Interview

“My adaptability is probably the greatest benefit for the team”

IT Business Partner Carmen Patricia Brito about her cultural journey at Henkel

New Work Nov 2, 2023

A challenging political and economic situation compelled her to leave her home country Venezuela, while a job opportunity motivated her departure from Mexico to the US. Currently, Carmen Patricia Brito holds the position of IT Business Partner at Henkel in Stamford, CT. An interview about challenging life changes, individuality in the US and the distinct Henkel culture that helped her being herself – no matter where.

You moved from your home Venezuela to work in Mexico in 2016 and joined Henkel Mexico in 2018. What was your initial experience in this unfamiliar environment?

“Venezuela has a challenging political and economic situation. Back then, I saw taking a job in Mexico as my only option to change my family’s and my own environment. Moving to Mexico was the most challenging change I ever went through. Leaving my family and friends did not make the move any easier. However, I loved getting to know the Mexican culture and my job played an important role in helping me settle down.

In 2018, I joined Henkel, and I started out working on various IT projects where I worked with many international colleagues. Henkel even organized a little get-together for us to connect with each other.

Carmen Patricia Brito, IT Business Partner at Henkel North America

It was a lot of fun and the dynamic of working on so many different projects with such a diverse team was amazing. That is one of the things that I love about my job!

About a year and a half ago, you relocated to Henkel’s site in Stamford, CT. In what ways has your life changed in the United States?

“Having lived in Mexico for six years and having a Mexican daughter, my heart is closely linked to the country. And obviously, I am proud Venezuelan, therefore my connection to my roots is deeply stablished and I feel thrilled anytime I can share my origins. One of the first things that I noticed about the US was the strong culture of individualism. The people at first seemed less dedicated to the sense of community. I am not saying that there is none, but it just differs to Mexico or Venezuela. In the US, I also faced a language barrier that I did not have in Mexico since Spanish is my main language. But I have to say that I am incredibly lucky to live at Stamford. Not only because there are a lot of people who speak my first language, but also because culturally is a place so diverse, being so close to New York City, we get to experience the variety of different cultures that translates in so many options offered on terms of food from around the world, arts and entertainment for every preference, and we also get to enjoy the beautiful scenery that Connecticut has to offer.”

As a female Hispanic, did you encounter any form of stereotypical discrimination in the US?

“Both times I moved, people assumed it was because of my husband’s job. Not within Henkel, where everyone knew I was promoted, but outside of the company. I guess you can trace it back to gender stereotypes. Why do people keep assuming it was my husband who received a job opportunity? Asking a simple question could prevent such assumptions.”

After you moved from Mexico to the US, what differences in the regional culture at the Henkel locations did you notice?

“I do not believe there are many big differences. Maybe just small ones such as lunch habits as an example, in Mexico lunch is an important meal and tends to be longer and in company of colleagues while in the US it tends to be small and quick. Here again, I think the individualism culture has an impact. However, on the important topics, Henkel promotes the same values across all locations.

Carmen Patricia Brito, IT Business Partner at Henkel North America

I feel respected, valued and I can be myself without any judgement. The respect and dignity I experience at Henkel make me proud to work here.

I even met some of my old colleagues here in Stamford again. There are a lot of other Hispanic employees besides the American ones, and I also found my – what we call – “Venezuelan Crew.” We have lunch together, celebrate our culture and talk in Spanish, which can be quite freeing at times. I also enjoy the team events with my colleagues across the different departments and offices that the company is planning – these little get together events are very refreshing. Since we all work in a hybrid setup, it’s nice to have everyone around every now and then.”

You are part of an IT team with about twenty people, mostly US-Americans. How does your personal cultural background contribute to the team’s success?

“My adaptability is probably the greatest benefit for the team. Through my relocation and living in diverse cultural environments I learned to adapt to many situations. That’s an asset for the team when I am preparing projects and kick-off sessions. I would say my different cultural experiences help me when I need to challenge my colleagues – or to collaborate and compromise when it is necessary.”

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) for Women and Hispanics both play a significant role in your life. Why did you join them?

“It started with an ERG named ‘Ladies in Tech’ (dxLIT) while still living in Mexico, which was one of the only cross regional ERGs as it served the Americas, so it included US and Mexico, therefore I was able to continue my involvement with the group once I moved to the US. Eventually, dxLIT became part of the ‘Henkel Women’s Network’ (HWN) as a chapter. Since I joined dxLIT in Mexico, I felt honored to be a part of it as a member. When I moved to the US, I started noticing even more closely the great impact of the female leaders at HWN dx chapter and I was so impressed by their remarkable skills and effort to effect change. That is why I wanted to contribute to their goals and be part of their Leadership Team and not only a member of the group. I wanted to support them more on this volunteered role. That’s why I joined them in the Committee and now work side by side with them to bring to life wonderful initiatives for our members. At that time, I also became active at ‘Unidos’, the ERG of the Hispanic community. We often engage in fun group activities like dance classes, or simply share common interests, stories and participate in community outreach programs that make a difference on the Hispanic community even beyond Henkel. In addition, Unidos also plays a crucial role for relocated Henkel Hispanics, as it represents a valuable networking opportunity where you can meet colleagues that might have experienced similar situations and can share knowledge and lessons they learned along the way. It makes me happy to have a positive impact with Unidos and HWN and help others, it really impacts my sense of belonging and it gives me a bigger purpose than my role.”


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