Meet Edurne Balmori, CEO of Metco® a Mexican company leader in the development and production of sweeteners, she is the chairwoman of the International Life Sciences Institute and a speaker on relevant topics in the food and health industries, a happy and creative person with passion for growth and transformation seeking to make a difference.
Who is Edurne? Define yourself
I am a woman who seeks to be congruent and authentic in all aspects of my life. Someone who gets up every day with the aim of building bonds and generating solutions that help the well-being of those around me. Highly motivated, happy and creative person with passion for growth and transformation. Seeking to make a difference.
How were you as a kid?
I was always an imaginative, playful and happy kid. Since I was little, I always knew that I wanted to be a chemical inventor and every time I tried a colorful candy, cereal, soda or anything that for me was innovative I knew that food was the thing I wanted to invent. I used to have a “secret lab” and inventing formulas was my thing. I was very introvert and thoughtful, like a true scientist. I loved everything related to Disney and the idea of a colorful, good and happy world. To this day I’m very pleased to be a person that tries to have my inner child very much alive, inventing things for my job and visiting Disney as often as I can.
"I truly believe that recognizing the skills and qualities of the people around you and help them to maximize them can help to build stronger and happier people and therefore teams that will work better for a better impact in the business"
You have an Engineering and Technology Food Bachelor degree from the Universidad Iberoamericana and specialisations in Senior Management and Business Administration. Why did you choose those courses of study?
I always knew that what I wanted to be a Food Scientist, so my bachelor’s degree was an easy pick. As I gained work experience, I realized the importance of complementing my technical knowledge with management and business administration, that way I could understand and contribute in a better way to the company. At the present time, I am studying a master’s degree in executive coaching and leadership because I want to grow personally, which I think it has to be a constant in my life and be a better leader for the people I work with. I truly believe that recognizing the skills and qualities of the people around you and help them to maximize them can help to build stronger and happier people and therefore teams that will work better for a better impact in the business.
You are currently the CEO of Metco®, a company you have worked since 2008, having different roles as Research and Development area, where you were responsible for the creation of important products of the company, such as Svetia®, the leading brand in Mexico in the non-caloric sweeteners sector based on Stevia rebaudiana, where the idea of Svetia came from?
In an industry like mine, nobody works alone. Behind the development of Svetia®, there is the work of a long time and many people with wide and strong knowledge. It all started with the vision of Héctor Álvarez de la Cadena, President of Metco, who in the 1980s went to Paraguay to investigate the stevia rebaudiana plant, brought it to Mexico and started the investigations with his team. When I started to work in Metco in the R&D department, my first task was to develop a stevia based product which was launched in 2009, the same year FDA approved stevia as an ingredient so we achieve to be the first product in México’s shelf and continue to this day to be the leading brand. This is a result of the work and effort of all the people that worked with me in R&D but also in all the other departments.
"I don't think there is an exact formula for success, but in my case it has worked a lot for me to be passionate about everything I do and keep learning all the time. With discipline, perseverance and organization we can achieve our goals and the passion that we put is the spark that makes everything happen"
For the people that don't know, can you describe briefly what´s METCO?
Metco is a 100% Mexican company leader in the development and production of sweeteners that meet the needs of all consumers both consumption (B2C) and industry (B2B). We currently have 35% of market share and are leaders in stevia, low-calorie and mascabado niches in Mexico.
One of Metco's great values is its commitment to health: we dedicate 5% of our sales to research and development of new and better products with this focus. In addition, Metco is a company in which 64% of the workforce are women, and of 7 members of the executive bureau, 6 are also female.
You have achieved a lot in METCO, you managed to obtain FSSC 22000 food safety certifications and the US Food and Drug Administration registration for the manufacturing plant. Leading the company to obtain other certifications, such as ISO9000, ISO14000 and Organic Certification, after 10 years of working in the company you were promoted as CEO, Since June 2016, you are the chairwoman of the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), you are also a speaker on relevant topics in the food and health industries, what´s the recipe for your success?
For me, being genuine is essential. I consider that being authentic and doing what really makes me happy has been the before and after in my life. Being authentic has allowed me to say what I want and what I don't want personally, in my teams and in the company I run. Besides, I don't think there is an exact formula for success, but in my case it has worked a lot for me to be passionate about everything I do and keep learning all the time. With discipline, perseverance and organization we can achieve our goals and the passion that we put is the spark that makes everything happen.
"At Metco® we are convinced that an environment of respect, with diverse teams and members free to express their true self’s and preferences, translates into creativity and commitment"
Last December METCO obtained the seal from Human Rights Campaign, which were the policies that were implemented in the company to promote the inclusion of the LGBT + population?
The Best Places to Work 2020 HRC Equity MX certification is a very important step for us because it guarantees the values that we have been practicing as a company over the years. At Metco® we are convinced that an environment of respect, with diverse teams and members free to express their true self’s and preferences, translates into creativity and commitment. We are Genuine Metco and we encourage our people to live in a genuine way and to express themselves genuinely. Our commitment is that this seal helps us attract the best talent, because we are an organization where people feel calm, supported and protected.
Based on your experience what Mexican society should do to stay healthy and avoid obesity and diabetes?
The most important thing is to implement healthy habits starting with a balanced diet, exercise and, above all, be aware of the portions we consume. I also think it is very important that since childhood, we learn to feed ourselves consciously and know all the healthy options in the market to implement in our daily diet.
What is the reality of your day-to-day?
