Alina Vargas had leadership goals from the moment she began her career at Medtronic more than six years ago. But her road to success has been winding. Vargas knew she had the skills and the willingness to lead but was sometimes challenged by the Hispanic cultural norms she grew up with. They didn’t always translate in a corporate setting.
“Cultural aspects of leadership can be very different,” Vargas said. “I wouldn’t speak up as much as others or call attention to myself.”
Her role with Medtronic was her first American corporate job, coming after an eight-year career at a company in Switzerland. That shift made the Mexican-born professional unsure about how to navigate the corporate world. “The shift to working with people who didn’t understand me, my culture,” she said. “It was the first time I realized that I was different.”
Vargas, a Marketing and Communications Program Manager, found support in the form of membership within the Hispanic Latino Network, or HLN, a Medtronic Diversity Network.
Around the time she joined HLN in 2016, Medtronic just launched a new partnership with The Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility (HACR) to help amplify the company’s community impact and remove barriers to opportunity.
The goal was to increase Latino representation within corporate America by grooming Hispanic and Latino talent for leadership roles through programs like the HACR Young Hispanic Corporate Achievers program. The annual initiative focuses on corporate diversity, professional leadership advancement and community engagement.
Vargas was among this year’s Medtronic employees to participate, nominated for that program by HLN leaders including Adriana Davies, Senior Compliance Program Director.
“When I met Alina two years ago it was clear to me her cultural background and also the function she worked in influenced how she was interacting with the team,” Davies said. “I wanted to help her to see herself beyond someone that works in a supporting function. She’s a leader.”
Vargas earned a spot in the competitive program as one of 73 young achievers from Fortune 500 companies throughout the U.S. in her cohort. She spent two months honing interpersonal skills including authentic leadership.
“It felt personal. Being surrounded by that many Latinos who are bright and smart and intelligent people,” Vargas said. “And they represented professionals from across the U.S. and it was just like, wow, there’s some power here. It was really motivating.”
The program inspired Vargas to take stock in her own development and many of the opportunities HLN presented. She started to redefine her personal brand and even took on co-leading a speaker series. She also started elevating her voice to help expand the influence of the network ― all encouraged by Davies.
“When I started my career, I wasn’t invited at the table,” said Davies. “I had to elbow my way to a seat, but now Latinos are getting access to more leadership roles. So, as an HLN leader, I can elevate people like Alina, who was a caterpillar but has earned her colorful butterfly wings.”
HLN’s theme for Hispanic Heritage Month this year is “Celebrating the power of who we are!” And the Network is hosting several global and local events to empower talented community members to soar.
Alina said, “our culture is an asset and we’re continuing to learn how to let our culture shine.”
An Extraordinary Recognition
In September, HACR recognized Medtronic as a company advancing the inclusion of Hispanics in Corporate America. As part of their Corporate Inclusion Index (CII) research initiative, companies have a standard to measure Hispanic inclusion in the C-suite, corporate boardroom, supplier base, mid- and entry-level employee pipeline and philanthropic sphere.
This year, Medtronic received four 5-star awards with top scores across all four pillars of employment, philanthropy, procurement and governance — one of only two companies to achieve that goal.
Cid Wilson, President and CEO of HACR said, “By investing in Hispanic representation, businesses like Medtronic are providing long-term shareholder value by building a more inclusive future for their employees, suppliers and customers.”
Through partnerships like this, Medtronic is elevating Hispanic talent and remains committed to work that eliminates barriers to excellence among employees representing communities of color.