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Sandra Rosa has spent decades channeling her passion for people into a successful career in human resources. Her initial entry into the field, however, came as much out of that passion as out of financial necessity.
“My parents were born in Puerto Rico and came to the mainland US at a very young age,” says Rosa, who is one of four daughters. “After graduating from high school, I immediately entered the workforce to afford to go to college. I needed to work full time.”
Rosa took a job as a phone representative at what is now JPMorgan Chase & Co. Before long, she had moved over to the financial services firm’s HR team—and marked her first step toward attaining her current role as CHRO of Florida-based communications technology company, Syniverse.
Before joining the leadership team at Syniverse in September 2023, Rosa honed her expertise by delving into the functional areas that comprise HR, from compensation to talent acquisition. By the end of her twenty-plus years at JPMorgan Chase, she had served as a senior HR business partner and executive director, as well as a head of talent acquisition. She continued to grow her understanding of HR’s many nuances at Santander Bank and Santander Consumer USA, where she held her first CHRO position.
Rosa’s extensive HR background uniquely positions her to seamlessly integrate into Syniverse. “Upon joining the Syniverse team, one of the first things I was asked to evaluate was the shift to a more flexible PTO policy,” she explains. “Based on my experience, only a very small percentage of companies have implemented flexible PTO, and if they have, they’ve tended to limit it to employees at more senior levels. We wanted to take a different approach, emphasizing the considerable cultural benefits that a flexible PTO policy can bring to both the company and its team members.”
By increasing the number of Syniverse employees with access to flexible PTO, Rosa sought not only to enhance work/life balance but also to foster a culture of trust that aligns with the organization’s values. In addition to driving company culture, she has prioritized investing in people leaders throughout the organization and getting the right talent in place to achieve Syniverse’s strategic goals.
“My role goes beyond what are considered the traditional people initiatives, like competitive pay and strong benefits and wellness programs,” Rosa says. “I see myself as a business leader first, by which I mean that I focus on really understanding the business and the financials so that I’m able to contribute beyond human capital. That’s one of the evolutions we’ve seen with the CHRO role.”
Rosa has witnessed the HR function undergo several evolutions over the years, most notably amid the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath. “From my perspective, the role of HR has fundamentally changed as a result of the pandemic,” she says. “Although we’re still responsible for the performance, productivity, and efficiency of the workforce, the bigger part that we now play is to understand the challenges our employees are facing both inside and outside of work.”
Beyond navigating a new landscape of working arrangements, HR must now operate and respond much more quickly than it did prepandemic. “In the past, we would have months to write a policy and get it vetted through multiple layers of the organization. When COVID came along, we didn’t have months; we had to come up with a policy and get it approved in a matter of days,” Rosa says. “That pace—and that need for innovation—is here to stay.”
The heightened pace of HR work makes it that much more crucial for Rosa to cultivate connectivity with her colleagues on both the Syniverse executive leadership team and her own team within HR. Unsurprisingly, collaboration and communication are key tenets of her personal leadership philosophy. “Effective leadership boils down to the ability to inspire confidence, build trust, make difficult conversations easy, empower employees, and give feedback,” she adds.
Rosa applies those same tenets to her mentoring relationships. “While it took years of education, hard work, and firsthand experience to reach my professional goals, I have also been blessed with some excellent mentors who have generously shared their time and knowledge to help me succeed,” she says. “I’ve made it a priority to mentor others early in their career because I really do believe that mentorship sets you up for success.”
She hopes that her career journey—from assisting JPMorgan Chase customers as a phone representative to sitting in the C-suite at Syniverse—will inspire the next generation of leaders to aim just as high. “I want them to know that it is possible,” Rosa says. “If my story can inspire others to believe and to envision themselves being successful on a path similar to mine, that’s what it’s all about.”