Staff Spotlight: Abby Zorn

Human Resources Manager

Abby Zorn

Abby joined JISAO as the HR Manager one year ago in the midst of the government shutdown and shortly before February’s Snowpocalypse. After getting over Seattle’s inability to handle snow, Abby was excited when offices opened again and she could finally get to the most rewarding part of her job: meeting JISAO’s amazing employees. Abby hails from the Northeast- she grew up in Connecticut (where she learned her snow elitism) and earned a BA in Anthropology from Vassar College in upstate New York. The study of anthropology centers on how humans create culture in response to interactions with their environment, so it’s not so surprising that Abby found her professional calling in the intricacies of how culture is created in an environment where humans spend a lot of their time- the workplace.

After college, Abby lived in New York City for six years while working as a paralegal and then in the beauty sector building global HR and onboarding programs. She returned to Connecticut to get her MBA at the Yale School of Management so she could learn more about what this “business” thing was all about, but upon graduation promptly decided that it was time to take a break from both the business world and the East Coast. Abby loves living in Pacific Northwest and working for JISAO and now understands that hills and snow don’t always mix.

What do you like best about working for JISAO?

Besides the amazing employees, mentioned above, I like that JISAO is part of the larger UW community. I have met so many great people at the College of the Environment and in Campus HR who answer my questions and help me get better at my job every day. I enjoy being able to attend lectures and events and take advantage of other opportunities that come from being part of a higher education institution. I am also proud to work for an organization doing such vital research in the environmental field. I was really into outer space as a kid, and I used to say jokingly that my dream job was to do HR at NASA. I like that I somewhat accidentally ended up at a scientific organization where researchers do get NASA funding.

What are the most rewarding parts of your job?

The most rewarding part of my job is getting to know all of our employees and helping them solve problems or find information that will make their jobs easier. I have learned so much about the research happening in different parts of JISAO, and understanding the day-to-day experiences of everyone who works here helps me think of ways to improve that experience. I find my work with the Professional Development committee and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) working group especially rewarding.

People would be surprised if they knew…

I moved to Seattle without a job lined up. I lived with my aunt and uncle in Columbia City for four months while I job-hunted, temped at the UW Attorney General’s Office (thank you, old paralegal days), and then found this role with JISAO. It was well worth the wait!

Any hobbies and interests do you have outside of work?

After so many years in New York City, I have been trying to embrace things that were difficult to do there- namely being outside, cooking, and having a normal-sized apartment. I went on a lot of hikes and bike rides last summer and am often trying new recipes in my spacious kitchen.

Where would you like to go on a dream vacation?

I’m not sure this counts as a vacation, but I am embarrassed that I haven’t been to Vancouver, BC, yet. I like exploring new cities, and this one is so close. I hope to get there in the next year.

And finally, what’s on your bucket list?

I would like to see the northern lights someday.


Interview by M. Jones, JISAO Payroll Coordinator