Celebrating the Women of Compass: Esther Centeno

When physical therapist Esther Centeno moved to the United States from her native Venezuela in 2016, she wanted to find a health care position where she could continue serving others, but in a new capacity. Esther believed Compass Group’s healthcare services company Crothall Healthcare offered more than just a job – it was a path to a new career. In May, Esther will celebrate her fifth anniversary with Crothall, where she provides healing and promotes hope to both her team members and their customers through a mix of authenticity and….triathlons? Read her story to learn how a competitive spirit coupled with deep empathy inspires her and the women on her team to tap into their own resilience, and to just keep going.

This year’s Women’s History Month theme is “Providing Healing, Promoting Hope.” How do you provide healing or promote hope?

It hasn’t been an easy two years for many people. So, I try to promote healing and hope by just showing up and being there day in and day out for people who need it. I always make myself available – I look for ways to be supportive. I listen, and I give my team a safe place to talk about what they may be going through.

At Compass Group, we ask our associates to “Be the Difference” you want to see. How are you being the difference at Compass?

It wasn’t always easy for me to show up authentically at work. Adapting to a new culture and learning a new language was difficult. I had to learn to communicate very differently and not take everything personally. But I am a genuine person and, eventually, that made all the difference. I learned that being open and transparent demonstrates that I am the same person every day, which has helped build trust with my team.

I also try to remember every decision I make will have an impact on other employees. I support my team, and my team supports me. But it’s not just about me – we are all successful because we all support each other.

This year’s Women’s History Month theme is “Providing Healing, Promoting Hope.” How do you provide healing or promote hope?

I think we can never underestimate the power of our tongues and the power of our words. So, I really try to think before I speak up. If I don’t have anything positive to say or anything that is going to be impactful, I’m quiet. Sometimes that works well and sometimes it can be misinterpreted, but when I speak it means I have something of substance to say. I try to encourage people through positive conversations and affirmations. It can be a simple compliment or a “thank you”. I try to make sure that the people who work with me, the people who work for me, and the people who work around me never feel invisible. I want them to feel seen. Darkness and Light cannot coexist. That’s not just a scientific fact. For me, it’s a spiritual belief. I try to always be a source of light. Sometimes it’s just a flicker. Sometimes it might be a flashlight. Sometimes it’s a full spotlight. But if you walk into a room and provide some source of light, at least in that area, darkness has to move out of the way. If more people subscribed to that philosophy, just think about the kind of world we could create.

What words do you live by?

“Let’s go!”

My background in competitive sports has really shaped my worldview. I have been competing in triathlons since I lived in Venezuela, and I’ve been a finisher in many events, including the IRONMAN 70.3 Superfrog in San Diego, which is based on Navy SEAL training. I actually hate running. I am so slow! But I love riding the bike, and I love the feeling of freedom when I’m swimming in open water. I once swam for 12 hours! Even though a lot of people are around me when I’m competing in a race, I am really only competing with myself. I can’t just stop in the middle of the ocean – I have to keep going. Yes, I may be tired. Yes, I may be exhausted. I even be hungry, but I just keep going. That is the mindset I take into everything I do. I see women on my team with the same spirit. Women are very resilient. Not everything goes as planned, but we all know how to just keep going, and eventually, we can get to where we want to go.

How do you help Associates on your team find balance and wellness in uncertain times?

I believe it is important to let people feel their feelings. Burnout is real, and it can be expressed in different ways by each of us, so I always try to put myself in other people’s shoes to see their perspective and feel what they are feeling, the way they feel it. From there, I support them in the best way I can with the resources I have available – it might be an accommodation, or just room to speak freely and be heard. For myself, achieving balance in uncertain times is hard, but it is essential to being able to show up for my team every day with a positive attitude.

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