Meet Claudia Jañez, President Mexico and Latin America at Dupont, which is one of the world’s largest producers of chemicals and science-based products. She is the first Chairwoman of the Executive Council of Global Companies (CEEG) and one of the most powerful female leaders in Mexico, and an advocate of other women.
Who is Claudia Jañez? define yourself
I am a Mexican woman, who enjoys the business that enjoys working for corporations, I like to help Latin America to grow, I also love diversity and inclusion topics across the board not only gender, but I am also convinced that the more diverse you are, the better results you get, the better innovation, you can get, so I am also a wife of a wonderful man, I have a son who is 13 years old, he is a teenager, that´s who I am in terms of my personal life.
How were you as a kid?
Well I am twin, I have a twin brother, we are the oldest, I have a younger sister. I had a very happy childhood, a very diverse one, because I studied in a school for only girls but I had my brother at home, with parents that always tried us equally, so it is funny growing in the '70s and 80¨s in a Mexico where women didn´t have access to an education, having a twin of the same age, with the same parents, being in a school for only girls. I remember I have always been active, I was kind of leader, organizing everything at school, I was a very good student, I was always questioning, I was more into leadership roles than grades. Although I also got good grades, I was questioning in a catholic school in that times it wasn´t typical behavior. I had many good friends, I liked to dance, I danced Spanish classic dance " flamenco "for some years, I spent time with cousins and friends
"I always surround myself of a good team, good people that help me and I prepare myself very much, in terms of how I am going to handle all situations and I make decisions once I analyze the situation"
You have a Bachelor´s degree in law at Universidad La Salle, a diploma in negotiation at Harvard, an MBA at IPADE, why did you choose those courses of study?
I wanted to be a lawyer since I was 13 years old, I always was the advocate of lost causes, when I finished High School, I decided to study law, honestly, I never understood exactly what a lawyer did, but I enjoyed law school because it allowed working very early in my professional career, I started to work when I was 19. The reason why I decided to start the MBA is that I began to work for Ford when I just finished my career in Law, Mexico was changing for the NAFTA in 1995, so I started to work for Ford, it was bringing a financial company for offering credit into the country so I was a lawyer kind of launching this company, I decided to learn something systems, operations, and marketing, financial plan, etc, so after some years I only knew how FORD is doing business, but I always had a mindset of doing all things, practical and academic one, so I decided to study the MBA to do business and understand about operations, to get more skills, now after 25 years of working for global companies, I recognized that MBA helped a lot to be who I am now.
You have a brilliant career, you have worked for international companies as Ford, PepsiCo, General Electric and currently you are president of DuPont Mexico and Latin America. What´s the recipe for your success?
I think is a strange combination, I always have taken risks, I´ve always accepted the change, the other thing some people say is that I get luck, but you can be lucky but if you don´t get and take what is in front of you, that luck goes and you don´t even realize it. I always surround myself of a good team, good people that help me and I prepare myself very much, in terms of how I am going to handle all situations and I make decisions once I analyse the situation.
Another feature in my personality is that I am down to earth, I never think I am the best of the best. In a leadership position I tend to help people that is another of my personality trait, I am very close to people, I try to understand who is in front of me. In my role, I have the opportunity to meet other presidents and sadly I see the big egos that some of them have, just for the fact they are the CEO´s and they have a " deserve everything attitude", finally I have to say that my success in Mexico is because I´ve always have worked for foreign companies which haven´t made any differences between women and men, they are all about talent and not about gender or any other preference. I always help other women to grow and be confident about themselves, they believe they can make it that is good, how I can transmit my experience, my knowledge to them to move in the corporate world.
"My success in Mexico is because I´ve always have worked for foreign companies which haven´t made any differences between women and men, they are all about talent and not about gender or any other preference"
For the people who don´t know, can you explain in simple words what does DuPont do as a company and what is its relevance in the world?
DuPont is a company which has been during 250 years more than two centuries, in Mexico will 95 years, in the first century it was an explosive company, mainly for mining DuPont controlled the explosions of the gunpowder for the mining industry. The next hundreds year it has been a chemical the company, DuPont invented nylon, cellophane, air conditioning refrigerants, most polymers in the automotive industry.
