Faces of Business: discover your purpose and live your passion

The Colorado Business Roundtable's new campaign spotlights Colorado business owners
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Left: Habab Balla; Right: Helen Hayes | Photos courtesy of The UnfoundDoor and Colorado Business Roundtable

Meet two inspiring women who both believe that business, and the faces behind companies, can help people succeed.

Habab Balla works for Arrow Electronics as a Data Security Analyst. She met Helen Hayes, CEO of Activate Workforce Solutions, while searching for a job opportunity and sustainable career path.

In 2019, Balla was hired as an apprentice in technology and cybersecurity at Arrow. Within a year, she was a full-time member of the Arrow cybersecurity team.

“I met Helen right after I graduated from Colorado Technical University. I was looking for a professional opportunity in technology and cybersecurity,” says Balla. “I believe that, because of Helen and Activate Workforce Solutions, I have a job that I’m thrilled about at Arrow Electronics. I’m very proud to be part of this organization.”

Activate Workforce Solutions is an employer-centric, people-focused recruiting and coaching firm. The company lives in the space between recruiting and retention, helping job seekers find professional career pathways, and helping employers hire and retain talented individuals.

“We are purposeful and pragmatic recruiters and coaches that activate the potential of talented individuals, creating equitable paths for people seeking careers and employers seeking talent, “says Hayes. “Our unique partnerships with Colorado employers allows us to offer our services at no cost to job seekers.”

Balla emigrated from Sudan to the U.S. in 2013 in pursuit of prosperity, a future, and with a passion for cybersecurity and technology. “I believe that technology is the key to success for any business,” she says. “I believe that the IT industry is all about coming up with solutions. I’m a problem-solving person who likes troubleshooting, and this job brings out the best in me.”

“When I met Habab, I was immediately struck with her stellar qualifications: a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, an MBA and a Master’s in Information Technology,” says Helen. “Even more compelling than her credentials, are her personal traits of resilience, self-awareness, drive and joy. Melding her experience with those traits gave Arrow a job candidate with tremendous promise.”

What does business mean to you?

“I believe in the ability of business to elevate individuals through the transformative power of work” says Hayes. “Business stands apart and alone in its ability to build flourishing communities through the income, wealth and dignity that comes from purposeful work.”

“Business for me is the future,” says Balla. “Turning your passion into financial stability, money, prosperity and brightness of the future. I’m a single mom. I have two daughters, five and six. I want to afford the best for my family.”

Most important decision you made in the past year?

“In 2020, we launched the Colorado Inclusive Economy Movement to inspire, invite and challenge CEOs to rebuild an economy that works for all,” says Hayes. “Ours is a movement of CEOs who have the grit and passion to build a Colorado of racial diversity, equity and inclusion.”

“This pandemic is tough on all families, but for single parents like me who have to suddenly balance working from home and deal with homeschooling, it has been very stressful. Taking family medical leave or quit my job, after this long journey, to apply for unemployment wasn’t a choice for me,” says Habab. “I choose to continue learning and get more experience that will result in more stability for me and my kids.”

What is one stakeholder group you are paying particular attention to in both the short and long term?

“At Activate, we balance our attention between the pressing business needs of our employer partners and the desire for economic mobility of our clients. 2020 brought into sharp focus the importance of balancing profitability and community impact for business,” says Hayes. “We help our employer partners find and retain extraordinary talent from often underrepresented communities. And Individuals who launch careers through Activate earn better wages, more comprehensive benefits packages, and the dignity and stability of work.”

Again, Balla’s focus is more personal. “I’m focused on quality of life for my family. And I’m dedicated to doing the best job possible at Arrow, putting in extra hours to build a nest egg for the future.”

Especially during times like this pandemic, where have you drawn your inspiration?

Balla says, “I was working full time, taking my kids to daycare as their school was closed. It was very challenging for me trying to get through the actual day-to-day of life under quarantine and manage my resources to cover daycare expenses as well as manage all the fears associated with this pandemic. My kids inspire me every day. My team at Arrow inspires me to want to learn more and grow professionally. Thinking about our future gives me energy to wake up every morning to work and learn.”

For Hayes, “I have found inspiration from my faith and wisdom from the Scriptures. In 1989, I miraculously survived the commercial airline disaster of the crash-landing of United Flight 232. I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t believe I’m here for a reason, and one of those reasons is transforming individuals and their families through the dignity of work. Even in the midst of a pandemic, I feel great purpose in being here, today, to help elevate individuals and businesses to their fullest potential.”

Who is your hero or most influential role model?

“My manager is my role model,” says Balla. “He is a true leader who leads by example.

The best guidance he has given me is that we cannot avoid making mistakes; mistakes are learning opportunities.

“I came from a different culture and unique social customs; I was unfamiliar with workplace manners and protocols. He encourages me to be more confident in my skills, abilities and my career, and helps me to overcome the cultural barriers at the workplace. ” she emphasizes.

“Without a doubt, my mom. Her family lost everything and became refugees in China during World War II,” remembers Hayes. “My family fled from place to place during and after the War; ultimately my mom came to this country on borrowed money and full scholarship. She eventually got her Bachelors, Masters and Ph.D. in chemistry. She raised five kids while working full-time, and literally became a rocket scientist.”

Words of inspiration for others in business

Balla is fond of author Ryan Babineaux and his book Fail Fast, Fail Often: How Losing Can Help You Win and this particular quote: Successful people make a habit of pursuing what they enjoy. They take actions that are aligned with their passions and avoid things that dampen their engagement in life.

“My manager brings this quote to my attention frequently, and he recommended this book to me as well,” she says.

For Hayes, “Choose joy and gratitude every day. Discover and live out your purpose to make life better for your neighbors. Work hard and have fun with your colleagues. Treasure every minute you have to spend with your family; they leave the nest too fast. Nurture your spiritual health along with your physical and mental health. Be a blessing.”

About the Colorado Business Roundtable
The Colorado Business Roundtable engages with elected leaders, business and nonprofit leaders, and other strategic allies to improve the business climate in our state by unapologetically amplifying the voice of business across all four corners of Colorado.

Categories: Community News, Companies, Women in Biz