes and da, da, da. And you'd run into some of the more recent grads, what do you want to be when you grow up? What's your long term goal? And they would say to be a manager. You don't know what that means.

Miriam: Exactly.

Tom: But the good and the bad, but you have no idea.

Miriam: It was status at that point. It was a status. Now you know that the tables have turned, right? Talk to young people now, they're not going to say that. That's not what they're going to say is their ultimate goal, actually to the point where it's kind of scary because we have to now teach young professionals that going into management isn't a negative thing.

Tom: Right.

Miriam: But yeah, at the time it was a status thing. It was for me, even back then.

Tom: Well, and hopefully they learn from us through osmosis from the things that they're hearing. Basically, the age of our kids talk about these things and how they present them and how they work in teams and so forth. So hopefully, that's kind of rubbing off.

Miriam: Way to throw a hard one at me right off the bat. Thanks a lot.

Tom: I know. What did you want to be when you grew up?

Miriam: I had no idea. I never, ever, ever in my entire life, ever thought to myself, I want to do this or that, or the other thing. I never did. My father was an excavator. So playing with big Tonka trucks and building and playing in the dirt, I was never going to do that. My mother was a dental assistant, and that's fine and good, very good. I have very good teeth because of it. But that wasn't ever something I wanted to do. And I never had an aspiration of what I was going to do. I truly, truly didn't. And so I graduated from high school not knowing what the hell I was going to do. Took a couple of college classes, worked full time as a secretary, and then fell by accident into a job interview with Susan Hollister at Hudson City Savings. And she was in HR. Didn't even know what the hell HR was at the time.

Tom: I don't think the kids now, even though the jobs that they're in, I hear my kids talk about it. Not such a great life.

Miriam: So I can honestly say I have no frigging idea. I had no frigging idea. I really truly didn't. And that's kind of me in a nutshell. Everybody like, "Oh, what were your goals? You have to have goals, you have to do this." And I was like, I never had any of that. I've never said, "Okay, when I'm 25 years old, I want to have a house and two kids." Or "When I'm 30 years old, I want to have made X amount of money, or I want this or that or the other thing." I've always had the instinct to work hard, be genuine, learn along the way, and good things will happen. And frankly, I'm very blessed because I did those things and I feel good things have happened.

Tom: Yeah, I think that's great. I think some people know exactly what they want to be. And even the ones who plan out med school, law school, engineering school, and so forth, they come out of it, and you've seen these, we all seen them. They go, teachers are a bigger one, go to become a teacher and realize, no, this is not what I want to do. But the path isn't defined. Your path is in front of you, and you get to decide which road less traveled you want to take.

Miriam: Right.

Tom: We'll throw on some poetry idioms.

Miriam: And it's cliche, but it is the journey.

Tom: Right.

Miriam: It's enjoying. I mean, I'm so blessed with all the people that have been in and out of my life. I mean, we go back how many years? And I'm loving now that we work together, and we have only been working together for almost two years now. I mean, we've known each other for 15. So I think everything happens for a reason. I do believe in putting good into the universe and good will come back. I do believe in karma and all of those things. And I think it's okay to not have a plan, just it's okay to not have a plan.

Tom: And I think that's... So for you younger listeners out there-

Miriam: It's okay.

Tom: ... listen to that message. Right?

Miriam: Absolutely.

Tom: Not everybody knows what they want to be when they grow up. And sometimes you have grownups who don't know what they want to be either, so.

Miriam: So true.

Tom: All right, so let's go. We're going to follow that. This goes into my next question, the off-scripted question. You're early in that HR career working with Susan Hollister. What doubts about HR did you have at that point in chasing that path?

Miriam: I have to tell you, I don't think I had any doubts. And I know, sorry. Again, it's actually better to be ignorant. Because if you're ignorant, you have no expectations. You have no fears about it. I mean, people can have the fear of the unknown. Again, that's not me, right?

Tom: We're not talking butterfly fear.

Miriam: Right. No, honestly, I didn't. What I actually learned though, was I learned a lot from that first professional job, and the way I would talk to people and how I was perceived by people. I remember once Susan actually sharing with me that I had a condescending tone to basically a senior VP of this bank that we worked for. I didn't know what the hell that meant. And I was like, " Well, that doesn't sound good. Can you tell me what I did and how I said it? And so I never do that again because that's..." And that was the type of stuff.
So I would say probably if I were to have any doubts, it's like, okay, I literally graduated from high school, had a secretary job at a hospital, and now I'm in this, it was a support role in HR to start, but just learning how to be a business professional with no quote, unquote " college or formal training" in any way.

Tom: Yeah.

