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Dakota Hugo

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'20 Labor and Employment Relations | Human Resources Generalist, Materion Corporation | Reading, PA
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Dakota Hugo

Liberal Arts Major: Labor and Employment Relations

Hometown: Allentown, PA

Current Location: Allentown, PA

What enrichment activities did you participate in as a student?

During my time at Penn State, I completed two internships in order to gain a better knowledge of what the real HR world was like and to see if I would really like the profession. My first internship was with an entertainment company called Cedar Fair, and I worked in human resources at a local amusement park called Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom. Through that internship, I gained many valuable skills such as group interview facilitating and assessing, I-9 completion for both domestic and international workers, onboarding, new employee orientation, and many other things. My second internship was with a company called Via of the Lehigh Valley, which is a nonprofit organization that provides human services to individuals with disabilities. During that internship, I learned a lot about résumé and applicant screening, compliance processes, and employee relations. Both internships allowed me to gain valuable HR skills, as well as know what to look for in an employer.

What was your first job after graduating from Penn State?

My first job out of school is a Human Resource Generalist position with Materion Corporation. I heard about the job through the Career Resource Center at Penn State, applied before I even graduated and it has been an amazing experience ever since. I was brought on when the company was in the process of opening a new plant in the same area as the one I was hired at. My role was to serve as the HR generalist for both locations with primary responsibilities at the second plant. I work with a team of four others to develop policies, hire employees, and all other HR tasks needed for the new plant.

What was your favorite class and/or who was your favorite faculty member?

My favorite class was Current Topics in HR with Rebecca Cianci. I had a multitude of amazing professors at Penn State, so it's really difficult to pick just one. That being said, Professor Cianci has a special place in my heart, because she was also the professor for my LER 100 class that really sold me on being an HR professional. In the current topics class, she presented very relevant information and always gave us current and real-world examples. She was always available for questions and advice. Professor Cianci is truly one of the main reasons I followed through with being an HR professional, and she is the HR professional I aspire to one day become.

How did your liberal arts education and skills prepare you for life after graduation?

My liberal arts education truly gave me a well-rounded education and let me experience many different sides of the business world. The ability to have flexibility in the courses you take and where your degree goes is hugely beneficial. Some people scoff at the idea of a liberal arts degree, because they think it is somehow worth less than other degrees but I strongly disagree. With the variety of classes that I took, I feel as though I am a well-rounded individual in the workplace and approach any situation with an open mind. I think the mix of students from different majors that you find in Liberal Arts classes is also a huge benefit, because you get a different perspective on topics that are presented. For example, an LER student isn't going to look at Labor Law topics the same way that a Political Science major does. Through class discussions, you really get to think about different sides of the same coin and learn new perspectives.

What networking advice would you share with current students?

Networking is everything. In so many cases it's not about what you know, but rather who you know. Just having a Penn State degree will get your foot in the door at so many places, thanks to our extensive alumni network. Sometimes students hear networking and are intimidated by it, but there's no reason to be. Networking is truly about getting to know people and building connections, and chances are you already do that everyday without even thinking about it. The next step, in order to make it professionally beneficial, is to have a purpose. Ask yourself what is the benefit to knowing this person? Are they going to be part of my support system? Can I go to them for resources? Are they someone who is in my field and can give me advice? Do I want to network just socially not professionally with this person? Any answer is fine! It's important to know where people fall within your network.

What role have mentors played in your career progression?

I don't have any direct professional mentors. However, my parents each ran their own businesses while I was growing up. This enabled me to learn to be professional at a young age, as well as how to communicate with anyone in a room. I think that is a huge advantage that I have just from who my parents are. I have had quite a few people give me advice along the way when I asked for it, but I didn't know many people who were where I aspired to be in my field.

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