Our Staff Spotlight Series highlights members of the Talent Rewire staff. Ulises manages Talent Rewire’s Frontline Employee Council.
Name: Ulises Trujillo-Rivera
Place: Cambridge, MA
Current Job: Senior Manager, Employee Voice & Operations – Talent Rewire
1. As a form of introduction, please share with us a time when one or more of your identities played a role in your career.
My current job comes to mind when trying to answer this question. In my role as Senior Manager of Employee Voice at Talent Rewire, I work directly with our Frontline Employee Council and other individuals that have experience working in frontline positions. It is my job to help our team bring frontline voices into different aspects of our work, so when I am interacting with them many of my identities come to the surface.
As an immigrant from Colombia, I spoke very little English when I first came to this country and I know how hard you have to work to learn a new language and navigate a new culture. As a gay man, I’ve had to hide and suppress my identity many times for fear of being excluded or discriminated against. My many identities often come to the surface whenever I talk with our frontline advisors and council members. They enable me to connect at a deeper level and better understand the advisors’ experiences when listening to their stories and soliciting their feedback.
2. Can you share an experience where you felt respected and valued? How did that affect your relationship to the job and the employer
One of my first jobs in the U.S. was as a host at a local restaurant and I remember being so nervous when I went in for my job interview (I had zero experience working in the service industry). I remember answering every question wrong and maybe talking too much, but somehow I ended up getting the job! Fast forward to a few years later: I’m still working at that restaurant, now as a waiter and sometimes filling in for the manager, truly enjoying the team and company.
At some point I remember asking the general manager who initially interviewed and hired me, “I know I did horribly during our interview, why did you hire me?” He responded, “ yes, you could say that, but what I saw was an individual who wanted an opportunity and had a desire to learn.” I felt so seen and valued right then and there! That he was able to see beyond the young, inexperienced and socially awkward person was huge, and it confirmed what I already knew, that I was a valued member of the team.
3. What builds Trust for you as an employee? What needs to be true in a workplace for you to feel comfortable giving input?
Reliability and accountability! In my experience when employers model those two values for me as an employee, they will receive the same in return. For me it is very important to know that the company I work with has my back and my best interests in mind.
Also, when things don’t go as planned or mistakes are made, they hold themselves accountable and own their actions so they can continue to learn and do better by those who put their trust in them (employees, customers, partners and others in their community). That creates trust, and once trust has been established I feel comfortable sharing my input and ideas.
4. What have you taken away by the partnership/work you’ve done with Talent Rewire to date?
One thing that I’ve learned through my work at Talent Rewire is that it is ok not to have all the answers. There is so much power in being humble and accepting that you don’t know everything, because when you do, you open the door to so many new voices and ideas that help make your work be that much more impactful and long lasting than if you were to go at it alone.
5. What are the biggest misconceptions you think employers have about frontline employees?
That the work being done in frontline roles require little skill and the people doing them are easily replaceable. I think this is a mistake made not only by employers but also by society. We’ve all heard the expression “practice makes perfect”. In my experience a lot of frontline jobs can be somewhat repetitive. Whether it’s stocking shelves, cleaning hotel rooms, driving a forklift, or waiting tables, there are so many components to frontline jobs that are done over and over again, day in and day out that people reach a point where they make their job seem easy and do it with such skill that people don’t notice the many other tasks they are either thinking about or trying to accomplish at the same time.
There is so much that goes on behind the curtain in frontline roles that managers, corporate employees, and customers are often unaware of, which often leads people to believe that what is right in front of them is all there is to the job. Additionally, client facing jobs can be very demanding and draining, both physically and emotionally. Being welcoming, accommodating, and competent when dealing with all types of individuals and demands can be very difficult, particularly when you have competing priorities between your job and your life outside work.
6. What are ways in which employers show you that they value you as a human and as an employee?
Intentionality. That they are doing things because they mean them and not just to check a box. When I’ve experienced employers that are intentional about the way they interact with their talent, the policies they put in place, and the values they represent, those things make me feel valued as a human.
7. What’s one thing you would encourage employers to do for their frontline talent?
Listen to your talent with curiosity and not just for the sake of sharing your own thoughts or responding! When employers lean into the conversation with curiosity, they really get to know people, and most importantly, they understand them and see them.