History of the Senior HR Networking Group: 1999 to Present

In the beginning (late 1990’s, early 2000s), there was darkness in the employment marketplace including in the senior human resources job market. Many companies, big and small and across all industries, were reducing their work force across the board. This included many in HR leadership positions. Layoffs were occurring in every career spectrum, unemployment was running high and the job search process was tough and discouraging.

SHRN Beginnings:
Bob Gatti, founder of the premier HR search and placement business in New England and beyond, and a consummate mentor to countless HR professionals, saw an opportunity to give back to this community that he served and help those people with their difficult job search. He began by bringing together a few HR executives in transition and proposed a plan whereby these experienced professionals could meet regularly to support each other with job leads, search strategy, feedback, contacts and more. The group was originally comprised of ten senior Human Resources executives in transition who met bi-weekly in the kitchen at the offices of Gatti & Associates in Medfield.

The group thrived and the original participants all found new jobs, but the group did not shrink and disappear. In fact, it kept growing and became increasingly well known in the Massachusetts HR community. As other senior HR professionals in transition learned about the value of the SHRN Group, primarily by word of mouth, they also wanted to join for help and collaboration in their own job search. They were looking for the “secret sauce” that was offered at SHRN. Active membership was limited to no more than 25 active members at a time to facilitate productive and intimate meetings, however, once existing active members found new jobs, their active member seats at SHRN meetings were quickly filled with other senior HR professionals in transition who were invited to join.

At first the group was a loosely organized group who met at Bob’s office to talk about sharing leads and job search strategies. Behind the scenes, Bob Gatti was working with Chuck Campbell, Phil Lockwood, Fred George and Jim Boger and others on ways to further maximize effectiveness of the group and the meetings including: membership requirements, member expectations, communication, information sharing, use of technology, meeting agendas, professional learning opportunities, dues and budgets, social activities and more.

Marilyn Hausamann, now the Chief HR Officer for Harvard University, was the original moderator of this informal group. After Marilyn accepted a new job, Chuck stepped up to become the Chief Moderator. As his consulting business began taking hold and time was at a premium, other members filled in to act as moderators for the group, including Phil, Fred, Jim, Donna Heuchling, Jim Fitzgerald, Beth Grella, Roger Ahlfeld, Dean Matheson, Ed Evarts and a few others. Their leadership of the SHRN Group was essential to ensuring continuity and the on-going value and success of this group. After several years, the SHRN Group was registered as a certified non-profit organization and a Board of Directors was created.

Meeting Locations:
Eventually due to the group’s growth, they moved out of Bob’s office and sought conference rooms wherever they could be found. Soon, Renee Gilson from the outplacement firm Lee Hecht Harrison, a longtime supporter of SHRN, offered space for the group, first in Westborough and then in Framingham, where they meet to this day.

Member Participation:
From the beginning it was required that each member fully participate in each meeting. No wall flowers here. Each member shares information with the group on their search activity and successes, interview results, information on discovered openings or potential openings, sharing names and contacts who could be helpful and more. There was also time for learning and practicing skills. Members rehearsed elevator speeches, received feedback on their resumes, learned how best to answer difficult questions, and how to network and much more.

Learning Opportunities:
The SHRN Group also began providing learning opportunities to help members stay current with HR trends by periodically inviting external speakers to meetings. Speakers and subject matter experts graciously participated and shared HR related information. They came from all specialties including those from benefit and compensation companies, attorneys, LinkedIn staffers, headhunters, resume writers, Unemployment Insurance representatives, IT professionals and others. There was more learning here than what was typically happening inside many organizations.

Technology Evolution:
Technology also played a role with the group’s success. To provide enhanced communication between members and meetings, a Yahoo e-mail site was established in 2003. This was used to share job leads that members came across in their own searches that others may not know about. Sharing job leads via the Yahoo account was done by active members as well as our growing “Alumni” members (former active members who had landed new jobs). As a result there were few openings in New England that this group was not aware of. Today, the Yahoo email system is still used to communicate job leads between all SHRN members (active and Alumni) and also as a means for members to get answers to professional questions and to locate recommended external resources. This is a very handy resource not available to the general HR community.

