Stay focused on what you bring to the table. Focus on you, your growth and helping others. There was a time early in my career when I was working for someone that I did not feel was qualified to be my boss. At the time, I was doing very ego-driven things to showcase these concerns. My actions were actually causing me to fail as they were breaking down the foundation I was trying to build for myself. You can only hide in the weeds for so long; my negative behavior was starting to hinder my goals. Once I realized that I was centering my attention to the wrong area, I re-prioritized my focus back to myself and went back to my roots of being well-grounded. Being able to shift my focus not only helped me move forward, but thrive. Although the journey was a long six months, I can safely say that I will never let anyone define who I become. This experience not only taught me a lot about myself and others, but it solidified the values I believe in and confirmed who I aspire to be as a leader.
As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Desiree Russo. Desiree is an innovative operational leader with more than a decade of experience managing all aspects of operations in the construction and facilities management industry. As Vice President of Operations at CS Hudson, Russo works closely with clients to ensure customer satisfaction, supervises multiple teams and manages staff training and development to promote professional growth. She also oversees and develops workflow processes to ensure that CS Hudson meets — and exceeds — the industry’s highest standards. Prior to joining CS Hudson, Russo spent five years moving up the ranks at a facility management company, starting as a client team manager and leaving as director of client services. Before that, she spent five years at Empire Facilities Management Group, where she rose through the ranks as a coordinator, supervisor and manager. She has twice been the recipient of the Circle of Excellence Award, first in 2011 and later in 2013. Russo earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in business management. She currently resides in North Babylon, N.Y.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Let’s bring it back to when I was 20 years old and still going to school. During this time, I was at a company where I was working directly for an architect and an engineer for more than two years. Eventually, an opportunity came up where I could continue my career with this company as an executive administrative assistant, but I wanted something greater than that. My goal was to find a company that would offer me the opportunity to develop and flourish, so I began to researching online for new career opportunities I could venture out to.
After thorough research, I found a company called Empire, applied online and interviewed with Moses Carrasco — today, co-founder of CS Hudson. This moment was pivotal for me. His vision for growth within the organization that was shared during our meeting took me aback, intriguing me even more. Moses spoke about the many opportunities I would have, including expanding my knowledge and skillset within the hands-on environment that he enabled and encouraged.
Fast forward 20 years to present day, and because of my eagerness to be more and thanks to the consistent mentorship I received under Moses’ wing — I grew in every aspect of my professional career. I left that first meeting with Moses knowing that I was in an environment that could truly foster the growth I was seeking. I listened to my gut and as the years have passed, I can say without a shadow of a doubt, that he turned his visions for my growth into a reality. Today, that growth path only continues.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
Facilities management and construction are still for the most part fields that are male-dominated. In my position, I have been able to set an example for women and young girls, proving that it is possible to break down gender-norms and flourish in these so-called “male-dominated” trades. Not only are women more than capable of handling this type of work, but the mere fact that we are women allows us to bring unique characteristics and insights to the table.
In the property management realm, what I consider disruptive about my work style is that I have always believed in leading my team as though I am guiding them on a journey. We are always grinding and working hard, but we are doing it together. I have never been afraid to share my knowledge and experiences with my colleagues and those I am mentoring, as I feel a good leader should be a teacher. I embrace collaboration. I do my best to be available and supportive, and truly listen at all times. I feel that if someone on my team becomes more of a subject matter expert than I am about that topic, I’ve succeeded. A leader allows others to have an opinion and that’s the mentality I inspire and nurture.
We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
The most stand out mentor I’ve had is Moses Carrasco, co-founder of CS Hudson. After more than a decade of working together, Moses continues to serve as my mentor. He was the first person I met with during the interview and hiring process — and his hands-on teaching methodology and nurturing guidance have shaped me into the leader that I am today. He is the type of adviser who is always composed and poised, no matter the situation he is faced with, and those are traits I genuinely value and strive to emulate.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
Put your ego aside.
At the end of the day it’s easy to jump the gun and let your ego get the best of you.
People hear what you’re saying but often don’t listen. When onboarding clients it’s important to hear their concerns and understand what their expectations are early on, in order to understand how to tailor the execution strategy.
Stay focused on what you bring to the table.
Focus on you, your growth and helping others.
There was a time early in my career when I was working for someone that I did not feel was qualified to be my boss. At the time, I was doing very ego-driven things to showcase these concerns. My actions were actually causing me to fail as they were breaking down the foundation I was trying to build for myself. You can only hide in the weeds for so long; my negative behavior was starting to hinder my goals. Once I realized that I was centering my attention to the wrong area, I re-prioritized my focus back to myself and went back to my roots of being well-grounded. Being able to shift my focus not only helped me move forward, but thrive. Although the journey was a long six months, I can safely say that I will never let anyone define who I become.
This experience not only taught me a lot about myself and others, but it solidified the values I believe in and confirmed who I aspire to be as a leader.
How are you going to shake things up next?
One of my larger initiatives in 2020 is to create an interactive training program. I want to make impactful changes to our onboarding program and increase efficiencies in our hiring process. What I have envisioned is a firmly scheduled first week of engaging activities that will improve a new employee’s acclimation to our team, giving them a full understanding of expectations. I want this program to inspire new employees to strive for ambitious goals and encourage them to think outside of their comfort zone to reach new levels.
Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?
Sell or Die by Jeffery Gitomer and Stay Tuned by Preet Bharara.
These pieces have been great sources of inspiration to me. They have opened my eyes to new techniques, ideas and perspectives. The takeaways I’ve obtained from them help me daily as I sharpen skillset — and have instilled the value of truly investing in myself and my own personal growth. These lessons, in turn, have also allowed me to assist in other people’s growth and professional development.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would inspire a career-long mentorship program. Truly investing in my team has always been a practice that has served me well. I have mentored quite a few members of my team and to this day, I continue to provide them support and guidance. After seeing the beneficial development associated with continuous mentorship, this concept is one I would truly aspire to implement and grow as an ongoing program. I believe that our company succeeds because our people are continuously growing from within and our new hires continue the growth. I’d have this program start companywide and ideally, it would catch on and become an industry best practice.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Loyalty runs a lot deeper than any money that could be given.
When you invest in someone, you’re building relationship, loyalty and trust. These characteristics become engrained in the relationship that we share. As time goes on, there’s a strong level of trust and openness that allows you to be comfortable with your team. When I left my last company, I noticed something interesting: Those team members that I’d been mentoring and spending time with started to ask me about my new role and if there was any way they could join me. The first one to show interest in following me to CS Hudson was Tracy. She would not leave me alone until I figured out a way for her to be on my team again. Tracy started a trend that prompted most of my previous team to explore the option of working with me at CS Hudson. Each and every one of them had to make compromises to come to CS Hudson, which they very willingly did. Their loyalty to my leadership speaks volumes to this day. I believe in my team and what they are doing. I believe in making sure that my team is aware that I am here to support them and invest in their growth. I do my best to lead by example and exhibit strong work ethic, instill deeply held morals and develop great work habits. I have always felt that when people cross your path in life you should leave them some positivity. My team that has now been with me for years shows me that being loyal and investing in my team will always help take me to the next level.
How can our readers follow you on social media
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!