Elissa Mahendra image

Elissa Mahendra

Human Capital Leader Employee Experience Strategist Culture Cultivator Trusted Business Partner
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About Me


18+ Years Positioning HR as a Strategic and Credible Business Partner

Passionate about cultivating employee experiences and culture to improve performance, profitability, growth, and employee engagement. Approaches new challenges with intention and grit to make an impact and drive sustainable change.

Scope of influence and impact across private and public companies, from 800 to 15,000+ employees globally, with experience in the Americas, EMEA and APAC.

Key Capabilities

business strategy

Business Strategy

  • Business Growth and M&A
  • Organization Design and Development
  • Change Management
  • Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
  • Resiliency Planning and Management
hr strategy

HR Strategy

  • HR Transformation
  • HR Business Partnership
  • Employee Experience
  • Culture and Engagement
  • Data and Measurement
talent strategy

Talent Strategy

  • Talent and Succession Planning
  • HiPo / Leadership Development
  • Performance Management / Pay-for-Performance
  • Learning and Development
  • Reward and Recognition

Experience Portfolio

Cetera Financial Group
(January 2014 - Present)


Chief Talent and Inclusion Officer
(April 2022 - Present)

Serve as a trusted partner with the CEO, CHRO and Council members to guide and design Cetera’s strategy and aspirations in the multiple facets of Talent Management and DEIB - within the corporate home office, financial advice profession, and community spheres of Cetera’s influence and impact.


Vice President, Learning, Talent and Culture
(July 2018 - April 2022)

Lead HR Center of Excellence function to rethink how Cetera delivers an experience where employees can thrive, are proud to belong and cultivates a high-performance culture.


Senior HR Business Partner
(Supported 2 Business Units, in addition to L&D role)
(September 2017 - June 2018)

Supported and coached managers in all aspects of hiring, onboarding, performance management, development, retention, engagement, compensation and rewards.


Director, Head of Learning & Development
(January 2014 - Septmeber 2017)

Recruited to build learning and development practice aligned to business strategy, as part of a complete re-build and revitalization of the HR function.


Northern Trust
(February 2003 - January 2014)


Vice President, Organizational Development
(May 2013 – January 2014)

Asked to serve in a newly created role, as 1 of 4 incumbents serving the 15,000+ person enterprise, focused on developing organizational effectiveness.


Vice President, Change Management
(February 2012 - April 2013)

Selected to assume a newly created role to build a Center of Excellence (CoE) during a period of organizational transformation and globalization.


2nd VP, eLearning Solutions
(Expat assignment in Bangalore, India)
(March 2011 - February 2012)

As part of new global strategy, built and led the eLearning function during early stages of operations center in India to support Global Talent Development organization.


2nd VP, Talent Acquisition
(June 2008 - March 2011)

Led recruitment for enterprise leadership program in addition to manage other early career programs (college internship, INROADS and high school cooperative education programs).


Human Resources Consultant, Enterprise Leadership Development
(July 2006 - June 2008)

Enterprise High-Potential Leadership Rotational Program:
Global Compensation, Office of Diversity, London HR (Expat Assignment) and Talent Acquisition.


Project Manager; Portfolio Analyst
(February 2003 - July 2006)

Performed audits of client's financial statements and prepared 5500 tax schedules for multi-national corporations, with ERISA qualified plans.


2010 – 2015


Keller Graduate School of Business

Managing Global Diversity, Strategic Staffing, Strategic Compensation

DeVry Undergraduate School of Business

HR Information Systems, Strategic Staffing, Training and Organizational Development, Compensation and Benefits, Human Resource Management

Formal Education


Master of Business Administration (MBA)
Organizational Development
Summa Cum Laude

Graduate School of Business
North Park University


Bachelor of Science
Finance and Management

College of Business Administration
University of Illinois at Chicago

Professional Credentials

hrci logo

Institute For Diversity Certification

Certified Diversity Executive (CDE) - Expected 03/24

hrci logo

Six Sigma Global Institute

Diversity and Inclusion Yellow Belt


Association of Talent Development (ATD)

Master Performance Consultant; Master Trainer; Leading Training Programs

franklin covey

Franklin Covey

Certified Facilitator: Speed of Trust; 4DX, 4 Essential Roles of Leadership, 6 Critical Practices, Unconscious Bias

capt inc

CAPT, Inc.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®, Certified Coach and Facilitator

prosci inc

Professional Sciences (PROSCI, Inc.)

