Leader to Leader: Many routes to Molson Coors

Our new series, Leader to Leader, features in-depth conversations between Molson Coors leaders about the intersection of cultures and careers.

This installment features a conversation between Natacha Velez (director-supplier quality management), Eddie Jimenez (senior director, freight management and transport), Cesar Belmontes (senior manager, forecasting and demand planning), Dorys Machado (director of finance-marketing), moderated by Machi Molina (HR business partner).

In our latest piece, members of our ¡SALUD! employee resource group discuss the challenges and opportunities created by their unique backgrounds, lessons they pass to their family and friends, the important ways their cultures come through at work and at home and more.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Machi: I love the fact that we are all going to have different traditions and different things that we do as a family, prioritizing our culture. What are the words that immediately come to mind when you think of your own culture?

Natacha: So when I think about my culture, I think of the vibe. I think it's like there is always a fire inside – I always think about food, music, dancing. There is something inside me that is always vibrant.

Eddie: I think I agree with all of that. I think there's a vibrancy that's there. You can tell that regardless of whether you're an introvert or extrovert, you walk into a Latin household and you just feel you feel all of that. There's a sense generally that food is always center, and the family portion of it and friends…

That idea that we hug everyone as you go in and as you leave and it takes an hour and a half to say goodbye, so you better plan for it, because it's gonna be that way. It’s who we are.

Dorys: For me…it’s family and community. There's a core. There's a network that is so strong and the support there is crucial, and for Latinos having family and community helping each other out is enormous – it’s expected.  Anything we do, we do it with passion. No matter what we undertake, it's just full of emotion, expressiveness and great pride.

Machi: I was born in Texas and grew up in Mexico. I moved back to the U.S. six or seven years ago. What are your backgrounds?

Dorys: I was born in Cuba and when my parents were 24 and 27, they realized they didn't like what was happening seeing Fidel Castro and the communism that was coming. So my dad applied to leave the island.  The day following his application to leave Cuba, a truck came picking up the applicants and took them as slaves to work in the sugar cane fields for two years [he had to pay his due] because they deemed him a traitor. He was also deprived of playing professional baseball. I only saw him for 2 hours every other week during that time.

We managed to leave Cuba. We came to the United States to New York. Where my dad worked 17 hour days at two jobs, and didn’t have his first vacation until 10 years in. He had a high work ethic and earned every dime and sacrificed a lot to send my brother and I to private Catholic schools. My parents showed tremendous courage in leaving their parents behind, not knowing if they would ever see them again and in moving to a new territory not knowing the language and not being financially stable.

I was first generation in the US, the first in my entire family to go to college and to get a degree and to then become a professional. And so it was a big achievement and big responsibility on my shoulders to be the example for all of my cousins and my brother and everyone else in the family.

Eddie: I was born in Los Angeles. I’m first generation (American). My father was 18 when he came to the States (from Guatemala). He was 18, dropped off in Dallas, Texas, and with about $150, and from made his way to LA. He was bilingual already when he came here and had a passion for education, so his stepmother basically said that you need to go and find your way and the States is where you need to go. He met my mother, and started as a warehouseman and eventually took over that warehouse and went to night school.

My mother was born in LA, as well. Both of my grandparents immigrated from Mexico – Sonora and Sinaloa in the north – and my grandfather, a very proud of being Mexican and very proud to be an American, at the age of 39, enlisted in the in the military during World War II and went and served overseas.

Natacha: I am Colombian, from Medellín.

How I ended up in the U.S., it was all about work and family. I had a very successful career with Anheuser-Busch. But when I had the opportunity to move to the U.S., my “why” was my family and the opportunity to be with my kids.

Because one of the things about Latinos is that we work (a lot of) hours. There are a lot of people that help us in our cultures, in our countries that you don’t experience in the U.S. But basically, I didn’t have enough time to be with my kids (because) I was working extra hours.

We decided that is not the path we want. We want to be present parents. It’s going to be more challenging for us in the U.S., but it's going to help us be with them, which I will never regret.

My story is different and I come with the privilege of having a job as an engineer already and having my previous history taken into account when I moved to the U.S. But for me, the first reason is my family. The second reason was Molson Coors, and seeing the culture of Molson Coors was a big, big influence for me to decide to move. I was coming to an organization where I felt safe that I was able to bring myself -- I was offered a job when I was pregnant.

Like, what? I was like, boom!

Machi: (disbelief) In Colombia and Mexico, pregnant and getting a job?

Natacha: Yeah, I was pregnant and getting a job, and the best thing that I was heard was like, “Congratulations, we can just wait to work with you.” For me it was like, “Oh my God, I want to be there.”

No regrets at all. It was hard, moving into the U.S. And that's what I tell everybody that has relocated: for a couple of years, it's going to be hard, the first three years, hard as hell. But you adapt to the culture, and when you move that threshold, it's all the things that you can achieve and the most important is, what is your why?

Cesar: I have a question for the group. Either in your career or personal life, is there an aha moment in your mind, where you either felt like you were underwater or you were just putting in all this time and you didn’t feel like you could get ahead or were understood? Was there a point where someone reached out and how has that kind of shaped the way that you've interacted with peers or other people?

Dorys: I've been with the company for 35 years and around the 26 or 27 year mark, I was reporting to a manager that was very different from me, and while that is OK, there was no connection at any level.

I've traveled extensively. From Mexico to Brazil, Costa Rica to Hungary, Ireland, England, South Africa, India. I've been to so many places and I have a huge appreciation for cultures, people and a tremendous curiosity to learn about others and also appreciate their styles and behaviors as it is usually culturally driven, which I want to learn more of.

