An interview with Alma Guajardo-Crossley
Recently at the Hispanicize 2012 event, we caught up with Alma Guajardo-Crossley, The Director of Diversity Initiatives at GM. A Corporate Visionary; an honor recently awarded by the US Hispanic Leadership Institute, in recognition of her 27 year career and service to the community – we got a chance to talk about her inspiring story, and her time spent assisting in the recruitment and placement of Latinos at GM.
To Alma, being a Latina means:
“My mother and father, it’s heritage and hard work, passion, fun, love, family, religion, sense of pride in who I am, I feel like I can connect with other Latinos, because they understand the values instilled upon us growing up. When I meet another Latino, I feel like they’re family because they understand who I am and how I behave. That’s being Latino, you’re passionate and affectionate, you connect with people, it’s a beautiful thing, and nothing to be ashamed about. You can be proud of who you are, it exudes around a big crowd of people, and it feels good.”
Her Mexican-American familia – originally from Texas – moved to Michigan for better job opportunities, where she was then born. It’s her family’s support and love she credits to her achievements and the importance of education and work ethic they instilled upon her. Her father told her: “Mija, necesitas ir a escuela, coges tu educacion, no necesitas trabajar asi como yo, muy duro,” sacrificing his education to work three jobs, and almost losing his life after a large metal plate fell on top of him at a foundry. Her mother supported them through those traumatic times, and on into their higher education.
Her brother first attended the GM Institute, later encouraging her to; beginning there Alma’s career flourished within a company that has for decades provided numerous opportunities for minority entrepreneurs as the first motor company to start a Minority Suppliers Dept in 1968 and a Minority Dealership Program in 1972.
Starting in sales and marketing, eventually she became Director of Dealer Development for Minority Dealers. Using her connection and understanding of the people, to create consumer standards, asking important questions such as: “How can I market to the Latino consumer? How is that culture different from what you see [in other cities]? How is the customer treated when they walk into that showroom? Is there enough bilingual talent? How are you reaching the Latin community? Do we need different type of creative?”
Assisting the community on both sides of consumers and workers, Alma has used her position to act as a “Servant Leader” by creating jobs, scholarship funds, and donating to charities.
“I think at the end of the day, the more people you help, it eventually comes back to you in more ways than one. Whether it’s talking positively about you or the company you represent, or even if you’ve touched them to be able to give to other people, it triples itself. I like to help, but am [mindful that] as you succeed in life and prosper, not only do you pay it forward, but you also support those people who’ve helped you in the past. Ultimately, I feel so good about being able to help the community, being able to support the community, and helping young kids to achieve their dreams, whether it’s motivating them, providing scholarships, or telling them how to interview in corporate America when you’re looking for that opportunity, it touches my heart being able to help them.”
The soul of a company is driven by its workers, and in a company that has such longstanding American roots, it makes perfect sense, that at the heart of General Motors, Alma Guajardo-Crossley is a shining example that with hard work and dedication, and by paying it forward, one person can truly make a difference.