Athena Alliance Blog

Athena Impact Stories: Shelly Morales on impact through authentic connection

Shelly shares her unique journey to becoming a CHRO and entrepreneur and how she impacts others through authentic connection.
By Athena Alliance

If you’ve ever had a conversation with Shelly Morales, there’s a high chance you’ve heard her say “What can I do to help?” She’s a self-proclaimed natural networker; more accurately though, she’s a natural human connector – a people-person who genuinely cares about helping those around her thrive. This innate seed of connection was nurtured early on in Shelly’s career when she entered the workforce without a college degree. She says, “There’ve been a lot of people in the journey of my career that are like, you didn’t go to an Ivy League school, so you’re probably not smart enough.” The times she was written off strengthened her grit and determination, and most critically, taught her to embrace help from the people around her. “It has taken people really giving me a chance, and I think that might be at the core of what has driven me to help people in return.”

Fast forward several years, and Shelly had a clear vision of becoming a CHRO and making a positive impact on people’s lives through effective decision-making. Despite unexpected detours and the challenge of juggling responsibilities – including caring for her family of four kids, a husband, two dogs, a cat, and a lizard – she stayed true to her goal, aiming to be a good leader with good people around her. Her commitment to fostering effective leadership became the driving force behind her career choices.

In 2018, Shelly got her first Head of HR job at a publicly traded company. After years of coaching and guiding leaders to make good decisions in the background, she finally held a forward-facing role that she felt really impacted people. She says, “It’s a fabulous place to be – you can do things subtly and you can do things outwardly, both impactful.” After that company was acquired and she held a couple of other small Head of HR roles, she recognized an opportunity for her to impact more than just one company with one set of employees: found her own business.

While the vision and name of MoralesHR had been established for years, Shelly waited on the right timing to launch it. She says, ”I knew I was going to do it at some point in time. And then I said, I just have to decide. I have to pick. Either I’m going to do it or I’m going to look for a full-time job.” Last August, recognizing that the time was right to pursue her entrepreneurial dream, she devoted herself entirely to building MoralesHR. Initially, she founded it as a platform for her to provide fractional HR leadership to multiple companies. She quickly realized, however, there was much more she could be doing and expanded it into a comprehensive HR resource, serving companies of all sizes. “Even though I can do fractional at multiple companies, I’m still only one person.” By expanding, she says, “I’m impacting personally in a company where I am a fractional CHRO, I help that company, but I also have the ability to impact as every other client that we have gets a little bit of me.”

Like many founders, the journey of building her business involved both excitement and trepidation. She grappled with questions of adequacy and whether people would genuinely seek her services. Yet, she embraced the uncertainty, leveraging her vast network to gather advice and insights. “I started asking literally everybody I know, hey, I’m thinking about doing this. Could you give me some advice? Hey, what would you think about this? How would this work?” Her emphasis on seeking advice, learning from others, and remaining adaptable underscores valuable lessons for aspiring entrepreneurs. She offers the philosophy: “Today I’m going to try new things, and some things are going to work and some things aren’t…but I would say the biggest piece of advice is to ask for advice. Ask people who have done it before.”

One of the communities in which Shelly finds the opportunity to ask for advice and learn from others herself is within Athena Alliance. Whether it be in a Salon, in a follow-up message exchange, or through a one-on-one chat, Shelly has found a fabulous network of women who are impacting each other’s lives. In just the past year, Shelly has referred more people to Athena than anyone else in the organization—and she does it genuinely. She says, “What I get from [Athena], is this network of women who are there for me. The impact they’re having on my life, the impact I’m having on their lives…it might not be today, but it might be tomorrow.”