Jessaline Tuason is a UMD IO Master's program alum and a Senior Organizational Effectiveness Consultant at Unify Consulting.
How did you find out about the field of IO psychology?
I first found out about IO in undergrad at University of California, Merced, where I majored in Cognitive Science and took an IO psychology course. In that class we even got to help a local business with an organizational project, and my group helped a medical supply company digitize their client files, as well as interview their warehouse staff to determine if they could promote from within or if they needed to hire externally for a vacancy in management. It was a great early educational experience to see how what you're learning in the classroom can directly impact a community.
How did UMD's IO MPS prepare you for your current role?
I just started my new role! One thing that the UMD IO program helped me with was finding project work. After graduating, I was able to network with a lot of folks, and found that a combination of the awareness of the program and the program’s focus on application in a real world setting set me apart. In speaking with IOs that I've networked with, a lot of them have a very academic framework, and they use very academic-focused language. I worked in marketing and talent management before coming to the IO program, so I already knew a lot of business language. Being at Maryland felt like an easy transition for me, both into grad school and then back into the workforce. It has been interesting to talk with other IOs and see that they do not have that ease of language conversion. Having this language enables me to talk with business leaders who are not in IO, or people who are not Talent or HR experts, and get them to understand what is important, why we're doing what we're doing, and to say yes to a project.
How has your path changed since you first envisioned yourself in the role of an IOP?
When I was deciding to go to grad school, I envisioned myself as your typical applied IO practitioner. This looked like consulting with a lot of different companies, being an in-house IOP, or working within a traditional consulting firm. When I got to Maryland, there were questions that started popping up for me around what I wanted to do with the work. I was talking with Ken Yusko, who was my mentor at the time. My questions were, how can I advise individual employees, and help individual employees in their career paths? How do I advocate for and support them? He told me that this sounded more like coaching, mentoring, or counseling, and that I could pursue a certification outside of the IO program for coaching. I tucked this idea in the back of my mind and, now that I'm out of graduate school, this is something that I am actively pursuing. I recognize that I really care about this, and now that I'm back in the workforce, and especially during the pandemic, I see a lot of worker exploitation. A lot of people are finally talking about worker exploitation now. Prior to the pandemic, people didn't really talk the same way about worker exploitation, not in the big picture sense. There’s a unique window of opportunity here for me to launch a coaching business. I've also been considering going down a counseling route, but not anytime soon. That is definitely a pivot, and it’s not to say that I'm going to do that instead of traditional IO. I want to do that in tandem with IO, because I recognize that having an organizational lens into workplace problems can give individuals a unique perspective and unique support into how they work through their own individual challenges.
How is IO applied in your current role?
This role is heavy in change management, which I don’t think I could have done prior to completing the IO program. Organizational effectiveness is basically the New Wave language of change management, which I didn’t know about before going into IO. This program taught me the basics of change management, and how to utilize the frameworks in an applied setting. While I was in the program, I realized that, prior to starting graduate school, my role had actually been leading a change program. However, since it was a small company, nobody called my job by that name, and nobody called me a change leader or another title like that. I didn't know what any of that meant, and I would not have interviewed using the language of leading a change project.
What's a fun fact about you that no one would guess?
The thing that people wouldn't guess about me is that I take my cat, Hobbes, hiking and camping. His name is from the comic Calvin and Hobbes, since we go on adventures together. He’s been to 31 states! I am trying to make it my goal to hit all the national parks, and so far I've been to 47 or so. In 2013, I quit my job and did a seven month road trip on my own. I drove to 49 states. And the reason that it’s 49, and not 50, is that you can't drive to Hawaii. But I drove up to Alaska. The road through Canada is just beautiful, there's nothing like it. On that trip, I think I hit up 20 some parks.
What is the best piece of advice or feedback that you've ever received?
So, I'm half Filipino and half an amalgamation of white American culture. On my Filipino side, my grandpa, who passed away about six years ago, was always known for randomly saying these very profound things. He wouldn't ever explain himself, he would leave you to mull on it for a while. A quote from him has been with me a lot during the pandemic: Don't just do something, sit there. Which is the opposite of the saying, don't just sit there, do something. The whole idea is that you don't need to be doing something aimlessly, just to keep yourself busy or just to look like you're productive. You're meaningful just for existing, just for being yourself. You're a human being not a human doing. He was somebody who liked twisting words around for humor, so initially, I thought, oh, he’s just being funny. Then when you think about it more, there’s real meaning behind it.