When it comes to making an impact in the field of I/O Psychology, one of the first skills necessary is in learning new things. Life is constantly changing, and with those changes comes a need for flexibility and new knowledge. In the grand landscape of what makes up I/O Psychology, one thing remains a constant and that is the dynamic nature of the way we operate in life and in the workforce.
In this episode of UMBC's Mic'd Up Podcast, Spenser Haffey '19 M.P.S. I/O Psychology, joins host, Dennise Cardona, to chat about how he contributes to the world through his role as an I/O Psychology professional.
We hope you enjoy this episode!
About UMBC's I/O Psychology Graduate Programs
UMBC’s Master’s Program in I/O Psychology is a unique, highly applied program which provides graduate training focused on developing skills that are relevant in today’s job market. Students explore and integrate important topics including organizational behavioral management, consulting, human factors, and professional human resources practice. Our graduates develop a professional portfolio while building strong relationships with faculty practitioners and industry professionals.
This program is ideal for students who want to work in areas such as: Human Resources, Talent Acquisition, Talent Assessment and Talent Management, Organizational Behavior and Development, and Training and Development.
Dennise Cardona 0:00
Welcome to this episode of UMBC Mic’d Up Podcast. My name is Dennise Cardona from the Office of Professional Programs. Today, we are joined by a graduate of the IO Psychology graduate program, Spenser Haffey and we are going to be chatting about the world of IO Psychology, and how the program helped to prepare him for his current role. We hope that you enjoy this episode. Welcome, Spenser, it's fantastic to have you here today to talk about the IO Psychology program and your experience with it.
Spenser Haffey 0:35
Thank you. It's wonderful to be here.
Dennise Cardona 0:38
So I love to hear from my guests what is happening in your life. So can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Maybe the path that you took professionally? In getting to you UMBC and then maybe at this point you've graduated now? Correct?
Spenser Haffey 0:56
Yeah. I mean, how much time do you have? So I had an undergrad degree in psychology from a place called, well, I had mostly finished at a place called Messiah University. But we had to, we couldn't pay for that anymore. So I actually did finish my undergrad at UMBC at USG. Just in like two, maybe three semesters. It was three because some classes didn't transfer. Anyway, I had sort of an abortive career in neuropsychology, including a position at the medical center in Baltimore, and the neurology lab there. But I decided that wasn't for me. And then I had a friend who was in the master's program at UMBC at USG. So I did research and I applied. There you go.
Dennise Cardona 2:01
So I'm really curious, because neuropsychology, that's what you were attempting at first, and you're like, oh, this really is not for me. I'm curious as to how quickly you came to that assessment, because it's so important to come to that assessment.
Spenser Haffey 2:19
Well, I'm thinking. So it was a research assistant position at the medical center in Baltimore, I think, I want to say three years. And that was a little bit, I got it during undergrad and then sort of got a little bit of a promotion, you know, once I got my degree in undergrad. So yeah, about three years or so. And I would say unlike IO Psychology, you can't really do much with a Masters in that field, you kind of have to go all the way. And I just my PI, and everyone else was telling her when she was super happy, from the same miserableness at that place. And I was just like, I don't think that this is for me, I don't have and I kept hearing you need passion to pursue a PhD.
Dennise Cardona 3:14
I think it's so important to be able to come to that determination early on. I've been through a couple of different career tracks myself, before I landed at UMBC doing this role, and before that I was in a whole bunch of different types of industries. And you know, pretty sure, right, pretty pretty early on when you're in a place that does not feel right, that doesn't, I guess match your personality and your values, your beliefs, the way, just your, the way you want to be able to operate in the world. And it's a good thing to be able to recognize that because a lot of people don't recognize that. And they spend years, sometimes a whole lifetime in a career that was never suited for them. And kudos to you for finding that out early on. And for Landon Collins. Yeah. Well, we all have to go through, we have to go through different pathways. And sometimes it takes us you know, sometimes it's not a quick 5k, but it might be a 10k or a marathon before we actually see the sites on the side of the road that indicate you're going the wrong way. Like you need to stop and do a detour and try this again. So that's fantastic. Can you tell me a little bit about what you're doing now though, and now that you've graduated? What are you doing? What's your current role?
