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Oct 15, 2022

Q&A with Sarah Shanks–our new Finance and Operations Director

From landing her first job out of college as the national campus organizer for Feminist Majority Foundation in Washington D.C. to working for NPR as their HR and finance administrator, Sarah Shanks has the kind of experience that only a well-seasoned human resources professional might, and it makes her the perfect fit for her role as the Finance and Operations Director at Bellweather Agency. Welcome, Sarah!

What was that like, working for the Feminist Majority Foundation as the national campus organizer right out of college?

It was so exciting to work in D.C. with a huge feminist non-profit, especially for a small-town North Carolina girl like me. I had done a lot of student organizing in college, helping other people open groups on campus, helping them to figure out how they can address issues in their communities. As the national campus organizer, I participated in large-scale protests at the Capitol or Supreme Court and I met these amazing leaders in social justice. All the things I am good at–talking to people, empathy, all of my human resources skills–come from organizing and talking to women who are having a tough time. 

HR has been one of the most deeply affected departments in recent years. How do you define empathetic HR? And how does empathetic HR change the way we work? 

Empathetic HR is the intentional understanding of a worker’s point of view as well as the ability to advocate for that worker when needed. Historically, HR has been in place to protect the company or to steward paperwork. However, we have learned from contemporary events such as The Great Resignation that employees demand more of their workplace. HR is that unique opportunity to bolster a culture of inclusivity and open communication, and I believe more employers are catching on to this potential. Bellweather is ahead of the curve in terms of work culture. The leaders have already instituted some great policies such as unlimited PTO, summer Fridays, schedule flexibility, and more. The great work we get to do now is really continue to implement and institute these valuable pieces of work culture as our team continues to grow!

What is a professional achievement that you are particularly proud of? 

In 2011 I organized and helped to lead a campaign against a Personhood Amendment in Mississippi. This law would have given “personhood” (human rights) to unborn beings at the moment of conception. This law would have had devastating effects on reproductive health in the state. We (Mississippians and those who came in to help) won that campaign and shut down this potential law. I was only 23 years old at the time, so it was an invigorating start to my career. 

What has it been like for you, working strictly from home?  

We bought a house in Charlotte, North Carolina, midway through the first year of the pandemic. Like most people, our home became so many more things. Our guest room is also my office. I have five pets: two dogs (Sasquatch and Yuya), two cats (Doug and Parsnip), and a snake (Severus). So, it has been very nice to be at home, to see and take care of them. However, I thought they missed me all day and looked out the window. They don’t! They sleep all day! 

On Commuting . . . . 

I don’t love driving, so I feel like I have added years to my life by not having to drive to work each day. 

Fun Fact: 

I helped to open New York’s first cat cafe called Meow Parlour (located on the Lower East Side), so I’ve spent a lot of time with rescue cats. It’s a bakery too! 

What brought you to Bellweather? 

I saw Bellweather as an agency that’s a step ahead of a lot of organizations.

When I learned that Bellweather was looking for a finance/operations person to aid them as they grow, I knew I could help them to create a work/life balance and dig deeper with regards to inclusion. It was exciting to come to Bellweather as an HR person and be like, ok we’re diverse, what’s next? With the support of leadership, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to dig deeper with regards to culture and inclusion. As the team continues to grow, I am excited to continue Bellweather’s work on remote engagement, career pathing, building out more perks and benefits, DEI training, professional development, and more.

Speed Round . . . .

Books on Your Nightstand: The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, by Eckhart Tollee; The Water Dancer, by Ta-Nehisi Coates 

Favorite show(s) to Binge Watch: The Office, The Bear, Severance 

Daily Rituals: Coffee and meditation

Favorite Food: Mexican street food

Talent acquired during the pandemic: I can fry a mean egg!

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