Carol Torres is the director of the Human Service and Education Worker Training Fund, a nonprofit whose mission is to create high value professional development to benefit all bargaining unit members.
“It’s a dream job that I didn’t have a dream for,” Carol explains. “The dream is the feeling that I get when I do it.”
Carol’s passions lie in education and mentorship. Although she initially thought she would work full time in a classroom, her career followed a different path.
“I ended up using leadership and management as an opportunity to teach,” she says.
Carol spent 17 years of her career working in human services. She was struck by the passion her staff had for helping others. But, she also saw the realities of burnout and high turnover rates in that industry.
“As a senior leader, I didn’t always have the space to really mentor or teach because I was trying to keep the trains running on time,” she says. So she started building mentorship projects when she could to address the professional development needs in her organization.
This experience led her to her current dream position with the Human Service and Education Worker Training Fund. She now gets to utilize her passion for mentorship all the time.
“Now I’m in a role where all I do is create amazing opportunities for folks,” she says.“I develop and create innovative programs to support this workforce that is often burnt out, under-resourced and where there can be a lot of turnover.”
Mentors Pushed Her
Carol is passionate about mentorship because mentors have played a pivotal role in her life.
“A lot of people have invested in me and my education and my development. Every opportunity that I can do that for someone else, I try to do that,” she explains.
Mentors have helped her navigate the challenges of balancing her personal and career lives.
Five years ago, Carol’s sister passed away and Carol adopted her two nieces. Around that time she gave birth to her daughter while also managing a multi-thousand-person team at a large human services organization.
“It was very challenging,” Carol says. “I had a lot of mentors that helped me do some soul searching and really evaluate my career and what impact I want to make.”
She took some time away to finish her master’s degree and consider what she really wanted. With the help of her mentors, she looked at organizations differently when she reentered the workforce.
“I was thinking about organizational culture and finding an organization that really celebrated and accepted me for who I was as a Black woman. Because that has been challenging.”
Providing Mentorship in Her Work
Through her work with the Human Service Worker and Education Training Fund, Carol is able to provide mentorship and empowerment as well as a career pathway and overall professional development. Her focus is on providing support and resources so that all workers can be successful in their passion of helping others regardless of the challenges they may face.
SEIU workers have access to language courses, professional development courses, DEI panels, grants, and more. These services are offered as part of a benefits program with no out-of-pocket costs to the workers.
“We pride ourselves in really getting to know workers and helping them identify their needs and empowering them to take control over their own professional development in unique ways,” Carol explains.
Encouraging Up and Coming Leaders to Build a Network
Carol’s biggest piece of advice for future women leaders is to build a strong network.
“Find your village,” she says. “You don’t need a lot of them. But find a few good people to help with your foundation because you are going to need it.”
She also emphasized the importance of continuing to learn and grow. Carol says her mentors are actively helping her learn to “own my power, have confidence and not apologize for it.”
Alongside her mentors, her family is really what keeps her going. In addition to her nonprofit work, Carol also serves as an adjunct professor at Nichols College. Balancing her career and personal life can be difficult but she loves what she does and wants to inspire her three girls.
“I want to show them that they can have a career and a family,” she says. “But also a career that they find meaningful.”