NextGen Collective recently spotlighted Mayra Luna. Read about her work, her thoughts around giving back to her community, and more.
Where are you from?
I’m from San Jose, California but I have lived more years in Lagos de Moreno, Jalisco than I have in the US.
What do you do today and where do you want to go in your career?
I am a human resource representative for PepsiCo. I recently got a new opportunity where I will be acting as a campus lead for our North Beverages division where I will be supporting campus recruiting and strategy. Additionally, from an HRBP lens, I will be working with our division’s finance team.
In the long term, I would love to get more involved with our diversity and inclusion department at PepsiCo and would ideally end my career in that space. I am a first-gen descendant from low-income parents, so it is important to me to give back to my community and I am very passionate about it. I am very happy with the work I do right now, but I am also interested in exploring the different aspects of HR and other departments that PepsiCo has to offer.
Who inspired you the most in your life growing up?
I’ve had many mentors in my life that have inspired me the most, from my first manager at Cisco Systems Katty Coulson who taught me what it means to have passion when giving back, to my godmother Anne Marie Olholm who was my coworker at Cisco and became my family.
While I have many more examples, I do have to say that my biggest role models have been my parents. My mom lives in Mexico and is a fruit vendor in the town’s mercado and my dad lives in California and is a welder. They both came to this country with nothing and worked hard to give me the chance to have the opportunities that I have right now. Everything I do is for them and even though I have already helped them, I know that one day I will be able to repay them for all the things that they have done for me.
What do you wish you had known at the start of your career?
I am just starting my career, but I think that I wished I had known that not everyone will be as passionate as I am about giving back. Sometimes it frustrates me to see how much I care about this cause and how others don’t have that passion that I do but I know it is something I must get used to. With that being said I also think that it has been hard to know that not in every single aspect of my job I am going to be able to make an impact with the unrepresentative community that I belong to, so navigating that feeling of not being fulfilled just yet while constantly seeking new ways to give back is something I wish I knew.
What are some of the biggest challenges you see for Latinx professionals early in their careers?
Something that I have noticed and is even challenging for me to do is to celebrate the small wins. I was born in the United States but grew up in Mexico so when I moved back to the States, I knew my purpose was to go to college, get a degree, and have a successful career.
Because this is what I came to do, every time I achieve a milestone, I don’t celebrate. I see it as what I am supposed to do and not what I have accomplished. It is very hard for me to acknowledge how far I have come and take a step back to see everything I have been able to achieve. Other Latinos that I have met also struggle with this for the simple fact that this is what we had to do to raise up the ladder and destroy generational patterns. Now that I recognize it, I believe it is important to acknowledge that this is a struggle for us so we can work through it.
What are you most excited for in 2022?
In 2022, I am excited to see where the beginning of my career takes me. I recently got the opportunity the lead our campus program within the North Division at PepsiCo, so I am looking forward to developing myself in that role, learning the business, and gaining skills that will allow me to be a successful HR professional. Furthermore, I am looking forward to getting more involved with the Latino community and seeing what ways I can give back inside and outside of work.
What podcast or life hack can you not live without?
In terms of life hack on the more personal life, I would say the Mexican in me never goes out of the house without hot sauce, chile, or any kind of spice. I grew up eating spicy food and putting it in almost everything, so I have learned to be prepared and always come with some sort of spice to any place that I am going to eat, especially those that I know probably won’t have it. It is part of who I am, and it reminds me of where I come from. Even though I was born in the US, I consider myself 100% Mexican, so it is important to carry who I am and my culture with me everywhere I go.
What behavior or personality traits do you attribute to your success?
I tend to be a very straightforward person. I lead my work with an honest and clear opinion and mind but at the same time, I try to lead with my heart. For the longest time, I remember apologizing for crying too much. When giving speeches and talking about things I am passionate about I would always tear up and would be so embarrassed about it, but I have slowly realized that it is also important to have a heart. While I think with my head most of the time, I always bring myself back to the fact that we must be kind and treat others how we want to be treated. I want to hopefully leave people with the idea that I care about them and appreciate them.
What’s been the biggest surprise or highlight of your career to date?
The biggest highlight of my career has been seeing my journey unfold. I moved to the states knowing zero English. I quickly mastered my English and was able to graduate from middle school with honors. I was able to attend Cristo Rey San Jose Jesuit High school where I was given the opportunity to intern for Cisco Systems one day a week for four years.
While at Cristo Rey and Cisco, I met many mentors who helped me achieve many goals, one of them being attending Harvard Summer School. I graduated high school Summa Cum Laude and went to Cornell University to get my bachelor’s in industrial labor and relations with a minor in Spanish. I graduated this past December and have now started my career at PepsiCo. It has not been an easy journey, but I know that my sacrifices have been paying off and will continue to.
Which causes are you passionate about?
I have been very lucky to have many mentors and role models that care about me and supported me through my journey. Because of this, I am passionate about helping unrepresentative students get into college and helping them navigate that adventure that many of our parents did not have the chance to be in. Furthermore, at work, I am especially interested in mentoring those that are just starting their career in corporate America and might not know much about how to navigate it. At work, I am an active mentor and member of our employee resource group Adelante. Ultimately, my goal is to always have my community in mind and give back in any way I am capable of.