Spenser Haffey 4:33
Yeah, so, okay, so I cut my history off. So I'm at UMBC USG with the masters degree. I get through some help I had from actually USG. I get an internship, working with police and fire doing promotional-like tests. And then through that, I get my current position, which I've had for about four years. I was actually hired before I graduated, like just a couple of months before, which made for a really rough couple of months. At the very end, I was finishing up a capstone, and also trying to learn how to do a professional job. Yeah, so my current position, the technical title is Human Capital Senior Analyst. And it is with a company called Avant Garde. That company has to sort of I don't know what we call them, but like divisions, if you will, where they do federal placement contracting, or just, they need more bodies to do different HR functions. And then the wing that the division that I belong to is more of the consulting side where we have contracts, you go in and you do your work for a reason, also around human capital, workforce planning, things like that.
Dennise Cardona 5:57
Oh, that sounds like a really purposeful career. And something that is, well, well suited for somebody in the IO psychology world. Tell me, what is it that you love about what you do on a daily basis? I mean, because there might be people who are viewing this video on YouTube while listening to it on a podcast player. And maybe they have no idea what IO IO psychology even is. Or maybe they just, they're on the fence. So like, I've heard about it, I'm not sure if it's for me, could you What would you say to somebody like that?
Spenser Haffey 6:30
Well, someone who's considering IO as a field, I would say, it's like, it's wildly broad. So I think the path that I took is one that a lot of people try to take, and I, if you can, excuse not being humble for a second, it's pretty hard to get these kinds of positions that I have. There aren't that many of them just, it's a numbers game. But there are some, especially if you're going to like bigger boxes, you know, big companies. I haven't gone too small and I prefer that. But back to the question, I would say IO psychology is great, it is very broad. And that's good. That means, you know, as I was attending SIOP. And that's where I like the year that I graduated. That's where I got the interviews that landed me this position. You know, I was thinking, Okay, I want to do this consulting, I want to apply to one of these types of positions. But also I'm thinking, what else can I do? Like what else makes sense? Like, for me, personally, I had taken three stats courses, three masters stats courses, and I also had really enjoyed some assessment stuff. So I was like, I'm gonna apply for this lane, this consulting lane, and then also, I'm gonna look at assessment positions, and then data analysis was kind of the fallback after that. And if you can network well, and you're good at selling yourself, the skills that you get are really broad and can like, look good on, you can twist them to look good on paper for so many different kinds of things.
Dennise Cardona 8:05
I think that's really appealing for a lot of people. Because I would think that if you're, you're, if you're going to grad school, and you're really focusing on a career track, and if it's too niche, you might feel a little hesitant about making that investment in your time. And your money, of course, because you never know what the end is if it's going to be really what you want. But it sounds like with IO psychology, and with a little with a few other programs, we have it here at UMBC. In the professional program sector, it's broad enough where that allows you that freedom to be able to explore different avenues, and it doesn't sideline you or, you know, tunnel you into a specific groove. You're allowed to maneuver and journey around that. I think, you know, I was a communications major in my undergrad studies. And that was so broad. And sometimes I thought, oh, my gosh, this is too broad, because I don't know what I want to do. I don't know what I want to do when I grow up when I graduate. And some people might be feeling that way too, even with a graduate program. And I think that the thing that's important that I would say to people like that is you never know what's going to be coming up in the world. So when it comes to psychology, you never know with technology and the way the world is advancing AI and data and things of that sort. What jobs are not, are not there yet that will eventually just pop up. And so having a broad sort of centered mentality like that is a benefit in that respect, because the world is constantly changing so fast, right? And you just never know. And so it gives you that ability to be able to, I guess, enhance those skills and build those skills in different ways. Speaking of skills, my next question is Yeah, I know what a segue So anyway, speaking of skills and knowledge and abilities, and things like that, What kind are necessary in what you are doing currently in your role?
