human resources word concept

Carrie Barham headshot


After earning her bachelor’s degree in health services administration, Carrie Barham never expected to have built a human resources career 20 years later. Her experience working at a few health insurance companies eventually led Carrie to begin working in benefits and becoming an HR professional! Now, Carrie works at National Aerospace Solutions as a Health and Welfare administratorand has the SHRM designation beside her name to prove that hard works pay off. 


Marah: What was your motivation behind becoming SHRM-certified? 

Carrie: I had set a goal for myself years ago to become SHRM-certified. I know how important certification is for HR leaders to have. It’s not like you won’t get a job without certification, but having the SHRM designation looks great on a resume and helps you stand out.  


M: What are aspects of UTC’s SHRM Certification Exam Prep course that you found particularly interesting or enjoyable to learn about? 

C: I have worked in HR for 23 years, but my background was primarily in benefits until about two years ago. In the past two years, my role has expanded into talent acquisition and staffing. If you’re not a generalist, though, there are many aspects of HR to uncover. I have a general knowledge of other HR aspects, but the course was a great refresher in learning about parts of HR that you do not hit on as much if you are a more specialized professional.  

I also enjoyed that the course participants were from different industries. The variety made a huge difference in the course dynamic. You’re able to hear individuals talk about their experiences and explain why they do certain things in various situations. For example, only three of us in the course worked for companies with unions, so we were able to share our experiences with our peers whose companies do not have unions. 


M: What is one major takeaway you had from the course? 

C: HR plays a vital role in businesses. 10-15 years ago, HR professionals were not seen as business partners in organizations. Now, many HR pros are involved in strategic planning, management, and helping companies make decisions. Companies are starting to recognize how valuable HR business partners are. 


M: What were your interactions with the instructor like?  

C: The interactions with Todd were great. He would always let us ask questions during class or stay after if we needed to talk about a topic in further detail. I appreciated how he would explain what we didn’t understand and break down what we were learning in the books even more in-depth. 


M: How did you prepare for the SHRM certification exam? What advice would you give someone who is currently preparing for the exam?  

C: I have two major suggestions: Know the flashcards SHRM gives you and take many practice exams. The flashcards help you engrain the material into your brain. And, when it comes to exams, you need to understand WHY you got a question wrong. If you don’t understand why you missed a question, you won’t be able to improve moving forward! 

The boot camp was a critical piece of my SHRM certification experience. However, I would suggest using more resources to enhance your learning if you’re struggling with a certain topic. For example, I struggled with talent acquisition, so I used supplemental learning to dive deeper into the topic. Look up YouTube videos or buy an extra book specifically on the topic you need more insight into. 


M: How did you create a study/work/life balance while in the SHRM Certification Exam Prep course?  

C: It’s definitely doable to manage the balance, but I also knew before I began the course that sacrifice would be needed. If you only dedicate two hours to the course every week, you will not get what you need out of the course (and I am not sure I would have passed if I had just had the SHRM learning system on its own, without an instructor). If you’re willing to sacrifice time for a few weeks to become certified, then you’ll be more likely to succeed! 


M: Is there anything else you would like to share about your SHRM Certification Exam Prep experience?  

C: Many people have the assumption that HR is just hiring and firing, but there’s so much more to the field than that! HR is a fascinating and entertaining field. If you want to become SHRM-certified, UTC has a valuable and worthwhile program to prepare you for the test. I don’t know how people pass the exam without having extra resources like Todd to explain what they’re learning! 


Marah Whitaker headshot

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.