From Students to Employees, Harrington Switches Gears
While most Georgia Tech seniors are eager to “get out,” many Institute employees spend seasons of their career here, including Kim D. Harrington.
Harrington is the associate vice president of Georgia Tech Human Resources. Since her arrival in 2001, she has served Georgia Tech’s campus, its students, and employees in impactful leadership roles.
Harrington spent 14 years supporting the student experience through her work in the Student Center. When Paul Strouts, vice president of Campus Services, asked Harrington to take the helm of Human Resources as interim AVP in 2015, it was with the understanding the appointment would only last a couple of months.
“Never in a million years did I envision this opportunity,” said Harrington, who holds a master’s degree in counseling and educational psychology from the State University of New York at Buffalo and a doctorate in educational psychology from Georgia State University.
Strouts selected Harrington for the interim role based on her diverse higher education experience, team orientation, and leadership ability. Confident HR was in capable hands, Strouts spent the following months determining the qualifications and experience necessary for a candidate who could lead the department permanently.
After about six months in the role at HR, Harrington asked Strouts about returning to her post at the Student Center. However, Strouts had received positive feedback from HR and the campus – they wanted her to stay.
Harrington served as the interim AVP for roughly 10 months before participating in 15 rigorous Institute-wide interviews for the permanent role. Strouts officially appointed her the new AVP of HR in November 2015. Today, Harrington thoroughly enjoys the job and the unique perspective afforded to her.
The shift from students to employees may seem inconsequential. But for Harrington, it meant a complete change in perspective. Although intensely familiar with the Institute through her work with students, viewing Georgia Tech through the lens of faculty and staff represented a wonderful new learning opportunity.
“My unexpected departure from the Student Center provided that team an exciting chance to demonstrate their sound leadership abilities and strong team characteristics,” Harrington said. “As a leader, I want my team to feel empowered and I prioritize transparency. I don’t hold secrets or withhold information whenever possible.”
That mindset of teamwork and empowerment became entrenched at the Student Center. During just a few months, that same mindset had already begun to cultivate and take hold at HR.
“I am fortunate to work with HR experts who are passionate about their profession and work hard to assist and support employees every day,” she says of her colleagues in HR. “HR is rich with talented, dedicated subject matter experts, and I rely on them to help us move forward,” said Harrington.
So, what exactly does the head of Human Resources do?
“No two days are the same — ever,” she said. “My job is coordination. I spin a lot of plates and do a lot of firefighting. Nonetheless, this role provides tremendous optics into faculty and staff, and how they experience the Institute. It helps me understand the commitment, pride, and talent that exists here. I am inspired daily by our employee community.”
Harrington spends considerable time juggling priorities, managing projects, and attending to employee concerns. Despite the challenges, Harrington says she loves her job, and that the people are the best part.
“We have a tremendous responsibility because we touch lives of employees literally at every stage — from the point of entry, all the way through transition or retirement,” said Harrington. “We have a responsibility to make sure those interactions are smooth, efficient, and executed with excellence.”
Harrington lives west of Atlanta, is married with three children, and considers herself an amateur photographer. She is also the proud aunt of two nieces and one nephew currently enrolled at Georgia Tech.
So, what’s next for this AVP? She said her original career goal was to be a vice president of student affairs. But, like her trajectory at Georgia Tech, that, too, has shifted course. “I certainly have continued leadership aspirations; however, my current focus is helping GTHR to be the sought-after resource that supports the Institute in meeting our strategic goals through people.”