Getting to know MJ Grein, human resources recruitment coordinator

MyHMS catches up over coffee with MJ Grein and poses a few questions about her work at Harvard Medical School.

MJ Grein, Grammy Award, Anson Williams, MJ on cruise ship

Have you always been MJ?

Ever since kindergarten. My full name took up the whole top of any paper, so my teacher said, “Just write MJ. I’ll know who it is.” Now when I’m called Mary Jane, I think I’m in trouble, like, “Who’s calling me by my full name?”

How long have you worked at HMS?

Three years ago, I joined HMS as Julie Stanley’s assistant. Julie was the School’s chief human resources officer before Kate McDaniel. I had a master’s degree in HR, and Julie wanted to give me an opportunity to be a fly on the wall, to see which areas of HR might be the best fit for me. I just naturally gravitated toward recruitment.

How would you describe your new role in HR?

I transitioned to our talent acquisition team last September. I post job listings for access by internal and external candidates, set up hiring manager access on the Harvard careers recruitment platform, and assist with interview scheduling. I’m starting to look at best practices for sourcing talent through social media. I’m also very fortunate to be the one to send out the “Congratulations. Welcome to HMS,” emails to new employees. After all the interviews, I’m the one who gets to say, “Come in and see me. Let’s get your paperwork all set so we can get you onboarded.”

MJ Grein on cruise ship
Grein, right, on cruise ship.

You could say that you get involved at an exciting, maybe even unnerving, juncture for an employee and a department.

When you look at it, I think HR steps in at moments of a lot of change. HR is change. The School is bringing in new people constantly, employees and departments are continually evolving and shifting directions based on the evolving needs and priorities of HMS. Every job is unique, like a thumbprint, and the needs of each department are not one-size-fits-all. You have to build the relationships with hiring managers throughout the School and earn their trust that our team will find the best and brightest talent for their needs.

What professional goals do you have for 2019?

I certainly want to continue to grow and develop with this amazing team. Ahmed Mohammed (director of talent acquisition) is new, and I find myself learning so much from him already.

What are some things that someone might not know about you?

I was in charge of questions and complaints on a cruise ship for two and a half years. Some of my favorites: What time is the midnight buffet? Is that island surrounded by water? Is there an elevator to the front of the ship? Do you all live here on the ship or do you commute?

Dare I ask how you replied?

12 midnight. It is. No, they just go up and down. We live onboard all of the time.

Glad I asked. Anything else?

Both my parents are deaf, so American Sign Language is my first language. I was trilingual by age seven, I learned Spanish because there were a lot of Spanish-speaking children in my kindergarten and first-grade classes.

MJ Grein with Anson Williams
Grein with actor Anson Williams.

I grew up in Hollywood in the 1970s. Potsie (actor Anson Williams) from Happy Days was my babysitter. He lived next door.

The Grammy Awards have been made by my family for 48 years. My uncle is the only man who is still making the Grammy statues by hand. I believe it is the last mass-produced handmade award in the United States.

Wow. One final question: what do you enjoy doing when you’re not at HMS?

I dabble in writing, in part because people are often fascinated by my stories of childhood. My journey to writing followed a bumpy path. In third grade, I was told I was a horrible writer, but in college, my writing teacher said, “You’re a great storyteller. You need to write your story.” Very mixed messages. It’s amazing what damage, or good, a third-grade teacher can do. My confidence as a writer didn’t turn around completely until I was in my late 30s. That’s a long time to feel like you can’t do something. Now I feel I just need to own it, to allow my voice to be heard and to tell my story.

Images courtesy of MJ Grein.

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