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It Started with Uncle Max

Many of us have an Uncle Max - the “odd one” in the family, the one invited to holiday meals and then everyone avoids. Uncle Max told unintelligible war stories, many of them in Spanish, and looked like he had no home. Joanne was fascinated by her uncle– how had he become who he was and how could she connect with her uncle so that he felt appreciated and loved? Determined to understand Uncle Max, she was able to create a deep bond with him throughout the rest of his life.  

Finding Her Superpower

From Uncle Max, Joanne realized that being able to truly connect with unique people was a superpower. In high school she volunteered with special needs kids, then earned her undergraduate degree in special education and graduate degree in vocational rehabilitation while working full time with adults with disabilities. She came to understand that people can succeed or fail based on the people, organization, and processes that surrounded them – the system they were part of. Helping to uncover people’s strengths and help create a system of success for every employee became her guiding principal.

Helping Individuals Succeed Inside a System


When Joanne launched her career in human resources a core part of her mission was to support and develop leaders, helping to ensure that employees were recognized for their strengths, and that support systems were put in place to help them succeed. She started coaching managers to become better leaders. That passion for helping individuals succeed inside a system they choose to work in is the lens Joanne brings to her clients.



  • Joanne Derr Consulting | Principal

  • | Vice President of Human Resources

  • Neighborhood Health Plan | Vice President of Human Resources

  • University of Massachusetts Medical School| Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources

  • Cisco Systems, EMC²| Business Consultant

  • ​Nortel Networks | Director of Leadership Strategy

  • Bay Networks | Director of Human Resources, HR Merger and Acquisition Integration Team Leader

  • Digital Equipment Corporation | Human Resources Manager

  • Mass. Rehabilitation Commission | Assistant Director of Marketing, Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor

Certifications & Education

  • Bates Executive Presence Index (ExPI)

  • Myers Briggs Type Indicator (CPP)

  • TypeCoach

  • Benchmarks 360 Leadership Assessments

  • Certified Professional Coach | Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (IPEC)

  • ​Credentialed by the International Coaching Federation (ICF)

  • Neuroscience for the Advanced Coach - BeAbove Leadership

  • National Training Laboratories | Organizational Development 

  • MS, Boston University | Vocational Counseling

  • BS, Boston University | Special Education


  • The Boston Club | Co-Chair, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee

  • Genesis | First 90 Days Certified Acceleration Coach (Michael Watkins)

  • Richard Levin Associates/CFAR | Executive Coach 

  • Ace-up - Coaching leaders at Scale

  • Institute of Coaching Fellow, McLean HMS 

  • Bridging Distance, Virtual team experts

  • International Coach Federation | New England

  • Human Resources Leadership Forum

  • Northeast Human Resources Association

  • The New Talent Management Network

  • ​Boston Facilitators Roundtable


  • Torchlight Care | Board Member

  • Senior HR Networking Group | Moderator, Weekly Group

  • The Boston Club - DEIC 

  • Babson Coaching for Leadership Teamwork Program | Coach

  • Westford Committee on Non-Violence | Founding Member

  • Live for Liv Foundation | Volunteer

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