In this new century, we are, it is an innovation company, DuPont is in different industries, for instance, safety and construction, now for Covid-19 the white garments that people use come from DuPont, some ingredients needed for food, beverages, tortillas, bread, or flavorings, preservatives are provided by DuPont. It invests 30% of the revenue every year in innovation, this is our DNA. DuPont also has an electronics business, semiconductors in cell phones or the computers for instance. I always say that nobody knows we exist but without DuPont, many things in the world wouldn´t be in the the way they are today.
Did you imagine that one day you would be one of the most powerful women of Mexico, being the first woman representative of the Executive Council of Global Companies (CEEG), being featured in basically all business magazines Forbes, Fortune etc in the country? How does that fact make you feel?
Well, it makes me feel very happy, the answer is NO, especially in a country like Mexico I´ve never imagined that I would end doing this or being featured in the magazines, I also feel a huge responsibility with the new generations of women, being a role model, it is not just to be in the covers of the magazines, you work hard, demonstrate every day, you need to put energy in what you are doing, I always say to my friends, do what makes you happy, in my case is to represent my gender and to help other generations, make them believe everything is possible.
What is the reality of your day-to-day?
I normally start very early, I wake up 5 o clock, I help my son gets ready for school at the same the time I could have a call, I normally take him to school, I love to drink coffee in the morning, I have regularly a lot of meetings, breakfast meetings or conferences around 8:00 or 8:30 am two or three times a week. I do many different things in and out, I have very long days normally of 12-14 hours a day, I also have a new role in CEEG and I have breakfasts, lunches, invitations to events. In the office I check my emails, I take calls, I have gatherings with my team.
Now with COVID-19 I have realized that sometimes we are crazy in the day but we can be calmer, there is no need for you to rush in the way we work, I convinced that there will be 2 work lives, one before COVID and another after COVID, we cannot continue acting crazy, I travel a lot for my job, in Latin America and the USA. Now I have been at home for 2 months without traveling, and you know, I haven't missed a bit my trips. I am so tired of airports, security, for example going to Brazil or Argentina are very long flights, you get there, you work, and flight back. I have a lot of energy, fortunately, but sometimes I end up very tired especially on Fridays. I try to spend all my free time with my family, with my husband and son.
"Nothing is for free and there is no free lunch, you need to work hard and you can be in that position but nothing is for free, you pay always a price"
Do you have any particular philosophy that guides your career decisions?
That´s a very good the question, I´ve always trusted in my feelings or instincts, in DuPont some of my closest colleagues say that in another life, I was a witch haha because I normally have these feelings that have to see with what´s happening or what´s going to happen so I always trust in my feelings/ instincts, 90-95% of the time I am right!
What do you love most about your job as president of DuPont?& what is the most difficult part?
What I love the most is to lead teams and to implement these wonderful global products or services into Mexico, I enjoy what I do every day and be surrounded by teams. Every day is different, what I do matters, another thing is DuPont's core values, for me is important to live in a company where its values and mine together fit. The most difficult part is when I give bad news to people, how you deal with people all the time.
In my case what I have found is how to deal with different generations, I have millennials, the baby boomers, how you face this new world, and how you transform the way you implement, you communicate with each generation. You have to be intelligent enough to influence them, motive them because each group is completely different. For me, the challenge is how I take advantage of each generation and how I get the best of them.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned over the years?
Nothing is for free and there is no free lunch, you need to work hard and you can be in that position but nothing is for free, you pay always a price.
As a president, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
To believe in themselves and follow their dreams. For me, sometimes you have to invest what you want to do, you have to believe in yourself, this is always I suggest especially new generations, the world where we are living makes us more emphatic in the person, it is the only where you are going to grow.
"Don´t listen to any type of statements that make you feel bad, it doesn't matter, if you want to do it, do it, it will sound corny, but do whatever makes you happy. I don´t pay attention to other people´s criticism"
You are a very busy woman and still, I see you very active, participating in forums, associations to support women, what motives you?
I love to do that, because, that is something l I see as my legacy, I feel such a responsibility to share my experience with the new generations, you know the idea of ," this can be possible", you can balance your life whatever you decide to do in your personal life could be combined with your professional life, it is something mine, I receive very good feedback from women telling: " Claudia, please keep doing this, you changed my life", when I receive those emails or messages on Instagram, twitters or messages on LinkedIn saying " Claudia, I saw you in this forum, you inspired me to do this". That is amazing! If I can make myself available to help someone, I will be there
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I like to run or walk now that I have a treadmill at home, I like to watch good movies, I like to read but I have realized it in the past 2 years, I have been reading only articles about politics, economics, which is a lot, because of my role in a global company I need to keep informed, the good thing is I read fast, the other thing which is my number one priority is to spend most of the time with my family.
