In 2009 Robin Doerschuk was recognized by Inside Magazine as “One to Watch” when she was director at Alliance Solutions Group before she became part-owner and before she launched the Women’s Leadership Conference of Northeast Ohio. Now she’s started a new career at a telecommunications start-up, Snip Internet, LLC, as Vice President and General Manager, an industry with which she had no prior experience. Currently, she is President of Cleveland Society of Human Resources Managers (CSHRM), without even being an HR professional. She’s not content to rest on her laurels or stay in her lane; the magazine was right about this YWCA Distinguished Young Woman.
“I am in my evolution of continuing to take risks.”
“I take risks, but it is more powerful to say I am not afraid to fail.”
Immediately following college graduation in 2004, Robin Doerschuk started with Alliance Solutions Group, a full-service staffing and recruitment agency. According to her bio, when Robin joined Alliance, there were 6 employees and the company delivered <$2 million in revenue. After several promotions and leading sales for the company, a nine-time Weatherhead 100 award winner and that was growing at twice the rate (30+% a year) of the staffing/recruitment industry, she became part-owner and Director of Learning and Development for Talent Launch the Corporate Parent Organization. Now the company is doing $150+ million in sales.
Doerschuk strives to push myself to the next opportunity” and proudly calls herself a lifelong learner, so continuous promotions served her personality well and leaving a career of 14 years has been an exciting challenge. Before she switched industries, though, was another professional/personal identity growth point. She never saw herself as an entrepreneur, but in 2015, she started something new outside of the office, the Women’s Leadership Conference of Northeast Ohio (WLCNEO). It is her self-described greatest professional accomplishment.
She found the existing market of women’s conferences were exclusively for seasoned executives or tied to an award ceremony or for entrepreneurs… or structured in a way where participant women were not able to share their experiences, and she wanted to fill the gap. Nevermind she was pregnant with her second son, nevermind that caused people to call her crazy. “I got some volunteers from my network and said, ‘we are going to do this conference.’”
“I love to be a connector to women in business. I was inspired to create the Women’s Leadership Conference of Northeast Ohio to intentionally connect any women in business who strives to be a lifelong learner, leader, networker, and entrepreneur. By creating an event that focuses on all levels of leadership the women can enjoy a day to connect, collaborate, network, do business and learn with other highly motivated women in Northeast Ohio. They leave the day feeling empowered to create and define what being successful looks like for them.”
Doerschuk wanted to create a space to “network with high potentials so we can retain and create a space for them and selfishly I wish something like this existed for me when I started here 15 years ago.”
Robin’s inaugural conference started nine months later with 350 participants and has outgrown its space every year. It was sold out for the first time in 2017, with 500 attendees and had almost 600 in 2018. (For 2017 and 2018, YWCA of Greater Cleveland enthusiastically sponsored breakout sessions at her conference.)
“I will continue to do it till women don’t show up any more.”
Some views human resources as a means to an end within a corporation, but not Robin, which is appropriate since she has been president for almost 2 years of 2nd largest chapter in Ohio of the Society for Human Resource Managers. “When I started at VP of membership 5 years ago we had just over 400 members, now we are almost approaching 700,” where she reports other Ohio groups have shrunk. Key to her leadership may be her vision of the industry as a driver of regional economic and community development. She sees CSHRM as an advocate for the industry and its professionals.
Human resource professionals “not only recruit new people into your company. From a strategic standpoint, they can bring the numbers on the right person and policies and procedures that need to be in place. They make sure the entire company’s culture supports the direction of the C-Suite. They also help retain and bring in people to our local area. If they are doing their job well, it helps our local community. Having quality opportunities. If you think globally, people don’t think of it that way, but it [regional development’ is HR’s job… Locally, this is how we package the mission. This is why it’s important to have best-in-class education, conferences, and networking” for local HR practitioners. “That helps internal HR and the external impact.”
Robin is just as enthusiastic about where she’s helping Cleveland firms recruit talent to: “It’s hard to pick what I love most about Cleveland. I love the spirit of the people of Cleveland, I love all of the sports that Cleveland offers, the amazing food scene, the Metroparks we can explore, the arts and museums, honestly everything!”
When it comes to recruiting that talent to Cleveland companies, she is happy that CSHRM addresses diversity and inclusion head-on by partnering with local initiatives like Gay Games 9, educating about unconscious bias in hiring, creating panels about diversity topics, and participating disability conferences, CSHRM also is providing training on to HR professionals on how they can coach their own organization’s manager and staff on inclusion. She sees WLCNEO’s intentionally diverse guest speakers list and untraditional workshop themes as part of supporting all of the “beautiful diversity in our attendees” and the region.
How did a sales professional become a leading advocate of human resources? Robin explains that her CEO at Alliance, a staffing firm, encouraged her to volunteer with CSHRM on the event committee for her professional development. Working on their events, she was soon “tapped on the shoulder to be the conference co-chair for a 900 person event at the IX Center and I had never organized an event that size… With my sales ability, I was able to drive sponsorships, made the most sponsorships ever, and it had great speaker and great reviews.”
Robin’s success on sponsorships catapulted her into the VP of Membership role. “I’m passionate about the [HR] community. I worked alongside of them for 14 years at a staffing firm; they were our customers.” With the member-centric vision and 85 committed volunteers they have grown the membership to 700 members roughly 300 more than they had 5 years ago.
Her biggest lesson: “to ask questions and to observe. I learn how people work through things and then make it my own. It’s okay that you don’t have all the answers. I don’t know anything. I am not an expert in this industry. I’m going to have a lot of questions, that’s so I can learn. 15 years ago I would have never said those things I would have been too afraid. I was timid and quiet. Literally, “Am I going to lose my job today?” It wasn’t our culture. I was afraid I was going to ask a dumb question. It was a big struggle and I have gotten much better with that. I’m okay if I am not right.”
As a risk-taker she clutches the theme of failing forward when taking on challenges without fear. “How would you pivot? How would you do better with the next opportunity?”
“Take the risk and fail forward. If you don’t take the risk, you’re in the same place you’ve always been and you won’t know what if you did take the opportunity.”
Now at Snip Internet, providing residential fiber internet for an increasingly streaming-only market interest, she is soaking up an entire new field and excited to expand into new regions. “The efficiencies are incredible, especially the technological efficiencies. We are growing and are at forefront of fiber internet. It’s exciting to be at a local business that is an expert in that realm.”
Besides CSHRM board where she is preparing to roll-off as President, Robin also serves on the Cleveland SHRM Foundation Board, and is a Bridge Builders alumni, an initiative of the Cleveland Leadership Center. Loyal to her cheerleading background and her Alma Mater, Robin also created the Kent State Cheerleading Alumni Group, which now has more than 200 active members.
As a serial connector, she explains: “I would love to point to just one person who inspires me. However I pull inspiration from every person I interact with I am a constant student and I am always inspired by what motivates people, where their passion takes them, how they build their life. I take a nugget of inspiration from each of them and it continues to push and motivate me. To all of you I say thank you for that gift.”
Connect with Robin on twitter @robingriz or find out more about her conference at www.wlcneo.com.