I was born and raised in Mexico City in a tri-cultural household. My mother is first-generation German, and my father is a third-generation Italian who was educated in an American school system. As long as I can remember, I straddled these different cultures, understanding and adapting to their unspoken norms which, in turn, has shaped my thinking and leadership style.
Early in my career, I had the choice of pursuing a domestic or international track. Given my upbringing, I gravitated toward the international side of business. One of my first opportunities was working for an American company whose international business represented a third of annual revenues—I felt right at home.
As a global marketer, the first thing to understand is consumers perceive brands in context of their life experience. For example, in Mexico, Coca-Cola is served in glass bottles, but consumers avoid the deposits by drinking out of a plastic bag with a straw. In the U.S., on the other hand, the beverage is served in plastic bottles or paper cups. This is indicative of the global marketer’s challenge: delivering the brand in a way that meets the local consumer’s needs and expectations.
Global adaptation is not a new concept. However, the more time I spent on the international side of the business, the more I challenged myself with connecting the innovations domestically. In the restaurant industry, international real estate and economics are significantly different than in the U.S. As we enter markets, we have to adapt the building footprint and design, menu offerings, and often the brand proposition to consumer needs.
Over time, as I balanced international and domestic roles, I found many of the initiatives we put in place for the international business transferred to the U.S. For instance, the new restaurant design being introduced to American Chili’s restaurants was influenced by the processes and thinking introduced in the international markets. Another example is Chili’s menu strategy. Internationally, we focus on delivering on our flavor DNA and developing menu items within that framework. This thinking has now been adapted in the U.S.
A mentor once said: “Open yourself up to all the possibilities and look beyond your current world for possible ideas, answers, and solutions. Don’t get caught up in ‘it’s not relevant if it is not invented here.’” As a global marketer, I find this to be true.
What does it take to succeed and stay competitive in your position/field?
To remain competitive, I must have a high sensitivity for what our guests’ unmet needs are and deliver solutions to those needs. Having an understanding of my current guest base is critical. Understanding how to attract new guests—without alienating the current ones—is even more important. Being able to influence and collaborate are equally as important as I need to guide my team and organization on this thinking.
What advice would you give young women building/preparing for a career?
Be inquisitive. The answer is never straightforward and is often elusive. Ask questions. Balance short-term with long-term thinking; you need to deliver results, but not at the expense of hurting your brand. Take responsibility for the business/area you are accountable for.