Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013 was a bittersweet day for Joyce Hayes Giles, assistant to the chairman and senior vice president of public affairs for DTE Energy. On one hand, she was retiring from DTE after 35 years and looking forward to the perks of freedom that most retirees treasure. On the other hand, she was leaving a company that has become a major part of her adult and professional life, and has allowed her to become a friend and change agent to the community.
As Giles looks back over a three decade-plus career at DTE, she has every reason to be proud of her time and contributions to the company and community. Over the years, she has served DTE in numerous senior executive and directorship positions, including such areas as customer relations, material management, administrative services, customer information and physical assets.
Giles remembers her first day on the job in 1978 when she joined the company as its manager of compensation. DTE was known as MichCon. at the time.
“I didn’t plan on being with the company more than maybe three years,” said Giles, who previously worked for the Automobile Club of Michigan and Chrysler Corporation. “Someone at my previous company told me that I would be bored working for MichCon because it was just a sleepy utility company. That person was wrong, as I was given some great challenges and opportunities. When I started working in human resources, I realized that this company was different. DTE treated its employees and customers very well. It wasn’t a perfect culture, but it was evolving.”
In her time with DTE, Giles said there are many memorable moments.
“I loved when DTE became laser-focused on improving its customer service and really valuing its community involvement at a very high level,” Giles said. “I appreciate that the company developed a strong passion for serving the community and allowed me to create and design programs that helped those who needed help. I will greatly miss that part of what I loved doing for the community.”
Over a significant part of her career with DTE, Giles was the face of the company.
“I’ve had so many people come up to me and say, ‘thank you for being so passionate about helping our community,’” Giles said. “For a long time people in the community didn’t know who our officers were. It was important that we came out to be a valuable part of the community. While it’s true that companies are in the business to earn money, there’s more to it than just making money, it’s about caring about people and their communities as well.”
Growing up in Jackson, Mississippi, Giles was taught at an early age to care about people. She also learned that education would be her passport to prosperity and the world. As a youth, she had career aspirations of becoming a psychiatric social worker.
After high school, she went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Knoxville College, a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Detroit, and a law degree from Wayne State University Law School.
Since arriving in Detroit in 1972, Giles has been a true Detroiter.
“This is home for me,” said Giles. “I love the city and its people.”
After she retires on Dec. 1, she has plans to travel. She knows that Los Angeles will be a frequent destination for her because both of her adult daughters live there; one is an aspiring actress, the othe a screenplay writer.
For Giles, total retirement is out of the question. One look at her biography shows a multiplicity of civic and community affiliations — too many to list — that only begin to define her dedication to making life better for others. For her professional and personal efforts, she has received dozens of local, regional and national awards and honors that speak volumes to her leadership and humanitarian acumen.
While Giles won’t reveal all of her post-DTE plans, she did share that she is not leaving her love for serving the community; she will surface again will goals of empowering the people and communities of Detroit on some level.
In addition, Giles will become an adjunct professor at Wayne State University next year, where she will teach business ethics in the school’s MBA program. Also, she is getting married next fall.
“For those who know me, they know that I’m not capable of just riding into the sunset and sitting down” said Giles, with a laugh. “I have to have purpose. I have to continue to do something meaningful to help improve people’s lives in and around Detroit.”