In the matrix

In the popular “Matrix” movies, the main character is named Neo.  His name reflects the Greek prefix for “new” since he gets a new identity during the film.

At Pierce County we also have a “Neo” that reflects new people but ours is an acronym: NEO.  It stands for New Employee Orientation.

I spend time each Monday morning welcoming the newest employees to our County Team – including our “extra hires.”  It is a great way to start my week.

My favorite part is listening to their answers to three questions I ask each of our new “regular” colleagues:

  1. Where are you from?
  2. What were you doing before you came to Pierce County?
  3. Why did you decide to join Pierce County?

Their answers help me learn more about who is joining us in our work, and it also helps them learn more about each other.

In this week’s NEO session, we hosted 21 folks eager to start their careers at the County. As is normally the case, they come from many places with backgrounds that will make us more effective.  We had two people who came from Minnesota, two who previously worked for the Washington State Military Department, folks who came from local cities, and from retailers Trader Joe’s and Big Five.  We always have veterans or families of active-duty service members.  Additionally, the group reflected racial, gender and ethnic diversity.  It’s important that our workforce reflect the community we serve!

The third question is where the answers get fun. Over the years, the most common answer I hear is: “My mom told me it was a good place to work!” and the variants from dad, sister, uncle, best friend, etc.  I love it when personal references steer new colleagues our way.  The next most frequent answer?  “I want to serve the community where I live.”  After that, I hear a wide range of answers from a shorter commute to good benefits.

While the entire group was filled with outstanding individuals, I found two personal stories particularly compelling.

Azad Azadmanesh works in the Prosecutor’s Office. Until recently, he was an attorney in Afghanistan working to build a stronger future for his country with the “Rule of Law” project. When the Taliban took over, Azad had to flee, eventually coming to Pierce County via Pakistan and Qatar. While he is starting his career here as a legal assistant, I believe his background and work ethic will enable him to pass the Washington State Bar Exam and practice law.

Our newest Construction Project Manager in the Facilities Management Department also has a story with a connection to current international news.  Svyatoslav Sayenko, who goes by “Stan,” is originally from Ukraine.  He left his home country 30 years ago with a few stops before joining us. When I asked him how he happened to choose to come work with us, he mentioned he had attended this year’s Pierce County Prayer Breakfast where I gave the welcome.  Others at his table spoke highly of our work at the County, so he applied!

I have confidence that Azad, Stan and the nearly two dozen other new employees who joined us this week at NEO will help us be a stronger team to better serve our community – and make Pierce County a place all of us are proud to call home!

Thanks for reading,