Spenser Haffey 10:13
So first, let me say what I'm doing currently is, I won't go into specifics because I'm not allowed to, but I'm working with. Right now I have two contracts with the Department of Transportation. And the big one is we're doing competency modeling, which I've done in the past as well. But we're also doing some workforce planning. And we're doing some sort of strategic human capital planning. And so that's sort of their separate several IC 3 really main domains of skills you need. One is the technical. And this is what I think people think of you: you need to know how to do a job task analysis, or you need to know all the jargon, you have things like career pathing, diversity, equity laws, all those kinds of things. And those are important not to say they're not important. I would say, if you're aiming for something, on the consulting side, it's more important to have sort of a base and then be able to learn. So almost like the skill is the ability, ability to learn. And of course, I can only speak to, you know, my company, and then my network, but it seems to me like, like early and even some mid level sort of career. Consultants aren't really expected to know all these things, they're expected to know enough to like to go back home and then know the rest. Right? Yeah. So and that's perfect for the, you know, for the USG program that I went to, it was like, oh, there are some exceptions. But generally one class for a sort of domain, like I took one class on job analysis and one class on Well, I took three on statistics. But that was my choice, I didn't have to do it. But that's enough to give you that base. And if you can cultivate skills of learning things as well, and be able to research and be able to figure things out on your own, then I would almost say the technical knowledge is like a backdrop, it's like not quite as useful as those soft skills. And that also includes quite a lot of Microsoft products. That feels like an obvious thing to say, in today's day and age. But it really, really, really helps. And I mean, I would say the base level of competency you need with those is pretty high. And even more scale is even more useful and can make you more useful to people. And also like sort of workflow, like very related to the products, but also how you manage your time, and how you make sure nothing gets dropped. Because you'll be in meetings, and someone will just mention something, but you're supposed to do that. You know what I mean? So and then the last thing is communication skills, and sort of planning skills and client interaction. Professionalism is very important. Because it's kind of hit or miss, you go with different clients, and someone will get you into a room and say, they'll talk about whatever they did on the weekend, others will be just business and you need to be able to match that.
Dennise Cardona 13:17
Yeah, have those interpersonal skills to be able to, and I think a lot of people are hesitant about that. They fear that they lack that kind of communication, avant garde, if you will, to be able to walk into a room and network with people. I feel like I've been that person in the past as well. walking into a room, not knowing anybody and striking up a conversation in a professional manner to network can be daunting, I think for some people. Yeah, that's something. Yeah. And so in your networking experience, because I'm sure you've been into networking situations like that, what would be one thing that works for you, that helps you know, anybody?
Spenser Haffey 13:59
I share that, that sort of hesitance? I mean, I did network I just didn't enjoy. It was, you know, I mean, the the concept of walking in, I mean, those are just interpersonal skills, like, think of something that you have in common, I liked, I did networking, it's SIOP with the booths that were like, about something, it was a company that does this thing. And then you talked about the thing, like, you know, I would say I'm not very good at walking into a room and just talking to random people. You kind of just make yourself do it, and then it works more than you think it is. It's the threshold I would say to those that are anxious, the threshold of success is so much lower than you think it is.
Dennise Cardona 14:46
And you know, that's such a good point, Spencer because I think that a lot of people feel like when you walk into a room, you see other people in there that they all have it all together. They're all confident, they feel there's no nerves, they're all comfortable and you're the only one who feels like you are walking on eggshells with trepidation in your heart. And I received really great advice one time, a long time ago from somebody, because I was very shy and walking into rooms and talking with people that I didn't know. And she said, you know, my goal, when I walk into a room, whether it's a baby shower, or a networking event is I find somebody who looks more uncomfortable, or at least equally uncomfortable as I do. Somebody who is by themselves, maybe staring at you know, pretending to eat, or, you know, just trying to look around, go up to that person and make them feel comfortable. That's the goal. And I thought, That's really great advice. And I, I've used that I've used that from time to time when I found myself in that situation where I'm like, Alright, so yeah, it's a, it's all about finding these tips and tricks in life to get yourself out there.
Spenser Haffey 15:49
I'm just gonna say the reverse that I love, I love that. And that is good. You sort of and I've done that you form the sort of group of people that don't want to talk to anyone else. And then you that isn't itself a network, and then you might attract other people. Also, you can talk to the kind of person who sounds to me and just kind of wants to hear themselves talk. You'll hear them talk a lot, and the conversation is easier with them. As someone who has put a lot of work into being able to talk to people and you know, I, I was homeschooled growing up. So it took a lot of social skills development over the last like decade. But yeah, that's another person you can walk up to.
Dennise Cardona 16:31
I like that idea. Because not only does that help you as the person who might feel hesitant, but it also is something that you can build, you're listening, active listening skills, right, to be able to let someone just talk and, and add in open ended questions here and there to get them to continue to talk. And then they walk away. And they like, wow, that person was a great conversationalist. And you didn't have to say much more than two sentences.
Spenser Haffey 16:57
Flattering them, and then maybe they'll think about you next time. Something.
Dennise Cardona 17:01
Exactly. Build professional relationships that way. You mentioned SIOP up a few times. I know what it is. But maybe people listening don't know what it is. What is it?
Spenser Haffey 17:11
The Society for Industrial Organizational Psychology? Yeah, that's just Yeah, that's what it is. That's the professional organization used as a short term for the annual conferences, of which I went to several that haven't been the last couple of years, although I think they were virtual for a while. But if you're, I mean, they're useful generally. But if you're looking to network, and that's the push you need to do in life right now, then that might be worth checking out.
Dennise Cardona 17:40
Absolutely. All right, good. That's good to know. Now, I know it's been four years since you've graduated from our program. Can you talk about how, if you can remember back what prepared What did the program how did the program prepare you for what you're doing at this point?
Spenser Haffey 17:57
My memories, not the greatest. But I do remember a few things about the IO psychology master's program. I went to the University at Shady Grove, like you said, four years ago. The strongest thing I remember is the emphasis on sort of real life context, so to speak. So we had, there's the capstone project, which is like a big thing that everyone knows about. And you can sort of dial into those at the end of each semester, if you'd like. And, you know, they help with that. They help you to find placement, if you haven't, you haven't been able to find something to your network, or through an internship or whatever you have. But they require you to go and do a project very much in the consulting style, which is what I have now. And it was very helpful to prepare me for that. Do that project with something in the real world. So I worked with, and I apologize, I can't remember the name of the firm, but it was a very small consulting firm. And we worked with a government division of a division of division. I also remember them, but I'm not allowed to say what they are. But we worked with them. And it was a really eye opening experience. And it wasn't just the capstone. There were a couple of other times where you also had final projects that were going out into the world and doing a thing for actual organization like doing something that helps them actually and talking to stakeholders and learning clients how to speak to them and how to gather the requirements, you need to get the job done. And that was excellent. I appreciate that a lot more than not that there aren't textbooks of course there are but I appreciate it a lot more than that. That dovetails into the other thing, which is a program where they pair you with professionals who each professional has, you know, two or three or four mentees and you just meet with them. And there's like a little report that you write but it was very helpful. Shout out to Frederick Panzer. I don't know, I think he's moved companies a couple of times. So I'm not gonna say where he works, but that was very helpful and helped you be able to answer questions that you weren't sure about.