I wake up every morning, shower, have breakfast and listen to a good podcast, TED talk or news on my way to work. After greeting everyone in the office I check my agenda in which I like to write my task for the day and cross out them as soon as I finished. Many of the tasks does not necessarily are about job issues but are also about talking to someone, help other with something I know they are behind and listen to opinions about anything we can improve; great ideas can come from anyone. At around 5 or 6 I go to my mom´s house and talk about our days. Most days I go to the gym, but I don’t achieve that every day and around 8 I go home, shower again, I have dinner with my partner, maybe watch a little TV or read, meditate about my day and sleep a good 8 hours.
Do you have any particular philosophy that guides your career decisions?
Congruence is essential for me. I think that acting, saying and being must be aligned with the same principle values and that daily practice is what makes a leader have credibility and the trust of his people. Without congruence, things don't work, and people don't trust.
"Congruence is essential for me. I think that acting, saying and being must be aligned with the same principle values and that daily practice is what makes a leader have credibility and the trust of his people. Without congruence, things don't work, and people don't trust"
What do you love most about your job? & what is the most difficult part?
The thing I love the most about my job is to have a job that I love, a place where I can be myself and do what I always wanted to do in addition to the people I work with. The most difficult part is sometimes to trust that the decision that I´m making is the one that will benefit more.
As a CEO what are the things you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I have 5 important things that I consider someone who wants to be a leader has to practice every day and commit to:
- Know that you don't know everything: I think a leader is not who knows how to do everything, but who surrounds herself with those who know more in different areas and create a great team. Prepare yourself and never stop learning but let go of the pressure of believing that you have to know it all.
- Decisiveness:show great consistency with your decisions.
- Learn to listen: hear ideas from absolutely all teams members. At Metco we usually do an idea-brainstorming exercise, we listen to everybody and we put into action those that can work. People feel motivated of knowing that they are heard and that their ideas are launched.
- Be open to diversity: diversity of ideas, points of view, experiences and knowledge enrich everybody. Metco is a company that proudly works with people of all ages, genders, races, preferences, and celebrates the differences. That makes us genuine and enriches us in the human, which is, after all, the most important to us.
- Know that you are an example: As a leader people will be watching. Be aware that everything you say and do is an example, so be the person that truly lives with the values you want to cultivate in others.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Spend time with family or friends doing mostly anything. Spend quality time with my loved ones. Eat! Go to a restaurant or takeout and enjoy a good company while enjoying a good meal and preferably with a good wine or beer and a tasty ice cream. Watch a movie or go to the theater, I mostly enjoy musical theater.
Travel as most as I can. Since I turned 30 every year my birthday gift for myself is to go to a place I´ve never been, with someone or by myself. Traveling opens up your mind and I think that´s the best gift you can give yourself.
Everybody has had dark moments in their lives, what have you done to get out of that phase? what does it make you happy?
Knowing that is ok to ask for help, never give up and be close to my people. As well, have time for myself in order to meditate about the situation, how I feel and what I can learn from it, allowing myself to feel and live the dark moment. Knowing that I can and that I have a support system in my people make me happy.
"Be true to yourself, study and continue to learn all the time, not only from books or school but from the people and circumstances around you. Speak up your mind and do your best in what you do, put passion on it and take your professional life like your personal. Find a company that has your same core values and appreciate you for who you are and what you can contribute"
Many authors say women can and must strive to have everything – a shining career, a blossoming 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, so according to your experience, what do you think about these statements?
I think that all of us as women are living a historical moment. We are rising the voice worldwide; we are growing as never before, and we must take this moment as an opportunity. Part of this moment is to say that expectations don't necessarily have to be the same for all women, we should all have the option to choose which one or which of those options we really want. And if we want all the options, to negotiate the possibility of doing so together with all those involved in equal circumstances.
What are your plans for the future?
Continue to learn and grow as a person and as a professional working in a job that I love, form a family and enjoy life.
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?
The glass ceiling in the business sector is still a reality. Women comprise only 7.5% of the management boards of Mexico´s largest companies. I think this need to change because the private sector would have better decision-making with men and women working as equals. Nevertheless, I can say that I have not experienced any kind of disadvantage, because I have always felt supported by my company and by those around me. The key point in this if finding a company which has equality as one of its greater values and truly supports the growth of every member without distinction. Being genuine also gives me confidence about my knowledge and capabilities and what I can contribute in an industry as important as this.
What tips, can you give to young girls who want to become a CEO in the food industry like you?
Be true to yourself, study and continue to learn all the time, not only from books or school but from the people and circumstances around you. Speak up your mind and do your best in what you do, put passion on it and take your professional life like your personal. Find a company that has your same core values and appreciate you for who you are and what you can contribute.
I think in your position, many people may have the wrong idea of who you are (personally), and what do you (professionally), with this idea in mind, what is being Edurne and what´s not?
Being Edurne is being a happy and innovative person with passion for growth and transformation who is always looking to create new things and to portray that and be ethic in her work.
A person that lives to work and does not put herself and her values firsts and is not ethical is definitely not me.
Who is the woman you admire the most and why?
My mom, she has been always a role model of a working woman that do her best to enjoy life and squeeze every moment while taking care of my brother and me. And also, Michelle Obama, she is a very good example of a humble and kind person who seeks to make a difference.
Something else do you want to add or share with us?
Thank you for the invite to do this interview and for considering me a woman who inspire. In Metco® we base our operation on our values and principles, which represent the foundations on which the company philosophy is based and give rectitude to our actions. All of us who work at Metco® share them, since each of these aspects represents an axis in the decision-making and conduct of each collaborator. As a company, we aspire to increase them, reflect them in our products and offer them to our customers, so that they are qualities that distinguish us and make us better every day.
Name: Edurne Balmori
Social media/Twitter: @edurneba