Hi Vanessa, tell us a little bit about yourself!
My name is Vanessa Duran and I am a first generation college graduate and working professional. Both of my parents immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico in the late 1980’s and met out in Watsonville, CA’s berry fields. My humble beginnings are one of the most salient parts of my identity now, but I used to be really embarrassed/guarded with my background, especially during my undergraduate years at UCLA.
These days, I’ve channeled all of those old feelings into projects and initiatives that I feel will enrich the experience of other women, particularly women of color, and other first gens. Most recently, I designed a mentorship program for Southern California Alpha Delta Pi members (launching Q2 2021), scored scholarship applications for UCLA’s Latino Alumni Association annual freshman scholarship, and put on resume workshops for different student groups in Los Angeles.
Can you tell us what you do as an Employee Relations Specialist at Equinox for those who are unfamiliar?
As an Employee Relations Specialist for Equinox, I conduct prompt, thorough, and fair workplace investigations into claims of harassment, discrimination, retaliation and other topics across all major U.S. markets. Throughout the regular course of my workplace investigations, I collect, review, interpret, analyze and evaluate statements, documents and physical evidence. At the conclusion of every investigation, I document the facts and provide an in-depth analysis of my findings before recommending a resolution to the business, who ultimately makes the final decision.
How did you decide to pursue HR?
Like most other people in my field will tell you, I “fell into” HR. I grew up thinking I wanted to be an immigration or employment lawyer until I took an LSAT prep course and really started looking into J.D. programs and speaking to attorneys about their day-to-day. I decided that the lawyer’s life was not for me, but I was still fascinated by law and the ways it intersects with the workplace experience.
That’s when a lightbulb went off and I began to build a network in addition to researching different HR specializations. Through some luck and hard work, a third-degree connection put me in touch with an HR professional at Lionsgate soon after graduation. The rest has been history.
What programs & tools do you use everyday for work? What do you like/dislike about these programs?
I absolutely love Workday and HR Acuity. I don’t think that any other HRIS system compares in terms of functionality and customization. As far as HR Acuity, it’s a really intuitive case management platform that organizes my evidence, interview notes, and findings/analysis.
Any advice on how to stand out and get hired for those starting off?
Read up on different HR functions (benefits, compensation, employee relations, engagement, etc.) and set up virtual coffee chats with professionals that are closely aligned with your interests. As previously mentioned, most people “fall into” HR, so genuine interest and an eagerness to learn will certainly get your foot in the door.
What are some must-have resources (books, tools, podcasts, etc.) you would recommend for your industry?
1. The Essential HR Handbook by Sharon Armstrong and Barbara Mitchell
2. Inevitable: The Future of Work (podcast)
3. Latinas Rising Up in HR by Priscilla Guasso
4. Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
5. The Essential Guide to Workplace Investigations by Lisa Guerin, J.D.
6. Getting involved with your local Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) and/or Association of Workplace Investigators (AWI) chapters.
What are 3 character traits that would make someone excel in your field?
Analytical, Empathetic, Business-Oriented.
Most satisfying & difficult thing about your job?
Most satisfying- Finally securing that promotion for that rock star contributor and welcoming new hires into the business.
Most difficult- Parting ways with a teammate.
What would you like to say to your younger self?
These spaces weren’t made for you, but you deserve to be here nonetheless. ¡Échale ganas!
Best advice you've received/heard?
¡Ponte las pilas!- ancient Hispanic proverb