Pethrona Russell joins the King’s community as part of her long and experienced career in human resources. Prior to this, she worked at the University of the Bahamas, the Dallaire Institute for Children, Peace and Security (formerly the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative) and MetroWorks Employment Association, an economic and social development non-profit that helps those “facing employment barriers develop skills for life and find sustainable work.” Now at King’s, she’s planning to work hard and make sure the university runs smoothly behind the scenes.
How did you get involved in this type of work?
Basically, while I was getting my second degree—that’s my bachelor’s degree in tourism management—we had two internships to complete. My first internship was at Sandals Royal Bahamian. The next one was at the [Bahamas] Ministry of Tourism. At the Ministry of Tourism, I was placed in three different sections. One of them was Tourism Awareness, the next one was Industry Training and the third one was at the Welcome Centre. When I was at Industry Training, there was a lady by the name of Marilyn Johnson. Industry Training was her baby, and she liked me and the energy that I brought. She wanted me to become a certified trainer [for the Bahamahost Certification Programme]. That was the open door for me to start doing training and development at University of the Bahamas. Basically, they hired me on a temporary full-time basis to assist with training and development…it’s clear that they needed somebody full-time in the role because shortly thereafter, eight months to be exact, I was performing a dual role within the Training and Development.
This was not limited to training and orientation—I oversaw Staff and Faculty Development Committees, Faculty Professional Leave, Tuition Waiver for Staff and Dependents among other duties, and Benefits Unit (specifically Leave Administration-The processing of Sick, Vacation, Compassionate, and Special). That’s that’s how I got into HR…That would have been way back in 2006.
What made you interested in applying to King’s?
After being at the University of the Bahamas for 10 and a half years, the university always felt like a home to me. Working at the Dallaire Institute, it was a non-profit or an NGO, and fell under the umbrella of Dalhousie, so it was still exposure to the university, but not, I would say, fully embedded into the university.
End of the day, when I saw this opportunity, again, [I took it.] I felt at home when I came to my first interview, I felt that home once again…I want to be the person that was the change agent for …the best of everybody that works in the organization. So that’s what drew me to it, because of a lot of things that I’ve done in my past being at the Dallaire Institute and MetroWorks, some of those changes that I’ve made that were positive and great. And streamlining systems and processes…that I would love to do at King’s.
How it been going so far?
There’s lots of recruitment. So far, in my first week actually, I’ve prepared a nice orientation, a sit-down presentation, so that when new staff come now I can go through it with them. They can get to know the history of King’s, as well as some of our programs, the benefits, hours of operations and those types of things. Because those are very, very important. I would see [these as] linchpins and starting points for new employees, when they don’t have that sense of, I would say not only belonging, but an organized workshop for them to be introduced formally into any organization. It’s never a good reflection.
What do you look forward to working on here?
If I can get to project manage the Human Resources Information System (HRIS) like I did at MetroWorks, if I’m allowed to do that, I’m looking forward to taking that on.
Automating our leave, be it vacation leave, any leave, rather than it just being in a spreadsheet with people having to come to us and ask us for those balances. I want people to be able to pick up their phone, or just log into their screens, and they’re able to see their vacation, their sick leave, and all of their balances. Or if they’re banking time, let’s say they work overtime … all of those things they can see at the touch of their screen, rather than having to email somebody and getting that information.
So automation. You know technology, if you don’t get on that train, you’re gonna get left behind…And then going on performance management. Those core competencies, those things are very important with the organization and employee experience as well. And that’s something that I’ve done at MetroWorks as well. So, I’m looking forward to many things.
What made you choose Halifax when you were moving here?
Honestly, end of the day, I looked at safety, I thought about my daughter and my twin sister and all that stuff. … cost efficiency, looking at that. When we chose SMU, it’s literally on Inglis Street. Right across the street, there’s a primary school. So, my daughter was right across the street from me. And then when she went into junior high, right across the street from me once again, because we were living on campus for a time. So cost efficiency, location and safety…We also had a small business, so why not get the [Master of Technology Entrepreneurship and Innovation (MTEI) degree], which is a business degree. It’s about solving those complex business challenges that many startups run into. When I look at it, incorporating technology into your business and your affairs, that’s another reason why the HRIS system and project managing resonates with me so much. It’s about [asking] how do you incorporate technology into your business to make it even better?