California native Alexandra Styles didn't think twice when a job opportunity presented itself nine years ago in Virginia. She left the Golden State to become a star in the world of HR.
People don't normally leave California to pursue careers in Virginia. It's usually the other way around, with aspiring actors leaving their small towns to chase dreams of stardom in Hollywood.
Born and raised in California, Alexandra Styles did want to be famous, and at a young age she believed that either acting or working as a trial lawyer would grant her the best chance at achieving stardom. But she eventually realized that she didn't want to perform in front of people — whether in front of a camera or in a courtroom.
That's why Styles didn't think twice when a job opportunity presented itself nine years ago in Virginia. She left the Golden State to become a star in the world of HR.
While her colleagues may not be asking for her autograph, they certainly appreciate her one-woman show as the HR payroll manager for Door Pro America, a garage door service organization with eight locations across Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey and New York. Alexandra Styles, who goes by her nickname, "Alex," does it all: human relations, payroll, recruiting, hiring, safety instruction, fleet management and whatever else the job requires.
"I'm all alone," says Styles, "but I work better by myself. I can still interact with people, though. And I keep aware of everything going on in the company."
Styles oversees the pay, benefits and HR needs of as many as 160 employees — the number fluctuates with the seasons and workflow. She works in Door Pro America's corporate office in Gainesville, Virginia and loves her 10-minute commute from home. It surely beats the 45-minute commute for her first job in Virginia at TC Associates, a government contracting company where she was a senior payroll specialist. But she remembers that job less for its long commute and more for what it gave her: a close-up view of payroll and HR.
Before that job, Styles was attending a junior college in California, studying English and still contemplating a career in law. She ultimately decided to change her career path out of consideration for the state of business in the late 2000s. "The economy in California was terrible then," says Styles. "For me, finding a job was challenging. There were better opportunities in Virginia, and my dad lived there."
Her father recommended applying for a position at TC Associates, where Styles first served as an intern from 2009 to 2011 while attending college in the area. There, she got her first taste of payroll, which prompted her to make a big decision: She quit college and started working full-time. "Payroll was interesting and outside of the box. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would," she recalls. "I liked learning, but I didn't like sitting in a classroom."
Styles' duties at TC Associates opened her eyes to the importance of payroll in business. She notes how the complexity of the work was a rewarding challenge: "When I was there, I was managing 200 to 250 contractors across many states. Nothing was the same."
She eventually shifted into the position of senior payroll specialist, which she held at TC Associates for nearly five years before joining Door Pro America in 2016. The biggest hurdle of the new job was learning the many intricacies of HR, but once again, she viewed the challenge as an opportunity to shine.
"Payroll is still my favorite," she says. "There's always new stuff to learn, and you have to figure out how to incorporate it into what you already have to do. But I like that; it keeps you on your toes."
When Styles isn't being kept on her toes at work, she visits wineries "a lot," she says with a half-chuckle. She also makes arts and crafts out of wood. To relax, she watches movies or reads. "I go through phases," she says of her reading habits. "I sometimes go through 20 books a month, or if I'm busy, nothing." She's big on Netflix and enjoys Disney's live-action movies and Marvel's superhero flicks.
She may have parted from her desire to be a California movie star years ago, but no matter where she's lived since, Styles hasn't lost her attachment to her home state. "I still feel like a Californian," she says. "It's such a big culture there — you can't escape it."
SIGN UP FOR THE SPARK NEWSLETTER