Alumni Success Story: Sara Eschels, ’84, ’97, ‘06

As a three-time alumna of Davenport, Sara Eschels ’84, ’97, ’06 believes in paying it forward, just as her former bosses and mentors have done for her. “Leading and helping others is my way of paying back the people who helped me get where I am today.” Learn more about Sara Eschels and her role of the “HR Quarterback” at Hylant helping others grow below.

Tell us about yourself, Sara!

I grew up in Scottville, Michigan in a tight-knit family. I was the youngest of a family of four – three boys and me. We were raised on a farm, but my family did not farm – we leased it out. My dad was a real estate agent and my mom was a bank branch manager. I grew up in a non-traditional family, where my mother had the steady income and my dad took care of the family and household duties. I really enjoyed my upbringing. After high school, I headed to college thinking I wanted to go into accounting. Thanks to some great advice and bosses who really took the time to get to know me, I learned that the human resources field was more in my wheelhouse. Today, I work in human resources as Talent Manager for Hylant.

Why did you pick Davenport?

I was familiar with Davenport because my Uncle Carl Eschels graduated from Davenport a while back. Uncle Carl had nothing but wonderful things to share about his experience at Davenport. I liked how all the classes were relevant and directly related to the business world. I loved Davenport so much that I returned for my bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Share with us your professional career journey.

Soon after graduating with my associate’s degree, I moved to North Carolina and worked at a bank.  The town was a military town, so there really wasn’t a lot of career opportunities.  When I moved back to Michigan, I was able to secure a position at the Perrigo Company in Allegan as the Executive Secretary to the Vice President of Human Resources.  Perrigo was such a great place to work because my boss was so supportive and wanted me to learn and grow. He encouraged me to take promotions and roles that were out of my comfort zone, so I could learn something new. When I was at Perrigo they had a full tuition program, which I took advantage of and ended up going back to school and getting my bachelor’s degree. I worked my way up at Perrigo, with the help of a few great mentors along the way. I was a HRIS administrator where I was in charge of the HR systems, next I moved to an office manager role for the department, and then managed the company store, and the last position I held at Perrigo was the manager of the compliance training group. Then, thanks to a former manager and friend, I landed a position at Fifth Third Bank where I worked as Professional Development Facilitator and eventually the Professional Development Manager. My job was to work with employees to help them develop the soft skills they needed to grow as professionals. The position was awesome and I had such a great staff that I could mentor and lead. I moved into a HR Business Partner role, a few years later where I worked with the retail leadership team on strategic HR needs.  Fifth Third also offered a great tuition reimbursement program so I was able to finish my MBA at Davenport while I worked there.

In a nutshell, what do you do now?

I work at Hylant as a Talent Manager. The best way to describe my position is the “HR Quarterback.” I am the point of contact for everything HR-related for ten of the Hylant offices, including Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, Detroit, Fort Wayne, Chicago, Indianapolis,  Bloomington, Nashville, Orlando and Jacksonville. I travel a lot more now to develop employees. I am able to ask people what they want to do to grow and not just laterally within the company. I think of employee development as the growth of the person – personally and professionally. If it is not at work, what do they want to do to better themselves – volunteer, mentor, have a better work-life balance? I am here to challenge and help people grow.

Your recent positions have been all about helping people. Is this where you see yourself making the most impact?

I have been extremely fortunate to have some amazing bosses and mentors along my professional and personal journey. I am just paying it forward. I am passionate about people and helping them grow and develop. I love being a leader and manager. It is so rewarding to know that I have positively impacted someone’s life by helping them get a promotion or coaching them through a challenging situation in their lives.

What is your biggest accomplishment?

I am a 2nd degree black belt in taekwondo. In 2012, I decided to do something to get myself into shape. I gravitated towards martial arts instead of a traditional gym and fell in love with the first taekwondo class I took. I am a certified taekwondo instructor, as well. Not only do I love attending taekwondo, but teaching classes is even better.

What do you do when you are not working?

I spend a lot of time with my two Siberian Huskies (Jax and Nikko). Spending time with my family and friends is number one.  I also enjoy golf, skiing, bike riding, of course TaeKwonDo.  I love to travel and visit new places.  I am always trying to plan my next adventure.


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