Ulises Vergara has been in the consumer packaged goods industry for over twenty years, serving in a variety of brand management, sales, and strategic roles that exposed him to different kinds of cultures, consumers, consumption habits, and companies.
From those various experiences, he’s developed a simple philosophy about what ties all those things together.
“At the end of the day, it’s about people,” says Vergara, who serves as vice president and general manager of Conagra Brands’ meals and sides portfolio. “It’s either our consumers, our customers, or our teams that makes things happen. Different companies might have different approaches on driving value but at the end of the day, it rests on the shoulders of people.”
His belief in the power of a company’s people inspired him to accept the role as an executive sponsor for Conagra’s Latinx employee resource group (ERG), which has been consistently recognized as one of the top ERGs in the US. Within the group, Vergara supports retention, recruitment, and advocacy efforts with his Latino peers.
They focus on growing cultural awareness by hosting events, leveraging mentorship programs, identifying leadership opportunities for Latino employees, and working with the company’s talent acquisition team to ensure Conagra is an attractive place to work for its Latino community.
Vergara and the ERG are especially excited about the company’s efforts to expand the Latinx ERG outside of the corporate offices to its manufacturing facilities.
The Latinx ERG is one of eight ERGs at Conagra that aim to support the company’s greater diversity and inclusion philosophy, nourishing an inclusive workplace by bringing together diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and opinions. It’s a culture that pulled Vergara back into the company in 2016 from its business in Mexico.
“The cultural transformation really encouraged me join Conagra’s domestic segment,” he says. “Whether you’re talking demographics, brands, et cetera, it’s a culture that appreciates diversity of race, gender, culture, and thoughts. That aligns with my values, as I’ve always appreciated different backgrounds and perspectives. I’m proud to see how Conagra embraces those things too.
This is a company and a culture where you can drive impact if you want to do it,” he continues. “It doesn’t matter your role or your function. It’s a culture that supports difference-makers.”
Vergara started his career wanting to be an impactful leader and had dreams of being a general manager. After graduating from Tecnológico de Monterrey in Mexico and completing an executive MBA program at Arizona State University, he made sure to take on roles that gave him a chance to do so.
Prior to his current role with Conagra, Vergara worked with household names like Sony, Unilever, Cadbury Schweppes Bottling Group, and Mondelēz International. He says that the experiences he’s had throughout his career have been invaluable for his personal and professional growth.
“I’m a true believer in perpetual learning, self-development, and maintaining a growth mindset as a driver to enable us and our organizations to be high performing,” he says. “I was fortunate to have a diverse background that was well-rounded in sales and branding, and to be able to manage local, regional, and global brands. I’ve spent my career having the chance to see things I’m not used to, and it’s allowed me to understand, learn, and interact with different cultures and ideas.”
Vergara wants future leaders to know an important lesson about leadership that’s been a guiding principle for him. “It goes beyond your position, title, who reports to you, and doesn’t have anything to do with what’s on your business card,” he says. “It’s about knowing when to lead, when to follow, and when to collaborate.”
It’s also about remaining authentic, he adds. “Be yourself. You can be authentic, be who you really are, and be a great leader. But also, no matter the industry or company you work for, be consumer- and customer-centric.”
5 Areas of Focus for the Latinx ERG in FY24
Ulises Vergara shares what the Latinx ERG will be doing in 2024:
- Continue corporate mentorship program, providing support to Latinos and allies on both personal and professional levels
- Work with internal teams to incorporate LATAM heritage into Conagra Brands products, the most recent example being the packaging for the Frontera brand
- Introduce job shadowing program, starting with minority students from diverse ethnicities (college and high school aged) in Omaha, Nebraska, with a goal of providing young talent with a direct connection to Latino leaders
- Expand the Latinx ERG outside of the corporate offices to Conagra’s manufacturing facilities, focusing on locations with a large Latino population
- Host Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations, kicking off in late September 2023 with programming including music performances, a Latino food series, guest speakers, and more