Miriam: So I learned a lot in my job and working. And yeah, I made a lot of missteps. I said a lot of stupid things, but luckily I was surrounded by really good people who saw really strong potential in me, and were bold enough to say, "Hey, dumbass, you effed up on this one, but here's what you're going to do to go forward. And I guess maybe that's part of learning. So yeah, again...

Tom: You got to stumble a little bit.

Miriam: Yeah.

Tom: I remember. So I went to one of my reunions for high school, and this classmate of mine, she goes, "Do you remember me?" And I moved out when I went to school, and I didn't look back, and kept in touch with a few folks, but not to the degree that most of my high school friends, they all stayed home. They stayed in that neighborhood. And so, one of them tells me, he's like, " Yeah, I used to work with you at..." We worked at Burger King, and she said, "You were a fry Nazi." Because I had the green shirt and I had the name tag. I was a production supervisor or something, but I was all like, say 17 years old, whatever. And it was just earth-shattering. My wife's laughing hysterically that this is the reference point. But it's those moments in time where you realize, yeah, nobody taught you how to do these things, and you got to stumble through it and make some mistakes. And yes, apparently I said, "You have to do fries this way and this many in the basket," and whatever.

Miriam: Oh. I think I just gotten some new ammunition.

Tom: Now everybody has it, right? Nickname. All right. So what is the hardest part of your work- life balance?

Miriam: Okay, so I saw this question on there. I didn't think you were going to ask it of me, but I will tell you what it is. It's not. Okay. Again, work-life balance means exactly what it sounds like, but the person is in charge of their work-life balance. You say no, you don't overwhelm yourself. You pick things that are important to you outside of work, whether it's your volunteerism or the companies, the charities that you support, the things that you do in your kids' lives. And frankly, it's phased. Everything in your life is phased. So when my kids were little, I had a stay-at-home husband who took care of the kids, but that didn't mean I got to be an absentee mother, and I didn't want to be an absentee mother. I wanted to be there for plays and for school stuff, and for soccer games, and all of those things. And I did it. And now they're grown. And so now I have more freedom to do other things in my life. And so now this is the time of my life where I can do more night networking events or go to more things during the day that maybe I wouldn't have been able to do at some point. But the biggest thing is you have to stop making yourself feel guilty that you have to be everything to everyone. I remember how a woman who used to work for me, and she really took pride in being the best mom she could possibly be. And she is the best mom in the world. And it was killing her because she was going to have to make cookies. And I was like, "Hey, Stace, Hannaford's right around the corner. They make beautiful cookies in their bakery." But it's supposed to be, I was like, "Who said it's supposed to be fresh- baked from your oven?" Screw that.

Tom: There's an oven at Hannaford.

Miriam: There's an oven at Hannaford, too. And so for me, making sure women, especially, set their boundaries, stay accountable to themselves for their boundaries, and not feel frigging guilty about it. Because I think that's the problem where people don't have that work-life balance is because for whatever reason, for whatever experiences that they've had, they are reacting to it in such a way. And a lot of times, especially for women, it comes out as guilt, is that we're not being enough to anything.

Tom: Right.

Miriam: And that's crap.

Tom: Well, and it goes back to some things we said about, yeah, love yourself, make time for yourself. Make yourself a priority.

Miriam: Absolutely.

Tom: Not to be selfish, but you can't help anybody unless you're in a good spot.

Miriam: Absolutely. So that's not hard for me.

Tom: Love it. Love it. All right. Last question. I'm going to steer clear because you asked one of the questions I asked, that I highlighted. So I'm going to go to the default. What's your favorite part of working with Nick Maciariello?

Miriam: Shut up. You're really going to use that question?

Tom: I'm going to do it. I'm going to do it.

Miriam: Oh, my God. Okay. Well, first of all, for those of you who might know Nick. Nick is our director of sales at Alaant. He is one of the most kind, most wonderful people in the entire world. He is motivated beyond anyone I've ever met from a sales perspective. He is an amazing guy. He's a big old teddy bear. The best thing about working for him is it's Nick.

Tom: I'm sure he's going to love that. It's going to make him tear up.

Miriam: That'd be interesting. I don't know if I've ever seen that.

Tom: I think if we get enough Miller Lites in him-

Miriam: We could probably make that happen.

Tom: We could entice it. Yeah. No, I'll throw in my two cents. I think I love the part that he's always trying to get in a fun way under another colleague's skin-

Miriam: Oh, yeah.

Tom: ... a little bit, just to try and instigate a little bit. But he's always got this jovial sense of, get the business done but let's have some fun about it.

Miriam: Absolutely.

Tom: And you know me, I will laugh all day long and try and poke fun wherever I have the opportunity. And he's just, I think he brings out that best in everybody.

Miriam: I totally agree.

Tom: Well, that's our lightning-round question, folks. So thanks for listening to HR in the Car. We have more great episodes to come for you. Subscribe today at, and we will see you soon.