Q&A With Kathy Albarado: A Woman Who Means Business

Kathy Albarado is president and CEO of human capital management solutions provider, Helios HR. She has more than 20 years of experience as a leader in the local executive community.

At Helios, Albarado drives the vision and mission for the company while upholding its values of client and community impact. Through initiatives like the Apollo Awards she has created a forum for executives to be recognized for and share innovative practices and trends in employee development. Such programs contribute to an organization’s ability to attract, retain and engage an exceptional workforce. The spirit of the Apollo Awards is one of collaboration, encouraging and inspiring local business leaders to enhance their employee-focused programs in recognizing their human capital management initiatives as organizational priorities.

A native of the Washington D.C. metro area, Albarado has spent her entire life living in Northern Virginia. As an alumna of George Mason University, Albarado has both her undergraduate degree in Psychology and Master of Arts in Human Resource Management. Prior to launching Helios ten years ago, Albarado was the Vice President of Corporate Services for PriceInteractive, a speech application service provider—leading intensive growth during the dot com era. Albarado was instrumental in working with the founders and leaders to guide the corporate culture in creating a very unique best place to work.  Upon acquisition by iBasis, a VOIP service provider, Albarado resigned her post to follow her passion—working with executives to build a culture that attracts, retains and engages an exceptional group of people.

Albarado has received a number of awards recognizing her commitment to community and leadership in the D.C. metro area business community. Among her awards, she is most proud of those that recognize the team for their commitment to community service and positive impact. In 2009 Helios was recognized by the Reston Chamber of Commerce as the “Best of Reston” corporate category for sharing resources and leading by example; in 2010 by the Society for Financial Service Professionals with the National Capital Business Ethics Award, and in 2011 by the Fairfax Chamber with the Small Woman-Owned Business of the Year Award.  As stated by the Washington Business Journal in 2007, Albarado is truly a “Woman Who Means Business.”

WashingtonExec: Why did you establish the Apollo Awards?

Kathy Albarado: Inspired by our clients’ initiatives to support employee development and growth within their organizations, we launched the Apollo Awards program in 2007. We wanted to recognize the great leadership and focus on human capital from organizations of all sizes. Having volunteered for many leadership awards committees, I naively underestimated the effort required to build an entire program. I remember announcing to my team in February of 2007 that we would be launching such a program. Their initial expectation was that we would do so for the following year. “Nope,” I said, “We’re going to do it THIS year, and NOW.”

In May of 2007 we had our first Apollo Awards with 188 people in attendance. We recognized 12 finalist companies and awarded four Apollo Awards, one in each size category. By this year’s program, which marked the 5th anniversary of the Apollo Awards, we brought together 400 executives and celebrated 24 finalists and five award winners.

The participation and interest says to me, this program fills a need in the community.

WashingtonExec: Please tell us a little bit about your new book, “Building A Culture Of Intention.”

Kathy Albarado: I am a lucky woman. I get to do what I love every day.  Interacting with passionate Washington area executives and learning how they think and feel about creating an intentional organizational culture, is what I love. “Building a Culture of Intention” was inspired by executives that have been recognized by the Apollo Awards. Given this was our 5th anniversary; we wanted to do something unique with the program. What better than to feature 20 leaders in the D.C. metro area that place great value in employee-focused initiatives?

“Building a Culture of Intention” is a collection of interviews with executives sharing their vision and motivation for being intentional about the cultures that they build in their organizations. They get that their people are their core asset. They share their stories of how they address this in our book.

I have to admit, that this was a bit like creating the awards program in our first year. It could not have been done without my team. I had three dedicated team members who made this happen.

Building a Culture of Intention” can be purchased through Amazon and is Kindle-ready.

WashingtonExec: What is your position on executives engaging with their community and how do you do so?

Kathy Albarado: I believe it is a privilege to give back to the community. I am an active member of the governing board to Prevent and End Homelessness in Fairfax and Falls Church, a public-private partnership with a 10-year plan to end homelessness in our region. The ultimate goal of this organization is to ensure that by December 31, 2018 every person who is homeless or at risk of being homeless in the Fairfax-Falls Church community is able to access affordable housing and services to keep them in their homes.

Helios provides opportunities for its employees and employees of its clients to support concrete initiatives in the community that make an impact. Among its outreach, Helios is known for its signature coat drive, supporting Reston Interfaith by collecting coats for the homeless and those in need. Acting as a catalyst in the community, with the help of clients and friends, Helios has donated over 5,000 coats in the last five years alone. I find that people want to make an impact; our role is to help them define the avenues by which they do so—making it easy for them to engage.

Our team also enjoys conducting resume writing and interview skills workshops for the unemployed and under employed at the SkillSource Group.

Individually, I serve on the Boards of the Fairfax Chamber and SECAF, the Small Emerging Contractors Advisory Forum. I am fortunate to work with some of the most dynamic leaders in the Washington area.

WashingtonExec: I have read that Washington, D.C. has the lowest unemployment rate in the country, what is your opinion on employee development in the Washington metro area?

Kathy Albarado: We are fortunate to be insulated from the full effect of the negative impact of the economy. Our recruiting line of business has grown significantly in the last year as the demand for hiring top talent continues to be a challenge for Washington area employers.  We do see our local executives focusing on initiatives to impact their ability to attract, hire and retain the right people that fit their organization.

Each year Helios develops a white paper as a result of our insight into Apollo Award nominee human capital practices. We recently launched “Human Capital Rising—Trends and Best Practices in Employee Development.” In these papers we compare national trends with trends and practices of the Washington market.

In the next decade there will be 22 percent growth in the Human Resource Management profession. This is largely driven by an increasing need for organizations to have competitive and innovative employee development and retention programs. We have seen that Washington area employers often are leading trends in employee-focused practices. I believe we have a higher bar in our region for those who expect to be competitive in attracting and retaining top talent.

For more information about Helios, please visit its website.

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