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HSD Employee Spotlight—Milica Veselinović

Headshot photo of Milica Veselinović smiling for the camera

What is your role at Seattle Human Services?

My current role at HSD is to provide policy and technical advice and support for HSD contracts units across the divisions and to support the implementation of the new contract management system and process improvements to contracting.

What made you want to work in human services?

I started my professional career in the community-based nonprofit world, working in refugee resettlement. I spent eight years in direct services and I had the profound honor to be the first person to welcome and support hundreds of newly arrived refugees and refugee families as they began their new life here. I felt a level of kinship and shared experience with the refugee and immigrant communities that I had not found elsewhere since coming to the United States as a student. As years passed, I remained in community-based human services in a variety of roles and built a strong connection to local human service providers and networks.

I came to the Human Services Department 11 years ago and have been working in contracting for services to the community, supporting community providers and networks, implementing new programs, and working on policies. One of the joys of doing this work is that there are friends and colleagues in HSD and in our partner agencies who I have now known most of my life and we have grown in the work together. So, it was the humans in human services who drew me in and who keep me in this work.

How has your job changed in recent years?

Photo of Milica Veselinović with daughter Hazel at a Halloween party, dressed as a 1940s girl singing duo.

The biggest change and challenge of the last few years has been, not surprisingly, living and working through the pandemic. It asked me to show up in both my personal and my work life more intentionally and to be present in new and different ways for my team and for our community partners. In many ways, I feel like my job became a lot more personal and more expansive. Bonds and connections have been forged in response to the way the pandemic impacted services to communities and our provider community, and I feel that the conversations and exchanges we have with both have moved forward and opened up greatly.

What do you love about your job?

People—first and foremost. Relationships between us are what makes the work possible, within HSD and in the community. I love it when we are all pulling together in the same direction, and I love when we challenge each other to be better and do better through the hard spots.

How do you contribute to HSD’s overarching goals related to racial equity?

One of the reasons I chose to work for the Human Services Department has been its staff’s commitment to becoming an anti-racist organization. I engaged in the work of undoing racism while working in the community and it was important to me to be in a collective that valued equity, inclusion, solidarity, and belonging, and was intentional in the work being done. I have been a member of the Human Services Change Team and White Caucus throughout my tenure at HSD and have served as co-lead for both groups over the years. Being part of the collective keeps me grounded and learning, and my relationships keep me accountable for how I show up, how well I listen, and how closely my work reflects our shared values.

Photo of Milica Veselinović smiling for the camera

What motivates you or keeps you going?

Mostly, that I am not done yet. 😊 Jokes aside, my background, my people’s history, my family, my children, my chosen loved ones, and faith in us all keeps me going, both in work and in life. The older I get, the more I believe that we can do better and be better, especially as I witness young people in my life growing into some awesome humans. 

What’s one piece of advice for HSD newcomers or recent graduates in your field?

Try everything and do not hold back. Be guided by curiosity, empathy, and your values in choosing what you wish to pursue and in how you want to work. Be clear and honest with yourself about what you need and want, and why. Be fearless in feeding your dreams and relentless in learning more. Nurture others as you would want to be nurtured and supported and accept it from others. Teachers and guides are everywhere—so listen and share.