This article appeared in the January/February 2015 edition of Public Citizen News.
For nearly 20 years, Deidra Bolden has been the first point of contact for Public Citizen’s visitors and callers. She’s the front-desk receptionist who also runs the switchboard at the organization’s Dupont Circle headquarters. Before coming to Public Citizen, for 10 years, she handled a 100-line switchboard at well-known Washington, D.C., department store Woodward and Lothrop/Jon Wanamaker’s before it closed down. A native of the city with an easy smile and calm demeanor, Bolden masters a position that has evolved over the years to include a variety of responsibilities.
Q: Tell us about the different hats you wear at Public Citizen.
BOLDEN: That’s the best part about my job! I get to contribute in so many different ways, doing little things that help the whole organization. I’m Public Citizen’s notary public. I also assist the facilities manager, support the shipping and accounting departments, maintain the busy schedule for our conference rooms and help out with events. Plus, the staff relies on me every day to keep track of who’s in, who’s out and when they’re coming back.
Q: How did working so many lines at Woodies prepare you to handle Public Citizen’s front desk?
BOLDEN: At Woody’s, I had to be familiar with the different departments and collect information from callers in order to connect them with the right group. So at Public Citizen, I went through the same process of getting to know the work groups.
Q: Even on an average day, our phones are constantly ringing, and sometimes you field calls from distressed consumers looking for help. What’s your secret to being a “smooth operator”?
BOLDEN: Heavy phone traffic doesn’t bother me. When it comes to the president and our directors, they’re always my priority. Believe it or not, a lot of the consumer calls I get are from people who just want someone to listen, so that’s what I do. Patience comes naturally to me, having been raised by three generations of kind women who taught me that sometimes people fuss, but when you listen, they calm down.
Q: How has working here influenced you?
BOLDEN: Public Citizen has taught me a lot that actually impacted my family life in the sense of taking better care of myself. I learned a lot about food and food safety from a former director, and it changed my eating habits overnight. I definitely learned about drug safety too.
Q: What do you do to make sure that people’s first impression of Public Citizen is a lasting impression?
BOLDEN: I always treat people the way I want to be treated, with respect and kindness. I greet everyone in the same polite way, with a warm smile and a helpful attitude. It must work, because I’m always surprised by how many people remember me by name, even after a long time and even if I don’t remember them.
Q: Tell us something people might not know about you.
BOLDEN: I have friends who have their own little business or want to start their own business, and sometimes on the weekend, I help them make their own business cards and fliers. It’s just giving back to those who don’t know how to do these things, and it feels good.