by Mike Guglielmo and Luke Bellos

In the next installment of our Leadership blog series, Dr. Serena Huang, Founder and CEO of Data with Serena, shares her insights on the importance of people analytics and AI in helping solve various business and people challenges. We are proud to call Serena a strategic partner at Spring.  Serena’s own journey is incredibly fascinating (as you’ll read below), and when she’s not writing compelling posts on LinkedIn, doing a public speaking engagements, or creating new content for training and development platforms, she is developing new platforms like https://poe.com/StayOrGoAI to assist individuals with career direction. Check out her story and her work below.

In a corporate landscape where the boundaries between technology and human resources (HR) blur, Dr. Serena Huang’s journey stands out as a beacon of innovation, resilience, and foresight. While starting her Ph.D. journey, she has become a leading figure at the intersection of data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and HR. Serena’s career exemplifies the power of embracing change and the transformative impact of technology on HR practices.

Embarking on an Unexpected Journey

Huang’s professional journey began with a conscious decision to diverge from her family’s academic legacy. “I swore to my parents that I wouldn’t pursue a Ph.D. because we already had too many in the family,” she initially declared, expressing an interest in exploring other paths, such as an MBA. However, during her master’s program, she encountered compelling research on gender inequality, which ignited a passion within her and led her to reconsider her academic aspirations. “I thought it would be incredible to conduct research like that,” she reflected, ultimately deciding to pursue a Ph.D.

Bridging Data Science and Human Resources

Serena’s career progressed from academia to consulting, and then to a crucial role in corporate HR analytics. Her experience in labor and employment litigation, particularly in cases of gender discrimination, required meticulous analysis of pay and promotion data that is defensible in court. This rigorous approach to data laid the groundwork for her significant contributions to corporate America.

Innovation and Personal Branding in HR

A notable aspect of Serena’s story is how she strategically shaped her personal brand. Eager to modernize and broaden the impact of her work, she rebranded her function as “people analytics,” reflecting her forward-thinking mindset and repositioning HR analytics within her organization. “I read an article that said the geeks have arrived in HR. People Analytics is here,” Serena recalls, motivated to bring a new perspective to her role. She approached the head of HR—despite being in her first corporate job and unfamiliar with corporate hierarchy—and proposed a rebrand to make her department sound more contemporary. This initiative not only advanced her career but also significantly contributed to the evolution of HR practices.

The Genesis of Stay or Go AI

A particularly captivating chapter in Serena’s career is her development of Stay or Go AI, a tool designed to guide individuals through crucial career decisions. Reflecting on her own experiences coaching clients and the common questions about when to leave or stay in a job, she sought to create a solution that encourages introspection instead of prescribing a predetermined path. “I wanted to create a tool that asks the right questions to encourage reflection. I believe the answers we need are within us,” she says. Stay or Go AI, built on Serena’s extensive career development writings and talks, provides a straightforward framework to help users contemplate their next steps.

Ethical Considerations in the Age of AI

As AI becomes increasingly integrated into HR processes, Serena has emphasized the ethical use of AI and data. Her advocacy for responsible AI, exemplified by initiatives like establishing Data Ethics Councils, sparks critical discussions about bias, transparency, and fairness in AI applications. Serena reflects on the rapid advancements in technology and the importance of governance in AI use, noting instances where she had to disable certain AI features due to recognized biases found in the testing process.

Future of Work: Embracing AI and Skills-Based Hiring

Serena offers valuable insights into the future of work and AI’s role in HR. “The hype around AI isn’t disappearing anytime soon,” she asserts, highlighting the need to embrace AI for enhancing productivity and making informed decisions. She encourages HR professionals and business leaders to explore AI’s potential, suggesting engagement with demos to understand how AI can support skills-based workforce planning and talent strategy. (Here is a 2-min discussion of how AI can help from Serena’s LinkedIn Learning course: https://www.linkedin.com/learning/building-a-data-driven-skills-first-workforce-strategy/the-road-ahead-for-skills-strategy 

At Spring, we truly value our strategic partners and are thrilled that Serena contributes her knowledge, skills and experience to our team and our clients. Email [email protected] for more information about Spring International’s full suite of services and learn how people analytics can benefit your organization.