Resource manager Yohance Henley says he was drawn to ZELUS because of the positive energy he felt from the team. When you meet him, you understand why: He exudes that same kindness and warmth.
Raised in the US Virgin Islands, a destabilizing series of events brought Yohance and his entire family to Arizona. Rather than letting these hard times dull his spirit, Yohance looks for the positive in everything. It’s that unflappable enthusiasm he brings to his new leadership role at ZELUS, where he aims to uplift his team and make them feel supported and cared for.
He shares more about the journey that’s led him to where he is today.
What’s your role at ZELUS?
I was recently promoted to resource manager. So my current role is to guide and lead the processing team. We work on the existing conditions side of things. We’re in charge of all the 2d and 3d models –– taking the data we get from the translation team and using it to create digital twins for our clients.
What were your early years like? Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the United States Virgin Islands, about 20 minutes from Puerto Rico.
The USVI consists of three islands: St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John. I'm from St. Thomas, which is the island where everybody goes to party. There’s actually a rich history though. St. Thomas is where the pirates used to come and dock when they finished their raids. They’d dock there and party.
I grew up there all my life. I went to school there –– graduated from university –– and started to build a career and family of my own there. I never thought I would leave. Then in 2017, hurricanes Irma and Maria, two category five storms, hit us back-to-back. It was horrible. They almost completely destroyed our island. We didn't have power for months.
Now, the island is getting back to itself, but living there throughout that time, constantly going through hurricane seasons over and over was challenging. I was thinking about trying to build a house down there, but it's extremely expensive to do. I feared I would put all my eggs in that basket only for a hurricane to come by and knock it down or weaken the integrity of the building. My whole family and I decided leaving would be best.
My wife was six or seven months pregnant with our first child while we were going through the hurricanes. After all of that, it was too stressful, and we didn’t want to feel like that anymore. So we looked for places that didn’t have that type of climate.
Around that same time, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer and was doing much of her treatment in Arizona. So we visited Arizona a lot. Every time we came out here, it was beautiful. We loved it.
There was a lot of bad that year, but there was some collateral beauty in the whole situation. It was a great move for my family.
What brought you to ZELUS?
When I was leaving my home island to come to Arizona, I started searching online for different jobs. Once I had the interview at ZELUS, I knew I wanted to be here. Walking into the office was so nice. People really saw you and treated you with genuine kindness. They spoke to you like you mattered.
What were you doing prior?
I was a community outreach manager at the Virgin Islands Department of Education in their division of cultural education.
Basically, I would safeguard a lot of information about our culture by traveling from school to school and giving cultural presentations to the kids, teaching them about our traditions, like the Mocko Jumbie.
Mocko Jumbie is a very cultural thing. We learned from our ancestors that spirits would try to scare you, so Mocko Jumbie is a way to make fun of the spirits. You dress up with a kind of funny mask and you stand on stilts that are five feet high and dance and balance on them. It's pretty cool.
I was in charge of bringing programs to the schools and community, making sure that the kids understand their culture, their heritage, and passing that on.
What’s been your favorite project at ZELUS and why? Or what is your favorite aspect of your role?
My favorite aspect of the role is being able to help my team. They were my co-workers a month ago. So I was on projects with them, working hard with them. I was in the trenches alongside them.
Now, I have the honor to help them develop themselves more, find ways to better themselves. It's kind of like being a sidekick to everyone on the team and seeing how I can get them to be their best.
What’s been the most valuable thing you’ve learned since joining ZELUS?
Have a conversation with someone before you make an assumption because you learn so much just by a simple conversation. You see that people come from all different walks of life, they have similar situations and stories, and then they have different ones that could teach you before you have to go through it.
What’s one thing you hope to achieve in the next year?
One thing I hope to achieve in the next year is to get my data processors to a point where we are constantly turning over projects client-ready, where managers are extremely pleased –– from the immediate manager to the highest we can go –– by the work that we do and the team improvement.
I want each individual on the team to be able to say, “I've seen myself get better since I have moved into this position.” My main goal is supporting the team. That’s all I'm focused on every day since I've been in the position. Making sure they're great, making sure they're safe, they’re staying mentally okay.
With COVID, I’m making sure they don't feel alone, making sure they feel strong and confident in the work that they do. When they're not, making sure they get the training to help them and they know that they can improve.
Every hiccup that they may find could be a lesson. I want to take everything and turn it into something positive and continue to move forward.