Updated: Oct 25, 2020
Torchbearer: Claudia C. — Mexicana. Monterrey, Mexico.
“I have friends my age who are grandmothers, and at 50, I have one daughter who is six-years-old…
So when people ask me, ‘How was I successful in my corporate life?’ I think its part of my blood — my DNA. Why? Because I like so much to be independent, to make decisions, to be part of the world, to be knowledgeable about what’s happening in the world. If a woman doesn’t have a desire to do these things, she won’t do it.”
Claudia was born in Monterrey, Mexico but spent 25 years of her life living and working in Mexico City as a leader at the some of the world’s largest companies — PepsiCo, Unilever, Coca-Cola. However, she didn’t envision that this would be her path when she studied architectural design in college….
“My family had a decoration business, but one day there was a big economical problem in Mexico with the devaluations, so we lost the family business. I started knocking on the doors of local companies, and that’s how my corporate career started — in Monterrey at the local bottling company of Coca-Cola in their trade marketing and sales department."
I’m very proud of my career; it’s like a mountain — where you need to [climb and] scale. At some moments I was at the top then I’m falling down, but then I scale to the top again… Maybe even Magic Mountain!
“I’ve been on a lot of adventures. My studies were focused on architectural design. Yet my career was developed in the commercial area — nothing to do with my formal education.
My big opportunity was with the company Benavides (a Mexican drugstore chain) where I learned and was certified in category management. My other learnings were about [business] administration, trade marketing, management, leadership and finances. I decided to study these courses to complete my knowledge and be at the level that companies expect [so I could compete] for higher positions.
In my 25 years in the corporate world, it was commercial, trade marketing and category management –nothing to do with my background. It’s a big satisfaction for me to develop my career in the corporate world because it wasn’t my plan.”
CLIMBING THE CORPORATE LADDER
To be honest, some people don’t want to grow in a company. At the time I thought, I’m single and I like the corporate life, so why not be a director. I prepared what I needed in order to be in that leadership position.
“Twenty years ago in Mexico, all [major] companies started women inclusion programs. PepsiCo and Unilever had this type of women’s [inclusion] program. At first it was about having a quota — five women or so in certain positions. It was also about what does a woman need to have in life to continue with her career. Part of my early development at these companies was part of this program.
The second [development] was for me to have some additional training in different areas to complete my education — because at this time in my career my background was in design — nothing to do with my corporate work. So when I realized I had a [knowledge] gap with the rest of my coworkers, women and men, I knew I had to better understand marketing, finance.
The other advantage I had was that in 1995 a program called Category Management started. A man in London came to Mexico and worked with a lot of retailers and multi-national companies on this program. I was in Benavides when I first heard of this, and I said, ‘Guys, I want to be the expert of that program! Can I?’ and they agreed. In that moment I understood that this kind of program would be a focus with all the major companies. Each company needed to know how to place each product for sales. I prepared a lot for this role. So I became the executive and created 20 category programs. That’s when PepsiCo said, ‘Wow, Claudia knows about this program. And we need to develop this program in all of Latin America.’”
Claudia then left Benavides for a high-powered role at PepsiCo, as their expert in Category Management for Latin America…
NEEDING A BETTER PRIVATE LIFE
When is the timing right to focus on your private life?
“I was traveling three weeks each month. I would come to Mexico for one week, change my clothes, do my reports and go to another country. I loved being independent and making decisions — that job was perfect for my personality.
[When I first started that job] I was 32/33 years old. Back in Monterrey, people get married at 22/23 years old. So all my friends in Monterrey were married and had children. I needed a break. It was a lot of fun to have one weekend in Puerto Rico, another weekend in Chile but after SEVEN YEARS I said to myself, ‘Okay, you think you know Mexico and that you have friends, but you don’t know because you don’t really live there.’ I didn’t even have a boyfriend because they said I was traveling too much.
So when the opportunity came to work only in the Mexico office — it was perfect. I felt it was time. I was almost 40 and I said, ‘Oh my, God. I need to have a better private life and have a family, husband, boyfriend or something.”
ADVICE TO WORKING WOMEN — FIGHT!!!
“We need to fight for the same conditions as men, but with some benefits. Let me tell you why. I will focus on a single mother — it’s very different when you’re married and both parents are working. Who helps to take care of a child when you’re a single parent? When you’re alone with a child and you want to have a corporate career — and you want this career for many reasons [whether it’s], personal, professional or economical [reasons]. Then you need to fight two battles, one is your career and one is your family. Your mind is always in two places.
For example, some companies have good daycare programs but it ends at five-years-old. What happens after that? Companies should continue the support. This kind of benefit can be for both women and men who are single parents.”
COMPETITION AT WORK
“You always have the co-worker or the boss that doesn’t have a good relationship or communication with you. I remember the first day I worked for a company, a co-worker said:
Claudia, hi! Someone told me you’re very intelligent. But for me, let me tell you — women aren’t intelligent. You have the capacity to multi-task — that’s it.
Three years after that comment, he was my boss!
How do you think I felt once I was told he was my boss? I felt my clock was ticking — and it was. It was impossible to work with him, just impossible! One year after he became my boss, I left.”
“My approach is very direct. I am transparent and sometimes talk without filter. Because I’m direct some people think I’m rude. [However] I’m also a person that likes to help and develop people. I enjoy being part of a team. Not I’m the director and they are my managers. No, we are a team! Even if I talk direct or rude, they know if they need my help in personal or professional things, I will be there.”
A FIRST TIME, SINGLE, WORKING MOM AT 43
After spending over 20 years moving up the ladder in the corporate world, Claudia decided to focus more energy on her private life and at the age of 43 she had her daughter.
In my former jobs at the end of the month I had to hit certain sales or marketing numbers. In this position I had two years to execute a strategy, so the pressure wasn’t there. When you’re pregnant or with a little baby, it’s better to have a job with long-term objectives.
Leaving Corporate Life
When you work for a company, the company gives you many things — obviously the economical things, relationships with other people, you can grow with the company. You are part of this family with a company. The corporate world is like a refuge.
While raising her daughter as a single mom in a hectic Mexico City, Claudia’s position was eliminated.
When Coca-Cola decided to restructure, my first idea was to come back to Monterrey and be with my family. I’m a single mother, my daughter was already six years old at that time — so thinking about the best environment and the emotional impact on my daughter — I preferred to move back to Monterrey and have a better family environment. I had the opportunity to think about what is the best way to continue with my career. So for the last two years I’ve had my own real estate business. I now have time in the afternoon to take care of my daughter and create a better foundation for her. Sometimes I feel I lost some of my own life or my essence since leaving the corporate life. But for the other side, I KNOW that this way is better for both of us.
— Claudia C.
Enjoyed Claudia's journey? Then let us know! Here are other inspiring moments.
Read: "Slow, Steady and Persistent" - Here I am thinking that I had to wait a year and a half to get to the next level in my career when basically the new universe is telling me — no you don’t. You don’t have to. You’re ready.