The manager I reported to at the time had limited cultural awareness as this individual had never traveled outside of the U.S. and was not exposed to a lot of diverse ethnicities and cultures. Furthermore, our career journey was vastly different as I had experienced roles in multiple cross functions in the organization while the manager’s experience was mostly vertical within the same function.

We could not be any more different both culturally and professionally.

I vividly remember the day this manager told me I was “emotional,” yet I was not crying or elevating my tone. I realized this person was lacking appreciation and understanding of my culture and was unable to distinguish between my expressive nature [also noted in my emergenetics!] vs an emotional person. 

My style was outspoken and expressive while this manager’s style was stoic and more indifferent or I should say, lacking expressiveness. It was very challenging to stay motivated to work with someone who does not “see you” or seeks to understand where you are coming from. What helped me along the way was knowing it was something also felt by others and so I found consolation in knowing that it was not me, that it was this manager’s lack of exposure, appreciation and understanding to cultural diversity. That is when I realized that I could not change that person and more importantly, that I should not change who I was.

Natacha: Dorys, you're totally right.

Today I was having a conversation, explaining to someone that I worked with that my face sometimes won't even express the situation on hand.

I don't know what to do with my hands. I'm always like this (moving hands rapidly) and I was showing that I expressed myself with my body, and I think that is one of the biggest challenges moving into the U.S. culture. For me, something very important that I did was say, "OK, let's understand (cultural differences)." I did the job to understand the differences. I want to understand what the differences are because I was shocked.

I mean, it's not about the language. You not only have an accent. It's so many things that are involved when you are immersed in a culture that I feel the responsibility (to) understand it, and I think that is the beauty of learning and that is the part where the passion of diversity, equity and inclusion comes in my soul.

Dorys: And sometimes, Natacha, we have to also realize who is worth the investment in trying to educate and bring them along and who's not. It's sad to say in this day and age, but it's very true. Some are eager and open to learn and others are not as interested and it’s OK, we just have to move on.

Machi: To your point, we shouldn't feel it's our responsibility to teach others.

We want to make you a part of it, but if I don't see that you're coming from a place of empathy and trying to be curious to not only accept my differences, but to know how I add value with my differences, then it's like, I’ll pass.

Eddie: The assimilation part that you talked about, mine is similar yet different. We moved from LA to Cincinnati when I was very young. So we grew up in an environment where there were very few Latinos there. It was mostly Caucasians where we lived, and so from my perspective there was always this longing. I remember the cultural differences that we had: One, we were darker.

Two: My sisters, when they (were newborns), their ears were pierced. It's a tradition we have, at least in our family. So they have these beautiful earrings and I remember a story, that my oldest sister would come home crying because kids made fun of her because she was different, she was darker.

My mother and father spoke Spanish in the household. And my father felt he had to assimilate so that it would be easier for us over time. Today, he would probably tell you he regrets some of the decisions he made, but it is what it is. That's why I understand Spanish, but it was never my first language.

From the time we (me and my sisters) were about 10, 11 years old, we would spend the entire summer in California. And there was always this feeling of being at my grandmother's house, the feeling of Sundays and the music and going to the Central Market in downtown LA, and the smells and everything. I always felt I belonged right here.

That feeling that you belong. So that left a mark on us, especially myself in terms of that culture is part of who I am. (Now) I can move in and out of our different cultures, and I’m much more appreciative of it.

Dorys: You hit the nail on the head, Eddie, when you said where we are able to move back and forth. Because I think all of us here on this call, we' are fully acculturated, right? We've been here in the United States long enough to know how to operate and what those guardrails are, and the cultural experiences and so forth. When I come to work, I know what I can bring with me. And sadly, I also know what I need to park at the door.

At the end of the day, at home, my family life takes me back to my Cuban roots to my music [salsa] to the cooking experience as a family and the high expressivity and hugs that underpins the way we express ourselves.

It’s about finding the right balance to know what do I bring with me to work and what may not be readily acceptable that I need to leave at home and it’s that “back and forth” assimilation that is wonderful that we can manage both.

Machi: Think about your cultures: What’s the one thing that you bring with you, no matter what?

Dorys: There is not a day that goes by that I do not tell my children three key things: always aspire, never settle. My parents did not finish school and I have gotten farther than they have because I had the opportunity. I went to college and got my degree and I tell my children they need to do better than I did. I was a first-generation immigrant and did my best, but they can do better. My father worked hard and never settled and he ended up establishing his own business.

 The second thing I tell my children is to be courageous because your grandparents came to this country young, did not speak English, left their family behind and were not financially stable, so if you are ever worried of a situation or opportunity, think of what they did.

When we were moving from New York to Wisconsin for Miller at the time in 1996, we were debating the change and leaving the family behind and one day I said to my husband: “Wait a minute. Our parents left Cuba back in the day with nothing, and we’re worried? When we are financially stable, speak the language and are only a two-hour flight from the family? Are you kidding me?” And that sealed the deal.

The third thing I tell my kids, is always be true to yourself. If someone doesn't like your ways and you're acting with integrity and with the right purpose in mind, you don't follow. You hold firm and you are true to yourself, to your beliefs, to your passion, to your principles, and to the morals that we've instilled in you, and you don't waver on that as long as you're doing the right thing, with integrity and passion, you lead. You don't succumb to others.

Those are the three things that I've learned that I live by and that I instilled in my children.

Natacha: For me, passion.

That's something that I will never trade, the passion that I that I feel inside, that vibe, that need to live my life to the fullest. One of the things that I always tell my kids is: Count the blessings. Be grateful. We have many, many blessings and coming from the countries that we are where we are today is making them sure that you were blessed.

Eddie: I tell my kids from a perspective of we are only one generation away from (being less fortunate). And sometimes we take it for granted because it seems like we have so much. And again, you’ve got to put it in perspective because the reality is that we are so blessed and fortunate to be where we are and the opportunities that we've had.