How Vivianne Castillo Challenges Tech Leaders to Focus on People

Helping tech professionals grow through coaching, courses, and community

The human perspective is at the center of all the work that Vivianne Castillo does, so when she wasn’t feeling heard and supported in her previous role, she left to start her own design company.

An outdoor portrait of Vivianne Castillo.

HmntyCntrd

Castillo is the founder of HmntyCntrd, curator of a UX masterclass and community focused on transforming the status quo of what it means to be human-centered. Castillo previously worked at big corporations like Google, Weight Watchers, and Salesforce before deciding to take her talents elsewhere.

"I got into my current business because I felt like a lot of the ideas that I have weren’t acknowledged, recognized, or valued in the corporate setting," Castillo told Lifewire in a phone interview. "At HmntyCntrd, we help folks working in design and big tech do the personal work that’s required to do their best professional work." 

HmntyCntrd provides coaching and offers virtual courses to tech industry professionals looking to lean more into their soft skills to produce better work. The company currently offers a five-week course that people can either take live with instructors or self-paced independently.

This course focuses on helping attendees deepen their self-awareness, sharpen their foundational tech skills, and ultimately become more competent in their line of work. All course attendees become a part of a private online community where HmntyCntrd hosts monthly themed discussions and fosters collaboration. 

Quick Facts

  • Name: Vivianne Castillo
  • Age: 30
  • From: Chicago 
  • Random Delight: She likes making early 2000s playlists and riding her bike along the lake.
  • Key quote or motto she lives by: "Choose courage over comfort."

How Castillo’s Journey Led Here

Castillo has an educational background in counseling and human services, but she made a career switch five years ago to work in the design and tech space. As a "die-hard Chicagoan," Castillo has lived in many places, but she said she always knew she would eventually return to the Midwest to start her own business. 

"I remember being into entrepreneurship since I was a kid," Castillo said. "I would check out books in the library to see how kids could make money, and I even started an animal balloon-making business that I sold off to a friend."

During her tenure at Salesforce, Castillo worked with many C-suite executives to help them leverage research to be more holistically centered in their approach to business development and strategy.

Castillo said she ultimately left her job there because she was tired of fighting and making a case for why she thinks Salesforce should be more inclusive and equitable in its approach to people. 

"I got into my current business because I felt like a lot of the ideas that I have weren’t acknowledged, recognized, or valued in the corporate setting."

"I think that experience showed me a lot about business’ understanding of what it means to be human-centered," she said. "When I left Salesforce, I ended up taking that work and building a business around it." 

HmntyCntrd welcomed its first cohort of tech professionals in September 2020, and it’s gearing up to host its third cohort this month. The company’s team consists of eight employees, including researchers, designers, and facilitators.  

"Come for the Course, Stay for the Community"

When Castillo was conceptualizing her business, she said she saw a gap in how companies talk about people through the pandemic. In the beginning, companies address big topics like stress and burnout, but Castillo feels like trauma should have been more centered in these discussions.

Castillo kept this in mind when building HmntyCntrd and said she continues to be mindful of the type of resources and activities the company will provide in the future. 

"The way that you handle trauma and the way that you understand trauma will be key for personal and professional growth," she said.

One way Castillo plans to address trauma at HmntyCntrd is by working with a licensed therapist to launch a new course called Healing Conversations. The new self-paced course will be available in August. 

"This course is about unpacking a lot of the unspoken hardships of the workplace experience," Castillo said. "It dives into how to develop a more trauma-informed approach to work and team building."

Castillo has big plans for HmntyCntrd as the company comes up on one year in business. She said she’s been fortunate in kickstarting her venture since she hasn’t had to take out any loans.

Vivianne Castillo in a meeting.

HmntyCntrd

She attributes this success to professionals in 2020 putting a more significant emphasis on value, and HmntyCntrd coming when the nation was experiencing civil unrest and problems far beyond the pandemic. 

"We bootstrapped everything, and we’ve been able to turn a profit quickly," she said. 

Moving forward, Castillo said she isn’t planning to secure any venture capital or scale tremendously, and is instead focusing on providing value to community members. She said she wants to double HmntyCntrd’s community, partner with like-minded organizations, and license content to support internal projects and efforts at tech companies. 

"We operate out of the philosophy of come for the course, stay for the community," she said.

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