Rosilyn Houston is a trailblazer. Currently, she’s the Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Talent and Cultural Executive at BBVA. She’s the highest-ranking female in the bank’s U.S. division and the first African American to serve on the bank’s management committee. In her career, Rosilyn has often been the first woman or first African American to hold the positions she’s had. But she is always determined to not be the only. We are honored to welcome our newest FACE of Birmingham, Rosilyn Houston.
What are your primary responsibilities and goals at BBVA?
My primary duty is to lead human resources for the United States, but that’s a pretty broad role. When you think about adding the culture piece and the talent piece to the HR function, then the broad role expands to encompass talent acquisition. We recruit and hire at all levels. We’re also responsible for the development of our team members — the training and career posturing as well as the retention strategy.
Another part of my role is employee engagement. We’re looking at our programming, our policy, our procedures to ensure that employees feel like they’re engaged, that this is the best place to work, and that they’re proud of our brand.
And a part of my responsibility is diversity and inclusion — making sure that our team members feel welcome, they feel heard, they feel valued and respected, and we can look around the room at all levels of the organization and we can mirror the communities in which we serve. This is a journey that we’re working on, and I’m proud to be a part of that effort as well.
What’s most rewarding about your job?
I’m a people person, and I’ve always been for as long as I can remember. I am always motivated and engaged when I’m around others. So, when I think about what’s most rewarding about my job, it is knowing that I have a direct hand in helping to create opportunities for people. I wake up every day thinking about our team members. I have a role where I not only live out my dream, which is to help others fulfill their full potential, but I get paid for it! That inspires me because I’m truly fascinated by the human journey to purpose.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
When you think about my role and all I’m responsible for, it requires a great amount of agility. I have to shift and pivot on a dime because when I answer the phone or I get an email it could be that we’ve lost a team member, it could be a code of conduct problem, it could be that we have a hurricane coming and it’s threatening our entire footprint across the Florida coastline, or it could be great news like a deal with Google that we recently announced.
I never know what I’m going to get, and that’s challenging, but I always have to be ready to deliver, to ask the right questions, to make the best decisions that I can, to bring the team members along to buy into the vision and, most importantly, to execute as we’re supporting our workforce and our leaders as they support our customers.
That’s a lot of pressure. And I could just do it, but if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it to the next level. I think our employees deserve the best, and it’s my job to ensure they always get the best.
As the highest-ranking female at BBVA USA and the first African American to serve on the bank’s management committee, what are some things you’ve done and continue to do to open doors for other women and other African Americans?
I am proud of the opportunity that I’ve been given and I have had the pleasure to be the first — whether the first female or the first African American — in many occasions, but what I vow to myself is that I will not be the only.
Since I’ve taken my role, I look for opportunities to bring talented females and African Americans to the table when we have positions in the organization where I believe that they can be most successful. That’s something I’m very proud of that I feel like is a part of my legacy at this organization.
Two years ago we started a business resource group called Women in Leadership, and I had the opportunity to lead that. We launched our first resource group in Houston, and today we have Women In Leadership business resource groups in Phoenix, Dallas, Birmingham, and Jacksonville, FL, and more coming along. Right now we’re in the middle of launching our first LGBTQ business resource group in the organization. And there are more business resource groups coming.
If I’m here in this seat, it’s my responsibility to educate others about the plethora of talent out there, the diversity in talent, and the value that it brings to our organization.
Before we lived in a time of social distancing, what were some of your favorite things to do in Birmingham when you weren’t working?
I love Birmingham. BBVA brought me to Birmingham, and I fell in love with the city. I found this peace in Birmingham where it feels like I’m at home. Pre-COVID, I traveled extensively for my job. I was normally gone every week, so on the weekends when at home, I enjoyed quiet dinners around town. My husband and I are foodies, so we love to enjoy the restaurant scene. We have incredible chefs here. Our go-to restaurant is Ocean. I’m a big seafood eater. Chuck’s Fish is fabulous, too. We love Italian as well, and Bellini’s is amazing. Satterfield’s is a nice quiet place to go. I love Yo’ Mama’s. I eat gluten-free and she makes gluten-free waffles, so I’m in hog heaven. My Friday lunch go-to downtown is EastWest.
We are really into the arts. We enjoy events at the Alys Stephens Center or jazz fests that come through. And if Charlie Wilson comes to town, I am front and center. He’s my favorite and you cannot tell me that he is not my uncle!
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
The best advice I was ever given was given by my spiritual mentor Bishop T.D. Jakes. I used to work with him as his general manager. He told us how important it is to never let what you do define who you are. I let that really embed into my soul so I would never lose myself in what I do. And this spans from what you do as a career to who you are married to and the roles that we play like mother, daughter, or sister. If you don’t know who you are and you wrap yourself in those roles and things change, you’re lost in the world.
Aside from faith, family and friends, what are three things you can’t live without?
Dark chocolate, red wine, and tea.
All photography provided.
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