Dennise Cardona 20:03
That's fantastic to be able to have that professional that's in the field doing the work, being able to shadow them or ask them questions, and get a feel for what the real world is like out there day to day. I would imagine that's really helpful. And you mentioned the Capstone, that sounds like it is a really great experience to be able to, like you said, get that applied hand on hands on real world application, because reading from a textbook, and taking quizzes, and it has your plate has its place. But it's that whole application of what you learned, is really what cements that knowledge into place and puts it into muscle memory. And it also allows you the opportunity to be able to find your lane, right to be able to say, Oh, I you know, if you're doing an internship or you're doing a capstone or project for a class, you're able to say, you're able to kind of feel through and see what you like, and what maybe it's not really them. And maybe that's not the pathway for me, but Oh, I really like this one. So it sounds like it's a great opportunity for students to be able to explore, explore their journey, and ask questions.
Dennise Cardona 21:16
Absolutely. And one last question I have for you is what was your biggest takeaway from the program?
One of the few classes that I like 100%, remember that I took without looking at a transcript was Job analysis with Dr. Lassen. And that one was very good, there was a little bit of that real real component. It might have helped. But it was a summer course for me personally, that condensation of the coursework into I want to say a month and a half, I forget exactly, was really helpful. And the content, like the technical process of a job analysis has to do with competencies as well, that's sort of the end product or in some, in some cases, depends on how you do it. But that led directly for me, for my curiosity, to apply to my internship, which then was very much cited by my current position. So it was both enjoyable and helpful. That class job analysis.
Dennise Cardona 22:22
That's fantastic. That's great.
Spenser Haffey 22:25
The thing that I like the most about my job in the field of IO psychology, I would say, is the huge sort of variety of things that you do. There's always a baseline of skill that you need, but so many different, wildly different projects on different timescales doing so many different things with different clients. It's very fascinating, and never stops being fascinating.
Dennise Cardona 22:50
Okay, so now what I like to do at the end of each podcast, I love to ask a couple of just general professional development type questions for our listeners, because, you know, that's what we're all about in UMBC, in the UMBC division of professional programs, is its professional development. And so one of those is, you know, what would you say is your favorite book.
Spenser Haffey 23:14
So too hard to pick just one? The classic answer is Lord of the Rings, that was me very much as a child growing up with that, then I would just mention two other series. One is the Malazan Book of the Fallen, which is very high fantasy. Very tough to read, he doesn't give anything away. He's just like, This is what happens in the scene, and you have to figure out everything else. It's very difficult, but it's so rewarding. And then The Broken Earth Trilogy, but that one's by N. K. Jemisin, and Malzahn is by Steven Erikson.
Dennise Cardona 23:50
Awesome, great critical thinking. That's, you know, what it sounds like it inspires as critical thinking, which is so important. All reading really inspires that critical thinking aspect. What would you say is the greatest piece of advice that you've received?
Spenser Haffey 24:05
I would say, sort of trying to find the mix of what you want in life. So you need to be able to pursue a position with that sort of professionalism, always appearing professional, and recognizing that networking is useful, but it can't stand alone. You also need to be competent. And I think there's this sort of thought out there of some people would say, oh, it's all about who you know, and then some people would, you know, shirk at that and say, Oh, if you just really get someone to hire you, well, the unfortunate answer is it's both. So do both. You got to know what you're talking about and be able to sound like you know what you're talking about. But man, it really helps to know a few people.
Dennise Cardona 24:52
Yeah, one last question. What do you wish you learned sooner in life?
Spenser Haffey 24:58
Oh my God, I wish I learned about IO Psych sooner. Yeah, like I said the whole neurology thing. It took a while and I'm very happy with where I am now. Honestly, it's a minor regret, but like, I wish I had started sooner.
Dennise Cardona 25:14
Excellent, excellent answer for this particular podcast in psychology at all right, Spencer, this has been really fun. I've enjoyed this conversation, a lot of insights you shared, and I appreciate that you came on here and share those insights with us. It was really great to have you. Thank you.
Spenser Haffey 25:34
Yeah, it was my pleasure. Wonderful.
Dennise Cardona 25:36
Thank you for taking the time to listen to this episode of UMBC’s Mic’d Up Podcast. We hope that you enjoyed it. If you'd like to learn more about our offerings, search for UMBC IO Psychology graduate program, or if you're viewing this in a video format, scan the QR code on the screen.