Robert Ortiz is Vice President of Rewards for the Americas region of Amadeus, one of the top travel technology companies in the world. His scope includes Compensation, Benefits, HRIS, Mobility, Immigration and Payroll for 2,900 employees in North America and Latin America.
Favorite Quote: “I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” — Thomas Edison. (One of the classic growth mindset quotes.)
Fun Fact: I have visited many of the major amusement parks across the US, and still enjoy riding all of the tallest and fastest roller coasters. One of my favorites is Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey. But some of the most amazing rollercoasters are at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio.
How do you unwind after a long day of work? After a long day of work, I unwind by firing up the grill and barbecuing for my family, followed by watching a highly competitive game of NBA basketball with my son.
What challenges have you faced in your career, and how did you overcome them? One of the life-altering challenges I faced was in October 2010 when I was diagnosed with cancer and I needed to sit through 6 sessions of chemotherapy and 1 session of radioimmunology, all over a 7-month period. This occurred during a critical time in the business, and I had no other choice but to persevere for myself and my family. I was quite fortunate that I had the commitment of everyone to my treatment schedule, and it was due to the flexibility of our leave of absence and working from home policies that allowed me to maintain some semblance of normalcy during the weeks between treatments. The part time work schedule and the project work at home facilitated a very positive mindset and attitude, which contributed to my full recovery. And I cannot thank my team, my colleagues and the Company enough for their unconditional advocacy during that period in my life and career.
What has been the most monumental moment of your career thus far? The most monumental moments in my career have been those when my colleagues and team members have had their roles expanded and others that have been eventually promoted. Observing their growth and accomplishments, and being recognized for their contributions, efforts and talent, and allowing me to be part of their professional journey is what encourages and inspires me to continue to serve in a leadership role.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten? A mentor once advised me: “Make sure your leader never finds out something in a meeting for the first time and you had previous knowledge of it.” That truly is one of the most practical and fundamental principles of communication, transparency and trust in any relationship, personal or professional.
What qualities make for an outstanding HR professional? There are many qualities that define an outstanding HR professional, and the ones that make the most profound impact are: 1. self-awareness accompanied by emotional intelligence; 2. passion for the profession and people, and inspiration to motivate others to achieve higher standards; 3. empathy and humility demonstrated by active listening, patience, neutrality and being non-judgmental; 4. accountability with integrity and trust; 5. positivity to navigate through challenging situations; 6. agility in learning, HR trends, and digitalization.
How have you adapted your HR skills to COVID? COVID triggered the need for HR leadership to react rapidly to a fully remote workforce in a very short period of time. I focused on being even more communicative, conducting frequent video calls via Teams to maintain regular and virtual “in-person” discussions and touchpoints. I ensured that I understood the personal challenges of each team members’ home situation and the flexibility required to meet family, educational, access and other needs with the understanding that “one size did not fit all” and business continuity still needed to be maintained. Positivity was key, as many had concerns of continued employment compounded by their respective family situations. Understanding that COVID required complex, non-traditional problem solving, we partnered with other parts of the Company to establish business continuity plans and return to office guidelines. We also launched unique programs via our EAP provider to promote healthy lifestyles during stay-at-home periods. We wanted our people to feel secure knowing they had support and understanding from their employer, even in the most uncertain of times.
What are some misconceptions about HR and how do you combat them? One of the most common misconceptions about HR is that we are purely transactional, and what we regularly demonstrate is our value and impact on business decisions, strategy and profitability using analytics and evidence-based outcomes such as productivity, engagement and succession planning. Internal partnerships and regular collaboration with other critical business functions debunk the reputation of HR being regularly siloed, validating how readily accessible and available we are to our employees and leadership. Adhering to Company policy does not necessarily translate into HR being rigid and inflexible, but rather alternatives are regularly considered as situations demand, such as the adoption of flexible working schedules, ultimately demonstrating our understanding about people’s needs and balancing them with the those of the business. Our sole purpose is not to hire or fire people, but to maintain robust talent management and retention programs to nurture and grow our workforce.
What do you like most about working in HR? Human Resources is a transversal profession, and therefore it can be practiced in any line of business. Over my career, I have been fortunate to work in academia, banking, pharmaceuticals, consulting and technology, and within each I have learned and appreciated varying business models. But undoubtedly the foremost benefit of HR has been the ability to influence the corporate culture of each company I have had the privilege of being affiliated with, and the learning opportunities are limitless.