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North Star Leadership Series: Heather Castiaux defines the importance of multidimensional leadership

“Some companies say they do, but we truly measure ourselves against our mission to ensure we are living those values every day.”

Heather Castiaux, Director of Customer Operations

Twenty-two years ago, Director of Customer Operations, Heather Castiaux was working in one of our call centers as a dedicated customer service representative. With her experience in retail management and strong desire to support the folks around her, she knew she wanted to move into a leadership role at Delta Dental. As a mom, she’s nothing if not enthusiastic, giving and brave. Taking on new projects, partnerships and going the extra mile, she made her way through the ranks from supervisor to manager to director. Heather has supported more teams than can be counted on one hand, including member and provider customer service, grievance and appeals, member outreach, case management, Language Assistance Program services, correspondence and more.

To anyone else, this might sound like a headache – but to Heather, it was a unique opportunity to learn more about the business functions and operations. She’s managed teams in various locations, filled in for open positions and helped onboard many team members who she has helped grow into the leadership roles they have today.

Heather not only pays it forward, she’s a North Star for our company culture here at Delta Dental.

We recently connected with Heather to learn more about her journey and how she lives our values, both personally and professionally.

Q: How do you draw inspiration from your personal life into your professional life?

In life, forging strong connections with those around us is often key to success – and the same goes for our professional relationships. Creating positive synergies by investing in people through shared experiences or conversations can cultivate loyalty, trustworthiness and an overall successful atmosphere in your workspace. If we remain dedicated to forming meaningful connections both inside and outside of work – much like how we value personal relationships – it'll help produce extraordinary outcomes that no one person could have achieved alone.

By parenting two teenagers, I've discovered how vitally important it is to have meaningful conversations. Ignoring the issues at hand only serves as a temporary solution with long-term consequences. For example, not addressing my sons' messy rooms resulted in me growing more and more upset each day that passed without anything being done about it. Once we had "the talk," however, our family was able to reach an agreement quicker than ever before; plus their bedroom now smells wonderful!

Q: What are you most proud of accomplishing in your time at Delta Dental?

As a long-standing member of Delta Dental, I am proud to have witnessed the power of teamwork firsthand. During the onset of COVID-19, our team was able to successfully transition over 600 employees from office work to remote working in only two weeks – an incredible feat! Throughout this process, both myself and my colleagues learned valuable new skills such as how to best manage technology issues with social distancing measures kept in place. This experience brought out a sense of resilience within all involved that empowered us to take on further challenges efficiently and effectively.

Q: What advice do you have for professionals hoping to reach the next level of their career? What piece of advice do you wish you were given when you were younger?

Make sure that you never lose sight of the importance of taking care of your health and well-being. Taking time for yourself is essential when it comes to finding a healthy balance between work life and personal life, allowing you to be in an ideal position both professionally and personally. When faced with opportunities or challenges, strive for success but don't forget about patience – good things come to those who wait! Never give up on yourself, no matter what stage you are at in your career journey. There's always room for growth through experiences, so keep pushing forward!

Q: Which one of our values – Trust, Service, Excellence, and Innovation – speaks to you most right now and why?

Excellence, as our team demonstrated this in the work completed over this past year. Through our combined efforts, we successfully merged HMO and PPO centers into one unit with 800 employees trained on a new product that was unfamiliar to many of them – all while managing a massive logistical operation to make it happen! We also deployed technology which has empowered staff members visibility into their own performance metrics. This promotes trust between Customer Operations and its personnel, as well as demonstrates an ongoing commitment to service excellence.

Q: If you could have dinner with anyone in history, alive or deceased, who would that be?

It would be an honor to have dinner with some of the most inspirational women in history: Barbara Walters, Ketanji Brown, Helen Keller, Maya Angelou, Nikole Hannah-Jones and Eleanor Roosevelt, for a meal full of revealing conversations about their career successes. We would explore what lessons they learned along their paths as well share in favorite moments and discuss current events from each individual's distinct point-of view – this would promise to be a powerful event sure to yield tremendous insight while bringing plenty of laughter too!

Q: What challenges have you faced recently and how did you overcome it?

Before the pandemic hit, I decided to take up a hobby I had longed to learn: golf! Although initially confident in my abilities and sure it would be simple enough for me, I soon found out that there was much more involved. Golf is an activity which requires patience and practice over time – not instant success or perfect swings at first glance. With hard work I can now play on the course with relative competence. My ultimate goal remains playing a full 18-hole game across some of Hawaii's renowned courses! Until then, further refining technique will continue taking center stage in this journey towards improving myself through mastering one of America's favorite pastimes.

Q: How would you describe your leadership style in our word?

Multidimensional. As an Operations leader, I prioritize leading with intention and purpose. My commitment to authenticity fosters a sense of safety that unlocks trust among my colleagues. With passion driving the way forward, others feel comforted knowing they will be heard while celebrated in our collective success. Through poise, integrity and strength, those around me can depend on their balcony person: someone who believes in them wholly so together we may reach new heights!

Q: What is your favorite inspirational quote?

“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” – C.S. Lewis

Q: What’s your favorite thing about working at Delta Dental?

Our team is deeply committed to creating an environment of success and care. We exemplify this through our ongoing dedication to each other, offering help whenever needed: from supporting a coworker who lost their home in a fire, checking up on one another's wellbeing during the day-to-day routine or simply going out of their way for our company’s advancement. It can be seen that we as employees possess both selflessness and courage when it comes nurturing an atmosphere built upon mutual respect – something I find truly remarkable about us all.