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  • Mollie Lombardi

Back to the Future: HR Tech and Brain Surgery

Updated: Aug 15, 2019


The HR Technology Conference and Expo is, arguably, one of the most important weeks of the year for HR technology companies, and the surrounding ecosystem of analysts, bloggers, influencers, marketers and partners. I have attended for 10 years, and not only has it been a significant event in my professional life, but it has also been a touchstone in my journey with Parkinson’s. This year is no different.  


I was initially diagnosed with Parkinson’s on September 23, 2013. Less than three weeks later I was on my way to HR Tech. I hadn’t disclosed my illness yet—I think only three people at the entire show knew—but people had started to notice something was “up” with me: slowness, back pain, not being myself. Although I wasn’t ready to disclose then, I happened to have a life-changing conversation that year. I was having a drink with my good friend Teresa, and she mentioned someone named Mike whom she had met earlier that day, who was an executive at a talent acquisition firm. A colleague of Mike’s was sitting with us and Teresa said to him, “He was so cool and so smart. But is he okay? I saw him walking down the hallway later, and he was moving really slowly.” Mike’s colleague replied, “Oh, yeah, he has Parkinson’s.” I was immediately interested, but tried to play it cool as I fired off questions. But by the end of the night, even though I still hadn’t told anyone in my professional life about my illness, I had found a source of inspiration. Someone young, in my business, many years into his diagnosis, still working, still showing up at HR Tech. Maybe I would be okay.


By the time HR Tech 2015 rolled around, I was totally immersed in the Parkinson’s community and had also become an active member of Team Fox, supporting the Michael J. Fox Foundation. As it so happened, that year the conference opened on October 21, 2015—the same day Marty McFly came “Back to the Future” in the hugely popular 80’s and 90’s movie trilogy. Groups all over the world took advantage of that date to organize big fundraising initiatives for the MJFF. Along with [my] Mike, who had since become a good friend, Teresa, the good folks at LRP who produce the HR Technology Conference, and the support of Jeanne Achille of Devon PR to help us get the word out, we launched “HR Gives Back to a Future Without Parkinson’s.” Over the next four years we raised over $120,000 from our HR community for the MJFF. To achieve that goal, sponsors have hosted cocktail parties and bowling parties, given out tee-shirts, run countless “Miles with Mollie,” walked, biked, tweeted and blogged, to share our mission of ending Parkinson’s disease.


This year, things will be a little different for me. I will be at the conference, but three days after I return home I will be undergoing DBS (Deep Brain Stimulation) implant surgery. (Oh, and I’ll be bald, too, but more about that later.) I did have options to select the date for surgery, and some people may think me a bit nuts for waiting until after HR Tech. But it felt like the right decision for me. I feel honored to be a part of this amazing community. I have formed deep friendships and client relationships at HR Tech. And I want to ensure that I’m ready to face the changes and developments in our industry with the rest of you. I have been very transparent with my professional community about my PD. And I’m very insistent with my PD that it will not stop me from having an amazing career and doing work I love.


So.  We have nine weeks until HR Tech. And I have ten weeks until they drill into my skull and implant electrodes that will help me vastly reduce my intake of medications, and hopefully result in less challenging side effects. I don’t know exactly what life will be like after all that is done. But I do know I want to spend the next nine weeks preparing for what’s next—because I’m lucky to be moving toward a “next.” So stay tuned to the mollielombardi.com blog for updates on my research focus and plans for m.Research for 2020. And stay tuned to unshakableoptimist.com for updates on my PD journey and fundraising efforts. I can’t wait to continue to share this amazing journey in HR technology and Parkinson’s with you all.


**Note: This blog originally appeared on mollielombardi.com

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© 2019 by Mollie Lombardi