Liz Uzzo Takes Advantage of her Resources
H2M values its nearly 400 employees—and many of them have worked their way up the company’s ranks. CEO and President Rich Humann (B.S. ’91) started as an intern in 1987 while he was still a student at NYIT. That same year, another NYIT graduate, Liz Uzzo, decided to leave her career as a pastry chef at a top New York City restaurant (and commercial fishing boat owner!) to take a job in H2M’s payroll department. That decision changed her life.
With nearly three decades of experience in human resources, Uzzo has seen it all. When she started at H2M, she was a department of one that focused on transactional issues. Now, she oversees a full team of human resources professionals and is ensuring that H2M continues its mission to recruit and retain the best employees. Transparency is key to their success. “We’ve worked to be very employee focused,” she says. “No feedback is bad feedback … because once I am aware of an issue, I can do something about it. We are always looking at different policies and tools to give managers so they can better manage our changing workforce.”
When hiring, Uzzo looks for those who are not only strong workers, but who can also take initiative. “Too often, people look elsewhere instead of inside their own firms,” she says. “If you see an opportunity somewhere else in the company, say something.” To help employees do that, Uzzo’s team works directly with groups throughout H2M so that employees feel empowered to have open conversations about their careers. “We council and coach everyone—it’s a no-fear zone,” she adds.
Uzzo points to herself as an example of why to speak up. When she started at H2M, she loved the company but felt her job in payroll wasn’t a good fit. She pitched the idea of taking on the human resources role—even though she had no experience. The CEO took a chance, and Uzzo grew into the role, earned a master’s degree in human resources from NYIT, and evolved the culture of human resources at the company. In 1998, she became the second woman and one of the few non-engineers/architects at the company to be made a partner.
Uzzo is a mainstay at NYIT career fairs. Even during the worst times of the recession, she returned to the university to find interns and recent graduates for entry-level positions. Hundreds of interviews later, she knows what makes a strong candidate—even if that person is just starting out in their career. “Take writing and public speaking courses,” she advises, “because the confidence you exude in the meet and greet at a career fair will make you stand out … or not.” And don’t forget about work ethic. “Do a decent internship or two, but if you can’t, then at least work somewhere. Be realistic about your expectations and be ready to roll up your sleeves and work really hard.” After all, that’s what Uzzo did.