Faces of HR

Rosa de Leon on the Value of Leading with Empathy and Compassion

Before Rosa de Leon got her start in the human resources (HR) field, she specialized in food production, manufacturing, and restaurant businesses, having worked for companies including FreshDirect and Chipotle. After some time, she sought another opportunity that was more fulfilling and rewarding. Not long after, Rosa segued into the HR industry as a generalist, coaching and training employees in different languages and locations.

Rosa de Leon

After more than a decade in the industry, today Rosa is the National Director of Team & Culture at HUNGRY, a digital marketplace that connects companies to people & small businesses to provide better and lower-cost solutions. In 2017, Rosa also started her own HR Consulting business, helping BIPOC and women-owned businesses in Maryland, Washington D.C., and Virginia improve employee development models, build trusting relationships, and improve workforce methods.

As a people leader, Rosa likes getting people excited about the things she is excited about. Right now, she says it’s helping to improve the lives of everyone she connects with, as well as equity and inclusion.

“It is very important to put people first and always lead with empathy and compassion,” she recently told HR Daily Advisor. “Exclusion not only applies to physical differences but anyone from any background can feel excluded. It is very important to understand how it manifests. Business success thrives where people feel a sense of belonging.”

In our latest Faces of HR profile, meet Rosa de Leon.

How did you get your start in the field?

It started when I was working with Chipotle Mexican Grill as a Language Development Consultant (part of the HR Team). It was an amazing role where I was able to create and support individualized development plans for top performers whose English was holding them back from being promoted. It was an incredibly rewarding experience where I was able to meet some truly amazing people and know their personal stories as to how they immigrated to the U.S. and their day-to-day struggles.

Who is/was your biggest influence in the industry?

Julia Psitos. I reported directly to her several years ago. She was the HR Director at FreshDirect. She was always making sure she was connected to our team and truly listened to our feedback. She placed me in a mentorship program and helped me overcome my impostor syndrome and overall insecurities as a female immigrant in the professional world. One day she told me, “Rosa, there’s nothing that I do in my current role that you wouldn’t be able to do.”

What’s your best mistake and what did you learn from it?

Transitioning from the Learning and Development field into a full HR Generalist role. It helped me gain multiple skills and confidence throughout the process. I learned that change comes with many challenges, but the rewards are immense for your professional career and personal life.

What’s your favorite part about working in the industry?

My favorite part about being in this is industry is the ability to impact people’s lives through the overall HR strategy. My least favorite part, and how would I change it? Terminations are always difficult. It is part of the natural cycle of the business, but HR professionals are still human. There are multiple ways that our processes can minimize those grievances by being an active participant in this role.

How can company leaders make HR a value within their organization? 
We are constantly being challenged. Since the improvement of technology with new HRIS, our roles have transitioned from the typical administrator role to a more rewarding, challenging, and strategic type of role.

Where do you see the industry heading in five years? Or are you seeing any current trends?
Less administrative duties and way more focus on higher-level duties, drivers of employee satisfaction, development, and performance.

What are you most proud of?
I am very proud I found the courage to start my own consulting business. It was not easy, and it was certainly something I never thought I could do on my own.

Do you have any advice for people entering the profession?
I would encourage them to immerse themselves in every HR function. Sometimes we tend to stay in one area, but HR is extremely broad, and it will definitely expand their career opportunities in the future.