A Conversation with SSO HRG Supervisor, Carina Ng
Carina Ng always knew she wanted to lead. Her path to HR germinated from family influences and bloomed when she was given the opportunity to lead a student team. Along the way she was fortunate to receive some very foundational training. Fast forward ten years and she leads a team of six HR Generalists in the Shared Services Human Resources department.
Ben: Carina, you’re in your element and making positive impacts as an HR Supervisor. Please share with our readers how this came to be and what set you up for success.
Carina: I was a psychology major with a sociology minor at UC Davis and my plan was to go into child psychology, but didn’t feel it was a fit. I was unsure what to do after graduation, but my mom worked in HR so I had that influence. Once at Davis, I really liked my supervisor and thought,
“I want her job one day.”
The seeds were planted with having someone I admired as a role model, and observing their position to help and support the team.
From there, my career moved up in that department but realized quickly that I needed supervisor experience. So I took a job supervising students on campus at The Washington Program. I learned a lot: how to supervise, manage a program, and remove obstacles. My supervisor was very instrumental in guiding me, sending me to classes, testing me, having me set up networks, create relationships, and understanding what people do so I could help them. I spent a year there, a job opened up in my previous department and I eventually got my supervisor’s job! From there it was finding out how to expand my leadership style, learn more, and adapt it. I really gravitated towards the way Davis trains people to become supervisors, what they believe in for the team, and what a supervisor provides for the team.
Ben: Do you think it takes talent, character or acumen to do what you do?
Carina: In a role like this it does take character because you need to be able to view things from a factual point of view. You can’t have personal opinions if your communication style doesn’t line up with someone else’s.
You have to regulate yourself to be sure you are doing right by everybody involved and get to a middle ground. As for acumen, you do have to have good judgement, but I think that comes with experience. You put me in a supervisor role ten years ago and I guarantee my team would be annoyed with me (laughs.)
Ben: What coursework did you take that was memorable?
Carina: The Crucial Conversations class was extremely beneficial to my career and impactful for me. Being in my role, you have to be able to de-escalate situations or talk someone through a hard time when they make a mistake that affects people. That’s hard on someone but we’re human. Or if you have people who are not getting along, you have to mediate that situation.
Ben: Let me redirect. What is your philosophy on mistakes?
Carina: It’s important to look at the big picture. If someone does an action correctly ninety nine times and one time it’s incorrect, that’s one thing. If they do it right ninety nine times and five times wrong, you may have to drill down and start asking questions. Are there distractions, is the process not working or is something broken in the system? I view mistakes as human, but also as important queues to tell us that something may be wrong. It could be that we were just very busy.
Ben: If you happen to make a mistake? How do you move on and regain confidence?
Carina: First, I ask myself, how do I fix this? Then, who do I need to be very clear with that I made this error? I try to be upfront about it and acknowledge the frustration for the person on the other end. And then I ask, is it something that can potentially happen again, and do I need to change the process? Things like that.
I’ve made some great process improvements through mistakes. I try to tell people who are normally very consistent,
“Don’t let it get you, because if you feed into the anxiety, it can make it worse. Have confidence in the work you do. You always get compliments, you work very quickly.”
Ben: Professional athletes go through this as well, and some get into slumps. I’m interested in the psychology of bouncing back.
Carina: Very early in my career, fear motivated me. I didn’t want the perception of who I am to be something I didn’t identify with. I was a hard worker, detail oriented, timely, things like that. Now that I have some experience, confidence really motivates me. I’m confident at the time I make a decision. It may not always be right, but I have the confidence to make it because it feels right from whatever knowledge base I have.
Ben: Now that you’re ten years in, how do you envision your career path?
Carina: There’s a comfort here and I love this team. It would be hard to walk away from that comfort, but my personality is that I’m always going to try to learn more and do more.
I probably won’t be here until retirement. I think my natural evolution will come from a mindset of, how can I help the SSO, help the team, and build bigger bridges to the various teams. Or possibly expanding this mindset to creating a greater bridge to Central HR, Compensation, or Talent Acquisition.
Ben: If you were interviewing yourself, what question would you ask?
Carina: “How do I define job happiness?”
I wouldn’t be in the role that I am and have achieved this kind of happiness if it weren’t for all the people who took the time to help me along the way, to train me, to read over my application, give me pointers.
When I went to the Washington Program my director sent me to the Disney Leadership Institute even though I was a Blank Assistant 3 because she felt I was worth the investment. This was the one training that really stuck with me, to the point where I could recite it without any notes when I came back because of their training method.
Ben: Do you find yourself wanting to give that back or do you think about that when someone is asking something of you?
Carina: I always tell people, if you ask me for something and I have the time, I will always help you. When I first started at the SSO, I had a lot of my old teammates wanting help looking for other jobs, so I would hold workshops on the weekend and we would all sit at a café and they’d all look for jobs. They’d ask me questions and I’d help them. I’m a huge believer in giving back.
Ben: If you could offer advice to UC Davis grads who want to pursue an HR career, what would it be?
Take your career one step at a time, and don’t be afraid to try different things to find what you like.