Why I Love Working in HR at Mercedes-Benz Research & Development

Sponsored by Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America

Jason Williams

Photo courtesy of MBRDNA.

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“Don’t cut your career branches too soon, find something that you’re passionate about and determine what’s most important to you in your next role.” That is the advice Jason Williams, a Senior People Business Partner at MBRDNA, has for women looking for work. 

With a background in juvenile counseling, Williams knows what it’s like to have a non-traditional career. Having always been passionate about helping people, working in HR was a natural next step for him. “Working in HR gives me the opportunity to help multiple people with various needs, questions, and concerns on a day-to-day basis,” explains Williams. “In any line of work, you need trust in your manager and the team, which I truly have here,” he adds, speaking of the supportive work environment at MBRDNA.

In a recent interview with Fairygodboss, Williams talks about the company culture, the incredible ways MBRDNA is prioritizing its employees’ wellbeing during the pandemic, and the qualities he looks for when interviewing candidates. 

How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously?

I have been a Senior People Business Partner at MBRDNA since March of 2019. I had somewhat of a non-traditional career path leading up to my current role. Out of college, I started in Juvenile Corrections as an Institutional Counselor, Juvenile Parole Officer, and then worked for the Juvenile Rehabilitation Headquarters while coaching varsity high-school football. Several years later, I became a Discrimination Investigator, which opened my eyes and piqued my interest to the world of HR — I could see myself being able to utilize my personality and experiences to spread my wings to grow a great deal personally and professionally. In my first HR role, I worked at Automic Software (700 employees), which was later acquired by CA Technologies (12,000 employees), which was then acquired by Broadcom (14,000 employees) — experiencing two acquisitions in a short period of time was not easy, but I look back at it as a blessing and a situation that was meant to be, as I am now at MBRDNA and could not be happier and more thankful.

What is your favorite part of working in HR?

I have a few things that I would consider my favorites. First, I have always been very fortunate throughout my career to work on great teams, which is definitely the case here at MBRDNA — I love the people who I support and the HR team that I work with. In any line of work, you need to trust your manager and the team, which I truly have here and am extremely thankful for. Second, I have always been a people pleaser by nature, and have been that way since I was a kid, so working in HR gives me the opportunity to help multiple people with various needs, questions, and concerns on a day-to-day basis. Lastly, I enjoy the fact that no day is the same and things can change at the drop of a hat. This can create challenges on several levels, but I always do my best to keep a positive attitude and control what I can. In these situations, that is all anyone really can do, and with the constant support of my manager and team, I feel like no task is too big to tackle.

As an HR Business Partner, what are three things about MBRDNA that you always make sure to highlight when talking to a candidate?

  1. We are not looking for a specific “Culture Fit” or candidates to fit a mold that we have created. We are eager to find candidates that will add to our culture, help it grow, and build on the foundation that we are so proud to have created. We want people to come in on their first day and feel comfortable being themselves.

  2. We care. From our CEO to our interns and everyone in between. We care about our employees, about the quality of work we are doing, and about a healthy work/life balance.

  3. How we’re dealing with the pandemic. Since the beginning of the pandemic, I have seen our leadership and employees step up for each other in many amazing ways. The company has emphasized the importance of its employees’ wellness and finds creative ways to stay connected and engaged, such as virtual parenting groups, trivia contests, photo contests, virtual fitness programs, and wellness days, to name a few. This is definitely something I highlight when speaking with candidates.

What’s one thing MBRDNA does — whether a formal policy or program or more in terms of office culture — that you think is particularly unique or unexpected?

We implemented Wellness Days in May 2020 — it is a company-wide initiative that continues today. We’ve had every other Friday off since that time. Wellness days put everything on pause for a day. We shut down on those days so there are very few to no emails, alerts or notifications that force you to get back online. It also gives time back in your week for whatever your wellness needs are: a nap, working out, getting outside, household chores, grocery shopping, spending time with family, and anything else you can think of to even out that work/life balance. For our working parents or caregivers, it has been a lifesaver.

Tell me a bit about MBRDNA’s D&I efforts and employee resource groups.

MBRNDA has an employee-driven Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) Council. The Council includes employees from across all MBRDNA locations. They have created a roadmap that drives change to reflect MBRDNA’s innovation and ingenuity that brings ideas to life and people together. We have several programs currently in place, and more rolling out very soon such as DEI Day, DEI Speaker Series, and Employee Resource Groups. We also ensure that one member of the DEI Council is included in every interview loop company-wide.

As an HR Business Partner, what are the top 3 qualities you look for in a candidate?

  1. Collaborative – the ability to work within a team and communicate ideas effectively.

  2. Excellent communication skills and the ability to connect with people.

  3. Self-Awareness – knowing your true strengths and areas of opportunity to grow.

What’s your #1 piece of advice for women who are looking for jobs right now?

This is the advice I would give: Don’t cut your career branches too soon, find something that you’re passionate about and determine what’s most important to you in your next role. I started my career after college working in Juvenile Corrections and coaching high-school football, and now I work in HR for an incredible company. I would have never gotten to where I am today if I had limited myself to different career opportunities.

I would advise anyone looking for a job to make a list of what is essential in their next role, what are your “must-haves” — is it the company culture, work/life balance, compensation, benefits, career development, title, etc.? There are many things to consider, and you are the only one who can determine what is paramount as you take the next step of your career path.  Following your passions and identifying what is most essential will help lead you to that incredible opportunity you’ve been searching for.

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