By Wayne Chargualaf
It was her experiences with a human resources department at an early, post-college job that filled Stacy Elarmo, head of human resources, people and culture at GTA Teleguam, with the conviction that human resources can be done differently — and better.
“It was a big HR team, and I was interested in what they were doing but I didn’t really understand what they did,” she says. “I thought, ‘You guys are supposed to be human resources, but you’re not really much of a resource here.’ It was a traditional hire and fire committee, and I thought, ‘Hey, it would be super cool if there was a change and how can I be a part of that change? How can I make that people aren’t scare when HR walks down the hall?’”
Elarmo grew up on Guam, graduating from St. Johns School before attending the University of San Francisco, where she earned a bachelor’s in psychology and minored in Japanese.
“I know it’s such a crazy combo,” she says. “I thought I’d use Japanese in my profession if I ever moved back to Guam, but I’ve been out of practice and it’s hard for me to even remember the basics.”
After graduating, she took jobs at various companies, starting out in purchasing before moving on to the accounting field as an assistant.
“I went through a bunch of jobs just really trying to find myself and where I wanted to be in my career,” she says. “You know, in your 20s, you’re not really sure.”
When a company she worked for was bought out, some of the executives went on to found a startup called Tandem Diabetes Care. She was brought in to help the CFO build the accounting team as well as lay the foundation for the administrative team. Thanks to the dynamic nature of startups — in which a small team of people often must wear several hats and responsibilities sometimes blend together — Elarmo moved more into an HR role.
“We were just starting up and we wanted to have a really awesome, very relaxed culture,” Elarmo says. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this is a great segue into how I can be involved in HR.’”
Although she recruited staff, she also focused on generating team spirit in what were 12-hour days.
“It’s the hustle and bustle of a startup,” she sayd. “And that’s where I was really like, ‘Okay, I love this. I love that I can make this kind of impact.’”
After five years and a lot of growth, Elarmo moved on, eventually landing in Seattle. After selectivity in interviews she chose and some searching, she found the design firm Artefact, deciding, “This company is really cool and really aligns with who I am, what I want to do and the impact I want to make.’ The culture they had and what it could be was so intriguing.”
She applied for an accounting job because at the time, the firm didn’t have an HR department.
Besides accounting duties, she constantly made recommendations on how the organization could become more effective in making things better for employees and wore down the idea of HR as a tool solely for big soulless corporations.
“I think if you show employees that HR is not something to be scared of, that we’re here to provide you with resources to learn and grow, and we can work together to do that, then it’s going to be better not only for our brand but for our organization.”
Elarmo eventually earned a master’s certificate in human resources management from Cornell University and joined the Society for Human Resources, but it was Artefact’s position as a design firm that gave her a unique tool for her HR tool belt.
“I was so excited to learn about human-centered design,” she says. “I thought, ‘Why don’t we apply this to our people operations? How can we use it to solve problems for our people, where our clients are our workforce?’”
Human-centered design aims to design systems that are useful and usable by focusing on the needs and requirements of users. Her unique approach paid off and is reflected in Artefact being included on Seattle Business Magazine’s list of 100 best places to work in 2014, 2016 and 2017.
This approach is one she says she’s excited to bring to GTA.
“I met with [CEO] Roland [Certeza] and I loved his vision and the change he wanted to make at GTA,” she says. “I told him it’s going to take a long time — it’s not going to happen overnight — but I can help you with that and here’s how. We were really able to sync in how we want to see GTA in the future.”
Since then, Elarmo says she has been working to develop a culture at GTA that emphasizes trust, transparency and strong relationships where people will feel inspired, motivated and grow.
In the midst of the limitations on work and movement due to the coronavirus on Guam, Elarmos says maintaining this positive culture has been even more important.
“It’s really important as leaders to understand how our workers are feeling, how we can help them, and how the leadership team can make the best decision possible, not only for the organization but for our people as well,” she says.
Usually in her downtime Elarmo can be found at the beach engaging in water activities like paddle boarding and jet skiing. She says kite surfing is next on her list of skills to learn. She also enjoys running as a form of stress relief.
In her professional and personal path, Elarmo says she has relied on gut instinct, a desire to improve herself and those around her, and a desire to live a life that aligns with her values that has driven her.
“It’s not about being all-knowing, it’s about just knowing, ‘Hey, I’m going to continuously evolve, I’m curious, I’m going to learn,’ and also just that this role gives me a sense of purpose,” she says.
Favorite coffee shop order: “If I’m feeling like a kid and it’s super cold out, I’ll order a hot chocolate with extra whipped cream and extra hot. If I’m feeling like I need to be an adult, I’ll order an extra hot Earl Grey tea or English Breakfast tea with lots of sugar. Since I’m on Guam, I order either a Vietnamese iced coffee or a South Seas Iced Coffee from Infusion.”
Favorite restaurant on Guam: That’s a tough one. I have a couple I like because they play live music. I love Mosa’s, Kitchen Lingo and Crust. They all have great bars, so maybe that’s why I love them.
Favorite movie: I love The Godfather I and II.
Favorite music: My go-to is reggae. I love Bob Marley. I also love some old-school hip hop and R&B. I love A Tribe Called Quest, I love Maxwell, Lauryn Hill and The Roots.