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Inspired BlogEmpowered Feature: Michaela Tarpey

Empowered — RV’s Employee Resource Group (ERG) for women — strives to foster a community that inspires, supports, empowers, and educates all women-identifying folks and allies of all gender identities. And one of our favorite ways to inspire and empower our community is simply by sharing the wisdom of the amazing RV women we get to work with every day.

On this month’s Empowered leaders feature, we talk to Human Resources Business Partner Michaela Tarpey. We discuss the steps that led her to a career in human resources, the influences that got her to where she is today, and the advice she has for self-advocacy at work. Check out her conversation with Content Designer Jessa Hanley below.

Michaela joined Red Ventures about a year and a half ago as a human resources business partner (HRBP) on the education vertical. She devotes her career to helping employees navigate the workplace. 

One of the people she’s helped is ERG chair and Healthline Content Designer Jess Hall. Jess nominated Michaela for this month’s feature. She says Michaela was a steadying presence and an invaluable resource when Jess returned to work and changed teams after having her baby.

“When I returned from maternity leave in the summer of 2020 (I’d welcomed my daughter the week the Charlotte office closed in March), I was logging in from home to what felt like an entirely different Red Ventures. 

On top of the changes that came with being a new mom and learning the work-from-home life twelve weeks behind the rest of the company, I found out I was moving to Healthline. I was excited for the opportunity — and extremely overwhelmed.

Michaela was the HRBP for Healthline at the time and had the most welcoming, reassuring presence. She made sure I knew that she was here for me anytime I needed her — and I did. We had several resourcing needs for my team and she helped make it all happen. 

While we aren’t on the same business anymore, she goes out of her way to send me an encouraging note from time to time and they mean the world to me. She’s also been a huge source of support as we’ve launched the Empowered ERG. 

Bottom line: If you haven’t gotten to know Michaela, you should. We are so fortunate to have her at Red Ventures and I look forward to the day we might get to work together again more closely.” 

Jessa Hanley: To get us started, what does a typical day as a Human Resources Business Partner (HRBP) look like?

Michaela Tarpey: It really depends on the business! Because all talent strategy is derived from the business strategy, the majority of our work is based on what the business needs. I also spend a ton of time coaching and problem-solving all-things people.

JH: Did you always know that you wanted to be an HRBP? What steps (or people) influenced your career path? 

MT: Not at all. I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. 

I started working as a Victim Advocate at the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office, primarily with victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. I wanted to better address some of those systemic issues proactively instead of reactively after the crimes had already occurred. Before committing to law school, I wanted to learn more about the field and different types of law, so I started working at Chevron in their legal department.

I landed — by complete accident — on the Organizational Capability team for Chevron’s legal function and did a ton of change management work. I was fascinated by what levers to pull to encourage certain employee behaviors. 

I had an incredible manager that was the Director for HRBPs for the legal team. I loved working with her and asked her how I could do her job. The next morning, I walked into my office and found a master’s degree program brochure lying on my desk, I went back to school to pursue HR as my career path. 

JH: So, looking at your career, how have you learned to advocate for yourself and others? 

MT: I think advocating for your career is a partnership between yourself and your manager.

Managers are often looking for the ability to give you work that will further your goals. So, I advise everyone to have an open conversation with their manager about what those goals are, even if they aren’t sure of them yet. 

Another important part of development is not being afraid to take risks. The projects and work I’m most proud of have often come unexpectedly or from saying “yes” to things I’ve never done before. It has served me well to focus on interesting problems rather than specific steps on a career ladder. In today’s world, career pathing looks much more like a rock-climbing wall than it does a ladder; sometimes, the next foot/handhold forward is in an unexpected place!

JH: What’s your number one piece of advice for women who are learning to find their voice in the workplace? 

MT: Never be afraid to ask for what you need!!!

JH: Tell us about the most empowering person or encounter you’ve had and how it impacted you.

MT: The first thing I do whenever I move is I find my diner. I’m a big breakfast person. When I was in grad school, I would go to the State Street Diner in Ithaca almost every Thursday to get breakfast for dinner and always sat in Mary’s section. 

Mary and I became fast friends — so much so that I celebrated at State Street Diner with Mary on the day of graduation. Upon leaving, Mary gave me a huge hug, held my face with both of her hands, and told me, “Never forget you have everything you need right here,” and pointed to my heart. It’s something I remind myself of when I get too in my head.

JH: Looking back to the start of your career, what’s one piece of advice you’d give first-day-of-work Michaela?

MT: I was very anxious and terrified of making a mistake. In reality, making mistakes and moving forward is the only way to learn! I would so much rather have someone complete work incorrectly and learn from it than be paralyzed by indecision or fear of making a mistake.

JH: Now, a few fun get-to-know-you’s: What’s your favorite book? 

MT: There are too many good ones to choose from! But whenever I need inspiration, I always go back to American poetry.

JH: What’s one food you can’t live without? 

MT: Just one food!? Ice cream. Preferably strawberry. 

JH: If you had a superpower, what would it be? 

MT: This is tough. Either the ability to stop time for everyone but myself, the ability to get a full night’s sleep in 10 minutes, or some sort of superpower that keeps my kitchen perfectly clean. Really, I just want more time!

JH: What’s at the top of your travel bucket list post-pandemic?

MT: I’m considering a few different hikes: either the Dolomites (Italy), Camino de Santiago (Spain), or the Milford Track (New Zealand)

Loved this Empowered Feature? Then why not enjoy another?! Check out our previous conversation with Editorial Director Julie Myhre-Nunes.

About the Author:
Jessa O'Connor Hanley

Jessa O'Connor Hanley is a Healthline content designer based in Charlotte, North Carolina. She’s a Tar Heel born and bred with a degree in media and journalism. She’s a passionate radio storyteller, avid podcast fan, and a fierce defender of the Oxford Comma. In her free time, you’ll find Jessa reading a fantasy novel, taking pictures of her bernedoodle Molly, or trying (and failing) popular recipes she finds on Instagram.

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