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An Interview with Tracy Burns, CEO of Northeast Human Resources Association (NEHRA)

Posted by Chad O'Connor  May 29, 2013 11:00 AM

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[Editor's Note: In case you missed Global Business Hub Contributor Ellen Keiley's segment on RadioBDC earlier this week, you can listen to it here.]

Tell me about your background and how you got involved with NEHRA?
Unlike many people, I knew I wanted to be in HR at a very early age. I majored in Business at California State University with a concentration in Human Resources. I was fortunate enough to start my HR career working for Guitar Player Magazine just outside of San Francisco. After moving to Boston in 1996, I joined NEHRA. It was a great opportunity to build a network and continue building my skills and knowledge in the field. Looking back, I can honestly say that joining NEHRA was the best thing I did for my career. Not only did I build a great network, I got exposure to people that ended up having a big impact on my career.

In 2010, when Bob Eubank announced his retirement as the head of NEHRA, I had two reactions. First, I was sad to see him go, and secondly, I immediately decided it would be a great career opportunity for me. I was offered and accepted the job a few months later. Now I have the best of both worlds. I can use my 20 years of experience, knowledge and education to support our members and at the same time, I am gaining valuable operational experience as the CEO of a non-profit.

Tell me about NEHRA.
NEHRA currently has nearly 2,300 members across the region, making it the largest HR Association in the Northeast and the third largest in the country. We have two big events each year, including our Annual Fall Conference, which will be held on October 9-10 at the DCU Center in Worcester. We just finished up our 19th Annual Diversity Awards Gala last month, where we awarded $6,000 in scholarships to well deserving high school students. This annual celebration also gives us an opportunity to recognize the great work being done to support diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

During the year we provide ongoing programming including HR Basics, Beyond the Basics and Leadership Level HR. We also offer study groups to help our members secure and maintain HRCI credits for their Professional Human Resources (PHR) and Strategic Professional Human Resources (SPHR) designations. NEHRA holds 24 webinars a year, which are free to our members and monthly networking opportunities to promote meaningful connections amongst the HR Community.

For our senior members, we have a Senior Executive Forum. The group meets 5 times a year for a hosted dinner, which often includes industry experts and authors who speak on a variety of strategic topics ranging from healthcare reform to succession planning and executive compensation.

How do members benefit from NEHRA?
Members benefits from belonging to NEHRA in some very tangible ways, including immediate savings on all programming, free webinars and monthly networking events. They also get access to our HR database, which collects important legal and regulatory information on a daily basis. NEHRA has developed some great partnerships with organizations like Payscale, which allows members the easy access to comprehensive salary reports across multiple industries for little to no cost.

Beyond the financial savings however, belonging to the NEHRA community gives HR professionals a place to go to connect with other HR professionals, to build a strong network and to learn from the more experienced HR people in our region. Volunteering at NEHRA opens up all sorts of opportunities to hone leadership and public speaking skills.

How has NEHRA changed over the years – any new initiatives planned?
The HR profession has changed dramatically over the 26 years NEHRA has been in existence, evolving from the tactical/administrative role to a strategic and influential business partner. Our goal is to prepare our members not only for the work they are doing today, but for the skills and knowledge they will need to be successful in the future. While we still teach the basics, we spend far less time focused on the technical/regulatory aspects of HR and more time teaching our members how to be better business leaders.

The latest example is our Leadership Level HR program, which is scheduled to launch this fall. The cohort format is designed for the experienced HR professional, who is making the pivotal transition from manager to leader. The program will focus on everything from building self awareness to navigating the complexities of a global organization.

Ellen Keiley is President of the MBA Women International Boston Chapter Board of Directors, serves as a Vice Chair of the United Way and City Year’s Women’s Leadership Initiatives, serves on the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce Women’s Advisory Council, is a member of The Boston Club, appears weekly on RadioBDC’s Global Business Hub segment, and writes for The Women’s Book and Project Eve. She can be contacted at
This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
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