Brittany Edwards ‘18 has worked for the State of Michigan since she was a high school student. Through hard work and education, she moved up in her department and found a passion for advocating on behalf of both employees and her employer as a labor relations specialist.
Tell us about yourself. Family, life, background, interests…
I am originally from Illinois and moved to Michigan a little over 10 years ago with family after my father took an IT job with the State of Michigan. I am the oldest of five girls and always loved school. I completed my bachelors of arts degree at Michigan State University in criminal justice with a minor in sociology.
In a nutshell, what do you do?
As a labor relations specialist, my day consists of providing guidance to management during investigations and disciplinary processes, assisting in contract negotiations and developing new policies and advocating for the department during grievance and arbitration processes. I also work with people to ensure cohesiveness in employee and employer relationships.
How long have you worked with the State of Michigan? What was your career path that led you to your current job?
I have been with the State of Michigan for a little over seven years. I started in a co-op position with the Michigan Housing Authority in high school and continued to work as a student assistant in college. I have been in my current position as a labor relations specialist for four years.
There are many different departments in human resources including labor relations, classification and selection, transactions, and specialized hiring and recruitment. We have about 50-60 employees in the human resources department that work as specialists, analysts and administrative personnel.
Were there any mentors or people in your job that helped you along the way?
Absolutely — a colleague of mine who has been here for about 30 years. She helped train and mold me as a student assistant in labor relations, which allowed me to develop my skills. I also had a previous manager who helped me shape my current style as a specialist in labor relations.
Tell me why you picked Davenport University for your masters.
After some research about the management program, I picked DU for my masters because I found they had a human resources aspect incorporated into the program. I knew that would help me grow and would be useful down the line in my career.
What was your experience like at Davenport? Did you go full-time or part-time? Online or in-seat? What classes did you enjoy the most? How about professors?
I started my master’s about two years after I started working in my career. I attended school full-time while working full-time. I also went year-round, so I could finish as soon as possible. I took a mix of in-seat and online classes in the master’s program. The late afternoon and night classes were great for working adults.
One class I particularly enjoyed was marketing and communications in multicultural environments with professor Lorely Polanco. There were only three or four of us in the class and we really got to know each other on a personal level. The techniques used in the class were some of the best I experienced in my educational history.
What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about human resources, especially labor relations and what I do right now. I also love helping people collaborate to achieve their goals. When people thank me for helping them succeed in their job, it keeps me going. In our department, we want everyone to be successful. Hearing people say I helped them is a very rewarding part of my day.
What is your dream job?
My dream job is to become a chief human resources officer of a fortune 500 company. I want to help a company grow and support people in the organization, so they can flourish in their jobs.
What do you do when you are not working?
I love to read and spend time with my sisters and niece. I also like spending quality time with friends and traveling when I get the chance.
Who inspires you in your work, life and volunteerism?
My mom inspires me in all aspects of my life from career to personal to community. She owns a salon and I have watched her overcome struggles in her business while also being an amazing mother. She juggles so many things at once and is inspiring.
Talk about your family’s values.
My family really prides itself on hard work and dedication. My dad always said to go after what we want and don’t let the world get in the way. My mother always says that if you start something, you better finish it. Working together is also a huge family value.
How would you like to be remembered?
I would like to be remembered as someone who helped others be successful.
What advice do you have for someone who’s deciding when the right time is to go back to school for a post-graduate degree?
My advice to students wondering about going into a masters program would be to take time off after graduation and get work experience. That experience may help you decide on a more relatable degree in something you hadn’t even thought of right after finishing your undergrad degree.