A Day in the Life of Mike VanDervort- of The Human Race Horses


August 24, 2009

Good Morning and welcome to week two of “A Day in the Life of…” your favorite HR blogger.  There was such a tremendous response to our first week with Kris Dunn (The HR Capitalist and founder of Fistful of Talent) that I was very excited anticipating who to highlight in week two.  Well ladies and gentlemen, I know you won’t be disappointed.  Fresh off his recent week at The Disney Institute and HR Florida, I give you…..Mike VanDervort!Mike VanDervort

Mike is an amazing force in the HR community and he demonstrates his love and passion for human resources in every activity he participates in.  We’ll get into the details of Mike’s work in the interview, but he is best known to us for his blog The Human Race Horses.  In his blog, Mike gives kudos to companies who are getting it right and he calls out those companies who can use some improvements.  It’s an outstanding blog to have on your reader if you like to keep current on everything from employee relations and performance management to best practices for business.  In addition to checking out Mike on his blog, you can also find him on Twitter.

So, grab a medium coffee (heavy on the cream) and jump in!

So Mike, tell me about how you start your day.  What is a “must do” for you to get your day started right?  I drive an hour each way every day, so I always hit Dunkin’ Donuts for medium coffee, heavy on the cream.   Usually this is after I have my morning tweeting, and maybe writing a blog post.  I write in the early morning quite a bit!

Where do you work?  Is there something special you’d like us to know about your employer that we might not be aware of?  I have two gigs.  I work for Publix Super Markets doing think tank projects on human resources and industry trends, utilizing social media and web 2.0 tools to track trends, monitor our brand, and collect real time information.  I also have Human Race Horses LLC, which is an HR/social media firm for my writing and speaking gigs that I am working on building into something bigger. 

Many people agree that your workspace is very important in influencing how productive each employee is.  Tell us about your workspace- is it an office, open environment, etc.?  Both offices are open cubes with windows overlooking water.  I am pretty lucky with that.  Both spaces are cluttered with magazines, CDs, newsletters, and files of information for my writing and research.

We know you’ve worked for several fortune 500 companies in your career.  What are some of the takeaways you’ve learned in your experience that would benefit other HR professionals?

Three things:

  • A culture that enriches the work/professional lives of your workers is the primary key to greatness.
  • Being a team player is important, but should never get in the way of calling BS on any paradigm that deserves to be challenged.
  • Nothing is more important than “Doing the right thing”

Things can sometimes get stressful in the HR world.  How do you deal with stress when you’re at work?  Any special tricks and tips?  When I realize that my head is going to explode, I get out of there.  Go for a walk, a drive, go for a soft drink, or go home and work for the rest of the day.  The grindstone is only there to wear you down.

How do you feel about having fun during the work day?  Is there anything that you or your colleagues do to break up the day?  If you can’t have fun at work with your colleagues sometimes, you are in the wrong place.  I definitely believe in work hard, play hard.    How you play varies quite a bit depending upon the cast of people.

You’ve had a long day at work.  What is the best dinner you could come home to?  My wife Kyle rocks a killer Chicken Pad Thai that I really love.

Let’s talk movies and books.  What movie and book would you recommend to us, and why?  The most recent business I just finished is Groundswell from Forrester Research.   It is about social media.  Go figure, huh?  For pure relaxation, I read a lot of science fiction and thrillers.

Most recent movies are District 9 which I found very thought provoking, and Inglorious Basterds, which is next up.

What do you and your family like to do to relax when you’re not working or writing your blog?  We will go to the beach.  We enjoy a park called Honeymoon Island in Dunedin, Florida.  I went bowling and shot pool with my wife this weekend. 

Bonus Question:  What is the best piece of HR or business advice you’ve received?  The best came from my employee relations supervisor at Texas Instruments, Bill Rigsby.  It was:  “When you are feeling down at work, or having a bad day, it is always important to remember that if it wasn’t for all those people causing those problems, none of us in HR would have a job.”

I also like a quote from the founder of my present company: “This company will be a little better place to work today, or not – because of you!”

As we head into the next couple months leading up to the HRevolution, I will continue posting each week (or so) highlighting different, well-known HR bloggers.  If you would like to be highlighted, or if you would like to recommend someone you’d like to learn more about, leave a comment, DM me on https://twitter.com/trishmcfarlane, or email me at trisham89@hotmail.com.


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Mike VanDervort
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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.


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