Climbing the Ladder of Success

The month of March is dedicated for everyone to get more in-depth knowledge about the contributions women have made to society. Take the opportunity to learn more about Women’s History Month 2022 and you’ll see there are a lot of reasons to celebrate.

In honor of this month, Platinum is highlighting our Vice President of Human Resources, Mel Maldonado. In the second installment of this three-part series, Mel walks us through her path from law enforcement to a successful career in HR.

Tell us about your journey. What prompted your decision to leave law enforcement to pursue a career in Human Resources?

I pursued an undergraduate degree in Psychology with plans to utilize that degree toward law enforcement or Human Resources. Fortunately, in college I had a great mentor who was also a criminal justice professor. And an internship at a police department on the South Side of Chicago helped seal my decision to go the law enforcement route.

The application and interview process to become a police officer was a very rigorous and lengthy procedure. At that time, I had to compete with over a 1,000 applicants in a male-dominated field. It took me slightly over one-year to get an offer from the police department and graduate from the academy.

It was an adjustment to deal with situations that civilians don’t usually see on a daily basis. But it was very rewarding to help protect the community and support families that were going through trauma.

I got married the same year that I joined the police force, and unfortunately my career made the relationship strenuous. Since the work/life balance was already difficult and we wanted to expand our family, we made a difficult decision for me to leave law enforcement and pursue Human Resources. I was grateful to start my new journey with a Fortune 100 telecommunications company.

What kind of difficulties did you experience transitioning to a different career path?

I found it hard to meet the qualifications for a position in a completely different field while trying to make equal compensation. However, it helped that:

  • I worked as an office manager in my family’s manufacturing business after college graduation. So I already had some HR experience, but I needed more qualifications for many roles.
  • I networked with people in the HR field and got an interview for a Recruiter position. The hiring manager saw my potential based on:
  • Skills I developed from law enforcement.
  • The realization that some law enforcement work was parallel to the HR field.

That’s how I started my journey into the corporate world of Human Resources 18 years ago.

What empowers you to continue in your career as an HR executive?
  • I did a lot of work in partnership with the Gallup Organization on incorporating a strengths-based development model with talent management strategies. I learned a lot about honing and developing innate strengths:
    • Appreciate how you’re wired as a unique individual which results in elevating performance and effectively leveraging complementary partnerships to achieve organizational goals.
    • It not only elevated my own capabilities, but this model inspired me to help others value who people really are—to see their true potential—and optimize diversifying talent, not only culturally but intellectually and socially.
  • Ability to influence and drive positive change for organizations.
  • Bring out the best in teams and their potential.
  • Continuous learning:
    • Take on responsibilities different from my area of expertise, and step outside of my comfort zone.
    • Take risks to gain knowledge in functional areas I don’t know about and expand my scope of responsibilities.
    • I don’t have to be the smartest person in the room because I learn from others.
  • Mentor emerging leaders.

Check back next week for the final installment of Mel Maldonado’s journey when she shares her secret to balancing motherhood with a demanding career as an HR executive.


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naomi bess

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