9 1/2 Questions - A Conversation with Cindy Rubino By: Thomas ZamiaraAIFA®

Confero Magazine: What has attracted you to work in human resources? 
Cindy Rubino: Well, actually what attracted me was working on our 401(k); it’s what drove me to go the HR route. I really enjoy working with employee benefits and working on the 401(k) was my first real exposure to employee benefits. I just really enjoyed working with the plan, the administration of the plan, and plan design—I just really enjoyed all that. 

CM: What has your career path looked like up to this point?
CR: I went to school, undergrad for accounting, and I started working in a big six accounting firm and discovered very quickly that public accounting was not for me. I went into the private sector and I worked in various accounting roles: I worked at an investment firm, I worked in a private accounting firm, I worked for IBM, Readers Digest and then I landed here [Contractors Register] as a supervisor; it was my first supervisory role in accounting. During the course of that , I did get a masters degree in Internet Business Systems. Unfortunately, I graduated right around the time when the bubble burst so I never was able to use the degree for much, until I came here. That degree helped me when I was looking for HIS and I was able to be a part of that team when we were looking for an HR system. I always was trying to get out of accounting, so when I came here and I had the exposure with 401(k), I thought that employee benefits and HR would be a good transition. Plus, with my accounting background it helps with budgeting; I can look at benefits from a financial perspective as well.

CM: I envision the human resource department with two doors: the hiring door and the firing door. How do you balance my ‘good-guy’/’bad guy’ view of the role of HR? 
CR: Well, you want to be an advocate for employees, but you also have to keep the best interests of the company at heart. So, you try to work with people as much as you can and help them overcome their challenges if they are having performance issues. ... People always want you to take their side when they come to you and sometimes you do have to deliver a bad message to them—you can’t always tell them what they want to hear. And it’s tough, you know, you get a lot of pushback from people and especially with administering the medical plan, there’s stuff that’s not covered and people want it covered and they don’t understand why they are getting this bill—well it’s not covered on our plan.

CM: Regulations aside, how do you stay current and pumped up on all things HR? 

CR: Oh yeah, absolutely. Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is a huge resource and I try to stay on top of, they have local events. Because my focus is predominately employee benefits, I am pursuing the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist (CEBS) designation. So, I’m working on the retirement piece of that. I’ve become a member of the NY Metro Chapter of the International Society of Certified Employee Benefit Specialists. I have been to some really great programs they’ve had in Manhattan to help you stay on top of health care reform, in particular, is huge and their events have been really, really great — I always comeback recharged from those, even the online courses I take. I’ll get a lot of department of labor invitations and there are a lot of webinars I try to take too. 

CM: Do you use social media in your job? 
CR: Yeah, I do. LinkedIn is huge with forums for HR. There are a lot of HR groups/forums out on LinkedIn that I am a member of. This month has been hard, because of open enrollment. It’s been a very busy time so I haven’t been out on social media in a few weeks, but I always try to stay current with all the groups that I am a member of such as discussion forums, the EBS, The Foundation of Employee Benefits Specialists, they have something called Listserves that you can go out and pose a question and you can see if people respond with little answers and stuff and that’s helpful, it’s been helpful. But yeah, social media is definitely huge. 

CM: There was an article in Forbes this past July (by Julie Connor, contributor) which talked about a survey that was conducted which revealed the amount of time employees spend during the day on non-work activities; specifically it noted that 64% of employees visit non-work related websites every day at work. It also revealed that Facebook was the one website that 41% of the respondents said was their preferred “off task” destination. While organizations endeavor to trust their employees to be responsible – this stuff goes on everyday. How do you deal with this? 
CR: Well, I think social media has definitely hit productivity, but here employees can’t get onto social media sites—most sites are blocked. There’s very few sites that they can get on outside of our network, but it doesn’t stop them from using their smart phones though. We rely on our managers and supervisors to monitor that. We haven’t really had a problem that I am aware of; I know that there have been a couple people who have been spoken to about usage of smart phones and surfing the web while they are at their desk, but I don’t think here that’s a huge problem because of the filtering.

CM: What aspect of your job, if it was your only task that day, would keep you from getting out of bed in the morning? 
CR: Oh my gosh, open enrollment. We do it manually, we have a paper enrollment. We’re hoping to change that next year; maybe it won’t be so labor intensive. Yeah, I would have to say that’s my most challenging, most dreaded.

CM: What aspect of your job, if it was your only task that day, would makes you look forward to the day? 
CR: When we have our quarterly 401(k)meetings. I love 401(k). 401(k) is my favorite benefit.

CM: What does Cindy’s job look like 10 years from now? 
CR: 10 years from now, it will definitely be more automated. There will be less manual processes involved, especially with open enrollment. We’d like to have more integration between our HIS and our carrier sites. My biggest goal is just automation. You know, get rid of the manual processes. If you automate, it gives you more time to devote to employee relations and handling inquiries and plan design and even strategy and trying to come up with strategy for 5 years and healthcare reform and all that other stuff. It’s a good thing, I welcome automation.

CM: Question 9 ½: Have you had a chance during this conversation to check out my wall of Facebook? 
CR: No, would you like me to?

Thomas F. Zamiara

Founding partner of Westminster Consulting, Tom serves corporate, non-profit and foundation clients.

An avid sports enthusiast and fan at his sons’ sports events, Tom is a longtime fan of the University of Notre Dame. Tom has been associated with St. Peter’s Soup Kitchen in Rochester, NY for decades...

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