On Marisol Sanchez’s first day as vice president and general counsel at Endress+Hauser, the company’s general manager, Todd Lucey, asked what the company could do so she wouldn’t be overwhelmed by requests for legal advice. After all, Sanchez’s position was brand new at Endress+Hauser’s US operations.
Sanchez’s response took Lucey by surprise: “I said, ‘No, let the floodgates open because that’s the only way I will learn the business.’”
So she did, creating relationships with departments as a business partner and learning the issues people were facing.
Sanchez’s willingness to take on a challenge head-on is key to what makes her a successful executive. She worked hard on her academics growing up in Puerto Rico before pursuing legal studies in the United States. Prior to Endress+Hauser, she rose through the ranks and was named partner for a large legal firm in Indianapolis—the first Latina or Latino lawyer to do so.
Then, there’s keeping up with her young family. Part of her drive comes from a sense of obligation.
“I have to show the next person—whether it’s a woman, man, Latina, or Latino—that if you want to be engaged, if you want to push those issues through, there are ways to do that and people there that can support you and lend a hand,” she says.
In 1993, Sanchez participated in an exchange program between the University of Puerto Rico, where she was earning a business degree, and Indiana University-Purdue in Fort Wayne. There, she made friendships that would prove invaluable when she and her husband, Rafael Sanchez, also of Puerto Rico, came to the United States to become lawyers.
A few months after graduation, the newly married couple moved to Fort Wayne. They pooled their savings from working two to three jobs and lived out of suitcases in their friends’ living room while they figured out their new life.
Both worked in banking and quickly rose to branch managers for National City Bank. “We blinked and three years had gone by,” she says. But they reminded themselves their ultimate career goal was law.
Sanchez and her husband quit their jobs and became full-time students at Indiana University–Bloomington’s Maurer School of Law. To prepare for the highly ranked school, they were selected for the Indiana Conference for Legal Education Opportunity (ICLEO) Fellowship program, a summer institute designed to expose students, in particular minority and economically disadvantaged, to the rigors of law school.
Attending law school together was a financial burden, but it was a purposeful decision they found mutually beneficial. “We defined success as both being successful,” she says.
Sanchez worked as a litigator and appellate attorney for more than eight years at Bose, McKinney, & Evans LLP. Making partner was a huge milestone for her personally and professionally. Such an accomplishment came with responsibility, certainly in Sanchez’s mind, to be involved in various diversity initiatives within the firm and the state and local bar associations, as well as being involved in the community.
“A voice was needed from a diversity perspective, and I felt I could add that voice,” she says.
Despite making partner, Sanchez left for Endress+Hauser, a Swiss-based company that specializes in instrumentation and process automation. Endress+Hauser, a former client, recruited her to create an in-house legal department for its US operations, headquartered in Greenwood, Indiana.
“Whether it’s you reaching up for support from people who came before you or you reaching your hand down and pulling others up, that’s the responsibility we have when we engage in those types of leadership positions.”
As general counsel, Sanchez offers what she says is a business solution to a legal problem.
Say a business partner seeks her advice about whether it can take a certain action. Sanchez will study it from a legal perspective, but in the end, she aims to reach a solution by finding a mutual understanding that benefits the company while protecting its interests. Success in her role is being valued and viewed as a business partner.
Then, there are the company initiatives concerning diversity and women that she is leading, as well as being involved in programs to develop and further groom leaders throughout the company. Sanchez is also highly engaged in the community, sitting on numerous boards where she adds a diverse perspective as a lawyer, Latina, and woman. These initiatives and boards allow her to bring together her passions for diversity and community.
Sanchez gives talks at schools, including her alma mater, where she tells soon-to-be law school grads what the future will hold. “Get involved early and be a leader” is one of the pieces of advice she shares.
“Whether it’s you reaching up for support from people who came before you or you reaching your hand down and pulling others up, that’s the responsibility we have when we engage in those types of leadership positions,” she says.
She has had her own role models, including her husband, parents, and Randall T. Shepard, Chief Justice of the Indiana Supreme Court, for whom she clerked.
She and Rafael, who’s now a CEO for a utility company, have demanding careers, but they make their three children—ages eight, eleven, and fifteen—a priority. Her personal time is family time, which she spends attending her kids’ athletics and school activities; running half-marathons is another part of her personal time. Putting her kids to bed each night is an opportunity to debrief their day and have a conversation about school and friends.
Often she and Rafael bring them to kid-friendly community and business events, such as dinners or charitable events. She wants their children to grow up involved and philanthropically inclined.
“It’s always good to give back,” she says.