Helping People Flourish: An Interview with Ralph Romero

faithcoop  •  January 24, 2024

Ralph Romero headshot

An Introduction to The Series

One of Faith Co-Op’s deep convictions is that our work in this world matters because it is one of the main ways we are able to commune with God. God’s original design was for humans to join him in caring for and stewarding this world. When we do the good work of stewarding our businesses, creating solutions, or counseling people, we are responding to God’s call to join in the work of bringing flourishing to this world and pointing others to the redemption found in Jesus.

It is often difficult to know how to live out this beautiful biblical concept in our specific vocations. One of the main ways we are able to get a vision for faithfulness in our work is to see the ways the Lord is working through others’ lives and jobs. It is through the encouragement and stories of other believers that we are able to get a bigger picture of the ways the Lord is working in our particular context.

With this in mind, the Faith Co-Op team has gathered stories of women and men who are using their gifts and passions to serve God across Chattanooga in various roles and industries. With each conversation, we sought to uncover the answer to one question, “How does your faith inform your work?”. We pray that through these stories you will be encouraged by what God is doing in the city, inspired by authentic and practical advice for connecting your work with God’s, and refreshed by a deeper understanding of why your work matters.

We sat down with Ralph Romero at Southern Champion Tray to better understand how his faith informs his work and what drives him to show up and serve his employees each day. Below is our conversation:

The Interview

I’m Ralph Romero, Chief People Officer at Southern Champion Tray (SCT). Even before that, I am a father and husband, with two girls, happily married to my wife Jamie for over 15 years. Planning for our future, we sought opportunities in Chattanooga for a bigger market, and that led me to SCT through a referral from my mentor, Amanda Thompson. The alignment of culture and values made it the perfect fit, and I’ve been here for about 14-15 months.

The Joys and Challenges in HR

Faith Co-Op (FC): What are some things you love about your work, and what challenges do you face?

Ralph Romero (Ralph): Particular to the profession or craft itself, I’ve been in HR for 20 years or so and I love it. I love being able to help people. That could be through benefits design impacting 1,000 team members in terms of how we serve them well with health and benefit opportunities, or it could even be through job design and how the job is designed ergonomically and safely. Other things I enjoy are career development and facilitating career change or promotion.

If you’re thinking about some of the difficult things, balancing external narratives, especially in a polarized media landscape, is a common challenge. However, at SCT, we focus on our shared humanity, recognizing the greater purpose and navigating challenges together.

Having an Eternal Perspective

FC: How does your faith inform the work that you do?

Ralph: I believe in eternity, that there is something beyond the life we have on this earth. I believe that we were all created on purpose for a purpose. This shapes how I view my particular role and how I’m interacting with other people. It also shapes how we connect with our team members, not just within SCT but also in the communities they live in. We care about more than just work; we care about their lives outside the office.

FC: What biblical principles guide your thinking in the workplace?

Ralph: The belief that everyone was created in God’s image, that God has given everyone a talent and created everyone for a purpose, and we’re all humans that are going to make mistakes so we have to be able to give each other grace. Embracing these principles creates a workplace where everyone is respected, loved, and supported. If we can continue to build that out for our teams at SCT, it’s going to continue to be a great place to work.

FC: How do you keep those principles top of mind?

Ralph: Daily devotionals in the morning help set the right mindset for the day. Focusing on relationships and meaningful conversations rather than tasks, and surrounding myself with truth tellers who hold me accountable, are key to maintaining these principles. Instead of entering the day thinking, “What do I have to go into work to do today?” we should enter thinking, “How should I be looking at the day and what opportunities are there?” Maybe those tasks that I was thinking about are not as important as those relationships that I need to be building and conversations I need to be having and people I can be helping.

Seeking Mentorship

FC: How did you find those mentors at work?

Ralph: Building trust and getting to know people over time played a key role. Recognizing their genuine care, especially as they invested in my career, made it evident. While I didn’t actively seek out mentors, the opportunity presented itself. Now, my hope is to reciprocate that mentorship to others. Regarding my peers at SCT, I actively sought out those whose values and experiences assured me they could be truth tellers. I directly approached them, enlisting their support for direct feedback, and they have been invaluable.

More Than Making a Box

FC: Are there any books that have impacted your view of faith and work?

Ralph: Recently, “Lead Like it Matters to God” left a profound impact. Another insightful read was “Remarkable” by Dr. Randy Ross, which explores how Chick-fil-A built a remarkable culture beyond just providing a chicken sandwich. Similarly, at SCT, it’s about more than making a box. My purpose in coming to work everyday is not about finishing a report or putting a bar graph together. It’s about the impact I’m making on someone else, whether that’s a customer or an employee. There’s more purpose to this work than just building a box, even though that’s really important to keep the lights on and keep our customers happy. Focusing on the greater purpose and valuing every individual is fundamental to our belief that everyone is created by God with unique talents.

My purpose in coming to work everyday is not about finishing a report or putting a bar graph together. It’s about the impact I’m making on someone else.

FC: What does this look like for someone working in a non-Christian organization?

Ralph: In a non-Christian organization, expressing faith can be subtle yet impactful. Offering to pray for a colleague facing challenges, for instance, is a simple gesture. It doesn’t require overtly Christian actions; instead, it’s about living out values daily. During challenging moments, it becomes crucial to uphold those values. You have opportunities daily to choose to respond to something differently than others – how do you choose to respond? Demonstrating passion in your craft, aligned with the belief that God created work, showcases your values consistently.

Know Your Passion, Know Your Talent

FC: How would you encourage those reading this that their work matters?

Ralph: Identify your passion and talent; everyone possesses unique gifts, so knowing what those are will help you weave that into your work. Connecting your talent with your work often involves becoming more relational. Even tasks that may not seem enjoyable, for me that’s writing or administering policy, have a greater purpose for organizational consistency and fairness. Every role impacts others, and understanding that connection is key. You might be helping other positions create more value by doing those tasks you don’t enjoy, or you might be unlocking an opportunity for others to go further in their roles. If uncertain, engage in conversations with leaders to discover a more meaningful connection. Recognize the innate value of your position and its purpose within the organization. Conversations with internal customers can offer fresh perspectives on the value your work provides, bringing a deeper understanding of your role’s impact.

Read the previous story in our series of faithfulness in the workplace.