At SSA, we believe in enthusiasm. In passion. In being an expert in what you do, not just because of your experience but because you love doing it. We hire people who enhance our culture and our business. And we’re proud to start sharing more about them in our new This is SSA employee story series.
First up is Cveta Chydzinski, our very own Director of People Experience. Learn more about her and how she’s enhancing SSA’s people department from the inside out.
1. Tell us a bit about your journey at SSA.
Non-traditional! I went to college initially for HR and Marketing and went on to get my master’s in Student Affairs and Higher Education. I then worked at a university teaching a UN -101 course and leading a service-based college scholarship program that recruited and supported a diverse pool of low-income, first-generation students.
While I loved higher ed, to be closer to my now-wife, I started considering other options in a different city. I was introduced to SSA through a colleague and was offered a role through that connection as the catering operations manager. I’ll never forget what she said to me when I started, “We’re different than other hospitality companies. I will teach you everything you need to know about the operation if you use your leadership skills and help me build this team.”
I started building relationships with other colleagues, with our client, and eventually with members at HQ through DICE and the mentorship program. The more I learned about SSA, the more I wanted to be involved in its success. I transitioned to the F&B Manager role and then a few years later became the AGM, before joining the People Department as the Director of People Experience.
I had a great team of leaders that pushed me to be a better human and saw something in me that I may not have seen in myself. I’ll never forget the people that helped support my journey.
2. What inspired you to join the People Department at SSA?
Culture! I know this word means something different to everyone but to me it’s a sense of belonging. I saw what SSA was trying to accomplish at the unit level and wanted to be a part of the bigger picture. I wanted to use my voice and represent people like me- a first-generation immigrant, raised by a single parent in a low-income family and a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
SSA not only invites you to the table, but they make sure your voice is heard. Representation matters. The People Department is the voice for everyone. I’m proud to lead it.
3. How do you stay motivated and inspired?
4. Share the hard stuff. What’s difficult about your role, this industry, etc. and how do you deal with this?
Sometimes it doesn’t feel like there are enough hours in the day. My role in people experience oversees recruitment, training, and onboarding all while learning a new system that will be rolling out at the end of the year.
I also want to be available to mentor and support the field and my teammates as well as co-chair our PRIDE ERG. I’m learning to protect my time so I can be present where I need to be physically and mentally. I have a great team and couldn’t do it without them.
It’s also a consistent challenge to stay ahead and keep evolving in this constantly-changing industry. We are continuously discussing strategy, recruitment approaches, and employee experience. It’s important to be proactive and authentic in our world.
5. What advice would you give to your younger self?
6. Do you have thoughts on how to recruit and retain a diverse workforce?
Equip your team with a diversity lens. Find out who isn’t at the table and go look for them. Putting diversity at the forefront of your company values and culture as a part of your employee brand will attract diverse candidates.
Build an equitable interview process. Partner with diverse employees and employee resource groups (ERGs) to promote openings in their networks.
Adjust job description to include inclusive language. I’m proud to say that SSA is a place that creates opportunities for growth for individuals that would normally be passed by. Our interview process isn’t just what’s on the resume. We get to know each candidate’s passions and what they want in their future, not just their skill set.
Develop a strong onboarding program. New employees will leave within the first 3-6 months if they do not feel a sense of belonging within an organization. Every employee should go through DE&I training, especially to be aware of their unconscious bias, and managers should be trained to lead diverse teams. Everyone on the team should have access to the same clear growth opportunities, including those that don’t raise their hands.
Create a workplace environment that allows people to feel safe and empowered to bring their authentic selves to work every day. Diversity comes in many shapes, colors, sizes, and life experiences. It’s important to honor them all as members of our team.
7. How do you recharge outside of work?
Family time. I have an almost 3-year-old and when I get home from work, I do my best to be present at the moment with her. My wife and I are both very career driven and know that to have a healthy life, we need to break away from work to recharge. We love being outside so moving to Denver has been one of the best decisions we’ve made. We hike, hit the bike trails, and are as active as we can with a 3-year-old. It’s a race to see who wears who out first.
Personal guilt-free time for myself. I say guilt-free for a reason. When you are career-driven and have a family, everything revolves around those things. Giving yourself permission to do things that you love, for you, without guilt, is an amazing feeling. I got back in the gym and started weight training again. I forgot how much I enjoyed pushing for a new PR and seeing what my body can handle. I also love being creative. I used to write poetry when I was in college and since becoming a mom, I started writing my first children’s book. Knowing I have the support to pursue these things guilt-free is such a gift!
Learn more about careers at SSA and the incredible work our people are doing to make us great here.