Faces of HR

Faces of HR: How One HR Pro’s Strategic Approach to HR Helps Move the Needle Forward

Meet Valarie Arismendez, SVP of People at Hello Heart. The digital therapeutics company focuses exclusively on heart disease, partnering with employer organizations to provide a connected mobile app that works alongside an employer’s benefits ecosystem. The app’s technology uses AI, behavioral science, and personalized digital coaching to drive healthy lifestyle changes.

Valarie Arismendez

In her role as SVP of People, Valarie leads all talent acquisition, retention, human resources, workplace experience and IT strategies for the venture-backed firm. In addition, she has more than 15 years of leadership experience in human capital management, organizational effectiveness, change management, executive coaching, talent acquisition, workforce planning and employee relations.

“As someone who built dynamic company cultures in companies experiencing rapid growth, I have a unique perspective as a human resource professional in the Silicon Valley,” Arismendez recently shared with HR Daily Advisor. “I’m also one of the few Latinas in the tech community to build people teams from scratch across several successful multi-billion-dollar firms.”

In our latest Faces of HR, meet Valarie Arismendez.

How did you get your start in the field?

When I was in college, I took a class and knew that I wanted to join the human resources field. I really liked the structure and people aspect of it. However, I was encouraged to not pursue this dream and remain focused on management. So, I started my career in an accounting role but then I was given the opportunity to help scale a company and partner with a professional employer organization (PEO). This is where I was able to develop myself as an HR professional and understand the ins and outs of HR. Looking back now to when I was first interested in HR, I didn’t know at the time how critical HR is at the organizational level and how it’s such a needed aspect to grow a successful environment.

Who is/was your biggest influence in the industry?

There hasn’t been one specific person that influenced me. Rather, there have been so many people along the way that have changed the design of what HR is. I’ve taken bits and pieces of what’s worked and implemented them as needed. HR has become more of a science in the past decade and measuring the output of programs and development has really proved to be successful. So, there isn’t just one person that I’ve relied upon or followed, but cumulative learnings from working with internal teams such as my legal partners, marketing teams, and really understanding the culture to take it to the next level. 

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

Ha! What a question! It’s been the failure to continue to ask for support or implement a program without support of the CEO. Early on in my career I would just accept the common answer I would get, “no, this isn’t priority,” and leave it at that. As I grew in my career, I’ve learned to become more strategic in how I make asks to the leadership team. Now, I always have data ready that justifies and helps build the case for what I am asking. For example, I recommended implementing baby leave beyond what the state recommends. I gathered data from all tech companies (private and public), looked at their leave programs, and did a look back at leaves for parents to help project trends with the cost implication of more time for parents. It was definitely a learning experience over the years. It will also always help to have your CEO/Co-founders understand the importance of what you’re doing for the organization to get them on board. 

What’s your favorite part about working in the industry? What’s your least favorite part, and how would you change it?

I like that HR in tech is a very fast-paced industry. There is never a day that I wonder what I’ll work on, which at times can also be my least favorite part. You must be ready for this pace and jump in at 100%. It’s also never the same. If the same thing happens time and again, you’re not solving or correcting the “why” behind it.

It sounds like through your experience you really care about people, and you want to help them feel safe and comfortable, which is important in the industry. Please elaborate here.

Always. This is constantly top of mind for me. I want every employee to feel and know they are part of the company’s success, and as an HR leader, I want to ensure we’re giving employees the experiences and skills to continuously grow in their careers. We also want to ensure our people feel supported on a personal level with comprehensive benefits offering. Overall, my people-first philosophy to leadership aligns well with Hello Heart’s ultimate goal of supporting the holistic health of employees. 

How can company leaders make HR a value within their organization?

Be strategic. It’s simple, when you ask for something, think through the process and if it’s built for scale. If so, then share the entire vision and how it’s going to work. If things aren’t working, pivot quickly! Data will always win. Once you are able to start collecting and analyzing data, it’s telling you a story on how to best move forward or what not to do. 

Where do you see the industry heading in five years? Or are you seeing any current trends?

I’m excited that I’ve started to see the people-focused leadership role really have a seat at the decision-making table. It’s been a refreshing change to see and experience more value in the HR perspective involved when it comes to organizational design. Another trend we’re seeing and experiencing at Hello Heart is the rise in digital health technologies within the benefits ecosystem. The pandemic no doubt accelerated this trend, and it’s certainly here to stay. Before, digital health and digital therapeutics were nice-to-have benefits. However, in today’s climate, health is especially top of mind and people are searching for employment at organizations that support them beyond the workplace. HR and benefits teams need to lean into this trend. Adopting more digital health therapeutics is an effective way to support an employee’s overall health and wellbeing.

What are you most proud of?  

Representation matters, and within the tech industry, there are very few Latinas in decision-making roles. So, I continue to appreciate where I am, but also know opportunities need to be given to others in under-represented groups. I’ve worked hard to have a career in tech which is not easy as a person of color without help from family to get here. 

Do you have any advice for people entering the profession?

Be ready for change and be open. Look at the data.  Always be empathic. Textbooks have the basics for you, but real life is a different game. Always do what is best for your company.