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Snapshot: Yolanda Simmons
Snapshot: Yolanda Simmons. Image above: Human Resources specialist Yolanda Simmons: "Working at NASA always ignites a conversation." Photo credit: NASA/Sean Smith

By: Denise Lineberry

When going to a dentist appointment, one might expect less talk and more action. But Yolanda Simmons, a human resource (HR) specialist at NASA Langley, knows better.

On a recent visit, Simmons' dentist noticed from her profile that she worked at NASA. "He totally forgot that I was his patient and why I was at his office, and he immediately began talking about NASA," she said. "Working at NASA always ignites a conversation."

For the past nine years, it has been her job to match up qualified workers with jobs that land them a position as a NASA employee. And to also assist those who already work on center.

Simmons provides human resources management advisory services for five Langley organizations. Her duties include position classification and management, organizational design, recruitment and placement and program planning and management.

She enjoys knowing that she is "providing rewarding services in the realm of human resources that ultimately affect and effect individual lives."

To prepare herself for her own career, she attended Christopher Newport University, where she studied industrial and organizational psychology. She went on to Troy State University, where she earned her Master’s degree in Human Resource Management.

During that time, Simmons learned she could mix her studies with "the world’s preeminent force in scientific research" when she participated in NASA Langley's Stay in School and Co-op programs.

Simmons gained an "electrifying sense of pride" through her work at NASA. "NASA exhilarates social attentiveness in aerospace exploration, as well as science and technology," she said.

And she learned from experience that the center operations require hard work and dedication in many other areas as well.

One of her most noted accomplishments is when she worked in Langley's Office of Safety and Mission Assurance when the center obtained a Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) STAR status, the highest safety and health qualification given by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration). She was working as a student to administratively support that achievement.

When performing her job, a quote from David Ulrich, an author of 23 HR books, sticks with her: "HR should not be defined by what it does but by what it delivers – results that enrich the organization’s value to customers, investors and employees."

Looking forward, she sees social media as a powerful medium for HR professionals. Simmons plans to deliver as part of NASA’s HR team "as we evolve into the future."

When she isn't working, she likes to spend her time with her family. She and husband Patrick stay busy as the No. 1 fans of children Saniyah, 7, Lamar, 20, and Xavier, 15. Saniyah is active in Girl Scouts, soccer and piano, while both sons play football and basketball.

Simmons loves culinary arts and claims she could watch the FOOD Network all day long, perhaps with some breaks to watch boxing. She enjoys seeing a match unfold and the techniques used to defeat an opponent.

Apart from her employment with NASA, her dentist can appreciate the fact that her interest in boxing is limited to watching.

And Simmons’ life and career give her plenty to smile about.

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