A female companion of mine has spent the last 3 years as a software engineer (Java). Now she's thinking of switching careers into HR. Here is a list of activities she's hoping to get involved in once she makes the switch;

  • Event planning/organization
  • Talking to different people
  • Booking conference rooms in hotels and making associated arrangements
  • Helping finance with data-entry/book-keeping

Can all this be expected of a HR position? Assuming it is, how might someone with a technical background get into that field? Or to phrase the question in a different manner, will lack of an MBA be a deterrent to a successful HR career?

  • hello, consider editing the question to make it better fit site topics laid out in help center. In particular, this guidance may help to learn what is expected of questions here. Good luck! – gnat Oct 1 '14 at 6:59
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    @gnat I've changed the question. Would this fit with our guidelines better? – chronodekar Oct 1 '14 at 10:50
  • HR people have to be able to deal with really serious problems and unhappy people. As such anyone who can't even ask her own question is probably not tough enough for HR. Of course if you are asking it without her knowledge, that is patronizing and insulting to her professional abilities and intelligence. – HLGEM Oct 1 '14 at 17:15
  • Is this a list of a few things to include in the position or does this person only want to do these things? – user8365 Oct 1 '14 at 19:40
  • @JeffO This is a list of things to include in the position. I doubt if its practical to find a job where you can do ONLY those things... – chronodekar Oct 2 '14 at 1:16

At my company, all of those tasks are handled by what are now known as "office administrators", the current euphemism for secretaries. This job is pretty low on the totem pole at most companies, so as a Java programmer with work experience, your friend would likely be considered severely overqualified. If they did manage to wrangle their way into such a position, they'd be looking at a major paycut, and it would look equally awkward on her CV if she ever changed their mind and wanted to get back into IT.

HR's actual job is dealing with people, but as interchangeable human resources (hence the name) akin to lumps of coal, not as friends. So they handle hiring people, pretending to help them as long as this aligns with the company's interests, and firing them when it doesn't. (To be clear, HR doesn't call the shots on this, they only execute management's orders.) Instituting and enforcing company policies to ensure the companies comply with the law is also within their remit. Depending on company size and structure, they may also need to handle things like recruitment and payroll. It's not generally regarded as a "fun" job, but it does usually pay a little better than an office admin. But, again, there's no obvious career path from IT to HR.

I'd suggest your friend reconsider and find out exactly what she dislikes about her current job. If she doesn't like spending 99% of her time sitting alone in a cubicle staring at a screen, find a company that does pair programming and has teams that work together. If she wants to work more with people and still leverage her IT skills (and get an IT salary), a more customer-facing discipline like sales engineering, training or usability/UX might be a viable choice.


It is YOUR responsibility to make the argument that your technical degree is an asset to HR. If you can't make that argument, either you don't feel strongly enough about going into HR to make that argument or you lack the qualifications to even get an entry level job in HR. Because you will almost certainly be asked "Why do you want to go into HR?" Saying that you are no longer interested in software engineering only discloses that you want to get out of something. It doesn't say why you want to get into something else.

The justification that you want to get into HR "because I don't want to sit behind a desk all day" takes me aback, and I suspect that it would take many HR people aback, too. I am not an HR person but unless I am told otherwise, I expect that HR people spend an awful large part of their working hours behind a desk - They have to keep up with government regulations, they have to update company policies, etc. It doesn't sound that the amount of research you have done about HR is anywhere near adequate. It sounds like you want to enter a field on the basis of a misconception.

Liking organizing birthday parties demonstrates an aptitude for event planning and maybe a fit for an event planning position. It is lost on me how how liking organizing birthday parties translates to an interest in HR. Again, it suggests that the level of research you have done about HR is below inadequate.

  • Isn't event planning a part of HR? – chronodekar Oct 1 '14 at 6:39
  • @chronodekar What if event planning were say 1% of HR? Are you trying to justify a change of field on the basis of an activity that accounts for 1% of the time? – Vietnhi Phuvan Oct 1 '14 at 6:47
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    @chronodekar: where I work (~400 employees), all events are planned by team managers or senior management (big events). The job of HR is to keep the company out of legal trouble. – Juha Untinen Oct 1 '14 at 7:25
  • @VietnhiPhuvan No, I'm not trying to justify a change of field on the basis of an activity that occupies just 1% of the time. I'm also trying to find out what an HR person does the remaining 99% of the time. Frankly, I have no idea. In my firm, HR primarily is involved in screening resumes and repeating whatever management feels like saying without really getting involved with anything (usually acting as a stumbling block preventing me from doing my work). I'm hoping that it's not representative of how HR in other firms typically function. – chronodekar Oct 1 '14 at 10:57
  • Event planning is a professional specialty on its own. It even has a certification. But if you think it will get you away from a desk, not so much. Maybe a Wedding planner would get away from a desk, but then you have to deal with Bridezillas. – HLGEM Oct 2 '14 at 21:04

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