Bettina Deynes, the Global Chief Human Resources Officer at Carnival Corporation, perfectly captured the essence of the evolving role of HR: "HR has moved beyond merely having a seat at the table; it has become THE table." During the "Meet the Experts" interview series, Master of Science in Human Resource Management students, along with Professor Christopher Altizer, had the privilege to connect with her. Now, we are delighted to share her valuable insights and vision with all those aspiring to advance their careers in the HR world.
“It was a challenging journey for me to come to the United States from Uruguay, a small country in South America, at the age of 18 in 1990. Since I didn't speak the language, my first job was as a janitor. However, I managed to secure a position with a small company and gradually made my way into the payroll department. It was during this time that I realized the personnel management team needed assistance, which led me to become involved in what is now known as HR.
To enhance my HR knowledge and skills, I became a member of SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) and started attending conferences and taking classes. This allowed me to progress within the HR field, and I eventually landed the role of Director of HR for a multinational company. After a few years, I had the opportunity to pursue a business degree in business management, which furthered my career prospects.
One significant milestone was being hired as the head of HR for the Washington Nationals baseball team when they relocated from Toronto to Washington, D.C. I gained recognition as a change agent in HR, focusing on transformation rather than just the transactional aspects of the field. Throughout my career, I continued to take on diverse roles, such as serving as the Chief Human Resources Officer for the city of Alexandria, Virginia, my first venture into the public sector.
Working in HR has allowed me to transition across industries, showcasing that a strong business foundation and HR expertise are valuable in any field. I took on the role of Vice President of HR at the Society for Human Resource Management, which helped me further develop my understanding of HR within a business context. This experience was surreal, as I had initial concerns about leading HR for HR, but it turned out to be an incredible opportunity to be a thought leader rather than solely a practitioner. I had the chance to travel the world and become deeply involved in diversity and inclusion, including hosting the largest D&I conference in the country.
In 2019, an opportunity arose for me to become the CHRO (Chief Human Resources Officer) for Carnival Cruise Line, the largest cruise line in the world. My husband, who is from Puerto Rico, and I eagerly embraced this chance to move to Miami. However, shortly after my arrival, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, bringing immense challenges. We had to repatriate thousands of crew members and navigate complex logistical issues. The cruise industry was particularly impacted, and we faced significant obstacles in ensuring the safe return of crew members to their final destinations.
Despite these difficulties, I found a silver lining in the experience. It allowed me to build resilience and confidence in my work, realizing that I played an integral role in the company's survival. I am immensely proud of my HR team, which has remained dedicated and consistent, even amidst the “great resignation” phenomenon.
Throughout my career, I have encountered skepticism due to my background as an immigrant and the unfamiliarity with certain industries. However, being an immigrant, myself has provided me with cultural competence and the ability to understand and connect with people from diverse backgrounds. In today's HR landscape, cultural competency is vital, and diversity and inclusion are essential areas to focus on. As an HR leader, I believe it is crucial to be humble, inclusive, and open to listening. Meaningful relationships built on trust are the foundation for success in this field.
HR is no longer solely about transactional tasks but has evolved into a role that places culture at its core. From recruitment to onboarding, promotion, and employee engagement, culture plays a pivotal role in every aspect of HR.
At Carnival, I have witnessed firsthand the incredible diversity within the organization, with employees from hundreds of different nationalities. Focusing on cultural aspects and fostering human connections is key to thriving in HR.
Kindness and compassion are often overlooked in HR, but they are crucial components of successful leadership. Being kind and caring creates trust and enables meaningful connections with others. Additionally, being a humble leader who prioritizes listening and understanding over personal agendas is vital. While professional qualifications and business acumen are necessary, it is the human connections that truly make a difference.
Working in HR provides immeasurable rewards. Witnessing the growth and success of talented individuals, helping them overcome their own insecurities, and seeing their development is incredibly fulfilling. I believe that HR has moved beyond merely having a seat at the table; it has become THE table. The human component is the most valuable asset within any organization, and HR professionals have the privilege of nurturing and supporting that asset.”
If you’re passionate about becoming an expert in the field of human resource management, you can learn more about FIU's Master of Science in Human Resource Management by visiting the program page.