Loni Olazaba: An Inspiring Leader Helping Companies Hire and Retain High Performing Talent

Top 10 Empowering Women Leaders to Follow in 2024

At the age of 15, a girl of color stepped into the workforce. The initial phase of her career was fraught with obstacles and setbacks. Her responsibilities as a young mother compounded her difficulties. However, she persevered with remarkable resilience, determination, and positivity and steadily climbed the ladder to reach the upper echelons of the professional arena. She is now a force to be reckoned with in the talent acquisition space, in addition to being a role model for many young women. Meet Loni Olazaba, the dynamic and inspirational Talent Acquisition Leader/Diversity & Inclusion Ambassador.

Her professional journey stands as a testament to her perseverance and indomitable mindset. For her, success is defined by “mindset” – the way one perceives and approaches goals, achievements, and challenges. She says it involves cultivating a mindset that drives one to pursue objectives with resilience and optimism.

For Loni, success also involves maintaining a positive and resilient attitude, setting clear goals, adapting to change, believing in oneself, and maintaining a commitment to continuous learning and improvement. “It’s not just about external achievements, but also about the internal mindset and approach you bring to the journey of life,” she points out.

Loni is currently living out her purpose. She is also inspiring others to tap into their authenticity and be the best version of themselves, with passion, conviction, and care. Her ultimate goal is to leave a legacy of empowerment, where every individual feels valued, respected, and empowered to reach their full potential, regardless of their background, gender or identity.

One of Loni’s favorite quotes is “Create the life you can’t wait to wake up to.” She has indeed created such a life for herself.

Thriving as a Woman in Leadership 

Like the journeys of most women leaders, Loni’s path to leadership has also been challenging. “Thriving in the talent acquisition industry as a woman in leadership has indeed presented its challenges,” she says. Yet, she does not view obstacles through a negative lens. Instead, she sees them as opportunities for growth and positive change.

“Despite facing difficulties that at times have seemed limiting, I have made it a point to focus on leveraging my unique perspective and skills to navigate the landscape and make meaningful contributions,” she says. From her challenges, she has learned the importance of resilience, perseverance, and advocating for equality in the workplace. Her past experiences have been instrumental in shaping her into an influential leader.

Loni strives to make an influential impact on the next generation of the workforce by leading by example and actively seeking out opportunities to mentor aspiring leaders. She believes that by sharing her experiences, offering guidance, and providing opportunities for growth, she can empower and inspire the next generation to take charge with confidence and conviction, while being their authentic selves.

She also believes in the importance of fostering a culture of support and collaboration where individuals from all backgrounds can thrive and excel. “By championing diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, leaders can set the tone for a more equitable and inclusive environment for future generations,” she points out.

Leader for the People

Loni is a leader for the people. She believes that every team member holds equal importance in the ultimate success of the collective.

“My proven ability to lead high-performing teams is based on creating an inspiring and inclusive work environment where every member of my team feels valued and appreciated,” she says. When she sees that is not happening, she immediately focuses on course correction.

Under her exemplary leadership, every person is inspired to step out of their comfort zones, tap into their superpowers, and believe in themselves and their potential. This leads to successful outcomes and career growth for them. Also, Loni feels a sense of fulfillment when she is doing meaningful work and positively impacting her profession and community. Her motivation stems from the knowledge that her efforts are contributing to something greater. She is committed to continued learning and development both for herself and for teams she leads.

Loni says that she is in consistent pursuit of growth opportunities that challenge her to improve her skills and knowledge so that she can, in turn, help others do the same.

Lessons Learned Over the Years

Loni achieved executive-level success in her career without a college degree. Her path to the top has been strewn with roadblocks. As someone who successfully navigated them, she has plenty of valuable lessons to share with others. They can inspire and guide others facing similar challenges. My lived experience as a professional reflects resilience, determination, and a commitment to breaking down barriers in the professional world,” she says. Examples of roadblocks she faced and the valuable lessons they taught her:

Educational Barriers and Bias: As Loni joined the workforce at the age of 15, it meant she 

was consistently faced with skepticism or barriers due to not progressing in common education. One of the lessons she learned is the critical importance of demonstrating that skills, experience, and a strong work ethic can be just as valuable as a formal education. “In order for me to break down barriers and overcome biases, I stay focused on my natural abilities and the equal importance of continuous learning and self-improvement,” she says.

Glass Ceiling Challenges: Coming from a “non-traditional” background, Loni also encountered obstacles that at times limited her upward mobility, in the form of dealing with stereotypes or not seeing successful role models who share a similar background as examples. She overcame these limitations by showcasing her leadership qualities, taking on challenging projects and succeeding, and actively demonstrating her ability to lead and inspire others. Loni also focused on seeking out and connecting with underrepresented communities, which helped strengthen her perseverance and build her confidence to break through perceived limitations.

Overcoming Impostor Syndrome: “I am often my own worst enemy,” Loni says. Dealing with feelings of impostor syndrome in environments where she is the minority has been common throughout her career. Over the years, she has learned of the importance of being intentional in self-recognition and taking time to celebrate achievements, big or small. Loni explains how important it is for her to pause and reflect on each moment, with the acknowledgement that her success is earned and deserved.

