Renée Breyer, deputy associate director for the Strategic Human Resources Management (SHRM) Directorate at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), was recently named an HR Rising Star for 2015 by Human Resources Executive Magazine.
In its 10th annual competition, Human Resource Executive Magazine sought nominations for HR professionals near the top of their organization's human resource function, that have demonstrated leadership in their current position, that possess the ability to successfully launch significant HR initiatives and programs and who tackle major HR related challenges.
According to Kristen Frasch, managing editor of Human Resource Executive Magazine, Breyer’s nomination rose "right to the top," making her one of five HR’s Rising Stars for 2015, out of more than 100 candidates."The innovation and perseverance they applied to whatever challenges were before them got the judges' attention," Frasch said.
Breyer is in good company, sharing the honor with executives from San Diego International Airport, Ecolab, American Airlines and Amazon.com. She was interviewed by the magazine in March, with the article suitably titled, "A Big Transition," appearing in the May 2015 issue.
Art Wong, director of SHRM, submitted the nomination for this award.
"Renée’s success lies in the holistic application of her knowledge to advancing HR," Wong said. "With expertise and unassuming grace, Renée serves as an adviser to LLNL executives, parent companies representatives and customers, including Department of Energy and National Nuclear Security Administration personnel."
To be considered for the HR Rising Star award, candidates must either be leading HR executives of their organizations or the heads of major HR disciplines such as recruiting, training and development, benefits and compensation, etc.
"This award is an honor for me personally, and also brings great recognition for SHRM and LLNL," Breyer said. "This award acknowledges my hard work to deliver for HR and LLNL over my career. More importantly, this award is an affirmation that our HR capabilities are best in class."
Breyer’s knowledge was developed through formal education and practical experience. With a bachelor’s in managerial economics from the University of California at Davis, she built upon her degree and became certified as a senior human resource specialist, benefits plan administrator, project management professional and a six sigma champion.
"I learned HR from the bottom up," said Breyer. Having started her Laboratory career in 1992 in Finance, providing hands on technical work in information technology services, she quickly moved up the ranks and into a position managing the financial IT systems in the Chief Financial Office. With this experience under her belt, she transitioned to the management of Human Resources Information Systems in 2002. In this role, Breyer was exposed to HR data and applications, along with the opportunity to lead several major projects. Through hard work and perseverance, she became the Strategic Workforce division leader managing Recruitment, Employment, Compensation and HR Information Management and continued upward into her current role in March of 2011 as the Laboratory benefits plan administrator and deputy associate director for SHRM.
Breyer’s transition to HR was in a time of great change and provided her with ample opportunities to lead some very difficult and challenging projects. The most challenging and controversial, Breyer noted, were implementing a salary freeze and layoff, the reclassification of the professional scientific and technical staff (PSTS), complying with Affordable Care Act requirements, contract transition, sequestration/closure days and testifying in court on behalf of the Laboratory.
"Despite the challenges, I wake up every day excited to come to work knowing that I am helping to enable mission activities here at LLNL (hiring the best and brightest, providing competitive benefits, etc.)," Breyer said. "What I love most is helping to solve problems in a creative way and delivering new innovative solutions for employees across the Lab and also externally."
Breyer stays current in her field by actively sharing and learning from other professionals through her participation in the International Foundation of Benefits Plans, Society for Human Resource Management and Project Management Institute.
Breyer has learned from her colleagues as well. "I am so proud to have worked with incredible teams throughout my career at LLNL," Breyer said. "I have had the privilege of working with dedicated coworkers that go the extra mile to deliver high quality products on schedule and on budget. I am extremely proud of the people around me that help to bring innovation to life."
She credits two in particular for providing guidance and inspiration throughout her career. "Joyce Verdon taught me to push the limits and ask for what I need to get the job done," Breyer said. "Ask for the moon (everything you need), the worst that can happen is that someone says ‘no’ or ‘not right now’.
"Art Wong drives and motivates his people to deliver excellence at all times, and also understands the need to integrate work/life. Thanks to his support, I have been able to enjoy a rich personal life while also meeting all of my performance objectives."
Breyer has accomplished so much in her career, all while balancing the family needs of her husband and two daughters. While raising her daughters, she was determined to be fully present both at work and at home and made sure not to miss out on sports and school activities. "My husband said that this acknowledgment is to reward me for the sleep deprivation required to get my job done while not missing out on anything else in life," Breyer said jokingly.
Her dad, when she was growing up, and later her daughters, inspired her to succeed. "My dad has a strong work ethic and instilled in me to roll up my sleeves and learn the business along with my colleagues," she said."His quote that I live by every day is, ‘if there is a will, there is a way.'"
Her daughters, she says, have motivated her to lead by example. "You can lead from any level and in anything you do. I operate with a high sense of integrity, accountability and most of all a positive attitude."
Breyer’s current passion at work is giving back — developing others and seeing them grow into positions of higher capability. One of her favorite quotes is, "Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, ‘What’s in it for me?’"
She also has actively supported the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory Women’s Association’s (LLLWA) Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) group, offering guidance where needed. She continuously reviews Laboratory demographics to find ways that the Laboratory can improve on the recruitment of women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields and works to ensure that they have the same opportunities for upward mobility. "If there are 30 percent women in the company, there should be 30 percent women at the top," she said..
"I work hard and play hard," said Breyer, who can be seen zipping around the Laboratory on her commute vehicle of choice, a baby blue Vespa. When not at work, Breyer enjoys running, taking exercise classes, baking and shopping for shoes. Most important, however, is spending time with her husband and two daughters, "Both girls have always been active in sports and we have enjoyed many years of cheering them on from the sidelines," she said. "We also love to ski/snowboard together and take vacations to a variety of places across the country."
With her youngest daughter graduating from high school this June and heading off to college, this year will mark her first as an empty nester. Both of her daughters will be attending universities out of state in the fall.
Breyer is optimistic for a bright future. "In this next chapter of my life, I am looking forward to having more time for personal development both at work and at home. I am excited to help the Laboratory navigate through any additional HR challenges and guide the organization in the right direction. As Winston Churchill once said, ‘Continuous effort, not strength or intelligence, is the key to unlocking our potential.' "
To view the full article on Breyer, visit Human Resource Executive Online.
Breyer also was featured last year in the Department of Energy online feature Women @ Energy.
martin59 [at] llnl.gov