Ángela María Zuluaga arrived at Coca-Cola a decade ago and, back then, it never crossed her mind that over the years she would become the Colombian with the highest corporate position in the most iconic soft drink company on the planet, and not for lack of personal or professional characteristics, which has both.
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born is Quimbaya (Quindio), A municipality some 306 kilometers away from Bogotá, she has had an ascending career within the organization, from the Directorate of Public Affairs for the Central Latin America Business Unit to the Vice Presidency of the Integrated Communications Area, created recently, which forces her to change its center of operations to Atlanta (United States).
Something that has her restless, well he feels a deep love for his colombiawhere she can enjoy her passion for horses, the countryside, sunrises and enjoy a cup of good coffee, as she says with some nostalgia.
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What is the spark of life for Angela?
In my case, enjoy those simpler and smaller moments that life gives you. The spark of life is being able to ride a horse with my family, going away on a Saturday for five hours in the open country, getting up early, having a coffee and watching the sunrise, it’s those little moments that bring you happiness, the ones that take you out an unexpected smile
One day she woke up and she is already the Colombian who has climbed the highest in a company like Coca-Cola, how did this happen?
I have been with the company for close to a decade, it is the fifth position within it that he has held and in the light of many people it has been an accelerated, beautiful career, where he has changed roles almost every two years.
I started in a regional position and it was always clear to me that I had to continue growing, but I never imagined reaching this level, a charge that is new. It wasn’t even on my December 31 wish list.
Within organizations, one must always be very clear about what they want to contribute to them, putting business interests first over personal and professional ones, and that has helped me a lot to keep moving forward.
Whenever there is a difficult decision to be made with the team, I always ask myself what is best for the business and when you dedicate yourself to thinking in that sense, you dedicate yourself to building high-performance teams.
I am sure that he was able to reach this level because he managed to form those teams that have stood out, that have grown and that today shine with their own light. But it is a set of things that have to be planted within an organization to grow and gain greater responsibility.
What is the balance so far?
There is a moment in life where one is measured by what one knows, the functional part; then it begins to escalate and that assessment is made through others, then, the yardstick to measure is not through you but what your boss does, it is measured by leadership abilities, to influence, to establish an agenda, to do it comply and have a team that works well and feels good about the indicators that the company measures in terms of organizational climate.
That has been the process to get there, climbing different positions, increasingly focused on the leadership skills. And as a woman, the possibility of being part of the table that makes the big decisions, always contributing a different point of view, but always with the best camaraderie with my male colleagues, because I feel that we have to be there to generate different points of view. .
What qualities must a team have in order to be successful?
I always look at four things. First of all, they are people who have a mentality of constant growth, that is, they ask me to do this, but what else is there to do, where else is there to grow, what are they asking us today that we are not seeing, but we can do better, do not impose stigmas or mental barriers as to why not do things.
the second, people who have the ability to learn and unlearnPeople with that capacity, with that humility, are open to receiving new knowledge, something that is more difficult for women who are afraid of making mistakes because we always want to be the heroines of history and we want to do things right.
A third aspect relates to the ability to work in a safe environmentwhere it is possible to speak, to say what we like or dislike and what we think with confidence and without lying.
Finally, resilient teamsbecause the world is changing every day and the pandemic was the hardest blow we have ever suffered, but when there is resilience, no matter what comes, that spirit of growth means that you are always looking forward.
In an organization like this it is normal for there to be friction with colleagues, how have you managed to handle this?
Yes, that is what happens in all organizations and especially in the largest ones, due to the size of the decisions that are made and the responsibilities that are handled. There are conversations and frictions and they happen, but there are two key things.
The emotional intelligence to recognize that discussions have to stay in the workplace and never alter the personal. Ideas are discussed and not people and that is a mantra that we have in tough conversations, we discuss ideas and we don’t hurt each other as people.
The second thing is that you have to lead with empathy and I try to get my team to have it ingrained. It’s not every day that you get up for good, sometimes you’re sad, have a personal problem, whatever, so you have to learn as a professional and as a leader to read that. You have to understand that in the end the common purpose is what is right for an organization.
In this teamwork, is there a perfect balance?
I would say that one should always have all genders, races, cultures, religions. If the company has taught me anything, it is the need for inclusion.
This new team that he began to build is extremely diverse, people from different countries, African-Americans, the LGBTI community, men and women, and I am a true believer in that.
Being a woman -I am going to say something that may not sound so nice- nor I can go to an extreme of only women because I need the complementarity, the thought and reasoning that men and their points of view bring.
We are an absolute complement to do much greater things and when we talk about another type of diversity that also gives us sensitivity about what happens outside.
Building a team in the image and likeness of one is a big mistake because it’s like looking in a mirror and you need different perspectives. Diversity is key in any high performing team.
What comes forward from this new position?
One has to create spaces, processes and ways of operating together. with this new role there are things that start and are going to changeWhat I see is that certain guidelines will be generated from the communications part of the company, both corporate and brand. They give you planes that are 60 percent corporate and 40 percent discretionary for local adjustments.
For example, in Latin America there is a Senior Communications Director who works with communications people from all countries, in these roles one has to be aware that there is a part that is like a scheme of what should be done, but there is freedom to adjust it, to standardize what the company wants to show about its brands today, but without losing that local essence.
We are a global company, but at the same time we operate locally and our purpose of refreshing the world obeys thatwe want to make a difference country by country and that is where this mix between corporate directives focused on the needs of each country is something very important.
ECONOMY AND BUSINESS