Putting the Puzzle Pieces Together | Adam Byrnes ’18

For many of us, life seems to have stood at a standstill since the spring, when COVID-19 swept the U.S.

But life hasn’t stopped at all for Adam Byrnes ’18 – who earned a master’s degree, launched a full-time career and adjusted to living in a new city, all in the midst of a pandemic.

While earning his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the College of Business at UCCS, Adam not only found a passion for data analysis. He also discovered a field that would let him tell the stories that data can show to businesses: human resources.

Now, Adam works as a compensation and benefits analyst for Siemens, the largest industrial manufacturing company in Europe, where he helps the organization to see financial data as “pieces of a puzzle” – and to make key decisions in salary management and pay equity for nearly 400,000 employees worldwide. It’s a job he started in June of 2020, after graduating during a global surge of COVID-19 cases.

“When I was interviewing for a job, it was strange to have everything virtual,” Adam said. “I remember doubting myself as I couldn’t read expressions or gestures as easily because I was interviewing through a Microsoft Teams meeting.”

“However, the same philosophy of normal interviews applied. I was diligent in expressing interest and doing research, asking questions related to COVID-19 and the digital push when interviewing. Companies are facing the real challenges of a digital environment and the uncertainty of when we can return to an office.”

We caught up with Adam to hear what it was like to navigate graduation and a new job during a pandemic, how to ask for feedback early in your career, his best advice for UCCS students and where he hopes to go in the future.

Q&A: Adam Byrnes ‘18

While at UCCS, I pursued my Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, did different HR internships and exposed myself to different parts of HR. I pursued my Masters of Science in Human Resources after graduating and worked in Organizational Development in HR. However, I always wanted to work in a data-oriented field of Human Resources.

I eventually transitioned to Compensation and Benefits at the beginning of 2020, supporting a private healthcare company in Chicago as a compensation consultant and working with the director of Performance Development LCC directly. After my partnership ended, I began my new job at Siemens in June 2020 working as a compensation analyst. My internships and network I developed in college helped me understand where I wanted to go in my career in HR and how to get there. I realized my passion for data analysis and identified where in HR I can work in this realm: compensation and benefits, where I am today.

My favorite part of my job is getting to work with financial numbers and data and then breaking it down to my business and team I support. To me, working with data is like a puzzle. You get to break down the data and help put the pieces together in a puzzle. When you finish the puzzle, you can show it to people (like saying, "this is what the picture means") once you put the data together.

I work with compensation data and help tell the story of what that data means to businesses so they can understand what key decisions they need to make from the data I present.

Another great part of my job is no day is the same! I'm involved in multiple projects with colleagues in different business groups and teams. Right now, for example, I'm working with our Canada HR team in supporting their compensation initiatives for the end of 2020.

For the most part, I hop on a Microsoft Teams call with colleagues nearly every day and get to work on what topics need to be addressed, then creating an action plan on what work needs to be done. Some days, I have my head down and focusing on one spreadsheet or audit that needs to be done. Other days, I'm joining different meetings on different initiatives and getting to see what everyone else is working on. I enjoy having a flexible schedule and seeing different compensation topics being addressed globally within Siemens.

Personally, I'm very proud of myself to have gotten my master's while balancing work, school, and living in a new environment. I was born and raised in the Seattle area, only moving to Colorado Springs to pursue my education. I then moved to Chicago to pursue my career and graduate school at Loyola University Chicago. It was tough, and many days were hard on me physically and mentally. However, I pulled through and even with COVID-19, I was able to receive my master’s degree and receive a job offer that serves as a huge transition and boost for my career!

I haven't had a low career moment yet, but I did have a feeling of regression and dread in my career. I hit a point after graduating where I doubted myself. Being new to the workforce, I saw where my colleagues with years of experience were performing at. I felt I wasn't contributing enough, or that I was too slow compared to their performance.

This mentally impacted me, as the transition from being a student to being a working professional is tough. You go from being in a controlled learning environment to being put into situations where you have to act fast on critical business decisions. I learned that this feeling is okay. It's normal to feel overwhelmed, and it should be expected because there is no real easy transition from school to the workforce.

I learned to be open to feedback and ask for it immediately on projects I worked on. By hearing what was working well and what I could be doing better, I started to hone in on the feedback and improving myself in the areas identified. Knowing that I was meeting the expectations of management and that I was contributing helped my overall transition into the workforce.

My education at UCCS exposed me to data analytics and HR-related courses that showcased the need for HR professionals to understand data-driven decisions.

I took a course, INFS3000, which a main part of the course was working with a software called PowerBI. I remember enjoying this course and learning how to create visualization dashboards that showcased what businesses need to know from data and what the key critical decisions should be. I now work with a similar tool, Tableau, and do the same thing: work with compensation data in a visualization dashboard to show what story the data tells. The data analytics courses and HR courses I took helped me recognize where I wanted to be in HR and how I could get there.

Do research on what skills or tools are being used in your industry / area of interest and try to learn them before they become common practice. New tools and processes come around almost yearly, so being able to understand what your industry uses and staying ahead of the game allows you to set yourself up for success.

Though I live in Chicago, I still like to go out into nature! Taking long walks around Lake Michigan and the lakefront parks and going to the different museums and learning about history are big passion points for me (it also helps Chicago has some of the most famous museums, such as the Art Institute!). Additionally, I am obsessed with crime documentaries, can't get enough of them. Highly recommend Buzzfeed Unsolved.

I can do an impersonation of Goofy almost too well.

I hope to continue to work in Compensation and Benefits! I enjoy this field and getting to work with the business groups I do. I want to grow and learn more about AI and HR, seeing how AI can impact HR operations and what to expect from the future of digitalization in HR. I see myself growing and being more versed in data analysis and supporting our global compensation team.

My two biggest pieces of advice are networking, and being open to opportunities.

Networking is more than just reaching out to someone on LinkedIn. It's about relationship building and offering each other support. While industry experts can offer you the chance to connect with someone relevant to your career, you as students can offer them expertise. I would advise to connect with individuals and see if you can chat over the industry they work in and get to know problems they face in their organization or roles. By identifying problems, you can see if there are ways to offer support. Networking is about creating long lasting relationships that serve both you and your connection well into the future.

My second advice goes hand-in-hand with this: being open to opportunities. I believe if you're open to trying new positions, even those outside of your career scope, you can have a strong impact in starting your career. I never thought I would work in Compensation because I thought I was bad at math for the longest time. However, I was open to trying something new and took a chance on Compensation. Now being almost a year into this field, I love it!

Want to be like Adam? You can! Find out more information on the College of Business at UCCS.

Want to be featured, or know someone who should be? Tell us about it!

UCCS’ Success Stories series features recent alumni who are making an impact on their communities and the world around them. Having graduated in the last 15 years, they are busy making strides in the directions of their dreams. We can’t wait to see how their stories unfold.

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