Name: Maria Gomez-Soler
Title: Vice President, Consumer and Marketing Insights
Company: Newell Rubbermaid
Headquarters: Atlanta, Georgia
Number of Employees: 19,000
Education: Studied philosophy, Universidad de Belgrano, Buenos Aires, Argentina; MBA, Ecole des Ponts et Chausses & UB, Paris/Buenos Aires
What I’m Reading: The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
My Philosophy: Everything you want is on the other side of fear.
Away from Work, I: Spend as much time as possible with my husband, Gaston, and daughters, Francesca and Bianca. We try to block one night a week to cook as a family and this is my most cherished time of the week. I also love to read, bake, practice yoga, and cheer on my daughters at their gymnastic meets.
How My Heritage Values Fuel My Success: Family is the most important aspect of many Hispanics’ lives, and that tends to condition us to be very nurturing people. My parents and grandparents loved and supported me in a way that built my trust in them and confidence in myself. Throughout my career, I’ve tried to replicate this nurturing family environment with my teams. I have a reputation for being a bit of a mother hen, and I work very hard to build relationships with my colleagues. It is important to me that I create a team environment where employees feel safe in sharing their accomplishments and dreams—as well as their mistakes and fears—with me. I want my team members to know that we are in this together.
In addition to family, another value that has shaped me into the leader I am today is humility. I come from humble beginnings. Instead of attending college, my grandparents worked day and night to create a better future for my parents. My parents did the same for me and taught me the value of hard work. I have little patience for people who have a sense of entitlement. Instead of waiting on someone to hand me what I think I deserve, I work very hard to identify and earn opportunities.
How My Company Supports Me…and How I Pay it Forward: As a company rapidly expanding into new global markets, Newell Rubbermaid is attracting and retaining employees who closely reflect our consumers worldwide. That means hiring the absolute best people from all corners of the earth.
As a Latina at Newell Rubbermaid, I’ve never felt that diversity is a special exercise, but rather, is embedded in all of the company’s people practices. We want to hire people who want to work in a culture that is all about inclusion—and that shows in the quality of employees who walk the halls of Newell Rubbermaid every day. One of the most rewarding parts of my job is spotting people with potential and developing them—irrespective of their backgrounds. At the end of the day, we want to create a high-performance environment, where anyone with the skills and ability to deliver value to Newell Rubbermaid and our shareholders is welcome to contribute.
Newell Rubbermaid has several programs that support diversity and inclusion. For example, I am an active member of the Hispanic Organization for Latinos at Newell Rubbermaid, which we refer to as HOLA. It is an employee resource group that supports individual growth, as well as business initiatives that promote the richness of the Hispanic culture. Additionally, we work to identify better ways to attract, retain, and engage Hispanic employees, which will help us more effectively market our brands to the Hispanic consumer.
The Best Career Advice I’ve Received and the Advice I Offer Others: Be authentic in your leadership style—people can tell when you are faking it. If you let your guard down and share your mistakes with your team, they are far more likely to show their true selves to you. By being “real,” I hope to create a more supportive, collaborative environment for my team. It has been my experience that when I achieve this level of trust, it opens the door for more meaningful coaching and development.
My favorite saying is “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” At home, I constantly remind my daughters of this, and it is a phrase I use often in the office with my teammates as well. I encourage colleagues to acknowledge their fear of failure so that we can work together to move past it. Once we reach the other side of that fear, we arrive at a place where risks are taken, mistakes are made, and valuable lessons are learned. But more often, it’s where we find great success.