In Perfect Form
Applying the lessons of competition to business challenges.
Kerri Witmer’s energy is infectious. After learning about her role in accounting, it’s easy to appreciate how much work she does to ensure that the institute’s responsibilities are met—and staff know if they have a question, she’s there with an answer. Here, Witmer shares details about her background and why she enjoys working at the institute.
What were your professional aspirations as a child?
My mom and aunts used to go ice skating all the time. I started taking lessons at 6 and competed for about 10 years. My dream was to be an Olympic champion, and then retire and coach. My favorite move was a scratch spin—when you are on the ice with extended hands and a foot, slowly bringing them in to spin faster and faster until turning out gracefully. The first time I did it, I was about 8. My mom, who was always at my practices, was so excited. Although I made it to regionals, I decided to stop practicing at 16 to focus on school. Ultimately, I chose to pursue business, and held positions as a payroll officer and supervisor, HR systems administrator, and project analyst in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
How did you land at STScI?
I was looking to return to the payroll profession. I researched the company when I applied, and not only does STScI offer great benefits, it also manages the Hubble Space Telescope. I’ve always been very interested in space, and Hubble in particular. When I lived in Houston, I went to the space center numerous times and I loved it. I thought it would be a great place to work—and I found out very quickly I was right.
What does your role as a senior accountant and payroll lead entail?
My goal is that staff never even thinks about their pay—it just shows up correctly—no fuss. I contribute to tax filings to the local, state, and federal governments. I also generate reports to share how we are meeting our contractual requirements. I’m always open to new challenges. If someone in finance or HR asks a question and I don’t know the answer, I know how to get it! Sometimes, my work is like putting together a puzzle.
Why do you enjoy your work at STScI?
The accounting group is a really good team. We meet our deadlines, even when there are challenges. I love what I do, the people I work with are great, and I’m appreciated, which means a lot. I plan to retire from here. As long as they’ll have me, I’m staying.
Article updated March 2019.