Irene Fostyk, Senior Vice President of People & Operations at Levin Furniture & Mattress in Pittsburgh, shares her journey as an HR leader.
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Irene Fostyk has been senior vice president of people & operations at Levin Furniture & Mattress since February 2022, but her roots with the company go back more than two decades. In fact, if it weren't for her loyalty and optimism, the retailer might not exist today. In 2020, the company was sold and layoffs were conducted. But after a few months, Levin joined forces with another company to resurrect part of the chain. The owners credit Fostyk's dedication to staying closely connected to the chain's former employees for allowing them to reopen. Fostyk says that developing bonds with employees that allow them to flourish has always been part of her management style.
How did you get started in HR?
Hallmark gave me the opportunity to do recruiting and train other account representatives. It just really spurred my interest in human resources. Human resources offers us so many different possibilities. There's the recruiting side of HR, there's the employee relations side, there's working with different business partners on training initiatives and understanding compensation and benefits. There were just so many different aspects to it that I just found it fascinating.
What is your leadership philosophy?
I think that everyone has the opportunity to make a difference and that has driven me in my entire career. I'm very passionate about doing that by creating a very collaborative, engaging company culture where people can grow and achieve what they want to achieve. For me, it's encouraging everyone to know that what they do matters.
What are you passionate about in your professional life?
Carrying on the legacy of this company. It is near and dear to my heart. It was 21 years ago that I started the HR department at the company that had 500 employees and had never had an HR department. I wanted to show them how HR can make a difference for the business and be that advocate for the associates, but also be a business leader, which is a fine line. And I loved it.
What do you enjoy in your spare time?
Gardening. I started when I was a little kid, working beside my grandfather, whose family had emigrated from Italy. He had a big garden and tried to grow fig trees. My father also had a garden. I've always loved gardening, whether it's landscaping or vegetable gardening or perennials or pollinator gardens. I went through the Penn State Extension Master Gardener program. To this day, I'm still raising fig trees. I have tomato plants, pepper plants, basil and zucchini.
Photo by Rob Larson
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