NIST - National Institute of Standards and Technology

04/20/2021 | News release | Distributed by Public on 04/20/2021 07:25

Ellen Garshick Retires from the Baldrige Program


It was a lucky day for the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program when Ellen Garshick joined the staff in 2007.

From her interviews, staff members saw that she was exceptionally talented. The long list of clients of her previous editorial work included prestigious organizations, and her publication samples demonstrated masterful skills. What also deeply impressed everyone from the start were her interpersonal skills. Such a mix of editorial expertise and social intelligence would have made her an asset for publications work in any organization. At BPEP, we recognized she would be an ideal fit for our collaborative work environment rooted in a structure of self-managed teams.

As Ellen settled into her job with the Baldrige program, coworkers from all functional areas were soon singing her praises. With humorous frequency during staff meetings, individuals offered kudos to Ellen for advancing projects in highly valuable, yet unforeseen ways. She developed a reputation not only for being generous in supporting wide-ranging work, but also for combining her brilliance with modesty to serve as a 'hidden hand' in the innovation of both publications and the work processes that produce them.

By 2013, Ellen had won BPEP's first Colleagues' Choice Award from our agency (NIST). This award's prestige derives from the unique requirement that the winner must have earned such a high level of peer admiration that coworkers as a group, independent of their supervisors, initiate and complete all paperwork to make the case for their nominee's selection. In Ellen's case, it was easy for BPEP colleagues to cite a multitude of reasons she deserved the award.

Not surprisingly, Ellen has earned other high honors from our agency during her tenure, including the 2017 Bronze Medal Award, which is the highest NIST medal for employees (silver and gold medals are awarded at the Department of Commerce level). Twice in recent years, Ellen also received NIST's George A. Uriano Award, which recognizes outstanding group work.

Ellen and Baldrige colleagues receive 2017 George A. Uriano Award.

Now, as Ellen's retirement approaches, her colleagues wish for her to enjoy investing more time in her hobbies and community service activities. Yet, frankly, some of us are simultaneously reluctant to let her go! She has become seemingly irreplaceable, despite leaving ample project documentation-and selflessly timing her long-planned departure to a point when her key projects can sustain a transition in staff.

So we are grateful to Ellen, even as we will greatly miss her. We know we've been very fortunate to have worked with her for nearly 14 years. We appreciate that her time and talents have made BPEP products and services better, and also, it seems, helped people work better together.

Now it's time to share Ellen's own words. Following are her answers to some questions we asked about her career and future plans.

What are your most memorable experiences from working in NIST's Baldrige Performance Excellence Program (BPEP) since 2007?

The first has to be the collaborative, self-managed team atmosphere at the program. Since the program is small and has a rotating set of big projects throughout the year, everyone needs to pitch in, and everyone does.

This cultural attribute is due in no small part to the leaders of the program since I arrived: first Harry Hertz and Jeff Lucas [BPEP's director emeritus and former deputy director, respectively], and then Bob Fangmeyer [BPEP director since 2013]. They made it clear that they valued collaborating with others and helping their projects succeed just as much as they valued success at individually 'owned' projects.

The second is learning, and eventually helping develop, the Baldrige Excellence Framework and leading the development of the Baldrige Cybersecurity Excellence Builder and Communities of Excellence Framework.

Ellen (second from left) and other members of BPEP's former Publications Management Team.

Starting out as a member of BPEP's editorial team definitely helped: one of my first tasks was proofing a new version of the framework booklet against an old one, word for word! There was no better way to learn that every word is important. I'm grateful to Bob Fangmeyer and Harry Hertz and for teaching me to see the big picture-that the audience/customer for the framework is all U.S. organizations-and to see the connections that hold the framework together.

I also enjoyed-and will miss-interactions with the many Baldrige community members who unselfishly help the program: the Board of Examiners, the Judges Panel, the Board of Overseers, Baldrige Award recipients, and many others.

Would you please share highlights of your previous work before you came to NIST?

My road to BPEP was long and winding. My first career was as a teacher of English as a second language and academic skills to international scholarship students coming to the United States to attend college. I was lucky enough to spend a year in Beijing, China (through Georgetown University and the UN Development Program), helping establish an English language program for Chinese scientists planning to go abroad for conferences or university study. From this experience, I learned how many U.S. cultural aspects I had been taking for granted and how hard it is to acclimate to a different culture.

In 1986, I began my second career: doing editorial work on a freelance basis to see if I could work part-time while caring for my children. From this, I learned the useful skill of multitasking! This experiment lasted for 21 years and many books and other publications. It was at that point that I was hired by BPEP.

What do you most look forward to in retirement?

The freedom to plan my own schedule, to travel, and to spend time on activities I enjoy, such as sewing and gardening. I'm also hoping to volunteer regularly.

Ellen made this quilt depicting the Baldrige framework 'burger' in 2013 as a gift for retiring director Harry Hertz.
Credit:Ellen Garshick

Readers: You are welcome to leave a comment below this blog to express good wishes for Ellen's retirement this month.