To help promote the exceptional talent of the SHRN Group members to those who might be hiring, a web site was established early on. The site included information about the group as well as resumes of our active members. Visitors, particularly recruiters and hiring executives, were invited to make direct contact with any SHRN member who was a potential fit with their opening. Members were invited to share this web site information with all contacts they made in their own personal search. The website www.shrngroup.net has been updated and now includes SHRN information and resumes in addition to information for members and prospective members.

To further promote this talent pool to the community, several e-mail campaigns were conducted with the support of Bob Gatti. Emails about SHRN talent were sent to CEOs, CFOs and HR executives to let them know of the availability of this tremendous resource and the website where resumes could be found.

The SHRN Group continued and needed some structure to ensure the factors of success carried on as members were joining and leaving regularly. A Charter was created for this purpose. Here, prospects and members could see how the group was operated and administered and demonstrating where there was real value to each member. This included member responsibilities such as required meeting attendance, sharing of job leads and network contacts, strategy, communication feedback, and staying current with trends. In addition the Board of Directors typically has a longer term tenure to provide guidance and support for the ongoing success of SHRN.

SHRN is not all business and the social part of SHRN is alive and well. An annual Holiday Lunch was begun in 2006 which blossomed into three evening “social” events each year beginning in 2008. Invitees include all in transition/active members, alumni members and those “Friends of SHRN” who were known to positively help members in transition (mostly vendors and consultants). Socials continue to this day given the enduring number of friendships established, with significant attendance particularly at the Christmas event.

One rather unique offshoot of the SHRN Group is that it is not unusual for more than one SHRN member to be interviewing for a specific position. One of the more memorable SHRN stories is that the sharing of job opportunities went to such an extent, a company located in Boston looking for a VP of HR, invited five of the SHRN members in for interviews on the same day. The interior lobby was overlooked by several stories of glass offices, and company interviewers were startled to see each SHRN applicant emerge on the lobby floor, literally hug the others, quickly describe how the interview process was going, gave each other the questions that were being asked etc. Interviewers were quite puzzled with the relationships of these candidates all in the same day.

Lasting Relationships:
The value of the group is not limited to job search skills and professional information. Many SHRNers will say the biggest value of all is the professional and personal relationships that developed during one’s tenure in SHRN. All members share a common bond having experienced tough times during their job search. Within the SHRN Group, there is always someone there to lend an ear and give comfort and advice and help others recharge and refocus particularly when things got tough as a result of being unemployed.

SHRN Today:
Today, the SHRN Group is now the longest running senior human resources network group in New England thanks to Bob’s original premise to bring HR leaders together to help each other as well as the volunteer efforts of our many fine moderators and Board of Directors. Some of the most prominent names in HR leaders in New England, nationwide and globally, have been and continue to be proud members today. The SHRN Group boasts a membership (active and alumni) of over 225 HR executives who are spread out across Massachusetts, the United States and globally.

Heartfelt Thanks:
Bob Gatti has long been an exceptional, positive contributor to the HR community in countless ways, often quietly and without fanfare. Aside from the placement of thousands of HR professionals, he has helped many groups get on their feet, organizing training programs for young HR professionals just beginning their careers, professional forums at no charge on a variety of topics, and spending personal time meeting and coaching applicants and advising companies regarding HR practices.

The professional world of Human Resources owes a huge debt of gratitude to Bob Gatti for everything he has done and accomplished, including developing and successfully managing a major human resource agency through the ups and downs of the past thirty years, and success of many who have benefited from his mentoring. He is a unique individual indeed!

What A Random Group of SHRN Members Have To Say:

I first became exposed to SHRN in 2004. My first meeting was in a small room at the Gatti Office in Medfield. It was a group of about eight senior HR folks. I remember after that first time, meeting with Bob Gatti. He reviewed my resume and made me feel that it wouldn’t be long before I was reemployed as long as I continued to work “the process.” That is, network, stay active and upbeat, and hone my message. He said that the Gatti HR Group would keep an eye out for opportunities that matched my background. I appreciated Bob’s insights back then as well as my time active within SHRN. It wasn’t long before I secured a position with a biotech Company on the North Shore.

Fast forward about three years later, and I found myself back active with the SHRN group. The group was much larger this time. At times it was about 12-15 active participants. For me, it has always been a positive outlet to network, share leads, commiserate, learn and support one another. It has been an incredible support network for me in the past, and I can’t begin to express how deeply appreciative I am. I have met some incredibly fine people through this forum and I am proud to refer too many as my friends. Thank you Bob Gatti for the vision that you had in founding this group, and thanks to the “Founding Fathers”; Chuck, Fred, Phil, Charlie, Jim and the current BOD that keep it going strong. –GS

As a two time alumni of SHRN, I am forever grateful for the support, coaching, and intelligence that this group shared with me. The depth and breadth of knowledge and experience that the evolving membership possesses is second to none. I am certain that I am one of many who have shared the comradery of this group thanks to Bob Gatti who graciously hatched the idea and incubated it within the walls of his firm, to help support the profession he has helped so many succeed in. The network of members and alumni has continued to expand and will hopefully serve as Bob’s legacy for years to come. –LH

I became a member in late 2008 when the economy was in the tank. The SHRN group was at maximum capacity with a waiting list so I felt fortunate to have gotten into the group. It seemed like there were about 40 of us in the group competing for very few openings. The learning, sharing, and support I received each week was unparalleled to anything I had ever experienced. The camaraderie and assistance everyone was willing to give was amazing. While we were all very focused on finding our next opportunity, we also took time to laugh, have fun and to celebrate when colleagues landed. When I landed, I was fortunate to be able to hire two members from SHRN through the help of Chuck Campbell and had the pleasure of working one for five years and the other is currently still working with me. I have made some wonderful friends through SHRN. I’m truly grateful for my experience with SHRN. –SH

The first thing I think of when I think of SHRN is Bob Gatti, if it were not for his vision and assistance, we would not have this special organization. When I joined SHRN, it was the first time I had been out of work since I was 16 years old. This Group not only gave me the resources and networking referrals to help me find my next job, it gave me the “Team” I missed being part of. The most wonderful part of it is the SHRN Team is still part of my life. — MS

Over the course of my career in the Human Resources field, I have met and been supported by a number of incredible HR thought leaders and mentors. Bob Gatti is one of those people. I, like countless others of us, have had the benefit of his perspective, advice and support during our careers. During my mid-career stage, I reached out to Bob for advice and feedback. He always found time to meet with “junior” talent like me in those days. His advice, ideas and feedback were instrumental to helping shape my career. Later during a transition out of DBM after the sale of the business, Bob suggested I contact Chuck Campbell and seek entry into the SHRN group, which I did. Boy, am I forever grateful for that introduction. The SHRN group and all of its members have been truly invaluable resources to me since I joined in 2006.

Bob’s “behind the scenes” support has truly made a difference for lots of us. I, for one, want to go on record to thank Bob for his efforts on behalf of the field and to me personally. Thanks! –BM

Being a member of the SHRN group has been a positive experience. I have grown significantly both professionally and personally. Interacting with the talented individuals that make up the SHRN membership is one of the benefits of being a SHRN member.

A special thanks to Bob Gatti for creating SHRN and generously supporting the group over the years. I truly believe that SHRN is the premier networking group for senior Human Resource professionals. –FG

When I was in transition, as a senior Human Resource professional SHRN was the only place for me to go, when there was no other place to go.

It is a place I can go to be with others who are just like me.
It is a place I can go where I get help by helping others.
The help I give is unconditional as is the help I receive. –LL

This is what SHRN means to me. SHRN has been the most effectively run networking group that I have been associated with in my career. The selflessness of the membership is exceptional. It is rare to find any opportunity in the New England market where a fellow member does not have direct contact or valuable insight.