Prosci Change Management, Certified Change Manager

Community Affiliations

board meeting

Board Affiliations

  • i4cp Chief Diversity Officer Board
  • SIFMA D&I Council
  • Financial Services Institute (FSI) NextGen Council
  • Institute of Management Studies Advisory Board (Past)
  • Keller Graduate School HR Advisory Board (Past)
  • John G. Shedd Aquarium Auxiliary Board (Past)
  • American Red Cross Auxiliary Council

Industry Affiliations

  • Association of Change Management Professionals
  • Association for Talent Development
  • Society for Human Resource Management
  • CEOACT!ON for Diversity & Inclusion
  • HR Certification Institute
  • Six Sigma Institute
  • Institute for Diversity Certification

Philanthropic Affiliations

  • Rock the Street Wall Street
  • Feed My Starving Children
  • All God’s Children (Honduras Mission Trip)
  • The Children's Army
  • SIFMA Foundation
  • Junior Achievement
  • Best Buddies International



Kyron Jackson

HRIS Strategic Partner at Cetera Financial Group

I've worked with Elissa for over a year as a Sr. HRIS Manager supporting the technology behind the Center of Excellence (COE) she oversees.

Elissa is a key member in Cetera’s HR executive leadership team and is responsible for leading the company’s talent management solutions including, learning and development, performance management, professional development, leadership development, and driving Cetera’s diversity, inclusion, and belonging initiative.

As a part of past cross functional collaborations, I’ve benefited from the valuable skill mix and industry knowledge that Elissa uses to direct and monitor strategies that empower a healthy workplace culture. These strategies include programs and initiatives related to employee communications, forward-thinking organizational and individual effectiveness, and most recently spearheading the charge to strategically use culture as a differentiator through diversity and inclusion in a manner consistent with Cetera’s values.

Elissa has proven herself to be a high-performing, results-driven HR leader who both supports Cetera’s strategic short and long-term business objectives while demonstrating effective listening, communication, and presentation skills to build relationships with employees at all levels.

I highly recommend Elissa as a leader in HR.


Sonia Vora

Chief Human Resources Officer at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

I have known Elissa for five years and know her to be an outstanding professional.

She joined the Global Learning and Development team in 2010 for an expat assignment in Bangalore to launch the eLearning team. She fully embraced the opportunity both professionally and personally and became a strong liaison between Chicago andBangalore.

Working in India, hiring the eLearning team, and developing the implementation of our strategy were all new to Elissa and yet she dove in with enthusiasm and managed numerous obstacles with a vibrant spirit of "can-do".

Elissa has several qualities that are highly valuable to any team. She is both strategic and detail-oriented. When faced with a problem, Elissa attacks the challenge on multiple fronts - using her own experience and intelligence, reaching out to people across the organization with expertise and asking the right questions. She does this independently but always stays connected to the project sponsor. Elissa can be relied upon completely to deliver outstanding results on time and often exceeding even high expectations.

Elissa is a warm and generous colleague, always ready to take on more work, help her colleagues and develop her skills. As she returns to Chicago, I look forward to working with her again to drive critical business initiatives forward. I know withElissa, I have a colleague I can trust to execute and deliver on her commitments.


Mallika Pathy

Organizational Development Consultant

I consider it a matter of great pride that I have learned from the best and when I think of "the best", I can't help but think of Elissa. We met in India at Northern Trust and right from the beginning her talent was hard to miss. Working in the same group, I had the opportunity to see Elissa at close quarters, building the E-learning team from ground up and providing it structure and strategy. Her ability to see the big picture and getting the right people for the right job is exemplary. As a mentor she has helped me immensely in my career by giving sound advice and directing me to the best resources and tools in the industry. My transition to North America would not have been as smooth without Elissa's knowledge about life and work here. I rely on her expertise and highly recommend her as a professional in the Learning industry with a strong business acumen.

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