Tuesday, 16 February 2016 19:56

Sherry Powers Wins the 2015 Lyle Hanna Volunteer Spirit Award

Written by Cathy Fyock

Sherry Whitman

Cathy Fyock interviews Sherry Powers, the winner of the 2015 Lyle Hanna Volunteer Spirit Award, presented at the KYSHRM Conference. Powers is Vice President-HR and Customer Service at Bluegrass Cellular, headquartered in Elizabethtown and serves as ESHRM past president and KYSHRM Workforce Readiness Director.

Q: Sherry, can you tell us a little about your background in HR?

A: Although I held several leadership positions, I had an epiphany that it was time to return to school and finish my degree. Enrolling in the University of Louisville’s Organizational Training and Development degree program was perfect for me and simultaneously I began working as a corporate sales representative with Bluegrass Cellular to help pay my tuition. With my master’s degree in sight, I sent a letter to the president of Bluegrass Cellular detailing the benefits of me becoming the company’s first HR staff member. He took the time to listen, interview and hire me, and has been my mentor for the past twenty years.

Q: What volunteer roles have you held with SHRM? What roles are you holding now?

A: Since my company had offices across Kentucky, I needed to contribute beyond my geographical comfort zone, so I joined SKY SHRM and served as legislative chair and maintained their website. Shortly after I became involved with ESHRM, initially as treasurer, then as legislative chair, membership coordinator, president-elect and then president.

Currently I serve as the KYSHRM Workforce Readiness Director and in the ESHRM Past President role.

Q: What are the major contributions you have made that earned you the distinction of winning the Hanna Spirit Award?

A: Collaborating with great HR professionals within ESHRM and across the state. When I volunteered to serve as the KYSHRM Workforce Readiness Director I researched the responsibilities and realized opportunities that were ripe for the picking. The game plan to be successful in my new role was simple; how can HR professionals drive results in every organization regardless of size or industry? When we improve the workforce, we all win. ESHRM members and HR professionals across the state responded to the call to action by registering for the Kentucky Unbridled initiative, partnering with their local Kentucky Career Centers and connecting with high school work ethic certification programs. KYSHRM was also invited to represent workforce issues at the state’s HR ThinkTank and at the Kentucky Business Summit.

Q: What benefits have you received as a SHRM volunteer and member?

A: Membership in SHRM has been an investment in my growth and development. Being actively involved in SHRM propelled me forward personally and professionally through the friendships forged in mutual passion for improving the lives of others. Being empowered to make a difference has given me the confidence to share information, focus on worthwhile opportunities, and be an ambassador for my company within the HR network.

Q: What do you see as the biggest challenges facing HR professionals today?

A: By far the biggest challenge is developing leaders who can translate the company’s vision into actionable objectives which inspire and motivate employees. Success in this area can lead to happier employees, greater productivity, and being recognized as a “Best Place to Work.”

Q: What advice would you give to those who are just starting their careers in HR?

A: First, relationships matter and are crucial to your success and establishing your vision for the company. Second, as you acclimate to your organization and implement improvements, remember to measure your success.

Q: If someone wants to get involved as a HR volunteer leader, what advice would you give them?

A: Extend yourself beyond the call of duty. It’s not just a title. Do the research, stretch yourself, and you will achieve outstanding results for your chapter and employer whom enables you to take advantage of this opportunity.

Q: What do you do for fun outside your role as an HR leader and SHRM volunteer?

A: Immense joy is found in accomplishments in and outside of work. I find happiness in watching my favorite sci-fi series, spending quality time with my husband which usually means cheering our two boys while they play lacrosse and basketball, going to yard sales with my BFF, and being a foster mom.

Q: Have you had mentors or role models that have helped you in your career?

A: My dad worked at L&N Railroad for twenty-five years while my mom ran the family farm and I attribute my work ethic and “roll with the punches” attitude to them. In addition, my role models include fellow HR friends who have inspired me with their attitude and professionalism; most never knew the impact they had on me. My most influential role model is Ron Smith, whom I have worked with the over the past twenty years. His mentoring extends far beyond HR and into life lessons.

For more information about anything shared in this piece, please contact Sherry Powers at powers@bluegrasscellular.com.

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