Sherry Rhodes wears a lot of different hats. She serves as vice president, general counsel and secretary chief ethics and compliance officer for Noblis. Busy though her days are, she wouldn't trade a minute of it. ExecutiveBiz recently spoke with Sherry about her roles at Noblis.
ExecutiveBiz: Could you tell us a little bit about your background and how you came to your current position at Noblis?
Sherry Rhodes: I was in private practice for 13 years as a corporate and transactional attorney. At a closing on a transaction, a client offered me a job in-house. At first, I resisted the opportunity because I thought, ‘I'm a partner in a large law firm, this is supposed to be it.’ Once I made the transition, I fell in love with it. I've never looked back. I've had a series of general counsel positions in IT, biotechnology, telecommunications-mostly technology companies. For the last seven years, I've been with Noblis, which is a nonprofit, so I've covered the spectrum of public companies, private companies and nonprofit companies.
ExecutiveBiz: Can you tell us a little bit about your role today and what your responsibilities are for Noblis?
Sherry Rhodes: I am the general counsel, the secretary and chief ethics and compliance officer for the company. I am also vice president, so I wear a lot of hats. There are many general counsels that wear more than one hat, and certainly many out there that have the compliance role. I think a lot of companies are in the position of doing that, striving to be efficient. In the secretarial role, I provide support to the board of trustees and its committees-““ a pretty typical role. In the legal and compliance role, we focus on resolving issues and facilitating business in a practical, efficient manner, while maintaining the highest ethical considerations. There's a heritage here at Noblis of highly ethical culture and so we try to maintain and enhance that.
ExecutiveBiz: Is that the biggest challenge for you; wearing multiple hats, maintaining culture? Is there anything else?
Sherry Rhodes: I'd say the biggest challenges that we face right now, especially as a government contractor, is trying to make sense of the competing priorities for the federal government that sometimes conflict. There is an emphasis on fewer contract vehicles; there is an emphasis on no organizational conflicts of interest; and there is an emphasis on competitive bidding on large vehicles that require a lot of teaming. Some of those things conflict with each other. For instance, it is easier to have no organizational conflicts of interest if you are not in big teaming arrangements. Today's government contracting compliance climate and maintaining the highest ethical standards is the challenge.
ExecutiveBiz: With that in mind, do you have any advice for people who are would-be general counsels or would like to work in the government contracting industry as a lawyer?
Sherry Rhodes: For would-be general counsels, what I would say is that they should try and ascertain whether a company's priorities are consistent with their own priorities. If making money is your priority, and a company's priority is making money, it is probably going to be a pretty good alignment. However, if mission or service is really important to you, then you might be looking for a different kind of company. For me, it is important that my values line up with my company's values.
ExecutiveBiz: What values do you share in common with Noblis?
Sherry Rhodes: The ethical culture and the professionalism here. From the CEO on down, there is an emphasis put on the highest ethical standards and professional conduct in everything that you do. I think that goes a long, long way for the people with my values and making a good home for me.
ExecutiveBiz: When you are not working in your many roles as general counsel, secretary to the board of trustees, what do you enjoy doing in your downtime?
Sherry Rhodes: My husband and I travel pretty extensively. We were recently in Morocco, then Spain, and this year we are going to Turkey. We both work really hard, so we treasure our vacations and make sure that we take them. We are also active with Higher Achievement, a wonderful charitable organization that is making a daily difference in the lives of metropolitan youth from at-risk communities. The scholars in the program are an absolute inspiration to us! We also try to keep up with our four adult children, which is pretty impossible! We don't have a lot of downtime, but we have a pretty full life, is how I would say it.