For the past fifteen years, Mauricio Machado has climbed through the international ranks at Cargill—but his ladder doesn’t look like any other. Initially brought on as an IT manager (with previous experiences in oil & gas and telecommunications under his belt), Machado leapt into one of the fields perhaps least associated with the idea of a traditional IT work: human resources.
Since 2006, Machado has cultivated extensive HR expertise, first in Brazil and later in the United States, where he now resides. The current total rewards VP at Cargill seemingly changed horses midstream, and didn’t so much as get water on his boots.
IT to HR
“Moving into HR was a professional zig-zag and something you certainly don’t see very often,” Machado admits. “But it was a great opportunity for me at the time to diversify my career and learn different skills. When you think about Cargill as a company, you know you can change your career and take on different jobs without needing to leave and go somewhere else.”
Mauricio Machado discusses how Cargill leaders supported him in his career change:
Machado first pivoted into HR when he was tasked with overseeing HR for a Brazilian company recently acquired by Cargill, a global leader in food, agriculture, and nutrition. And it wasn’t a position that came with training wheels. “It was a very labor-intensive business, and it was not easy,” Machado recalls. “The first two years in HR, I had to relearn a lot of things.
Part of building out a successful HR career meant having to meaningfully differentiate Machado’s new path from his old. “When you work with technologies, it’s much more predictable,” Machado says. “You can plan ahead of time. When you work with people, you have to manage ambiguity and find ways to engage and motivate people.” The challenge was enough to make Machado consider moving on to a different area of the business, but fourteen years and a different continent later, he’s still in HR.
To Machado’s mind, this transition might have been a great deal more challenging at another company. “The first thing that was really important was the fact that I had such a good team in place,” Machado says. “Early on, I had to rely on my team to provide the expertise that I didn’t have in the beginning.”
The fact that Machado was also to work across multiple cultural lines, and with what he considers fantastic support all along the way, allowed the aspiring HR leader to grow exponentially. “One of our values is that we really do put people first,” Machado explains. “We really look at what we need to do to make sure that our people are successful. We welcome different points of view, backgrounds, and levels of experience and expertise.”
To Nourish the World
Machado’s success in building out a positive employee experience at Cargill, he says, comes down to two of the more fundamental values that Cargill represents. The aforementioned focus on people cannot be undervalued, he emphasizes. “When you become part of this company, you can feel it. You can see the outcome of your work translated into impact,” Machado says. “I cannot think of any other company where you can have the impact that we can have.
“We can impact billions of people,” he continues, “because our vision is to nourish the world, and to do that in a safe and responsible and sustainable way.”
The second component of Machado’s mission means utilizing HR to drive all of the available tools and processes to enhance that employee experience. “Cargill is always looking for the best way to do things, and thinking about innovation and sustainability,” Machado says. According to Machado, Cargill creates a great employee experience by investing in programs such as the Global Day of Inclusion and targeted development to specific employee groups.
It also includes various business resource groups (BRGs), including a Hispanic BRG, and alignment with the Hispanic Promise, a public commitment to hire, promote, and retain Hispanic talent. “There are so many things we do every day to really create an inclusive environment and meet the diversity goals that we set for ourselves,” Machado says. “I’ve been fortunate to have a chance to experience the benefit and power of these opportunities myself.”
Finding the Passion
Machado says his passion for innovation continues to be his north star while working toward new HR goals, both in regard to employee education and talent recruitment. “We have been supporting the deployment of digital learning across the company to create technology and learning opportunities that are convenient to use so that it almost becomes part of our day-to-day,” Machado says. “We’re very excited about the adoption we’ve seen because it provides our people the opportunity to make themselves better managers and better professionals.”
Technology has also been used to improve to the speed and reliability of interacting with potential job candidates. “When you think about attracting diverse talent, using technology to improve your job descriptions and make them more attractive for diverse candidates is essential,” Machado says of a recently launched pilot program for this technology.
Beyond these improvements to the Cargill employee experience, technology has also played a major role in helping Machado himself as he continues to evolve in his own practice. Adaptability, he stresses, is going to be the key to remaining relevant and effective—not just in HR but also across the company.
“We always need to be thinking about emerging jobs and skills that will be required in the future,” Machado says. “I’ve been doing a lot of work to bring visibility to the organization about where we should invest to develop those skills for the future.”
And there really isn’t anyone better to spotlight these opportunities than Machado, the IT-turned-HR professional who may very well be the definition of the word “adaptation.”