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Christel Colón grew up in the Jacob Riis housing project on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, a section called Alphabet City, at a time when poverty rates and crime were at all-time highs.
“Too many of my childhood contemporaries are either dead, incarcerated, homeless or struggling,” Colón says.
She overcame those early obstacles in large part because of her parents. Both were Puerto Rican immigrants who began their lives in the U.S. with little education or money. Yet they set high educational goals for their children and worked numerous jobs, cleaning houses and driving taxis to make ends meet.
Colón has continued that work ethic throughout her 30-year HR career, during which she has held positions at a law firm, hospitals, universities and now a scientific research laboratory. In each place, she has been attracted by the organization’s mission as much as the job itself.
Colón is president of the
Long Island chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management and has chaired several of the chapter’s committees, including its diversity and inclusion council.
What attracted you to HR?
As an intern in the corporate relations department at Dow Jones & Co., I worked down the hall from HR. I was intrigued by the buzz in that department and how nice everyone was. So when my internship turned into a full-time job, I participated in a program that allowed me to explore other roles, including HR. I was hooked. I left Dow Jones to take my first HR job with an international law firm. The rest is history.
What’s your work philosophy?
Keep the “human” in human resources. Show that you care about people, be honest and transparent, and give nothing less than 200 percent!
What are you passionate about?
I have a huge place in my heart for veterans. While working in HR at Stony Brook University, I was given a stretch assignment to be the veterans affairs coordinator. My first work-study student is now the director of veterans affairs.
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