male employee filling out paperwork

Todd Dockery


Our Instructor Spotlight is on our SHRM Certification Exam Prep course and one of three HR Leadership Academy instructors, Todd Dockery. In our HR Leadership Academy, Todd teaches HR Analytics and Strategy Formulation and Alignment. Currently, Todd is a full-time faculty member for UTC’s Gary W. Rollins College of Business. He is also a Certified Employee Benefits Specialist (CEBS), Professional in Human Resources (PHR), Group Benefits Associate (GBA), Compensation Management Specialist (CMS), and has an MBA degree, along with a massive PEZ dispenser collection. 



Marah: What professional experience do you have relating to the HR courses you’re teaching? 

Todd: I had 20 years of HR experience prior to teaching. I first began my HR journey as a personnel administration sergeant in the US Army. Then, I worked in healthcare as a human resources coordinator, and after that, in management positions for two different trucking companies. One was a compensation and benefits position, and the other oversaw employee benefits. I then moved on to work as a director of human resources for Open Arm Care, the City of Chattanooga, and most recently, I worked as the deputy HR officer and director of compensation and benefits right here at my alma mater, UTC! 


M: Why do you love teaching?  

T: Before I became a full-time teacher, I served as an adjunct professor at UTC. I discovered that I had such a strong passion for teaching that I wanted to do it full-time! It’s so fulfilling to help others learn and be successful. I truly enjoy seeing HR students being able to apply what they are learning in their workplace or discuss how they would apply what they are learning in real-world situations. 


M: What do you believe students will gain by taking the SHRM Exam Prep course?  

T: One thing I emphasize to HR professionals working toward a professional certification is that the exams are not easy. I have taken several certification exams and just having experience in HR may not be enough to pass an exam. Students need to know specifics—certain behavioral and technical competencies that are required for the exam. It’s not just about working in HR and knowing the aspects of HR you have worked in; understanding competencies is important. I stress to students that even if you have worked in HR for many years, it’s important to take the exam seriously…it can be challenging! 


Jeff: What about the HR Leadership Academy? Why is educating our future HR leaders important? 

T: I tell HR professionals all the time that the way you work to make yourself invaluable is by becoming an expert in your field. One of the key ways to do this is through continuous personal and professional development. The Academy will teach students up-to-date processes and valuable HR information. For example, HR Analytics has become much more important now than it was 15-20 years ago. It will help you analyze data to reduce turnover, which is information you can take to C-suite level executives and use to position yourself as an HR leader. Professionals taking this course will learn that being a strategic HR business partner means having a place at the decision-making table, and I will help them learn how to find and take hold of those opportunities.  


M: What’s your favorite aspect of the SHRM Certification Exam Prep course to teach?  

T: I truly like all the course topics, and working in such a diverse mix of HR specialties has given me experience in many areas within the topics. Not to get too technical, but the SHRM Body of Knowledge goes into both technical and behavioral competencies. Technical competencies encompass people, organizations, and workplaces, so for technical competencies, I really enjoy the people aspect. That’s where you talk about strategic planning, recruiting, employee engagement, learning and development, etc. I really like teaching all of that. For behavioral competencies, I am drawn more to the leadership aspects: leadership, ethics, topics along those lines. Leadership is extremely important. Again, all the topics interest me, but those are the ones I tend to be drawn to a little more. 


J: What qualities make a great HR leader?

T: One of the courses I teach in UTC’s COB is Strategic HR, which is the capstone course for seniors preparing to enter the business world. I share with my students the qualities that, from my perspective, have helped me grow and develop most as an HR leader. Those attributes include competence, confidentiality, consistency, communication, and collaboration (the 5 C’s)! I also believe that trust, empathy, and a sense of humor go a long way as an HR leader.  


J: What advice would you give to someone who wants to become an HR leader, whether that be through the HR Leadership Academy, the SHRM course, or both? 

T: Remember that you can’t please everyone. HR has been seen as the “principal’s office” in the past. I don’t like that mindset, but I do like the idea of HR professionals being collaborators who work to help both sides find a resolution. However, you may not please both sides at the end of the day. 

If you’re consistent, fair, and trustworthy, you will successfully influence others in powerful ways.  


M: How do you motivate students in your classroom? 

T: I make sure that we remain professional but also have fun as we are learning. I motivate students by relating real-world experiences to what they are learning, whether it be my experience or someone else in the room’s experience. The more they learn from others and see how what they are learning relates to the world outside of a classroom, the more motivated they are to get to the point where they can apply the information in their careers. 


M: What are three fun facts about you? 


  • I collect PEZ dispensers. I have about 1600 different ones! 
  • I am a HUGE Elvis fan, and in my college days, I worked as a part-time Elvis impersonator. I actually proposed to my wife dressed as Elvis. 
  • My first job was as a batboy for the Chattanooga Lookouts. I was 13 years old, and they won the Southern League Championship that year. It was a great experience, and I am proud to call Chattanooga home and be able to say that was my first job.  


M: Is there anything else you would like to share? 

T: It’s really important for HR professionals to continue to learn and develop. I have seen a lot of changes in the field since I began my career 20 years ago and even more changes since I began undergrad 25 years ago. Being on top of the constant changes helps professionals set themselves apart when applying for a job or promotion or even just with building influence among their colleagues. I constantly tell my students to try to be experts in their field. Be seen as the go-to person when someone has a question. You’ll become a strategic business partner and be viewed as a leader when you have relevant knowledge in your field. That comes with learning continuously.


Marah Whitaker headshot

Hi! My name is Marah Whitaker (think Laura with an M). I am the Marketing Assistant for UTC Center for Professional Education. During the workday, I spend time writing blog posts, creating content for social media, developing email campaigns, and building relationships with our customer base. During my free time, you can find me getting lost in a good book, having spontaneous dance parties, playing piano, and going to Buffalo Wild Wings on Wing Night. Professionally and personally, I aspire to live by the Mr. Feeny quote, “Dream. Believe. Try. Do Good.” I strive to use my passions to serve others and contribute positively to the world around me. 

Connect with me on LinkedIn.