As the director of human resources and administration at Public Citizen for the past four years, Sherry Joseph is one of the first people to greet new employees to the organization. At Public Citizen, Sherry administers all human resources needs and works to ensure that Public Citizen’s offices are operating effectively and efficiently. Originally from Maryland, Sherry has called Washington, D.C., home for the past 25 years. She got her start in the human resources field 20 years ago as an administrative assistant and worked her way up to leading the human resources team at Public Citizen. Some of her favorite places in Washington, D.C., include Anacostia Park, U Street and Eastern Market. In her free time, Joseph enjoys knitting, reading, scrapbooking, visiting museums and attending wine festivals and live concerts.
Q: Were you always interested in human resources, or was it something you found your way to through other work?
Joseph: Human resources has always been a part of my duties, whether I was working an administrative assistant, regional coordinator or business manager. I’ve worked for nonprofits, including Worker Rights Consortium and Community Multi-Services, private companies, including Hyatt and Davita, and for the U.S. government. Once I started doing human resources at a higher level, I decided to go to graduate school; I received my master’s degree in human resource management from Catholic University in 2011.
Q: What are the rhythms of your days?
Joseph: There are no typical days for me. Whatever I plan for the day always changes. However, on most days, I work on benefits, onboard new employees, address employees’ concerns and attend to building issues.
Q: What’s your favorite part of your job?
Joseph: My favorite part of the job is interacting with employees—seeing them grow and develop professionally. I enjoy employee relations, coaching and mentoring.
Q: You have worked in human resources for 15 years in various settings, from nonprofits to corporate to union environments. Which environment have you found most satisfying and enriching?
Joseph: All my past jobs have been in union environments, but the nonprofit environment has been the most rewarding because the work makes me feel good morally and fits in with my values. I feel like what I am doing matters; although I am not out organizing, lobbying or working as a field director, it is my role to make sure we are recruiting and hiring talented employees to fill those roles. We are a very talented organization.
Q: You were integral in helping staff transition back to work after a fire broke out in the building housing one of our offices, displacing staff for several weeks in 2016. Can you describe what that process was like? And in general, how do you manage to keep a cool head under destabilizing circumstances?
Joseph: My administrative team was very helpful during this time. I could not have done it by myself. We worked as a team. Everyone—from our building managers Casey O’Rourke and Kevin Rice to administrative assistants Deidra Bolden and Benita May—worked hard to make sure we could accommodate our employees’ needs, from available office space to office supplies and equipment, each day.
In human resources, you are always pulled in many different directions. I am even-keeled in destabilizing circumstances because I don’t take things personally. I understand people’s frustrations and I work with the situation at hand instead of avoiding situations.
Q: If Public Citizen ever holds an all-staff retreat and you could make it happen anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Joseph: I would have to say Hawaii for no particular reason except that it looks tranquil and peaceful. Public Citizen’s employees work really hard. However, it would be nice to see my fellow co-workers in a wound down state and relaxed.