A management rotation in Mexico gave Joseph the full-immersion experience of a lifetime!
The company: Bimbo Bakeries USA
The job: Cross Borders Managerial Rotation
Joseph’s background: Joseph earned his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Marketing Emphasis and Spanish Minor from Susquehanna University in 2012. He was an active member of Enactus while in school.
Selected from a large number of applicants, Joseph counted himself among the lucky five employees at Bimbo Bakeries USA to enter the Cross Borders Managerial Rotation program, an opportunity to train in Mexico and share best practices. He started as an intern with Bimbo Bakeries USA in 2008, most recently working as a Brand Analyst before embarking on the six-month program that began in February 2012. Bimbo Bakeries USA is the nation’s largest baking company, with 70 bakeries and more than 27,000 associates.
“This was a chance to gain an overall understanding of our company, which was founded in Mexico,” says Joseph. “I worked in multiple locations, but mostly in Mexico City and Guadalajara.” Although he had studied Spanish at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, PA, Joseph had not utilized the language since graduating in 2009. “No English was spoken at all; it was sink or swim,” he says. “I arrived with basic language skills and we studied with a tutor after work. After about two months of intense Spanish induction, I considered myself conversationally fluent. You really have to adjust your attitude regarding what you know as ‘normal’ and take advantage of the full immersion. Mexico is an incredible place with friendly people; it’s a wonderful country to live and work.”
During his first rotation, Joseph learned about plant shifts and sales routes. “I spent the first three weeks traveling the different routes with each of the salesmen, delivering product and improving customer relations,” he reflected. This is a hard-working culture with an admirable work ethic. This was a typical day in Joseph’s busy six-day work week:
5:30 am Wake up with just enough time to brush my teeth and tie my tie. We stayed at an extended-stay hotel with a small kitchen, but I usually ate elsewhere. I listened to the news, all in Spanish, which helped with my language skills.
5:50 am I boarded the ride to work along with the two others in the sales rotation.
6:15 am Arrived at our depot, one of the larger bakeries located in Azcapotzalco, Mexico where we were stationed for almost two months. The depot comprises three separate two-story buildings with two bakeries to bake the product for the central region and three soccer fields for use by employees and members of the community.
10:00 am We had breakfast on the road, which typically included tacos and enchiladas. The food is incredible. My normal breakfast was a taco with coffee and a sweet roll, called a concha.
10:45 am Our routes included visiting 17 – 30 small mom-and-pop stores, which comprise the majority of business in Mexico. We delivered product, met with clients and improved our name in the community. The Bimbo name is one of the most respected in corporate Mexico and has a reputation as a passionate and high-integrity company.
6:00 pm We returned to the office to discuss the day’s activities and plan strategy.
Joseph’s next rotation put him in a supervisory role working with other supervisors and directors to maximize efficiently on strategy, overcoming obstacles, opening sales in new stores, or trying to secure the best location in stores to improve sales and visibility. His day-to-day included:
6:15 am – 7:00 am We started the morning with sales meetings. Each supervisor had a team of about 15 – 20 salesmen, and we met, reviewed results, talked about weekly and monthly goals, which products to promote, and what obstacles and opportunities we faced.
7:00 am – 10:00 am The morning was spent on paperwork, reviewing sales, issues, trends and projections.
10:00 am – 3:00 pm We stopped for breakfast and then hit the road to meet with clients, sell to new stores and try to achieve larger displays and better positions to grow sales.
3:00 pm – 6:00 pm Returned to the depot and prepared for meeting the salesmen returning from their routes regarding the opportunities we saw and how we could support them.
7:30 pm Mexico City traffic is among worst I’ve ever encountered… Our depot was only about 12 miles from my hotel, but it could take up to two hours for the return. The ride was especially extensive on each quincena, which is pay day for most of the city and happens every other Friday. For dinner, our group went out to local restaurants where we tried something different every day. Following a quick dinner, we had two-hour tutoring sessions where I was taught advanced Spanish grammar.
10:00 pm – 11:00 pm Time to relax, read, talk with friends and family on Skype or catch up on the events in the latest Mexican election on the news. On Sundays, our free day, I explored the historic districts, shopped in the tianguis (small roadside markets of homemade or antique products) and even climbed every one of the 256 steps of an Aztec pyramid a few times.
“The biggest gain from this experience was a sense of pride in my company and in the Mexican way of life. It allowed me to understand the culture and gave me a deep sense of humility, as I better understood the trials others may face, as well as learned how to overcome obstacles that I never had considered.
“Not only has it given me a well-rounded understanding about each job, it’s given me a broader understanding about the culture, the company and the products as a whole. Most of our Mexican products are new in many parts of the United States, so this helps me understand how to develop them in each market.
“My advice is that if you have an opportunity to experience anything, from working in another country to taking a side class after work, take advantage of it. It will be an experience you will never forget!”