Education is an ongoing theme in Celeste Blodgett’s life. It’s also one she wants to make sure is an opportunity that other people get, especially women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
Blodgett, a 2015 Master of Science in Human Resources (MSHR) graduate of Brandman, is the vice president of Human Resources, Learning and Development, and Knowledge Base for the internet security company ESET, based in San Diego.
Thanks to her efforts at ESET, the company created an educational Premier Partnership with Brandman University.
Blodgett’s route to her human resources role isn’t the most obvious one. Her first career was as an elementary school teacher. “I loved the kids,” she said.
She also liked introducing new technology to the classroom. When her husband’s career led to a move to Bloomington, Illinois, Blodgett switched from being a teacher to supervising student teachers at Illinois State University. Subsequent moves took her to Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, and then San Diego. Along the way, she began working as an adjunct faculty member for Chapman University College, which became Brandman in 2009, and other universities with student teacher programs, including University of San Diego and Concordia University.
But when the need for student teachers shifted with the recession and the demand for adjunct faculty members in education declined, Blodgett was again looking for a career change. Rita Pertzborn, who knew Blodgett from her Chapman days but had become chief of staff at ESET, told her the company loved hiring teachers and recommended Blodgett for a human resources position. She began as an HR generalist, then manager, then executive director and, since 2012, vice president.
“I loved being able to offer scholarships to students,” she said, adding that the initial round of scholarships was very generous and attracted a lot of attention from ESET employees. So many were interested that the university was able to form a cohort of MBA students. In the process of investigating the MBA program for ESET employees, Blodgett decided it was time to get a second master’s degree, this time in human resources.
Not just any program
Blodgett applies the same rigorous standards to everyone’s education that she did to forming the partnership with Brandman for ESET employees. A self-described perfectionist, she screened who could qualify from her company for the scholarships because she wanted to maintain high credibility.
“Our employees should have to work for that (the scholarships). The company is matching and support. I’m not going to throw the company’s money away. I want to make sure people are taking this program seriously. It needs to be super important to them. I want it to be that within the company and within the program at Brandman,” she said.
She took the same approach to the classes she took. “I had some really great professors and that makes a difference – professors with tenure in companies and academic degrees,” she says. She was also impressed with the HR professionals she met through her online classes, eventually opting to finish her degree that way rather than at the San Diego campus.
Getting another master’s degree was important for Blodgett because “credibility is everything in the workplace. I’m a female in technology. For a long time, I was the only woman on the executive team. Having that (the MSHR) on my bio gives me more credibility to talk about the things I’m talking about.”
She also said it’s important to encourage other women to continue their educations. She formed a women’s leadership group at her company because she found her own climb up the executive ladder lonely and wants to make it less so for others. “I have a motto. We’re not here to bash men. We’re here to see how we can collaborate and support each other.”
She’s been instrumental in having ESET sponsor the Women in Blue Luncheon, honoring female law enforcement officers, and in creating a national scholarship aimed at supporting women in STEM fields, in the hopes of attracting more women to the business of cybersecurity.
“We’re known for protecting people when they’re online. We’ve been in business for 30 years and have some of the brightest minds,” said Blodgett about ESET. “Having a dynamic and diverse workforce has powered our innovation.”