In 2010, Anannya Das and her husband wanted to make changes in their lives and experience living on the West Coast. After working in the financial services industry, she moved to the Pacific Northwest to attend Atkinson Graduate School of Management with her husband, who attended Willamette Law School while Das completed her MBA. “I loved what Willamette had to offer—a smaller program and small student-to-teacher ratio.”
Looking to make a career change and pursue HR, Das credits Assistant Dean and Director of Career Management Beth Ursin and the career management team for helping her get her first internship. “Beth was instrumental in getting me my first human resources internship in between my first and second year. It kick-started my career and got me in touch with a lot of people in the HR community.” From her first internship, she’s quickly moved up in HR, working for a number of government roles before accepting a position at the not-for-profit Self Enhancement, Inc. (SEI), located in Portland, Oregon.
Expansion of HR at Self-Enhancement
Working in HR, Das has had a front row seat to seeing the rapid growth of Self Enhancement over the last 4 years. Self-Enhancement started in 1981 as just a one-week summer basketball camp. Today, they have over 150 full-time and 200 part-time employees, who work to provide mentoring and advocacy, after school and summer programming, a parent involvement program, post-high school mentoring, and community and family programs for underserved youths and their families. Despite now being a major player in the not-for-profit world in Portland, Das says it’s important they remain connected to the community via relationships. Despite automation of their recruiting process during her time at SEI, including the introduction of a Human Resource Information System (HRIS) in the last two years and increased online applications, Das works diligently to maintain a human connection in the recruiting process. “The one thing we want to do, even in this age of automation, is to keep the relationship with the people who apply. It’s not just a ‘oh, call this number,’ leave a message, or apply online without knowing what happens. We still want to keep the human relationship.”
While at SEI, Das has served in a number of roles, including as an HR Specialist, HR generalist, and now an HR manager. Part of every role she has held at SEI has included recruitment. What does she look for when hiring people to work for SEI? “What we think about in a nonprofit is not only whether you can do the work, but do you believe in the work, mission, and values of the organization? It’ll be hard to recruit others if you don’t believe in the mission.”
Future of Self-Enhancement
Not only has SEI seen growth in the number of staff, but it has also seen change in their offerings to the public. Das says they are looking forward to the remodel of their former charter school building. After a number of middle schools opened in Portland in the last five years, the not-for-profit closed its middle school in an effort to encourage kids to attend their local public school. Now, SEI is looking forward to creating a new community center with the space. The goal is to develop a site for community gatherings and become part of the Multnomah County library system. For Das, the community at SEI and by an extension, the greater area SEI serves, is the reason she enjoys the work she does.
“I love the people I work with. For the longest time, I always dreaded Sundays because it meant I had to go to work on Monday. But here, I’m surrounded by people I look up to and really respect.”