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Written by Andrea Franco
on December 17, 2018

“I’ve been lucky to have been part of the HACR Corporate Executives Forum™ (CEF) almost from the beginning,” Target’s Senior Vice President of Stores Operations, Juan Galarraga, fondly declared as he reflected back on the early years of the CEF.

While Target already had a long established relationship with HACR, it was through Galarraga’s own budding, personal relationship with former HACR President & CEO Carlos Orta, that his name surfaced as a possible participant for the inaugural CEF program. “Those were some of the most exciting and fun days of the organization,” Galarraga says. “Everything was still relatively new, and it was a small, tight knit group of us. We got all the benefits that come with being a partner of HACR, including access to a great new network of authentic friends and resources, which I’m proud to say, I’ve been able to build up and maintain for 10 years.”

The program could not have shown up at a better time for the Venezuelan immigrant, as Galarraga began to notice an emerging new theme in his career journey. “It was right around this time, that I realized that my job, purpose, and everything associated with what I liked doing was bigger than just me. I was moved by the knowledge shared with us by corporate directors and other program presenters. They demonstrated a clear passion fueled by a deep seated desire to serve the Hispanic community – that had a genuine impact on me.”

As Galarraga took this all in during the six consecutive years he participated in the CEF, he began to deeply reflect on how to grow beyond his own career ambitions and dedicate some of his time to help others along their own career journeys. The CEF would soon get to a point where Galarraga and other participants collectively decided what they wanted the program to look like and how to ensure it would remain sustainable and improving with each passing year.

“At the time, I had a lot of great conversations with Carlos and Frank Ros, and Raquel “Rocky” Egusquiza, and some of the other executives. We were all committed to ensure the CEF was successful from the beginning.” In no time, this small group of individuals decided to embark on the creation of an endowment and quickly negotiated the commitment of numerous companies, including Target, to donate $100,000 each.

“My company was already a committed member of HACR and right away saw the value of the CEF,” says Galarraga. “Through watching my leadership evolution in action, they started to get more adapted to every new role and responsibility with each new climb. “

From that point until today, I had many opportunities to carry out a number of other roles. I ran pharmacy operations, I worked in new business development, I ran supply chain for stores, and I ran one of our largest territories with over 500 stores. Today, I serve as SVP of Store Operations, responsible for all strategies, executions, tools, and resources for the 1800 plus stores in the company. Never in a million years would I have thought this was possible when I first entered the CEF.” Galarraga acknowledges not just HACR’s pioneering vision but that of Target as well, for being willing to show up in such a big way to develop diverse leaders within the company. Articulating the value, living the purpose Data reveals that the number of Hispanics in corporate boards at the time was very small. As such, most companies posed very little push back when urged to bring forth better career development opportunities for Hispanics. One of the main goals of the CEF is to change that by bringing together executives from a wide range of companies and industries to address that issue and do something about it. For Galarraga, one of the main outcomes of all these conversations that resulted in the continued success of the CEF is the collaboration with the many different participants. “I’m surprised how often I’d end up collaborating on things with a handful of my fellow CEF colleagues,” said Galarraga. “Who would have guessed we’d be working on things together years later.” Galarraga says that in his childhood and even today, his parents instilled in him the value of opening doors for others. Today, Galarraga stresses the importance of remaining involved in the CEF to give back and show other Hispanics how to navigate and get ahead in corporate environments. “It is our responsibility to sponsor other Hispanic professionals who may not have the proper support mechanisms around them. Not everyone is lucky enough to have their company behind them or access to lots of mentors. We are all in this country trying to live our own American dream. For me there is power in uniting all our talent and holding each other up. That’s how I get to live out my purpose every single day.” serious about how to leverage each other and recruit more Target employees to go through the program.”

These were the first steps in the creation of a lasting legacy that, at the time, had Galarraga and his fellow CEF colleagues playing many roles not only as actively learning participants and program content creators, but also as influencers at their respective companies. According to Galarraga, working with their leadership teams to explore ways to create winning strategic partnerships with HACR was an “incredibly rewarding” experience. Fast forward to the present and Galarraga now has a talented vice president on his team who will be participating in the CEF for the second year in a row. This, in his words was “a neat full circle moment.”

“It is our responsibility to sponsor other Hispanic professionals who may not have the proper support mechanisms around them. Not everyone is lucky enough to have their company behind them or access to lots of mentors.”

Lasting impressions left by dynamic speakers

The CEF has always prided itself in being able to offer its participants world class training by leading experts, providing executive coaching and management techniques that were only available for their company’s CEOs and other C-suite executives. When he first attended the CEF, Galarraga was a Group Director managing stores in Florida,

“I cannot measure the lasting impact the programs and classes that we got to be a part of, be it doing business cases or simulation exercises for managers, had on me over the years.”

For the then young Hispanic executive, with dreams of playing professional soccer and returning to his home country after mastering English, the CEF curriculum and top flight speakers gave him practical and useful tools to stay grounded and dream big while remaining balanced while climbing the ranks in corporate America. Galarraga credits HACR for being the “enabler” that afforded him so many rich opportunities during such a defining time in his personal and professional life.

Looking back, springing forward

He started at Target unloading trucks and with limited English skills. Nearly 20 years later, Galarraga finds it surreal that he runs store operations for the entire corporation. With hardly any time to daydream the possibilities of being more than he was, he quickly adapted to every new role and responsibility with each new climb.

“From that point until today, I had many opportunities to carry out a number of other roles. I ran pharmacy operations, I worked in new business development, I ran supply chain for stores, and I ran one of our largest territories with over 500 stores. Today, I serve as SVP of Store Operations, responsible for all strategies, executions, tools, and resources for the 1800 plus stores in the company. Never in a million years would I have thought this was possible when I first entered the CEF.”

Galarraga acknowledges not just HACR’s pioneering vision but that of Target as well, for being willing to show up in such a big way to develop diverse leaders within the company.

Articulating the value, living the purpose

Data reveals that the number of Hispanics in corporate boards at the time was very small. As such, most companies posed very little push back when urged to bring forth better career development opportunities for Hispanics. One of the main goals of the CEF is to change that by bringing together executives from a wide range of companies and industries to address that issue and do something about it. For Galarraga, one of the main outcomes of all these conversations that resulted in the continued success of the CEF is the collaboration with the many different participants. “I’m surprised how often I’d end up collaborating on things with a handful of my fellow CEF colleagues,” said Galarraga. “Who would have guessed we’d be working on things together years later.” Galarraga says that in his childhood and even today, his parents instilled in him the value of opening doors for others. Today, Galarraga stresses the importance of remaining involved in the CEF to give back and show other Hispanics how to navigate and get ahead in corporate environments.

“It is our responsibility to sponsor other Hispanic professionals who may not have the proper support mechanisms around them. Not everyone is lucky enough to have their company behind them or access to lots of mentors. We are all in this country trying to live our own American dream. For me there is power in uniting all our talent and holding each other up. That’s how I get to live out my purpose every single day.”

 

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