Elena has been part of #LifeAtPetSmart for 25 years! We've been incredibly lucky to have had her (and the positive impact she makes!) within our pack. She shared her story of Belonging with us, and you won't want to miss it! Read on below.
The Belonging Program’s “I Belong” Series harnesses the power of empathy through storytelling. This series is intended to give associates a greater sense of understanding, a bridge to gain new perspective, and a way to build connection to each other. To learn more about the “I Belong” Series or to submit your stories, associates can visit PetSmart's Belonging Fetch Page.
Meet Elena | Program Manager Business Amenities
When I was a young girl in Mexico, my family moved to the United States for better opportunities. However, I was 8 years old at the time and my parents had me stay behind to care for my grandmother. At age 14, my grandmother passed and my family moved me to the US with them.
The year was 1986, and my new life would be helping my family in the agricultural fields of Salinas, California. Because I worked in the fields and wasn’t attending a traditional school like most kids, I wasn’t given the opportunity to learn English. However, I never let this slow me down. At 17, I married my husband, Jorge, and we moved to San Jose, California. Because of his belief in me, I started to take formal classes in a trade school to learn English and other skills. The program that piqued my interest was Shipping and Receiving and Reprographics (copy/print center). I worked hard in my classes and learned– not only the classes but a new language at the same time. In 1996, I had the opportunity to move to Arizona and work at the PetSmart headquarters as a contractor. I wanted a better life for my family and I was happy to be chosen for this position.
For two years I worked in the Print Center as a contractor until one day, I was offered a full-time job with PetSmart. Being offered this position came as a great relief. However, the difficulties of the language barriers were still challenging and kept me from growing more. As the only person on the team at the time who spoke Spanish, I was obligated to practice my English more and more even though I was self-conscious about it. Sometimes, I would say the wrong words and people would laugh, not out of malice, but because it was the wrong word. However, it still made me doubt my abilities.
Even with those challenges, I continued to grow and was promoted to the Lead of the Mail Room and Print Center. After about a year, I was promoted again to a Supervisor position for the Business Center, which made me very happy. I stayed in the Business Center area for a total of 16 years. The position taught me a lot about leadership, mentorship, and relationship building. At the time, I had a leader who believed in me and saw my ability to speak Spanish and English as an asset to be able to work with many vendors who provided services at the Phoenix Home Office.
In 2012, I was promoted again to the Program Manager of Campus Amenities, which was quite a journey. Starting at PetSmart as a Business Services Project Coordinator to this current role, I am proud and grateful to be where I am. While I am still working on my English, I am very grateful that PetSmart gave me the chance to prove what I can do. I love my job and the culture of PetSmart. It's what's kept me here so long. PetSmart gave me an opportunity to grow my career—because of this, my life is exactly where I want it to be.
One piece of advice to people going through a similar situation as I went through; Be yourself – you can do it, even when people tell you that you will fail.
I belong and so do you.