An occasional series highlighting a member of our alumni community, a current student, and one of our faculty members.
Alumna Susan Otto, ’00
Where are you working currently?
I’ve been working at ModCloth for the past 3 ½ years as chief people officer. ModCloth is an online women’s apparel company whose purpose is to inspire individual style, and help all women to be the best version of themselves. We are unique in our approach – our brand values are empowerment, inclusivity, and body positivity (we were the first company to sign an anti-photoshop petition). We enable our community of customers to express their individual style through our style gallery, and offer fashionable options for women size 0 – 4X. We have been a pure online business for the past 14 years, and in November we’ll open our first brick and mortar store in Austin, TX. We have about 400 employees across 3 locations.
What’s your favorite part about working in the HR field?
I enjoy being a trusted thought partner to the CEO and other executives. As an HR leader I have a holistic view of the company and have influence over all aspects of the business; I’m passionate about melding that strategic thinking with tactical execution, and creating a work environment where employees feel valued, engaged, and have fun! Second to all of that, I’ve been able to work across a variety of industries and companies various stages of business maturity – I’ve worked in hospitality, life sciences, digital entertainment and gaming and now fashion – how many disciplines are this fungible! These roles have allowed me to work and/or live in some pretty amazing places including Hawaii, California, Singapore, Australia, China, Japan, Korea, Spain, Switzerland, India……
What was your favorite part of the MA-HRIR program? Did you think the program prepared you well for the ‘real world’?
I participated in the evening MA-HRIR program and my classmates came from a variety of industries, levels of experience, and functions within and outside of HR. The project-based work provided a great platform to learn about issues across various industries and enabled us to focus on real world problems.
What’s a hobby or something fun you like to do when you’re not working?
Since moving to San Francisco in 2012 I’ve really gotten into cycling. I’m currently training for my third AIDS LifeCycle, which is a 545 mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise money and awareness in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Do you have any advice for current students? Be curious! Learn every aspect of your company’s business, learn the financials, learn the key metrics, learn the cross functional dependencies, and be part of the conversation when defining strategy and key objectives. This knowledge will increase your ability to deliver valuable talent solutions and will give you greater credibility with your business partners. The second piece of advice is to seek out the experiences you want – whether it’s working in a specific division, industry, function, or geography. I’ve had tremendous experiences because I sought them out and didn’t get too comfortable in any one industry or role.
Part-Time Student Tom Kaiser
Why did you choose to attend the Carlson School’s MA-HRIR program?
When looking at graduate programs in HR, none could compare to Carlson’s reputation for its curriculum and experienced professors. I wanted a program that I felt would give me the best education possible, and that’s exactly what I got.
Where did you earn your undergraduate degree?
I attended Towson University in Baltimore Maryland, and earned a B.S. in Psychology, and a Business Administration Minor.
Do you have any work experience?
Currently I’m an HR generalist with Ecolab. Prior to Ecolab I was an HR coordinator with Andersen Windows.
What’s been your favorite part of the program so far?
I’ve really enjoyed networking and building friendships with fellow students. I’ve gotten both my current and previous jobs through my connections with other MA-HRIR students at Carlson.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I enjoy being an active member of GSHRL, (the student organization) spending time at breweries with friends, and traveling.
Associate Professor Pri Shah
What are you teaching this semester?
Last semester I taught MGMT 1001, which is an introductory management course for Carlson undergraduates & an Executive MBA Negotiation course. MGMT 1001 is great because I have an opportunity to teach freshman who are really excited about entering Carlson. The Executive MBA Negotiation course is one of my favorites because the students really keep you on your toes – they see immediate application for concepts covered in class to their jobs, they have great examples from work that add value to class and they ask great questions which really helps me stay current.
Do you have any advice for current students?
Learning is a remarkable journey, enjoy it when you have the opportunity to be a student and continue it even after you graduate.
What are you currently reading?
I recently finished the Moral Molecule by Paul Zak – it is a book about the biological basis of trust.
Is there any little-known fact about you that people might be surprised about?
I was born on a military base on the border of India & Pakistan.