The group is professionally operated, and the leadership is exceptional. –ES

Our introduction, by your first client and my boss, became my first networking experience. Little did I know at that time how important you would become in my career? Fran did! Since then you have been my friend, mentor, job advocate and cheerleader. And SHRN became my lifesaver three times. For your friendship and for SHRN, I will ALWAYS be grateful, Bob. –DH

What is the value of thirty years of support both personally and professionally from Bob Gatti, followed by the opportunity to become part of a trusted network of senior Human Resource leaders(SHRN) working together to openly share information and to provide any help required to assist relaunch our careers through the ups and downs of this otherwise solitary process ?

What is the value of the relationships with Bob as well as the many highly capable HR people made over several decades?
What is the value of utilizing this fine SHRN network to source highly capable HR people for key positions?
What is the value of a man who has dedicated himself to helping others and asking for nothing in return other than that we lead and help others by following this example?

Truly priceless!

Thank you Bob for being there for us, for establishing SHRN, and to those who have led and participated for so many years. Life would not have been the same without you all. –SW

Only an individual who has spent time in transition (especially for an extended period of time) can understand how difficult it is looking for their next job. Not only is the work of searching itself time consuming and difficult, but the drain the search puts on one psychologically and emotionally can at times be devastating.

And then, you find SHRN! A professional networking group which becomes so much more than a place to share job leads and meet fellow professionals. It soon morphs into a place where camaraderie and friendships are built in an almost support-group type environment. As with careers, all searches have up and down moments. The opportunity to be surrounded by the supportive active members and alumni of SHRN, who share in your first-hand knowledge of these times, and who learn from and lean on each other, is invaluable. The best meetings were always the ones where donuts arrived indicating that someone had landed, we celebrated the success of another and remembered that we would all find our match. Mine came after 26 months and endless applications and interviews. I’ll never forget the fact that the day the opening my current role was posted I heard from no less than five SHRN members saying “this is yours” . . . and it was meant to be. For the support which we have all found in SHRN over the years, we must all be thankful for the foresight and vision of our founding members. –RA

As a serial acquisition target at many of the software companies I worked at, I was on the “bench” a few times. The first couple of times I was in between jobs, Chuck Campbell made me aware of SHRN but I was very suspect about how a group of unemployed HR execs all vying for the same jobs could develop an encouraging support group. On my third time out, Chuck again mentioned the group and I decided to squelch my disbelief and give it a try. It was one of the best things I have done in my career and personally.

I feel very lucky to have found a group of bright, committed HR colleagues who truly cared and were willing to share information, personal experiences and genuinely root for someone even if they were also going for a job. There was a mutual belief in the group that the right fit would be found for everyone and our role was to continue to support each other on the journey and have a few laughs along the way. I will always carry a warm feeling for those who supported me and I hope there are others who feel that I also supported them. Thank you, Bob, for starting and so generously supporting this great group over the years and to Chuck for his introduction and to all the SHRN moderators who made the meetings so great! –MDM

When I became engaged with SHRN, I had a few obvious expectations. I expected to make connections, I expected to and learn/activate networking skills, and most critically (I thought), I expected to land my next job. All of those things happened, and I am so grateful. But the most important thing I gained was something I DIDN’T expect and it ended up changing my outlook on life.

As I looked around the table at my first meeting, I saw warmth, camaraderie, and acceptance. That was nice, and I thought, “I won’t be here long, but let’s give this a try and see what I can glean that will help with my search.” Weeks became months, summer became autumn and the winter became… LONG. I began to learn about myself – I was unemployable. I was selling, and the companies weren’t buying. I was too fat. I was too old. I didn’t have enough experience. I had too much experience. The meetings that started as a “pit stop” became a lifeline. I know that sounds dramatic, but they were. With each rejection, with each “they really liked you, but there was this other candidate…,” I knew that each Wednesday morning, I had a place to go to share my frustrations, my disappointment, and my hope for the next lead.

And over time, something magical happened – my outlook gradually transitioned from all about me and why I wasn’t “wanted,” to all about helping my friends at that table. As they shared their updates, I listened. I thought about my connections, which I knew that might help, what I could say that could open a door, what I could offer that would help ground someone in a positive place. The more ways I sought, the more I found. It was so simple, yet I could never find it on my own – it found me. Those meetings took me out of my own head and through offering help, I found the help I needed.

