Sarah Sherer (she/her), Chief Human Resources Officer for University of Utah Hospitals & Clinics, is our spotlight for October 2022. With a decade and a half at the University of Utah, Sarah has been an integral component of our organization’s growth and the support of the people that make up University of Utah Health.
Tell us a little bit about yourself:
I love the outdoors, traveling, and experiencing other cultures.
I have had the opportunity to work in HR for over 20 years in many different capacities. Being in Human Resources, our reason or why we exist is how we support our humans that work in an organization, so you'll always hear me say people first. Without the teams and humans that choose to work here, we can't do the good work. And I think that it fits in so well within an equity, diversity, and inclusion space because HR is the gateway to the organization and it's permeating throughout--we're doing the hiring, we partner through coaching and development, we're looking at infrastructure and the basic needs and support of individuals. So, it fits very well because we talk about culture, we talk about inclusivity; those are our core values as a division, and how we can permeate that throughout the organization is our top strategy.
What is your vision for University of Utah Health?
A place where our team, patients, and community feels belonging and safe and has the ability to pursue their passions and purpose.
Why did you want and choose to take this role?
I've been here 15 years. I started my career at another Healthcare system and then, I went to the private sector. I really missed having that connection or purpose to a mission of caring for patients and community. I was hired by the University of Utah, and when the HRs separated in 2009, I was part of the team that worked to develop the HR team we have today.
Our colleagues are the core of what we do. People-first strategies are incredibly important, and there are so many opportunities for us to do better in supporting our team members. We have the ability to examine current infrastructures within HR and make long-lasting impacting change with people at the forefront of that.
The fact that HR is at the table and can make these changes, I'm very fortunate that I have the ability with my team to look at things and actually make change happen. I think sometimes it can be frustrating where you have all these great ambitions, but you don't have the autonomy or the ability or the privilege to even get to do those changes; so I find myself in a fortunate seat. I'm deeply committed to this work and helping to champion that change alongside the executive leadership team.
The reason why I like healthcare is I like being behind the scenes and supporting those that are doing clinical care for our community. You can do HR anywhere, but I like having that connect to purpose with a mission that is supporting community.
Sometimes folks look at equity, diversity, and inclusion-focused careers and work as not being enough to prepare for other leadership roles outside of equity, diversity, and inclusion departments. How do you feel this work does or can help benefit and advance your career as well as your close collaborators and partners?
This work absolutely prepares any individual for any role! This work provides such a unique skill set that is a critical foundation for future roles within leadership and outside of leadership.
I think there's this opportunity where individuals have been able to glean a lot of different perspectives so they can see the world from a lot of different vantage points. When you think about leadership, or you think about opportunities that are even "non-leadership", having that skillset really sets you apart because you're able to be a little bit more strategic, and you can think of things at different facets where other people might only be on one track. It can't be, "Just because we've always done it, this is the way we're going to do it."
I think that's important as we're in this whole new phase of the world—innovation is going to be a catalyst, how we do things is changing, people are getting their out loud voices which is fantastic, and we have to think about those things. They're hearing where people are hurt, they're hearing where these barriers have stifled other humans, and so now they can actually go in and change that in many different professional scopes, not just within an equity, diversity, and inclusion realm.
Learning to support work/life initiatives from so many different vantage points fosters cohesive cultures and leads to psychological safety. This, in turn, allows for a team to be more innovative, and supportive, and living that "people-first" perspective.
What is your "why"?
My "why" is if I'm going to truly say “people first strategies”, then we have to examine how we handle equity for all people. At the end of the day, I want people to connect to a purpose that drives them, but I also am very team-centered so I always want to make sure that there's the feeling that you do belong, there is inclusivity, and we should all be one team lifting each other up. If we're not, then we have to pivot and say, “So why are we not doing that for another person?”
We can do really great things when we're united, so we should really be working hard towards that. I think about our health care colleagues who go under either physical or verbal abuse on the daily—I literally see that every day—and these people are so selfless and giving and still deal with that. For me and others, we want to make a change where they can truly deliver their skills in a safe environment because that's what their passion is, and they should be able to do that safely. That's my "why."
Fun Facts to Know About Sarah
- Favorite Color: Red
- Favorite quote or piece of advice: Mistakes are going to happen in life, it is up to us in how we learn and handle them that shape the future.
- Current favorite or most recently binged show: Some of my favorites are Ted Lasso, Schitt’s Creek, and Severance
- Most used emoji: 😂
- Food or drink you couldn’t live without: Cheese
- Something you'd like to cross off your bucket list: Visiting Scotland
- Favorite class in school (any level of schooling): History- I love to learn from the past, understand human behaviors, and see how we can make the future a better place.
- What is your “get energized” or “feel good” song? Anything from AC/DC, Pearl Jam, alternative rock, or the 80’s