July 2021 Student Spotlight
Executive MPA student and Director of Human Resources and Diversity and Inclusion at the New York City Housing Corporation, Lydia Aponte talks human resource management during the pandemic, remote learning at Marxe, and more.
What has it been like managing Human Resources during a pandemic?
Working within HR for the past year has been a test of every basic and advanced competency possible. In short, it has felt like mental gymnastics. Organization, communication, coordination, have all been critical skills necessary to support others in our organization (both staff and executive leadership) through the pandemic. It has also been an immense opportunity for compassion, empathy, and patience. We have had to navigate people, law, health, safety, and so much more, often with increasing speed and diligence – not only keeping up with the changing tides of the pandemic, but with increased (and much needed) focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion matters. My team repeats the mantra “no one has ever managed through a pandemic before,” to keep ourselves centered and grounded, but we have pulled so much together in timespans we did not think possible. There is still much work to do, but it has really been an experience in HR management and leadership at all levels.
How do you support the mission of the NYC Housing Development Corporation.
Working in a mission driven organization, my ultimate role as Director of Human Resources & Diversity, is to help staff feel the connection between the work we do and the mission’s ultimate social justice impact for New Yorkers in need of affordable housing. As Director of Human Resources & Diversity and Inclusion, I support staff and leadership through training/development, recruitment strategy, talent management and many more critical HR impact areas. The HR team plays a unique role functioning at the intersection of business and people, where we support organizational goals, strategies, and priorities, and connect those needs to HR strategy. Through integrity, transparency, accountability and genuine kindness and consideration, I ultimately strive to bring people – at all levels – together.
Tell us about your experience in the Marxe Executive MPA program thus far. What has it been like beginning the program with remote learning?
I joined the Marxe EMPA program hoping to build upon and increase my leadership skills for the public sector, hoping to gain a unique learning experience through the pandemic and as a current public sector employee. Remote learning just made it that much easier to do so, allowing me to shift quickly from my full time/daytime role, to studying in the evening and participating in class on weekends (it has been nice not having to deal with a commute). Being a part of the EMPA program has been a real-time lesson in leadership and management, both personally and professionally. I have had incredibly valuable experiences so far even remotely – for example: witnessing the results of the 2020 presidential election in real-time, during our Intro to Public Affairs course, with my cohort (go Cohort 37!). Through this program so far, I have honed presentation and strategic skills and am always learning something new.
What new ways are you learning to approach human resources management?
I am very much enjoying the public/nonprofit management and communication-focused courses the EMPA program has offered so far, because there is an aspect of reconciling who I am as a person (what motivates me, why I want to do the work I do), and the actual work I do (how I provide HR support to an organization). While I have always felt very mindful of who I am as a human being, it is refreshing and new to experience these subjects taught in an academic structure. HR professionals often must focus on others, and so reinforcing personal strengths just makes the work I do make more sense.