Guadalupe Franzosi: A Multilingual, Multicultural Powerhouse
Guadalupe Franzosi doesn’t believe in waiting to see what a job might demand of you. She always moves first. Which is why, when working as a technical sales associate for DuPont in her home country Argentina, she decided to learn Portuguese, the language of Brazil, her larger neighbor in South America. She had grander plans than her country would allow for.
Currently the Global Sales Manager for DuPont Protection Solutions in Richmond, Virginia, Franzosi became fluent in Portuguese long before receiving the opportunity to expand her horizons, move to Brazil, and become DuPont’s South America Sales Manager for Glass Laminating Solutions, Packaging and Industrial Polymers. “I didn’t wait,” she says. “I knew to compete, I had to have the language skills.”
Later, she went back to school and got her MBA in marketing, after realizing she needed to augment her chemical engineering degree with business know-how.
“I always learned something before I needed it. I run after what I feel is a gap,” she says. “To succeed, you need to think, ‘what do I not know?’”
Franzosi has always been ambitious. “I had the luck of starting a career without supervisors in my own country. My first boss was located in Brazil, while I was in Argentina,” she says. “It was a challenge, but also a great opportunity, as I got to run the business as if it were my own, as long as I was aligned with my supervisor.”
However, there were limited growth opportunities in Argentina. “Very early in my career I started discussing with my superiors, how do I get more responsibility while in Argentina?” Although she was given some responsibility in Chile and Southern Brazil, “It soon became clear to me that if I wanted to grow, I’d have to leave Argentina,” she says.
Although her Brazilian assignment was initially just for two years, it lasted 13 years, during which she nationalized as a Brazilian citizen.
Guadalupe had always traveled and enjoyed learning about different cultures, which also helped her understand the challenges she would need to overcome if she wanted to succeed in a career in a multicultural, multinational company like DuPont.
It can be a challenge, she admits. “It’s exciting to learn a lot of things when you move to a different country, but you are also leaving a lot of things behind. You have to balance how much change you absorb at once,” says Franzosi.” It can be very difficult when you are changing countries, language, business, and roles, all at once.
“You ask yourself, can I learn everything I need to learn and deliver results at the same time?” she says. There’s also the pressure you put on yourself. “It’s not cheap to send employees to live in a different country, and the company is expecting a return for the investment, you feel that extra pressure, to show there was a good investment. It’s a lot of responsibility.”
Then there are the personal changes to consider: your family has to adapt to a new house, new neighbors, new schools, and new routines.
It’s not easy, she says. And what matters most as an employee is the ability to deliver despite all these changes. “You can be the best communicator, possess the most emotional intelligence, and relate very well to different cultures, and yet if you don’t deliver results you will find it difficult to grow within DuPont, or any other corporation,” she says.
Management Style: A Mixture of Trust and Risk-taking
Trust is a big part of Franzosi’s management style. “I cannot work with someone I can’t trust,” she says. She knows she’s not an expert on all things, so she depends on those around her. “I would say I know less of the technical details than the sales team. I rely on people’s capabilities. My job is to be the person to remove the barriers. Someone capable of connecting the dots.”
Franzosi manages more than 100 people spread all over the world. “I can’t be on-hand to oversee every decision they make, so I communicate with them, but ultimately I have to trust them,” she says. “It’s very empowering to make people feel accountable.”
Indeed, she says, taking risks is an important part of succeeding in business — and life. No day passes without some kind of risk.
“I took a risk in my personal life, when I moved from Argentina to Brazil, I took that risk, moved, got a work visa and so did my husband. But when we moved to the U.S., the government would not give him a work visa, but we took a risk as a family, so now he stays home and takes care of the kids,” she says. “Risk can pay off big time. But you have to be smart about it.”
How do you do that? “By measuring the size of the risk, and determining what both the best- and worst-case scenarios could be before making your decision,” she says. “I try to train my team on being better risk-takers. If they don’t seize opportunities, someone else will. They’ll take that risk and take that market, and then it’s much more costly to try and recover the market than to simply be the market leader from the beginning.”
Thriving in a Multicultural Company
One of the things Franzosi enjoys the most about DuPont is its diversity and multiculturalism. “I know what I can do, so I need people that will help me do what I know I can’t,” she says.
“There’s a saying ‘if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.’ Yes, at the beginning, having a more diverse group might slow you down, but if you don’t have the different perspectives on your team, you will make silly mistakes.” She says she knows of many product launches that failed simply because no one was there to provide a different perspective. “Whether that’s from another country or culture, or from supply chain, importing, or legal, you have to have the different points of view,” she says.
“DuPont is a multinational corporation, and it won’t succeed unless it builds a diverse, multicultural workforce.” That’s one premise Franzosi can count on.