Meet the #StateLineCrew #SHRM19 Bloggers – Introduction


Paul LaLonde – Mary Williams – Jeff Palkowski – Kyra Matkovich

How do four human resources professionals who had never met one another less than a year ago end up heading to the 2019 SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition as members of the #SHRM19 Blogger Team and more importantly, as great friends? It is still a whirlwind as we look back about how all this transpired over the past year, but here is our brief story.

Turn back the calendar to June, 2018…Other than some passing online interaction through social media, Kyra Matkovich, Mary Williams, Paul LaLonde, and I (Jeff Palkowski) each independently headed to the 2018 SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition in Chicago, Illinois having never met one another. While Kyra was a veteran annual conference attendee, for Mary, Paul and I, it would be our first SHRM annual conference. There were no specific plans to meet each other IRL (in real life), knowing that we would be just a mere four individuals among 20K+ attendees.

As it would turn out, I would meet Paul first on Sunday night, almost by accident (thanks to fellow #SHRM19Blogger Claire Petrie) in a Chicago pub; then Kyra at a 7am Monday morning session by Melanie Peacock; and then finally Mary at the SHRM #NextChat reception in the Blogger Lounge on Tuesday since Mary was a member of the #SHRM18 Blogger Team. We all connected together one last time at our final session of the conference presented by Steve Browne and then each left the conference headed our separate ways home.


Fast forward to one year later, Kyra and her family decided to relocate from Colorado to Wisconsin and she and I now work in the same city and also serve together as board members on the Wisconsin SHRM State Council. Eventually, we all found the opportunity to connect and meet with Mary, Paul, and several other SHRM members located in Southern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois and an informal group that we have appropriately dubbed the #StateLineCrew was born. Now, in June 2019, these four former strangers will now head out to Las Vegas together to represent the #StateLineCrew as supportive colleagues, close friends and all members of the #SHRM19Blogger Team!

Much like our unplanned interactions at #SHRM18, the #StateLineCrew also was created almost by chance. As I recall, as Mary, Paul and I realized that we all lived within a few hours from each other, we thought it would be great to connect at some point to continue our networking in person after the conference. Later that summer, I sent out a random tweet just to see who might be interested in an informal meetup and eventually, a date and location was set.


For our first “official” #StateLineCrew meetup in September, 2018 Alyssa Hernandez from Wisconsin and Rhonda Owens from Illinois joined Mary, Paul and I for a brewery tour and lunch in Milwaukee. From these humble beginnings since that first meetup, the #StateLineCrew has convened nearly every other month at locations in either Wisconsin or Illinois. Several more SHRM friends have joined us along the way (Callie Zipple, Marianne Stiemle, John Jorgenson, Erich Kurschat) and we continue to welcome anyone who wants to network and support each other as HR pros and friends on a Saturday afternoon.

If there was any lesson that I think that we all learned from this journey it is that if we choose to connect, share, and support each other, and if it is done “on purpose”, our human nature will drive us to make the time and find positive ways to do so. I’m sure that the #StateLineCrew concept is not unique and one that we hope to hear about from other areas. Remember, our #StateLineCrew started with a simple tweet.

StateLIneCrewPicCollageBe sure to check back as we highlight each of our four #StateLineCrew #SHRM19Blogger Team members in upcoming posts!

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