Alejandra Gonzalez is currently the Director of Marketing at Pizza Hut Latin America & Iberia.
This seasoned business woman started her career journey 21 years ago while in the middle of her bachelor's degree. Her father had just lost his job, so Alejandra paid for her own education by working at a bank in her home country of El Salvador.
When she heard that Coca Cola had a managerial position open, she decided to apply because the job had better benefits than her current role.
"They wanted you to have a bachelor degree, and I was in the middle of my degree still. But I was like let me apply, and we’ll see if it works,” she said.
Alejandra attended the interview equipped with minimal English which she learned from watching Friends, and a positive attitude. She got the job.
“That proved to me that sometimes the opportunities come your way, and you might not be fully shaped to take it, but it’s those opportunities that actually shape you to be fit for the role,” Alejandra said.
She believes that women often underestimate their capabilities and urges them to apply for jobs that may seem out of scope.
Read on for more of Alejandra's advice for women in business.
What are specific skill sets that women in business have?
As women, we are emotional beings, and for me it has been a challenge to balance my emotions without losing the benefits that being an emotional person comes with. If you're an empathetic person, it's easier for you to identify when people are struggling.
For example, I work with Brazilian clients, and with some agencies, they don't speak English. When they want to present to a corporate American brand, they're expected to speak English. Luckily I've been able to develop this skill set of understanding Portuguese so that whenever the Brazilian team presents to me for approval, I always let them present in Portuguese.
I know the confidence that comes when you're presenting in your first language; it helps people really thrive.
What are skills have you developed as a woman of color?
Resilience, which comes with having to move out of your comfort zone. You get an extra set of challenges, so you learn how to see things from different perspectives.
As a tenured manager, what advice do you have for women who are new to management positions?
Know what you stand for. I have made very sharp decisions in both my personal life and my jobs because I knew what I wanted, what was the next step and what my priorities were.
I have made decisions that through the eyes of other people were completely wrong because I was really clear about what my journey was. When you're not clear about that, that's when decisions become tricky.
I would also say, don't lose yourself trying to fit in an environment. Women try so hard to be something that we're not, or that we think people will like. You do have to adjust to your audience, but the essence of who you are as a woman shouldn't change because of your job.
What advice do you have for women just starting out in their careers?
When you're starting your career, you're so hard on yourself. Enjoy, embrace, learn, fail. Don't be too focused on your end goal. Just embrace the journey you're starting on.
Now that I'm 21 years into my career, I would love to go back to the first phase of my career. Why was I so eager to keep going and move on to different jobs? It's not that I'm complaining, but I'm pretty sure I missed out by not living in the present.
Do you have any words of wisdom for women who are unhappy in their current positions?
Breathe. Grab a glass of wine. Or if you don't drink, grab a cup of tea.
I have found myself overwhelmed and frustrated about being in certain roles, and that makes it difficult to see things with clarity. Take the time to think and re-organize your mind.
None of the times that I've asked for a little break to breathe and think, I have been faced with any consequences because of it.
How do you achieve work-life balance?
I'm still in the middle of finding work-life balance! So this is advice for myself as well.
It's important to raise your hand and say, "I need help." We think of it as a sign of weakness, and that's not the case. When it's enough for you that you need a break, take it. Your mind needs it. Your body needs it.
Another thing that helps a lot is your village, or the people who keep you grounded. The people who will tell you that you need to take a break, eat a meal, have a glass of water. Nurture that village.