Community has played a huge role in Annerys Rodriguez’s life since she was a young girl in the Dominican Republic, where she would help her grandmother prepare meals every day for the people around them. “She would make lunch for the family, the teacher who lived far away, and the strangers who might stop by because they were travelling through our town,” Annerys recalls. “She always thought of others and considered whether these people would need a meal or drink. She wanted everyone to be well."
Today, leading with empathy is critical to Annery’s work as a DEI Communications Specialist at MetLife. Keep reading to learn more about Annerys and the role community, empathy and growth plays in her success.
Annerys, thank you for sharing your background with us. Could you explain why you think empathy is so important in the workplace?
Empathy is important because our actions often stem from our feelings, from how well you’re feeling that day to your experiences at work and in your personal life. Everyone brings a different lens to their 'whole self,' and so it is very important to not make assumptions. I enjoy working with others, collaborating, or even just checking in to see how we are doing over coffee – this is how space is made for empathy. We build our own community this way, through working as a team, focused on shared goals and ensuring everyone has what they need to help drive results for the larger organization.
Why is inclusivity important to your work?
I believe effective communication requires inclusivity. To me, it is about being curious, listening with intention to understand and not judge, challenging your own viewpoints and creating a space where the audience feels heard and valued. Your actions must align with these values, though. Growing up, watching my grandmother share a meal with unexpected guests, I learned she didn’t need to know all the details about people to make them feel welcome. This is how the practice of inclusivity works as well – you should always make room to take in someone or something unexpected.
What are examples of how you've embraced change to stay current and grow our business?
A growing business usually requires you to embrace change and grow as a person. Part of my journey is that I was a very shy person when I started my career at MetLife. A few years in, I joined an organization that MetLife sponsors – called The Red Shoe Movement – and used that opportunity to practice everything I was learning at work. I managed a group of volunteers, and, when events occurred, I had to stand up in person and speak. This opportunity taught me how to speak up and manage change with grace. And I had the support of that community throughout.
Excellent. What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve run with?
Practice the hard things in a low-risk environment. Performing was never my thing, but joining The Red Shoe Movement allowed me to practice speaking on stage in a comfortable environment until I could speak publicly anywhere.
Looking back, what’s the experience in your professional career that has had the biggest impact on where you are today?
I would say having managers at MetLife who were interested in my growth and who have advocated for me has had the biggest impact on my career. A good manager can help you identify what you really love and new ways to pivot. I’ve been fortunate to have managers who have identified opportunities to help me make a change.