Perhaps no other staff member at the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE) interacts with more of the School’s faculty and staff than does Lisa Cox.
Cox, in her role as ISyE’s human resources administrative manager, is responsible for all staff and faculty human resources issues, including recruiting and hiring, immigration, and employee relations. She also handles the hiring of postdoctoral fellows, temporary researchers, the hiring packages for academic and research faculty, and coordinates the visiting scholar process. And then there are her daily interactions with the faculty and staff who drop by her office to ask a quick question about, say, benefits or workplace-related concerns.
These are responsibilities she takes seriously, and in acknowledgment of her hard work, Cox was recently honored with the Georgia Tech College of Engineering (COE) Culture Champion Award at the COE Staff Engagement Day. The award is given to a staff member who advocates for a positive and productive culture, works to support and develop successful cultural practices, and strives to make a difference.
“I am delighted that Lisa has been given the COE Culture Champion Award,” said ISyE School Chair Edwin Romeijn. “We all know how much Lisa does for ISyE, not only as an excellent HR manager, but also as a leader in building a very collegial, supportive, and inclusive environment in the School. We are lucky to have her as a member of the ISyE family. Congratulations to her on this important and well-deserved recognition.”
Cox’s colleagues clearly concur. While the award nomination process is confidential, Dean Steve McLaughlin shared some of the nominators’ praise for Cox’s work at the college-wide event before announcing her as the recipient.
“This year’s winner has been described as a person with a can-do spirit; a hard worker; someone who keeps an even temperament even when frustrated; who looks not only for the quick resolution to problems but the right resolution; who is willing to step in no matter what the job,” McLaughlin said. “Not only were they cited as being efficient and effective, but as one nominator wrote, ‘They have been an important contributor to a revived culture.’
“They were singled out for their love of people and the fact they try to lift the spirits of those around them. Helpful, accommodating, and committed to delivering a high level of service to anyone who may need it were among the attributes listed.”
We had the opportunity to sit down with Cox to ask about her 32 years at Georgia Tech, what a typical work day looks like for her, and what motivates her to take care of the ISyE family.
Give us a brief overview of your career at Georgia Tech.
I started at Tech in March 1989, when I was hired as the receptionist for the Alumni Association. After several different roles there, I moved over to the Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience as an administrative support person. From there, I went to the College of Engineering, where I served as the executive assistant to Dean Don Giddons, until he retired. I then went to the School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering (ChBE), serving as the chair’s assistant for Cecil J. “Pete” Silas Chair and Professor Ronald Rousseau. About a year into my ChBE role, Jane Ammons, who was the ISyE school chair at that time, asked me if I was interested in applying for the executive assistant position her office had available, which is how I ultimately ended up at ISyE. And then I moved into the role of ISyE’s HR administrative manager, which I’ve held for five years.
What made you want to move into your current position?
HR is really all about people. It’s about building relationships. So when I was considering this position, I realized that it would be a unique opportunity to work more closely with people on both a personal and a professional level. I’m also passionate about the administrative and organizational process side of things.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I usually have a plan for my day. Typically, it revolves around posting jobs, hiring folks, getting people on payroll and into the Georgia Tech system – just trying to get my to-do list completed. In addition, people drop in numerous times throughout the day to ask questions about policies or procedures or benefits, so there’s a lot of back-and-forth with tasks.
What is the biggest challenge you face in this role?
Communication. I have to make sure I’m giving the right information to the faculty and staff, and help people understand policies and procedures in a non-technical way, particularly if there’s a policy change, like the new $100 surcharge for insuring a spouse who is able to get insurance outside Georgia Tech. [laughing] I always tell people, “Don’t shoot the messenger!”
You have said you hope to remain in this position until you retire. What are some goals you’d like to accomplish while you’re still here?
With Georgia Tech moving over to OneUSG, there’s going to be many opportunities to learn and help people transition to the new system. I want to be an expert on OneUSG, as well as on the new hiring system that managers are being asked to learn.
I also would like to see increased staff engagement at ISyE. That includes more interaction with Professor Romeijn and more interaction between the staff and the faculty. In addition, half of the COE award’s prize money goes to ISyE so we can have a staff engagement activity, and I’m really looking forward to making something special happen out of that fund.
One last question: You’ve been at Tech for many years. What keeps you motivated to be so friendly and engaged with the ISyE faculty and staff?
Without question, it’s relationships. I truly enjoy the people I work with and being able to help someone makes my day. If I know I’ve helped somebody, I’ve done my job.
H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering