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Human Resources Specialist Neil Shah Defines His Approach to Business and How He Measures Success

Hailing from Ottawa, Ontario, Neil Shah began the journey to his current position as the Director of People + Culture with a well-known automotive export company by earning his undergraduate degree from McGill University in Montreal, Quebec.

Neil would then go on to enroll in a postgraduate program at a prestigious school in the United Kingdom. He would later return to North America, eventually obtaining his MBA from Walden University, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. After that, Neil Shah studied at Harvard, where he received his certification in Human Resources and Startup Entrepreneurship. He is presently enrolled in a Ph.D. program in Business Administration with a concentration on Human Resource Management and employee skill audits.

When not working, Ottawa’s Neil Shah’s preferred activities are spending time with his family and reading. He is also an avid proponent of daily exercise.

What is your current function at your company?

I perform management of all the human capital for our subsidies, including our parent company, Trade X. I develop policies, protocols, manage employee training, develop company mission statements, as well as many aspects relating to culture and vision. In addition, I also assist with overseeing health benefits, making sure we all follow the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) regulations, and the training of our employees all across the globe. Among which, setting up standard operating processes for various human resource departments within our company, in addition to the recruiters, is standard procedure. I’m also responsible for various ad hoc projects around the company that range from drafting employee agreements to performance interviews to setting up a host of human resource systems. It’s all focused around leadership, employee satisfaction, and retention.

What inspired you to go into this aspect of business?

For me, personally, it’s all about helping people. I prefer to call my department ‘hearing resources’ instead of human resources. The ability to show empathy for your employees that are dealing with issues outside of work is a must. Then, there’s assisting management in elevating the productivity of the company. So, it’s a challenge, which is the primary reason why I decided to join this field.

What defines your approach to business?

Honesty and transparency define my approach to business. I think those are the two things that people know about me in the HR world. I will always be transparent. It’s at the core of all the processes, procedures, and methodologies that I try to implement, no matter where I am or who I work for. I make sure that everything is set up not only for the benefit of the company, but for the employees as well.

What are the keys to being productive that you can share?

Operating a company like it’s your own. And by that I mean I’m always first into the office at 5:30 am and I’m also the last one to leave. Another key to productivity is putting 100% of what you’ve learned and your dedication into the company. Not just to develop the department, but to better yourself as a professional and really understand all elements of your position.

What is a long term career goal that you can share?

My aspiration, once I complete my doctorate, is to become Vice President of People and Culture or the Vice President of Human Resources. That’s my ultimate goal, along with teaching on the side, and using my academic pursuits as a platform to teach future human resource professionals in the field.

How do you measure success?

I measure it strictly on the satisfaction of what you put into your endeavors. By that, I mean there is no real definite measure of success—it can only be measured from a granular standpoint. Success is just the hard work that you put into your job and eventually seeing the results from that. It’s the happiness of the people you work with and for. Ultimately, my company is successful, so I have no real complaints.

What’s the most valuable lesson that you’ve learned so far through the course of your career?

I’ve had to learn to be patient. This sometimes conflicts with my desire to make a long-lasting social change. However, I’ve come to understand that even though it takes time, such changes inevitably happen. As time has passed, I’ve seen such changes. These are lifelong goals that shouldn’t be given up on, even if you stray now and then. Practice makes progress, no matter how small it seems.

What advice would you give to someone aspiring to be in the same field?

Gain as much exposure as you can from a practical standpoint. Elevate your academic career from the theoretical into practice. That’s how you’ll find out what works and what doesn’t. That’s how you achieve success in this position.

What are your favorite things to do outside of work?

Spending time with my parents, my daughter, and my wife. I also like to exercise every day. But, the majority of what free time I do have is spent reading. I enjoy it immensely.

How would your colleagues describe you?

Dedicated. My coworkers actively wonder if I ever get any sleep, given that I’m always first in the office, managing different projects, and being a full time student. Dedicated to my career would likely be what they would say if asked about me.

How do you maintain a work life balance?

I have support from my wife. It’s thanks to her I’m able to function after working 70 hours a week, along with the 50 hours of school. She is my balance. She helps me to focus on what’s important. And when there is time available, we spend it together. I cherish those moments deeply.

What is a piece of technology that helps you remain productive throughout the day?

My laptop. Being able to store the vast amount of information I need in order to do my job is a great help. I’ve been able to develop a filing system that has helped me keep tabs on everything that I need to know in order to keep everything organized.

What is a piece of advice that you have never forgotten?

The best advice I’ve heard is that if you go into a room and you feel like the dumbest person there, you’re in the right room, because that is where you’ll learn the most.

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