People and Operations Director

National Team 443-275-8605 elle.smiley@50can.org

Elle is, at her core, a people person – she loves all things culture, hospitality and collaboration. She started her career as a teacher in DC public schools, and later fell into human resources. She’s worked primarily as a recruiter, bringing folks into a new company and helping them through the life-changing process of finding a new job. Now that she’s at 50CAN, Elle is thrilled to be able to support those inside the organization and ensure they have a great place to work.

Elle lives with her four-footed child named Fika (pronounced Fee-kah). The two of them enjoy hiking, creating an indoor urban jungle in her apartment and nerding out about superheroes.

I aspire to be like bell hooks. Here’s why:

bell hooks is a scholar and activist who deeply shaped my personal dedication to intersectional education. I studied her theories in college and bell hooks was the theorist who inspired me the most. Her writing is about how to be intersectional, how to ensure that learning material is actually accessible to others, and ultimately, that accessibility to education was a core tenet of creating a more just society. Though I’m not in a classroom anymore, I carry the idea of accessibility through all my work and it affects much of my approach to HR.

Why I love my job:

Being the People and Operations Director means that I get to create a safe, positive culture for the people who make 50CAN’s mission happen every day. Whether that’s setting up email accounts, ensuring that people have needed supplies or sending out reminders to enroll in benefits, I feel fulfilled knowing that I can help take care of others.

My connection to public schools:

As a kid, public school was a home away from home for me. It’s where I felt safe, where I got to try new things and where I was allowed to fail and then recover. School is also where I discovered that I am a smart person. Much of my drive now is predicated on the belief that I can learn many things from books or (credible) websites. I learned how to research in school and that’s honestly what I spend most of my time doing for both my personal and professional life. I’m definitely a lifelong learner and public school got me there.

What I’m bad at:

Email! I get so stressed about the simplest emails – writing them, composing them, deleting all my exclamation points… my list could go on. I think it’s because I am a poet who majored in creative writing in college and so I put a lot of pressure on myself to send a perfect email. Then I make myself anxious and put off responding. I’m working on applying a “three minute rule” for myself, where if a task will take me less than three minutes to do in that moment, I have to just do it right then so I don’t spend two hours stressing about it being incomplete.

This image represents why I work at 50CAN:

These mountains represent how all work – and especially mission driven work – is an uphill battle. To get to the top, it takes training, support, resources and so much more. Plus, some folks are naturally going to be faster, stronger or more capable of getting to the top of the mountain than others. What we’re doing at 50CAN is building a ski lift, creating and maintaining trails, and generally creating the infrastructure that will make the top of the mountain (and the incredible views!) accessible to all.