NKE Top Scorer Amber Chow: Taking Study Tips, High Tech and HR to Heart
As Canada’s Top Scorer for the National Knowledge Exam during the November 2015 exam session, Amber Chow is one step closer to becoming a Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP – Now known as CPHR). She can also add another accomplishment to a growing career in HR that takes heart in the high technology sector.
Graduating from the University of British Columbia in 2015 with a Bachelor of Commerce, specializing in Human Resources Management, she fell in love with the high technology sector and currently resides as the HR administrator at Image Engine Design Inc. Her day-to-day involves introducing new employees to the company, coordinating all employees’ immigration and benefits needs, and trying to be the best support for her team, management, and employees. In her free time, Amber enjoys planning her next trip to explore the world, competitive board games, and Asian cuisine.
What spurred your interest in HR?
I’ve always been interested in finding opportunities for people to develop, as well as connecting my friends to opportunities, but when I was at UBC in my first year, I didn’t really know much about HR. Actually, I started off wanting to be an accountant. It wasn’t until I took my first “Intro to Human Resources Management” class in my second year that I considered HR as a possibility. Everything from recruitment to compensation to performance management and more captured my interest.
I had a chance to speak with others in the HR program, and from what they told me, it sounded like a potential fit for me. So, I decided to go the HR route, and also participated in the Sauder School of Business Co-op Program. My co-op placements provided me an opportunity to use my HR knowledge from class and allowed me to learn from experienced HR professionals.
I loved each unique experience. I had the opportunity to coordinate the annual new hire orientation for 262 people at an oil and gas company, support recruitment for the Evergreen Skytrain Line for a construction management company, and improve the performance management program at a fast-growing high technology company. Each role allowed me to develop my competencies in different areas of HR, and reaffirm my decision that this was the right place for me.
Why did you decide to pursue the CHRP (Now known as CPHR) designation?
The CHRP designation is nationally recognized. As an emerging HR professional, I felt like pursuing the CHRP (CPHR) would help me achieve my career goals, as well as allow me to provide more value to my employer. To me, being certified demonstrates my commitment to the HR profession, my knowledge of HR competencies, and my expertise as an HR professional.
How did you prepare for the exam?
To make sure I focused on studying the correct material, I bought the study guide. I used it initially to review, and afterwards I ended up reviewing old notes that I took from my textbooks and classes at UBC. The notes were useful because all the information was more concise.
I also did a lot of practice questions. I found that the practice questions were the best preparation, and that study guide came with almost 400 of them. Some of the questions even had explanations along with the answers. It definitely told me what areas I needed to review more.
Any tips for those studying for the next exam session?
- Begin studying as early as possible. If you know you are planning to take the exam, start reviewing whenever you have the chance.
- If you took HR classes in school, keep your textbooks and notes. I ended up selling most of my old textbooks, and I wish I had something to check definitions and best practices. My notes ended up being super handy.
- Do a lot of practice questions. It’s all multiple choice, so it’s good to get used to the format and types of questions, and then you can also see what you need to review.
- Know your definitions. While I was studying, I came across terms that I never used while working in HR, but were terms that I learned in school. Knowing the definitions definitely made answering the questions a lot easier.
- Depending on how you study, a study group might also be useful! HRMA (Now CPHR BC & Yukon) will help you organize a study group. I learn well on my own, but I think some people learn well in groups, where people can share their HR experiences and knowledge. Having that group is definitely extra motivation as well. So if you have time, a study group can keep you on track!
What do you see as the current hot-button issues for HR?
There’s always seems to be hot issues in HR. In my experience, I feel like retention is always a key focus for any organization. Rarely do we see the cradle-to-grave type of employment these days as we did in the past. There’s so much competition for good employees that keeping them motivated with interesting work and opportunities for development is key.
Social media and the Internet are making it easier for employees to exchange information online. As a result, HR needs to be effective as marketers to showcase an organization’s brand to attract the best employees. Everyone has heard of the awesome organizational cultures of top companies like Google. HR needs to ensure that the culture the company promotes in its social media is supported in order to drive and retain talent in the organization.
How do you see HR evolving in the next five years?
In the next five years, I expect to see HR collaborate and work more strategically with the business. While I think more and more companies are adopting HR as a strategic partner, I have still experienced pushback where some managers don’t believe in the value of HR. With so many changes that can happen in an organization, I think it’s essential for HR to link change to the strategic needs of the business and work together with the business to achieve the desired change.
We have all heard of the benefits that an HR information system (HRIS) can bring to an organization to reduce the administrative work, and actually allow HR professionals to be more involved in the strategic side. By being more strategic, this will mean more use of metrics and tracking the results of HR programs. HR can bring a lot of value by providing business metrics to management to make better people decisions.
What part of HR would you like to focus on? Is there a particular industry you would like to work in?
I’m currently in an HR generalist type of role where I get to do a bit of everything and I think that’s where I would like to stay for now. The variety of work that I get to be involved in is really refreshing—from performance management to employee engagement, to benefits, recruitment, onboarding and being the first-person contact. I think it’s awesome.
In regards to the industry I would like to work in, I think the high technology sector will always be my number one. High tech moves fast and it’s exciting — there’s a lot of growth and many talented people. I think working for the film/entertainment industry is really cool — I would like to stay in visual effects and continue to work with talented and passionate people who love what they do.