When Gabriel Biser began working on a Disney cruise ship as a youth counselor, he never imagined that his path would lead him to become a SHRM-certified human resources professional. As he climbed the Disney ladder from counselor to youth training coordinator to HR liaison, Disney offered Gabe a position that would allow him to keep expanding his HR expertise. After a few years at Disney, he continued to gain experience working in HR at theme parks such as California’s Great America and Lake Winnepesaukah. While he is no longer in the theme park realm, Gabe uses his experience—and SHRM knowledge—as the Onboard HR Manager for American Queen Steamboat Company as well as while doing freelance HR work.
Marah: What experience caused you to develop an interest in HR?
Gabe: When Disney offered me an HR position, I didn’t understand how big the world of HR is. I had the major misconception that many have—HR is the “principal’s office” of the corporate world. Nothing sounded more horrible or boring to me at the time, but when I gave HR a chance, I ended up finding that I immensely enjoy the field.
M: What led you to pursue HR certification, specifically SHRM?
G: After working in theme parks, I took a job where I began diving into higher-level components of HR, such as strategy and development. As I began taking on more leadership in my role, I wanted to get more formal training and be able to say that in addition to my work experience, I also have HR education. I initially thought that I wanted to earn my SPHR, but I quickly discovered that SHRM was a better fit for me. The SHRM certification has been gaining so much traction lately; many of my colleagues at other organizations have told me that there is a big push for SHRM certification within their companies. My employer offered to send me to UTC’s SHRM Certification Exam Prep course, and I am glad they did!
M: In general, what is an aspect of the SHRM Certification Exam Prep course you enjoyed?
G: I enjoyed the networking aspect of the course. It was cool to see how everyone in the course was at different levels in their career. Some students were entry-level and then there were two students going for their SHRM-SCP (the higher-level SHRM certification). You study together for several months and create beneficial relationships professionally and personally. I even grab dinner on occasion with some of the other students! I also liked that I was able to talk through challenges with my program-mates and gain different perspectives. If I was struggling, I could ask them, “What did you take away from this lesson? What did you think about this?” which was helpful.
M: What is a course topic that you found particularly interesting or that you use on a daily basis?
G: With my prior experience, I hadn’t been in many scenarios where I dealt with labor unions. Hearing how others handled labor unions was invaluable. Now, I have freelance clients that deal with unions, and I am better equipped to help them. UTC’s program is so well-rounded, and it was nice to learn more about HR components I don’t regularly manage.
M: How did you create a study/work/life balance while in the SHRM Certification Exam Prep course?
G: I had a lot of support from my workplace. The other directors were involved throughout the process. They would even find random topics to quiz me on through text message! They wanted certification to be one of my priorities, and it helped that I took the course in our off season. They even threw me a party when I earned my certification!
The timing was completely right and allowed me to focus on the certification, which was key.
M: How did you prepare for the SHRM certification exam? What advice would you give someone who is currently preparing for the exam?
G: Use flash cards! You want to know the terms inside and out. I also found the practice exams on the portal to be super helpful—in fact, the whole online portal was well-designed and a valuable tool.
In between class periods, I would review what we studied the week prior and then look ahead to see what we would review in the next class. That way, if there was something I wasn’t sure about, I knew I would be able to ask questions about the topic we were learning in the next period.
M: Is there anything you would like to share about your SHRM Certification Exam Prep experience?
G: Again, the SHRM certification is gaining much traction and is valuable for HR professionals to pursue. However, remember that a piece of paper means nothing if you don’t have the knowledge to back it up. Immerse yourself in the content, hone your skills, and earn that certificate!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Marah Whitaker (think Laura with an M) serves as the marketing assistant for the UTC Center for Professional Education. During the workday, she spends time writing blog posts, creating content for social media, developing email campaigns, and building relationships with CPE’s customer base. During her free time, you can find her getting lost in a good book, having spontaneous dance parties, playing piano, and going to Buffalo Wild Wings on Wing Night. Professionally and personally, she aspires to live by Mr. Feeny’s advice, “Dream. Believe. Try. Do Good.” She strives to use her passions to serve others and contribute positively to the world around her.
Connect with Marah on LinkedIn.