Meet Elsa Harris, MarketSource’s Woman of the Week

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re sharing stories of some of the women in our midst who are making a difference in others’ lives at MarketSource and beyond.

Our first Woman of the Week is Elsa Harris, an HR Business Partner. As a first-generation college graduate who recalls working alongside her mother as a child in California fields, she leads with compassion and wisdom and has an inspiring path to leadership. Here’s her story.

Elsa Cherishes Every Challenge

Q: How did you get to this point in your career?

A: By working hard, being authentic, relying on resilience, and staying true to myself. As a leader, you must also be willing to protect others, which takes courage.

My parents are immigrants from Mexico. Growing up, I had access only to the basic essentials and was honestly focused on getting through the day. I pushed through all the adversity I faced, took the guidance of counselors and adults who crossed my path during my very early years, and became a first-generation college graduate in my family. Ultimately, I didn’t allow my upbringing and less-than-desirable experiences as a child to define who I was or wanted to be.

Crossing paths with people early in my career who saw potential in me when I didn’t see it in myself helped, too. In my first role out of high school, which was in HR, my team (boss and colleagues) saw something in me and made me feel like I mattered. They encouraged me, supported my studies, exposed me to new adventures, and provided me with the resources to move forward. While I can also name many individuals that have left some sort of an impression on me, there were two specifically that played an important role in supporting me, whether it was to further my education, encourage me to step out of my comfort zone by putting myself out there, coach me through tough situations I faced, or push me to always finish and not give up when the going got tough.

Q: Have you run into any obstacles that you attribute to being a woman?

A: Unrealistic expectations. Women are expected to raise a family while working, to keep it together in every sphere. With so many people relying on us, it’s difficult to have downtime or to be “off”. This expectation creates obstacles for women with careers. In addition, too often, we face obstacles with other women by getting in each other’s way. While I can share many examples, the few that stick out are being told by women leaders that I didn’t have HR “excellence,” questioning my abilities, or not having my best interest at heart. While no one deserves this type of treatment, I wouldn’t take any of it back, as it simply fueled me and molded me into who I am today.

Q: What has been a defining moment in your career?

A: I received advice once from an executive to stop making myself “small” in meetings, so people would have confidence in what I was saying. Since then, I’ve also received other feedback that has cemented my belief in myself and my potential. Those statements also made it easier for me to make the leap into leadership. While I certainly don’t believe I am done evolving into my potential, every experience has led and continues to lead me a step closer.

Q: What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?

A: Everyone who knows me knows how much I love wearing heels. When I wear high heels, they do so much more than complete my outfit; they make me feel powerful, confident, and seen. This is my little secret—one that I just let out of the bag.

In addition, I’ve worked in several labor-intensive roles starting at a young age. My first job was picking grapes at the age of 12 in a field in California with my mother. I cherish the experience, because it taught me to respect every person from every walk of life. If I had to do it again, I absolutely would. I will never forget where I came from because of the precious values it taught me.

“Being a leader is a beautiful, ever-evolving journey that comes with both responsibility and privilege. Go into it for the right reasons, be genuine, stay humble, build trust, inspire, and focus on serving others.”

Q: What advice would you give women in MarketSource who wish to pursue a leadership role?

A: Being a leader is a beautiful, ever-evolving journey that comes with both responsibility and privilege. As a leader, you have the potential to have great impact on others (positive or negative). If you don’t lead with your heart and the right intentions, I would say the impact can be harmful rather than positive. Go into the journey for the right reasons, be genuine, stay humble, build trust, inspire, and focus on serving others. Prepare mentally for the inevitable challenges that will arise, because you will face them, but the beauty of it is that you will learn and grow. And lastly, pay close attention to the leaders around you—you can learn something from all of them. I’ve taken something from every leader I’ve worked with to become the leader I am today.

Q: What’s your hope for the future of women in leadership?

A: I would love to see more women in executive and C-suite roles, as we’re more than capable. We go through a lot as women, which gives us the skills to do as much as we want and go as far as we would like.

Elsa Harris is the Retail Human Resources business Partner at MarketSource. She has been a strategic, results-driven HR professional since 2001. Due to her passion for serving people, Elsa earned her master’s degree in human resources management and a SHRM-CP certification from the Society of Human Resources.