Alumni Perspective: Heather Mitterer

Heather Mitterer is a 2014 graduate of Penn State World Campus. She discusses her experience taking courses at Penn State and the career that she has built for herself upon graduation.

Degree and graduation year: Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership, 2014

Current hometown: New Holland, Pennsylvania

Current career and workplace: Training and HR Manager, Sylvin Technologies (PVC manufacturing company)

What does a typical workday look for you?
My typical workday varies. The activities depend on the needs of employees and the organization. I could spend an entire day in operational meetings; another day I could be on the phone conducting initial interviews, and the next day I might be out of the office participating in an insurance conference. Some of the common tasks involve developing PowerPoint presentations for training initiatives within the company. I participate in strategic planning management meetings; wellness, safety, and regulatory meetings; and quality discussions. I answer policy and benefits questions, make payroll adjustments, deal with ethical workplace issues or employee challenges, and consult with employees on personal issues. Managers and leaders consult with me to coach and develop performance improvement plans for employees, if necessary. I manage the HR and training budget, develop contracts with temp agencies, perform interviews and background screening, and onboard our new employees while processing terminations for those who leave. I am responsible for driving the culture of the environment and maintaining an engaged team. Overall, I am an employee advocate and an organizational strategist, and must keep both in mind at all times.

How did you get into the field you currently work in?
I love working with people, serving their individual needs, and helping them develop their full potential. I started in a leadership role more than 20 years ago and knew that even with the challenges of leadership in an organization, I wanted to learn more about the psychology of people and the interworking of organizations. I accepted a human resource position immediately following my graduation. After a few years of learning, I accepted greater responsibility at another company and was promoted to focus not only on human resources, but also to manage safety, regulatory, and training initiatives for the organization as part of their management team.

How has Penn State World Campus impacted your career?
First, it provided a convenient way to obtain my degree. Without World Campus, it would have been improbable to work, volunteer, and obtain a degree as an adult learner. Second, it provided a unique environment for learning, outside of the traditional brick and mortar school environment, to step out and share my opinion and participate in discussions with others. In order to build relationships in the online environment, I had to extend myself and connect with others, which helped build my professional network outside of the classroom.

What were some of the challenges you faced when you were a Penn State World Campus student? How did you overcome these challenges?
Time management was a challenge. I was working full-time and going to school full -time, which was intense. It required a disciplined and organized weekly schedule. I would lay out my schedule at the start of each week and plan ahead for large assignments that I knew would take additional time. I also ensured that I kept a bit of time for myself, so that I could relax and reset my mind, generally working on one of my hobbies.

How do you stay connected with Penn State?
I am an alumni ambassador for Penn State World Campus and a private mentor to three current students. I also serve on the board of directors for the World Campus Alumni Board. Finally, I participate in webinars, networking events, and blogs to help new and current students reach their goals.

What is some advice that you would give to current Penn State World Campus students?
Don’t give up; stay focused on your goal. In this busy world, it is easy to lose motivation and passion for the reason that you started your educational career. However, the payoff is worth it. Be deliberate in your actions and college work. Set and track short-term goals to demonstrate your progress toward your long-term goals. Soon enough, you will reach the finish line — achieving your goal and receiving a degree from Penn State!

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