Malcolm Gladwell theorized in his book “Outliers” that the reason the Beatles became the greatest band in history and Bill Gates one of the richest entrepreneurs in the world comes down to one thing — the drive to never stop improving.
While she may be a few short of the Gladwell’s suggested 10,000 hours of deliberate practice, Desiree Edwards, SHRM-SCP, ’15, is certainly not satisfied with the status quo.
“I am never content,” she said. “I am constantly focused on my career and educational development. I strive to continuously improve my competencies to be a better resource for the organization I’m supporting.”
Edwards graduated from State with a bachelor’s in human resource development. She obtained minors in language studies, Spanish and business administration. Now, she is a HR generalist at Briljent, an organization rooted in adult learning, instructional design and training delivery.
The quest for excellence isn’t a new passion for Edwards. In high school in Edgar County, Ill., Edwards was president of the Key Club, which gave her confidence in college to become a member and leader of university’s Females in Technology student organization.
“As a young adult in a new environment, like enrolling college, it takes courage to step out of your shell and join a new group,” Edwards said. “Females in Technology, in particular, not only welcomed me with kindness but also allowed me to tap into a deeper pursuit that I’m genuinely passionate about — the success of women in industry.”
Being a part of Females in Technology enabled Edwards to gain experiences — communication and presentation skills — that directly led to her success as a professional.
“I learned how to lead a team, manage a budget, organize projects and not to be afraid to ask questions,” she said. “Most importantly, I was taught how to embrace diversity, understand cultural perspectives and challenge intolerance.”
Edwards strengthened her knowledge of diversity and cultural perspectives by earning a language minor and studying abroad at Universidad Veritas in Costa Rica.
“We live in a country comprised of persons of different experiences and languages. I sought to gain a deeper understanding of how I could better connect and appreciate a language and culture not my own,” she said. “Living abroad — engulfed in the unknown — was one of the most challenging adventures I have experienced.”
The vulnerability Edwards felt through that experience has given her a perspective she values as an HR professional. “Everyone’s beliefs and past experiences influence their behaviors,” Edwards said. “As a person dedicated to the development of people, I try to understand different perspectives, use communication strategies that open up conversations and build rapports that inspire employees to take stake in their own success.”
One experience she treasured after she returned from Costa Rica was when she assisted as an interpreter between a job applicant and a hiring manager for the organization where Edwards was working. The applicant was hired. Edwards said she was able to help this applicant because of the experiences she had in Costa Rica.
“Each time I would see the employee, he would give an appreciative hug and thank me for being the reason he was hired,” she said. “Of course, I would disagree and tell him that he was the reason he was hired.”
Also at State, Edwards gained industry experience through internships at Duke Energy, GE Aviation and Simonton Windows and Doors.
Edwards said she plans to never stop seeking out professional mentors, and she mentioned two of them that helped her at Indiana State — Mike Williamson, senior instructor of human resources, and Bev Bitzegaio, faculty advisor to Females in Technology and director of the College of Technology’s Student Career Support and Outreach.
“Mike’s mission was to help me not only recognize my strengths, but confront my limitations and transform them into building blocks to help me accomplish my educational goals,” she said. “Bev challenged the members and leaders of Females in Technology to take the success of the organization into our own hands. She provided support and guidance through each step but ultimately challenged the group by tasking us with true responsibilities.”
Edwards said her future might see more educational improvement with a graduate degree from Indiana State. In the meantime, she’ll be encouraging others to keep improving.
“Indiana State means opportunities for all — opportunities to find a passion, opportunities to make a difference, opportunities to overcome adversity and opportunities to give back to a greater cause,” she said.
“I have made it my goal to encourage all to leave a meaningful legacy. I strive to influence each person to take charge of their actions, to tell their personal story of who they want to be and what effect they will have had on their organization.
“I ask, ‘When you leave, how will we remember you? Were you the employee who always encouraged your team to reach goals when motivation was low? Were you the manager who made the growth and development of your employees a priority? Were you the associate who presented the creative solution to save the organization from revenue loss? What is your legacy?’”