“I believe that as a Leader it is also my responsibility to guide and encourage others to embrace their accomplishments and not let self-doubt hold them back, even when faced with setbacks,” she says.

Guiding and Coaching Others

“My greatest achievement that I am humbly grateful for as a leader lies in my thoughtful ability to guide and coach others,” Loni says. Throughout her stellar career, she has fostered an environment where individuals not only excel in their roles but also progress in their careers to become leaders themselves.

She recognizes the unique strengths and potential of each team member and then empowers them to reach elevated success. Through personalized mentorship, constructive feedback, and tailored development plans, she instills confidence in them and inspires growth.

“Witnessing the transformation of individuals under my guidance as they ascend to leadership roles is not only deeply fulfilling but also a testament to my passion for cultivating talent and creating a legacy of impactful leadership,” Loni says.

Responsibilities of a Talent Acquisition Leader

As the Talent Acquisition Leader, Loni’s primary responsibility is to ensure that the organization attracts, hires, and retains high-performing talent. Her role involves aligning recruitment strategies with organizational goals, leveraging technology to innovate, promoting diversity and inclusion, and measuring performance through analytics. She also focuses on continuously improving processes to ensure optimal efficiency.

Loni consistently collaborates with key stakeholders to understand workforce needs, ensuring that recruitment efforts are aligned accordingly. She implements proactive recruitment strategies to identify and engage with talent prospects before specific job openings arise and is involved in the co-designing and implementation of effective screening processes to equitably evaluate talent. Loni also implements talent brand strategies to promote positive candidate experiences, fostering a reputation as an employer of choice.

She oversees the development and execution of initiatives that promote diversity and inclusion throughout the hiring process. Her role also requires her to establish key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the effectiveness of talent acquisition efforts, use data and analytics to identify trends, assess recruitment strategies, and continuously improve hiring processes.

Furthermore, Loni ensures that all recruitment activities comply with legal and ethical standards while effectively matching talent with opportunities.

Maintaining Work-Life Balance

Loni has a demanding work schedule. Despite that, she is able to maintain a work-life balance. “I believe maintaining a balance between personal and professional life is essential for overall well-being and success,” she says. “This takes intentionality and effort.” Approaches followed by Loni to achieve balance include:

Establishing Boundaries: She sets clear boundaries between work and home life, allocating specific times for work tasks and dedicated time for her family and personal activities. This helps her prioritize and manage her time effectively. However, as an Executive Leader, this can sometimes be difficult to do, especially on days when she needs to give work more of her time and attention. When she works long hours, she ensures to “payback” herself and her family after her workload subsides. For example, she might take a half-day off the following week or extend her lunch hour by 30 minutes to get in a full gym workout. Loni also leverages her paid time off for birthdays.

Effective Time Management: She prioritizes tasks based on importance and urgency, using tools such as to-do lists and calendaring. Loni explains that that the level of importance takes precedence over urgency as it focuses more on the impact of a task, whereas urgency relates to the time sensitivity or immediate attention required for completing a task. And, to effectively manage time and be successful, she believes in focusing on initiatives that align closely with long-term goals, objectives, and impact. Being proactive is also crucial, she says, adding that investing time and resources in preventive measures can lead to more efficient and effective outcomes in the long run.

Open Communication/Delegation: Loni believes in the power of communication. She communicates openly with her employer, colleagues, and family members about her priorities and commitments. This transparency, according to her, helps manage expectations and allows for flexibility when needed. The ability to delegate is also key to achieving a balance between professional and personal life. She, therefore, delegates tasks both at work and at home, recognizing that she cannot do everything on her own.

Future of Talent Acquisition

In recent years, technology has become crucial for an effective talent acquisition process. Technological advancements have disrupted the way companies attract, assess, and hire talent. Loni believes that technology will continue to play a significant role in streamlining and optimizing the talent acquisition process.

She expects AI-driven tools, data analytics, and automation to enhance recruitment efficiency, from sourcing and screening candidates to onboarding and beyond. However, Loni notes, the evolution of technology will create a deeper need for the “human touch”, specifically as it relates to key areas, such as innovative collaboration, the candidate experience, and Diversity and Inclusion, as a culture. Operationally, she anticipates that applicant tracking systems will become more sophisticated, providing more precise insights into talent pipeline quality and activity.

“Overall, the future of Talent Acquisition as an industry will be characterized by innovation, agility, and a relentless focus on attracting, engaging, and retaining top talent in meaningful ways,” Loni says.

A Message to Aspiring Women Leaders

Loni encourages aspiring women leaders to devote time to knowing themselves and identifying what they are good at and their areas of opportunity. “Focus first on what you are good at and let that lead you to your passion and purpose,” Loni says. “From there, sharpen your skills in the areas where you need to develop while leveraging your natural given abilities to do your due diligence in contributing to the success of the organization you represent while being the best version of yourself.”

She also advises these women to be authentic, open, honest, and respectfully constructive. “Be bold and brave and look at yourself in the mirror every day and say, ‘Mirror, mirror, on the wall, I’ll always get up if I fall, whether I run, walk or crawl, I will set my goals and achieve them all’,” she adds.