Shannon Williams is the Vice-President of Human Resources and Training for Al's Formal Wear, the largest privately owned formal wear company in the United States with more than 100 retail locations across six states. She worked in the human resource and personnel fields for more than 20 years. She is a certified Professional in Human Resources through the national Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). In addition, Shannon is an adjunct professor position at UH, specializing in training design and employee development classes. She is active with the Texas Retailers Association, chairperson for the Texas Retailers' Education Foundation and serves on the advisory boards for UH-Downtown, College of Business, and the UH College of Technology's Retailing and Consumer Science program.
What degree did you earn, and when did you graduate?
I earned a BS in Information Systems Technology in 2003 and a MS in Human Resource Development in 2008. I went back to college to finish my undergraduate degree when I was in my late 30s, and enrolled in the College of Technology because I knew technology was our future; I didn't want to be left behind. Even though it took more than 10 years of going to school part-time, it was one of the best decisions I ever made.
What was your first job after graduation from UH? How did you progress to your current position?
When I returned to school, I was already the Vice-President of Human Resources and Training for Al's Formal Wear. I remember thinking that I had the kind of job most of the students wanted in their future. I was just 20 years ahead of them in my career. However, I credit my degrees for my continued development in my role. I have brought new ideas and training concepts to Al's that helped to move us forward. It may sound biased to say this, but I believe some of the ideas and changes I brought to the job helped the company to weather increased competition and a difficult economy.
What are the primary responsibilities of your current position?
In a mid-sized privately-owned company like Al's Formal Wear, you often wear many hats. My primary responsibilities involve handling all the human resources aspects of the business including; coordinating recruiting and staffing, investigations, compliance with federal and state employment laws, employee relations, developing training programs, and internal company communications, to name a few. In addition, I supervise payroll and benefits.
What is a typical workday for you?
One of the things I love about working in human resources is that every day is different. I spend a lot of time each day talking with people ranging from employees to vendors. Most of my time is spent problem solving and planning. I might work with a district manager on a recruiting plan for a new retail location and then later that day; coach a supervisor on handling an employee issue. Or, I could spend time on governmental required reporting and then work on a way we can do it more efficiently next time. My days pass very quickly and I always have a long "to do" list.
What do you like best about your job?
The people! I have worked with the family that owns Al's for more than 30 years. Now I am working with the family's second generation. It's nice to know that you can walk down the hall, into the president's office and discuss virtually anything. I appreciate working for an ethical, principled company trying to provide quality merchandise and a great shopping experience for the customer.
Plus, I work beside a great group of people. My team is so committed to getting things done and doing them right. It's great to enjoy your team and know so many good people at work.
What advice would you give to students considering a career in your field?
Have patience – with people and while you are searching for the right job. If you plan to work in human resources or training, it will take patience. In addition, keep learning – never stop. The business world doesn't stop changing just because you got out of school. Get your degree! Don't wait. I'm glad I went back to school; however, I will admit that it would have been easier if I had done it sooner.