I’m a Director Who's Been at My Company for 2 Decades: Here’s How I Grew My Career & Support Others

Sponsored by Delta Dental Ins

Heather Castiaux. Photo courtesy of Delta Dental Ins.

Heather Castiaux. Photo courtesy of Delta Dental Ins.

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April 21, 2024 at 12:2AM UTC

Heather Castiaux, Director of Customer Operations at Delta Dental Ins., has been with the company for over two decades. In her current role, she leads the customer support teams in California, Pennsylvania, and Georgia — including over 500 people across the three locations. But she wasn’t always a director.

Castiaux joined Delta Dental Ins. after leaving retail management in order to start a career doing what she’s passionate about: helping people. 

When she got her job at Delta Dental Ins., Castiaux says she was ecstatic.

“I could hardly wait to move into that role and help people achieve greatness; I was over the top,” she says. “I love leadership and want to be in a health environment. So, I merged the two into dental insurance leadership. After a year of being on the phone, I was provided the opportunity to be part of the Contact Center leadership team. I spent time learning everything I could about Contact Center operations and dental insurance growing into my director role, which I have been in for the past four years.”

As for how she’s reached these heights, Castiaux tells us that she is one of many leaders within the organization that has “grown up within the company.” This growth is aided by the support for internal mobility and career development that are “woven into the culture of the organization,” says Castiaux.

Now, teamwork makes the dream work, Castiaux says, calling herself a flexible and transformational leader. “I enjoy transforming a process into something better for all those involved; I also like seeing people grow and expand their responsibilities for growth purposes,” she explains.

Here, Castiaux tells us a little more about her leadership strategies, advice for other women climbing in their own careers, and more — for when she’s not losing herself to the music in zumba or working on her golf game.

To begin, what is your No. 1 piece of advice for other women who are moving into or want to move into leadership? 

Build your brand. Having a strong brand will help you achieve more. Let people learn about who you are by opening up and having fun. When first in leadership, I was told that you need to let loose and be human. This was so strange to me coming from a retail environment, where all the upper management was male. I thought I had to portray a certain aura that implied I had everything buttoned up and organized in its place. Some of that comes from growing up as an Air Force officer’s daughter, too. It has taken me a while to break out of that mold. So I advise you to show your colors and expand your wings

In your own journey, what opportunities did Delta Dental Ins. provide that ultimately helped you land your role? 

While working for Delta Dental Ins. and being a mother to two wonderful boys, I finished my education. I achieved this by taking advantage of their educational reimbursement program to complete my undergrad in Organizational Behavior and get a graduate degree in Organizational Leadership. Going through those classes provided me with the opportunity to apply the theories I learned. 

Then, I took that knowledge I gained in college and applied it to my role, helping me achieve a better outcome. The critical thinking skills, problem solving, business law, and labor relations knowledge helped me grow into who I am today.

Let’s talk about your team! While at Delta Dental Ins., you’ve built a team that you’re now leading. How did you approach this?

I have built several new teams, some within various locations. When I build a new team, I look at the skills needed to be successful in the role as noted on the job description. Hiring a team is like a puzzle — you want to have the pieces to fit together to address all the needs and roles you have within the team. Having people who are alike is not going to help you advance the team. Hiring people who are good at different things is necessary to driving success

While building your team, what did you learn that surprised you most? 

The importance of remembering to have some fun. Those down time moments mean a lot to your staff, and they really get people to open up and build strong relationships. Having the opportunity to create memories, have a good laugh, and talk in a casual, safe environment creates a bond. These bonds help build teamwork, and the team becomes committed to one another as they don’t want to let others down.

What’s one strategy you’ve used when managing an individual or team that you think has been particularly effective? 

Active listening. You can learn a lot about someone or the situation if you truly listen.This requires you to put everything aside, provide your full attention, ask questions to gain understanding, and challenge their thinking. By doing so, you can not only gain their trust, but also fully understand what they are telling you. 

What do you hope your direct reports are getting out of working with you? 

Leadership is not a one-size-fits-all approach. You need to be flexible. This includes how you lead staff, your communication approach, change management, and motivational tactics. It is important to look at the entire picture and formulate the best solution. Don’t forget you can always change the plan midstream. 

How do you make sure your direct reports feel well-supported in their lives both in and out of the office?

These past couple of years during the pandemic have been challenging for all. Our environment is changing, and everyone has felt the impact of the pandemic. During this time, it is even more important that we as leaders ensure everyone feels supported in and out of the office. Taking a few minutes to ask an employee how they are doing at the start of a meeting helps build that relationship and makes people feel supported. People want to feel as though they are part of a community, and building community involves asking how they are doing, acknowledging how they are feeling or what they are going through, and demonstrating that they have a support system.

For example, one of my staff members lost her mother unexpectedly several years ago. One of the executive team members took the time to give her a call to express his condolences for the loss of her mother. That five-minute call meant so much to her. She appreciated how he took the time to reach out and check in on her. A simple action made such a profound impact, and she still remembers how that conversation made her feel today. 

Does mentorship play a role in how you support others at Delta Dental Ins.?

Absolutely! I have mentored several people within my career. There is such a sense of accomplishment when you see someone you have supported achieve their goal. That rush of joy motivates me to strive for more as well as to help others achieve their desires. There is so much satisfaction in being a mentor

What is your favorite perk about working at Delta Dental.?

Delta Dental Ins. has great benefits. We offer so much to our employees. Employees have paid PTO, great medical benefits, LTC, paid volunteer time, EAP, fertility services, a wellbeing program, and so much more. I appreciate how Delta Dental Ins. makes their employees feel like they are an MVP

Ultimately, what has led you to stay at Delta Dental Ins.?

Delta Dental Ins. has such great culture. Everyone is so helpful, kind, and supportive. And I appreciate how our company encourages women of all backgrounds and ethnicities to strive to achieve their career goals

We have several women in high positions. Our president of Delta Dental Ins. of Ca is a woman. It is great to see this progress, and how we, women of Delta Dental, are breaking those social stigmas. 

Want to join Castiaux at Delta Dental Ins.? They’re hiring! Browse open jobs via the following link.

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