Even now, while employed (for the time being, rightJ?), I still draw from what I learned over those months and I am so thankful. –BG

I have been a loyal member of SHRN for many years. However, after the first year of an active membership, I slowly drifted into the Alumni status. I found my small consulting business and numerous volunteer activities kept me very busy. But I continue to pay my dues, list various suitable vacancies, contribute when I can and certainly promote the organization to appropriate potential candidates. Of course, my relationship with Bob Gatti goes way back and I still value the support, guidance, encouragement and friendship that he has always given to me.

In the late ‘80’s I was chairing a networking association with other HR professionals in the greater Boston area and Bob was a member of that group. At one meeting, he announced that he was leaving the bank and starting his own search agency. He had done a great deal of research and he knew just what he wanted his agency to be. In addition to placing candidates, and dealing with a broad spectrum of companies, he said he hoped he might also be able to offer a networking and support service to HR professionals who were unemployed and seeking new opportunities. He felt strongly, even in a healthy economy, that an individual who was on the job market needed the support that comes from the exchange of information and bonding with peers in similar situations People helping people to find the right new opportunity. I remember that day so well and he kept his promise. A man ahead of his time, with a vision that came to fruition. The rest is history. He is a kind, caring, HR professional who has always demonstrated the highest business ethics while helping the individual. He is unique and so deserving of this recognition and tribute to him. Good luck! –MW

My experience with the SHRN Group since its early days has been exceptionally valuable and like no other. The opportunity to work with Bob, Chuck and a few others while unemployed, to help form what would become the SHRN Group was the perfect project for me, a self-described organization builder. However, my next experience was even better as a SHRN Group member seeking employment along with other members. The information, help, support and encouragement during tough times from fellow SHRN members was exactly what I needed and could not find anywhere else. There is no doubt in my mind that being a SHRN Group member played a major, positive role in my own search and was a perfect environment to become introduced to many terrific HR people, many of whom who I remain connected to on a personal and/or professional basis.

The SHRN Group exists as it does today in large part due to the influence of Bob Gatti. Bob is a terrific businessman, a mentor to thousands of HR professionals, and someone who has made a huge impact on our profession. Bob understands the importance of relationships and treating everyone with respect and care and had long since adopted these values into his business and personal life when the SHRN Group was starting up. To see and live these same values in the SHRN Group is an amazing experience that we have all greatly benefited from! Thanks Bob for the sharing the vision and leadership to launch SHRN Group and the insight to ensure the group operated in a highly personal and professional manner. I am proud to be a member of this terrific group you envisioned and nurtured for many years. –PL

As I read these terrific and sincere testimonials to Bob Gatti, and the value of the SHRN Group which he launched, I am struggling what to say that others have not. I have had the exceptional pleasure of working with Bob for more than a few decades ago beginning at Motorola Codex in the 1970’s. At one point, as all of the senior HR leaders left Codex, Bob went to the banking world, then later to form Gatti HR and Associates in the early 1980’s.

I went to several other companies as both the Director and VP HR, and later to form my career transition business in 2001. Once again, Bob was there for me and was very helpful with advice and encouragement as I launched my new business. As the years went by, Bob and I remained close friends and mentors for each other which I am forever grateful

In early 2000, Bob was thinking long and hard on how to he could create something new and out of the box to assist senior HR colleagues in transition. At first, Bob simply brought senior HR people together in his office as a place to share information and provide support to one another. I had the honor of working more closely with Bob again as the group become organized and offered a process unheard of networking groups – sharing information on where you are interviewing, or what openings were out there that you were applying for. It did not make much sense on the surface, but it became a big hit and cornerstone of how the group would operate. I have remained very active with SHRN Group since the beginning to the present with no breaks in service, as the first Chief Moderator and now BOD member, and whatever was needed. Bob’s vision of the SHRN Group and how it would operate meant so much to so many people, that I just could not leave. – CEC