Our People / Published Jan 18

Meet Ava Ivy: “Human resources should be about creating opportunities for people to bring their best selves to work.”

Our new HR director believes in the human in human resources.

Ava Ivy recently joined the EdNavigator family as our Director of Human Resources. She brings over three decades of experience in HR, from the military to large corporations to nonprofits and everything in-between. We’re thrilled to have Ava’s deep expertise on board and sat down to learn more about her.

Can you tell us about your journey to EdNavigator? What are the highlights?

I’ve been in human resources for 31 years. I've been able to work with large organizations, small organizations, startups. A lot of times people accidentally fall into human resources. I actually chose it as a vocation. I chose it because I'm nosy, to be perfectly frank. I have a need to know, and it’s served me very well.

Where did you start your career?

I started my professional human resources work in the United States Army, as a commissioned officer during Desert Shield/Desert Storm. It was very much oriented to processes, procedures, policies. But it also gave me a nice foundation for understanding how to move organizations forward through people, and helping people see that it’s important not just to follow process and procedure, but to actually understand why we have those processes in the first place.

When I got out of the military I went to Kraft Foods, and that built me up for understanding the fundamentals of human resources from a civilian perspective, as well as understanding more about employee relations. From there, I’ve been all over. I’ve worked in organizations like SC Johnson & Sons, Coors Brewing Company; I was the vice president of global human resources for Enesco. Then I decided it was time for me "retire." That was 2016. I retired for probably about a month.

What happened?

A friend of mine asked if I wanted to start a consulting company with her. So we did that, and then about 18 months into it, she decided that she didn't want to do it anymore. I’m not a business developer. So it was boring for me to do the invoicing and managing consultants and all of that. I am human resources through and through. I love getting my hands into the people piece. That’s my life blood. I love being able to change and improve organizations through people.

So from there, I started doing work in the nonprofit space. I served as the chief administrative officer for Northern Seminary and I did some consulting for the Schuler Scholar Program, which provides college access. I heard about EdNavigator and the mission really called to me. To be able to help an organization that's growing, entrepreneurial, and mission-driven is really important to me.

So we're your retirement? This is you relaxing?

I'm chilling over here, man.

“It is important to use human resources tools to ensure that people are given what they need on a daily basis to do their very best work on behalf of the organization.”

When I listen to you describe all the places you've been, all I can think is, wow, how did we get you? All the experience you bring is incredible.

It’s been very exciting to get started here. To see the impact we're going to be able to make internally and externally through our employee processes, organizational development, talent management, and diversity, equity, and inclusion work—it’s just really amazing.

I’ve heard you talk about how human resources as a field has shifted over time. I'm curious if you could say a little more about that and what you view as the true purpose of human resources.

That's really a good question because, as I shared earlier, even in the military it was about processes. It was about adherence to and performance against policies. But I've never viewed human resources as being the "policy police."

I'll give you an example. In many organizations, there's this ugly thing called the “dress code.” Earlier in my career, it was always a core part of human resources to ensure that people were following the "dress code." From my perspective, that's such a demeaning thing to have to do. I shouldn't be walking around the office and seeing if people are wearing flip flops. I should not have to remind people to be adults and wear appropriate clothing to work.

From my perspective, human resources should be about creating opportunities for people to bring their best selves to work and make an impact in a positive way. Yes, we use policies and procedures to ensure that we’re operating effectively. It is important to use human resources tools to ensure that people are given what they need on a daily basis to do their very best work on behalf of the organization.

Do you feel like the field of human resources has caught up with that point of view?

In some instances, yes. I think it's morphing more into people operations. We're changing to being more strategic, being more business aligned, being at the table and helping to build, motivate, and impact the business on behalf of the people.

What’s the number one thing that's getting you up in the morning on your workdays?

I truly enjoy working with Tim and our leadership team, I’ll tell you that. As a human resources professional, you’ve got to get your leaders to buy into the people process. That is not a struggle here at EdNavigator. We’re already there. Now it's about creating the programs and processes that I believe are important for the organization. The other thing that I'm really excited about is the DEI work. We're also working on new talent management processes. I'm very excited about that, too, because when you talk about talent management, you’re talking about helping people understand how they can grow and be developed to do what they want to do within an organization. That’s important to both the wellbeing of the organization and for individual employees as well.

Last question: Can you share a fun fact about Ava that we might not know?

I’m a singer. My brother and I have done a lot of studio work together. He has a band and I do some vocal stacking for them. I primarily enjoy singing jazz and gospel. To me, singing is another way of communicating. I am not and will never be a star, but I do love performing.