During Women’s History Month, we are highlighting the contributions of women in leadership here at Alexander Youth Network. These women have made significant impacts within their respective fields and positions. Today, we are thrilled to shine a spotlight on our Chief People & Culture Officer, Sandra Pizarro, MBA.
For over 15 years, Sandy Pizarro has been dedicated to effectively leading all functions of human capital, ensuring organizational capacity to meet challenging business needs, and maintaining a leadership position in the business community. At Alexander, Sandy has been a driving force behind our agency’s efforts to create an inclusive, empowering, and engaging workplace culture that supports the growth and development of all employees.
In this blog, we asked Sandy questions that dive into her leadership experiences, diversity and inclusion challenges, and advice for women seeking to make an impact in their careers:
Q: Tell us about your journey, what caused you to choose to pursue a career in mental health? What led you to work at Alexander Youth Network?
A: My career journey spans several industries, but I’ve always been committed to working in the non-profit sector. The reason for this is simple—that’s where you can find the most dedicated and loyal teams who are passionate about their organization’s mission. I was first introduced to the field of mental health while working as an HR business partner for Mecklenburg County. I had five clients in my portfolio, including Area Mental Health which was my largest and most interesting customer. When the County was preparing for massive layoffs in 2010, I connected several affected employees from the County to Alexander Youth Network. Alexander stood out as an outstanding provider in children’s behavioral health. When the opening for an HR Director was made known, I put my name in the hat and the rest is history! Although I left for a brief time, I am happy to call myself a boomerang employee who has the distinguished honor of serving as Alexander’s Chief People & Culture Officer since July of 2022.
Q: What advice would you give to women who want to grow as leaders?
A: The best advice I can give to other women who want to grow as leaders is to be willing to share knowledge and advice with other women inside or outside of your company. Perhaps even go the extra mile of formally becoming a mentor. Mentoring other women is an invaluable process of honing one’s leadership skills because it’s different than the day-to-day leadership we provide our employees. Mentors can be a lifetime resource to mentees who need to learn about the “unwritten rules” of the workplace and get feedback and redirection from someone with whom they can confide. These are the reasons mentoring is a requirement for our flagship professional development program, the AYN Leadership Institute.
“The best advice I can give to other women who want to grow as leaders is to be willing to share knowledge and advice with other women inside or outside of your company. Perhaps even go the extra mile of formally becoming a mentor.”
Q: As the Chief People & Culture Officer, can you describe the importance of our culture here at Alexander?
A: At Alexander, “culture” is what drives us. It’s what inspires us as employees to live out our values every day and deliver our brand promise of being the leader in behavioral healthcare. We do this in a powerful way because we care about achieving results for the children and adolescents we serve.
Q: Why is diversity and inclusion so important in the workforce, and how can a good leader make a difference in this area?
A: DE&I needs to be at the core of all our business processes, not just human capital. It’s more than just a checklist of training courses and affirmative action efforts. As leaders, we need to recognize the importance of examining DE&I in making supplier selections, designing customer and communication strategies, and creating philanthropic and community ties. This holistic approach to DE&I is how a good leader can make impactful change.