My dad passed away in November 2019, my mom is by herself now, so I try to spend time with her. I´ve realized that when you have your parents/family and you have good relationships with them like in my case, you need to dedicate time to them.
Many authors say women can and must strive to have everything – a shining career, blossoming (BLASOMING) family life, and a perfectly balanced lifestyle all at once, others point out that– then women are placing unrealistic expectations on themselves if they believe they can have it all, you are married and have a son, so according to your experience, what do you think about these statements?
I think there is not a formula, whatever works for a woman, it doesn´t work for another. So I would say, don´t listen to any type of statements that make you feel bad, because you are not married or because you are gay or you´ve decided not to get married or be a single mother, it doesn't matter, if you want to do it, do it, it will sound corny, but do whatever makes you happy. I don´t pay attention to other people´s criticism, who cares, it´s my life.
"You need to be wise enough to understand if you are in the right place or not, and if you aren´t, try to change it very quickly, another thing I´d suggest is: take risks to do whatever you want, now women have a louder voice in every aspect, don´t keep quiet in any way"
What are your plans for the future?
I ´d love to keep working for companies for a couple of years more. I started to be a board member of Grupo Saltillo, an independent board member for public companies, in Mexico there are very few women that are part of boards in public companies. I am turning 50 next year so I think that year will be a good time to do something different, another thing is to continue giving back to my country: not only being an example for other women representing the private sector, but I also have a lot of energy, I am open to doing whatever comes.
There is still the glass ceiling for women in the world: Fewer opportunities, jobs underpaid just for that fact of being a woman, etc. Have you experimented the glass ceiling? if yes, what are the biggest challenges you have faced and how have you overcome them?
I haven´t experimented it lately since I am in a very senior position but I faced it at the beginning of my career when I started working for Ford, I was 27 and I requested to be the leader of corporate affairs and they told me, no, you are young (back then) then, but I´m completely sure they also thought, no because you are very young and you are a woman in the automotive industry. Yes it happens, that´s a reality still, but I think ceilings can be broken, that has been my philosophy in the last 25 years.
You are a role model, what tips can you give to young girls who want to become like you?
First, they have to be very clear what they want, if they feel they are not receiving what they want, change it very quickly, sometimes we (as women) wait, maybe I am the one who is wrong...maybe I am the one who is having these difficulties, so you need to be wise enough to understand if you are in the right place or not, and if you aren´t, try to change it very quickly, another thing I´d suggest is: take risks to do whatever you want, now women have a louder voice in every aspect, don´t keep quiet in any way.
Everybody has had dark moments in their lives, what have you done to get out of that phase?
I am convinced when you have dark moments of crisis, that makes you grow so what I normally do is, try to focus on the next thing, we women are very hard on ourselves like oh I did this... I shouldn´t have mentioned this... so just leave it, just like men do, it was in the past, forget it. I understand what I learn from the crisis, that requires a good self esteem, self-recognition sometimes what you discover is not pleasant, but realize it, learn it, and move on.
I think in your position, many people may have the wrong idea of who you are (personally), and what you do (professionally), with this idea in mind, what is being Claudia, and what´s not?
Well, they probably think that I am a public person with very strange tastes, that I am fancy, that is what I am not, I am a normal businesswoman with a husband with good and bad moments, I'm very committed to my work and my country.
Who is the woman you admire the most and why?
Angela Merkel, because she doesn´t seem to care being surrounded by men, she is very direct, another woman that I admire because I like to watch tennis is, Serena Williams, both are leaders, both are wonderful women, how they deal with difficult situations, especially when you are among men, I tend to see that men, when you are strong like, is my case, you make decisions but you look like a woman, it is like rrrr (expression of annoyance) both are women leaders in the world, we have a lot of things to learn from them and don´t worry about what the rest of the world thinks about you.
Something else do you want to add or share with us?
Thank you very much and keep doing this, we as women should continue helping each other, this is what is making the difference not only in the personal side but also on the professional side, so I am convinced that women helping women will make women better.
Name: Claudia Jañez
Designation: President Mexico and Latin America