When in 2013 Neha Siddana moved to the U.S. for personal reasons, she’d already logged four years as an HR manager with international India-based company ICICI Prudential Life Insurance Company Limited. But she didn’t have a visa or a job waiting for her stateside. UC Berkeley Extension’s Certificate Program in Human Resource Management proved vital to getting acclimated to HR’s role in the U.S. and, more importantly, helping her land her first, second—and now current—position as the senior HR manager for PandaDoc’s 100+ employees. “I manage anything and everything that touches HR,” says Siddana. “Everything from sourcing to recruiting to onboarding people, managing employer organizations and performance coaching, talent development and guiding my co-founders to be more HR-focused. The role is high-visibility and has a strategic focus.
“I thought Extension was a great, non-intimidating place to enter the U.S.-based HR world,” Siddana continues. “I wanted to be where I could network and learn from people in my field. In addition to people who were looking to transition into HR, I studied with other experienced HR professionals who wanted to learn more without committing to a master's degree. Nobody has ever questioned why I didn’t pursue a master's; the certificate only ever seems to be an advantage. It’s viewed as having a professional background in America from a renowned university.”
While Siddana was learning the ins and outs of HR functions as they apply to a U.S.-based company, she was taking that real-world education and applying it to her work as a recruiter at Infotech Global Services and as an HR Generalist at Cater2.me—positions she heard about and landed while pursuing her studies.
“I found my first and second job through Extension. I’ve been lucky.”
“The courses were as academically rigorous as I expected,” says Siddana. “Everything I studied came in very handy at my workplace. All the presentations we gave, the projects we did were very current; they were always connected to the problems we faced at work so I was able to apply my learning in real time. I used experiences from PandaDoc for projects in two of my courses.”
Networking, Check. Collaboration, Check.
Siddana found the classroom experience intensely collaborative. “We always had a group that would meet up; we often organized different mixers. We would share our problems at work and brainstorm together to figure out a solution. If you had to organize something or faced any implementation or policy issues, usually someone had been in those shoes before and could offer everyday work advice. We shared career advice with each other as well.”
The instructors also offered feedback and were instrumental in motivating her and keeping her going. “The instructors were all helpful, but it was my first instructor, Jun Cruzat, who really kept motivating me and boosted my confidence in my ability to find a job here. When I first arrived, even though I loved HR, I wasn't confident that I would be able to pursue work in the field due to an absolutely different set of HR bodies and regulations. Cruzat helped me connect with other people who had completed the certificate and offered to be my reference for the multiple jobs I found along the way.
“I have come a long way since I first arrived: from jobless to employed in a strategic role at a hyper-growth company where I learn a lot. And UC Berkeley Extension has contributed a lot to my success!”