Harold Castro was born into humble surroundings in the Dominican Republic. Looking for opportunity and a better education for their children, his parents moved to Puerto Rico.
“Puerto Rico had very good English classes in terms of writing in the public school system. Not so much speaking, though,” says Castro, who is currently the director of international controllership at Walmart.
As he entered high school the family came to the US, settling in Central Islip on Long Island. “It was a shock to the system. Obviously, there were some Puerto Ricans and Dominicans, but I didn’t know English. I could write it very well, but I couldn’t speak it,” he says. “I was called every other slur by fellow Latinos in New York. I wasn’t the classic New York Puerto Rican or Dominican.”
Outgoing and social, Castro quickly learned English in a “rough” high school with its share of gang activity. “It wasn’t the Hamptons, I’ll say that,” Castro says. With a dream of earning his pilot’s license, Castro enrolled in vocational school and studied aviation. By his senior year he was flying solo.
The lift beneath his dreams of earning a living in aviation dissipated, however, when he learned flight instructors were paid minimum wage. He enrolled in Dowling College on Long Island and studied finance and accounting, which weren’t discussed at his low-income high school.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting and landed a job at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in 2006. “I went into the world’s biggest hedge fund at the time and got great experience. Then the recession hit,” Castro says.
Looking to reconnect with his Hispanic roots, Castro took a job Expat Assignment with PwC in Mexico. It was a lateral move but culturally a perfect fit. “Within my first year I was promoted to senior associate,” says Castro, who had found his niche in complex accounting. “I focused on helping clients solve current accounting issues by researching complex accounting guidance. Focusing on addressing current issues fit my personality well.”
As a first-generation college student, Castro received little career advice from his parents so he turned to mentors, which led to identifying the distinction between a mentor and a sponsor. “You can have both. A mentor guides you when you have complex questions and issues, when you’re vulnerable and open,” he explains. “A sponsor sees you in a positive light, rather than showcasing your deficiencies. Mentors have helped me think things through early on with decisions. I’ll always be thankful to them for providing that feedback and helping me get promoted.”
Castro used the network he’d developed within PwC to move to Miami. “I started to develop a reputation that I did good work and got picked up by different teams,” Castro says.
In 2014, he moved to Royal Caribbean, providing technical accounting advice on complex accounting matters. Fed up with Miami traffic and searching for a more rewarding career, he came to Walmart’s HQ in Arkansas in 2016. “Coming from a low-income family, Walmart’s mission of ‘Saving our Customers Money’ so they can live better resonated with me. My mom worked at Walmart when I was in high school and loved the company,” Castro says.
There he evaluated his corporate maturity, leveraged down, and acquired more mentors and mentees. Today, as the director of international controllership, Castro provides strategic accounting support to Walmart’s Mexico, Central America, and Chile Markets. He also supports Walmart through global initiatives, critical accounting matters, and earnings cycles.
A servant leader, Castro supports fellow associates and mentees, viewing situations from all perspectives. “I try to lead with empathy and an understanding of where they are in their careers, what they aspire to,” he says.
His position allows him to engage within the community and mentor college students, connecting Latino students with Latino leaders. Though, he admits, it’s difficult mentoring those he leads. “You’re in a leadership position to achieve a specific goal,” he explains. “But I try to algin their long-term goals for what they’re trying to achieve. Most of my mentees are not in my area.”
Walmart, says Castro, has several established Associate Resource Groups (ARGs) that have enriched cultural awareness, increased engagement in the local diverse communities and created a greater sense of community and connection among Walmart’s diverse associates. With the help of Walmart, Castro supports local non-for-profit organizations in the Northwest Arkansas Region. “Our culture at Walmart is very strong in terms of DEI and involvement, which I love,” he says.
Castro considers himself a “regular guy,” and measures success differently than most. “I might not be an SVP or a VP. We think that success is a title or a dollar figure. More important than a dollar figure or a title is realizing what makes you happy and what gives you the best balance in terms of what you want to do versus what you have to do,” Castro says.