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A Day in the Life of a Global HR Professional: Meet Stella from Shield GEO

At Shield, we love every member of our team and think they bring such diverse talents, skills, and outlooks to our company. We believe our community and service offering becomes richer each time we bring on someone new. To showcase the incredible personalities behind our team, each month, we profile someone new. 

Our day-in-the-life series showcases the different ways our team structures their workdays, home-life, hobbies, and families. We see how remote work allows them more flexibility and control around how they live their lives, and we get the know what’s really important to them in life. 

More recently, we’ve seen how quarantine and lockdown restrictions across the world have affected our team and their regular routines. 

This month, we’re profiling Stella Huang, our Head of HR, Talent, and Culture. Stella lives in Sydney, Australia. 

Meet Stella 

Shield’s awesome Head of HR, Stella!

Stella started working with Shield straight after graduating from university.

“Jacky actually introduced me to the company,” Stella says. “They were doing a project on female expatriates and wanting to try and find out why women don’t get as many assignments overseas as men do. I had just done that for my honors thesis, so Jacky brought me in, and that was one of the first articles that I wrote.”

From there, Stella worked on several projects as an intern assisting the team with research, article writing, and HR projects. 

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to be involved with something international, and what could be more international than international employment?” Stella says. 

When Shield restructured our teams to include Implementation Managers, Stella started full-time in the Implementation team. 

A year later, as our teams continued to grow, Stella gladly accepted a new role as our Head of HR, Talent, and Culture. 

“I thought, you know what, why not?” Stella says. “As I mentioned, I never really knew what I wanted to do. And so, I think the best way to do things is to just do it until you figure that you don’t like it and want to try something else. But I’ve been loving it so far.”

In the HR role, Stella has worked closely with our co-founder Tim Burgess to establish a recruitment strategy and process, developed and released our company values, evolved our onboarding and buddy programs, planned for two company retreats (RIP Bali 2020) and one virtual retreat as well as significantly grown our Shield team numbers. 

“It’s been a busy few years!” She says. 

Working for Shield introduced Stella to a remote lifestyle, one she admittedly didn’t realize was possible.  

“I hadn’t considered it at all, and it was something that was very foreign to my family as well,” Stella says. “Especially when I started, every so often I would work from home, and my mom would say things like, ‘What are you doing? Why are you not in the office? You’re gonna get fired!”

And while it took a little while to get used to, Stella soon realized the many benefits of location independence. 

“I wanted to travel, I’ve always been fascinated by other cultures and speaking other different languages.”

But throughout university, her peers were all aiming for consulting roles in large international corporations, and at the time that seemed like the only pathway for Stella too. 

“Maybe I’d work for one of the big four and then get to go on an assignment overseas for a year or two,” Stella says. “That was the sort of trajectory that I was aiming for, but I think I got a better deal!” 

Stella working alongside some kangaroos

Over her time with Shield, Stella has been able to travel several times internationally. In 2018 she spent six months working remotely while traveling through Europe and last year traveled to the Philippines, where she was able to meet up with some of our team. 

“I did a holiday in the Philippines and then stayed an extra week and met up with some Filipino people there,” Stella says. “That was really nice!”

Unfortunately, like many people this year, Stella’s 2020 travel plans had to be postponed due to the pandemic. Still, she’s hopeful for more travel in the future. 

“I was going to do some personal enjoyment travel but in the middle also come and visit all of [the Shield team] around the world, which would have been really nice,” she says.  

“I know that for a lot of people, they’ve got children, they’ve got responsibilities, so it’s not as easy for them to move around, so I just said, ‘I’ll come to you!'”

The flexibility had also allowed Stella to teach piano two afternoons a week, which is something she’s done on and off since she was in high school.

“I wouldn’t be able to still teach kids piano if I didn’t have this flexibility,” Stella says. “Even if I worked at, say, Google, or one of the other big companies, who promote work-life balance. The expectation is still that you start work at nine, and you end at five. You can go for a walk in the middle of the day, or take mental health well being days off, but I couldn’t teach kids if I wanted to.”

To make it work, Stella organizes her week into early days and later days, which coincides with being available for different time zones too. 

“Monday, Thursday, Fridays, I work 7am to 3pm,” she says. “I want to try and have as much overlap with the Americas timezone as possible. But I do try to keep Mondays as free as possible [from meetings] so that I can actually do some work.”

These are the days she takes on piano students too. 

“Once I finish at three o’clock, that’s when kids get off school. I’ve got a little studio and have lessons from 3:30 till 8:30 at night.”

On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Stella works later in the day to catch the European timezone. 

“It’s a little bit more difficult for the Europe people,” she says. “I might work from about 11 in the morning or 12 midday till eight o’clock, nine o’clock in the evening.” 

But with daylight savings, it’s getting trickier to make an overlap work. 

A day in the life of Stella

4:45 a.m.


Wake up and quickly brush my teeth and get dressed to go to the gym.

5:00 a.m.


Gym session – alternating between HIIT, weights and some yoga. I take a day off during the weekdays to rest the body and sleep in a little.

6:30 a.m.


Get back home and showered, ready for work!


7:00 a.m.


Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays I start work. I start early Monday because I like to get my week going, and because I teach children piano once school hours are done. Thursday and Fridays I start early in order to catch our people in the Americas, so I schedule meetings with them, or they can reach out to me at that time. Tuesdays and Wednesdays I leave the mornings free to do lots of personal errands or work on personal projects.


11:00 a.m.


Tuesdays and Wednesdays I start work at this time. I end later in the day too so that I can catch our EMEA people.


3:00 p.m.


Finish work on Mon, Thurs and Fris! Thursdays I’ll leave free to relax or meet friends, go to the beach!


3:30 p.m.


I start teaching children until around 8:30 p.m on Mondays and Fridays. Dinner is eaten somewhere in between.

8:30 p.m.


Finish work on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Get ready for bed!

9:00 p.m.


The aim is to be in bed at 9 pm, but friends call and chat. Wind-down time and the end of the day.

 

Before COVID, Shield had an office in Sydney where Stella and a handful of our other teammates live. The Sydney team was already transitioning to working from home more, so when COVID hit around the same time as the lease was up, it made sense to move out of the space for good. 

For Stella, this meant working from home full time for the first time, which was an adjustment but by no means a drastic change. 

“There definitely are benefits to working in person,” she says. “It’s a lot faster to turn around to someone and ask them for help, and it’s nice to see people and see their faces. I think if you ask around a lot of people, that’s what they miss.”

And while nothing can replace in-person connection, Stella has found that virtual relationships can still be fulfilling. 

As our Head of HR, Stella meets and checks in with all of our onboards, meets with our leadership, and of course meets with her team and region regularly. 

“I think I’m really lucky in my role because I have to talk to everyone internally,” she says. “I don’t think there’s anyone that’s as widespread as I am when it comes to touching all the different teams.”

Part of Stella’s role is to foster our internal communities and culture to promote connection, particularly for those who aren’t in the same position as her, and to meet with teammates all the time. 

“It matters a lot who you hang out with at work and the sort of culture that companies have,” Stella says. 

“The culture that we try to foster at Shield is one more of family and friends than it is colleagues. It helps to build the trust a little bit more. And in the end, if you like who you work with it’s just much more enjoyable.”

— Bree Caggiati, November 2020

Want to know more about Stella? Visit her profile on Our Team page!

 

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