Southeast Alumnus Promotes Diversity in Business at Mastercard Offices

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Southeast Missouri State University alumnus Juan Zavala-Aleman, a native of Queretaro, Mexico, is using his love for globalization and international business to create opportunities in the Latin America region and inspire minority groups along the way.

He currently resides in Bogota, Colombia, where he leads a team of account managers in business development to expand Mastercard’s footprint throughout the Latin American and Caribbean region.

A 2013 Southeast graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with major in international business and a minor in management, Zavala-Aleman founded and launched the Student Organization of Latinos chapter at Southeast in 2011 to help promote diversity at the University. He continued his education after Southeast, earning a Master of Business Administration with a focus on entrepreneurship from Florida International University in Miami, Florida. He found his passion for business at Mastercard.

“I always wanted to work in a well-recognized Fortune 500 company and especially in the payments industry which is one of the fastest growing industries globally, so Mastercard seemed like a great option for me to expand my knowledge and gain expertise in such a fascinating industry like payments,” he said.

Working for Mastercard has also allowed him to support Hispanic and LGBT+ communities, launching PRIDE chapters in two different Mastercard offices – Miami and Colombia –which has been invaluable in his career, Zavala-Aleman said.

On his career at Mastercard:

Since I graduated from Southeast, I have been lucky enough to work on my career field –international business — in Latin America and the Caribbean. After graduation, I worked at a local consumer goods company that was starting to expand internationally, and I was able to lead their expansion into the Latin American markets and help them position their brand and presence in these markets. After working for them for almost five years, I decided to move to Miami, Florida, where I was able to land a job at Mastercard as an account manager focusing on their Caribbean customers, which are financial institutions. While in that role, I had multiple opportunities to travel to the Caribbean and support Mastercard by growing our presence with existing customers. After doing that job for three years, I was promoted to a manager role based in Colombia, so I currently lead a team of account managers that are mainly focusing on business development to expand Mastercard’s footprint throughout the Latin American and Caribbean region by bringing in new customers.

My big moment has definitely been my promotion to a manager position. Previous to this role, I never had a people manager role, and this was a key skill I wanted to learn in order to keep growing in my career. I’m really grateful that I was able to do it at such an early stage in my professional career.

On his work with Hispanic and LGBT+ Groups:

Being part of two minority groups has definitely pushed me to do better every day. I want to break all stereotypes that have been created around Mexicans and LGBT+ members. My main purpose is to inspire other members of these groups and show them that it doesn’t matter what you like or where you come from but that you can still be successful and have an impact on people’s lives and in business. Sometimes we put ourselves in boxes because of our looks or preference and we don’t allow our full potential as a person and professional to come out. I want to make sure that it is not like that, and I’m able to push others to succeed in their careers.

On establishing a PRIDE chapter at Mastercard:

PRIDE is an internal business resource group of Mastercard that mainly focuses on promoting awareness of inclusion for LGBT+ employees of Mastercard and to promote diversity as a whole internally and externally. Mastercard has several PRIDE chapters in their offices worldwide, and they play a key role as sponsors of this type of initiative where they really promote acceptance and inclusion in the workplace to create a safe and inclusive office for all its employees.

Seeing how employees that weren’t comfortable with being themselves at the office come to me and ask for support and advice to feel comfortable at the office and really accept who they are in front of everybody, which has truly been a memorable moment for me.

On what inspires him:

I want to look back on my career when I’m 80 years old and know that I promoted initiatives that had an impact on the lives of others and that I was able to change in a positive way and bring a more welcoming environment to the office I was part of.

On his time at Southeast:

I chose Southeast because of the robust program it offered for international students as well as the strong business program it has. Also, as an international student, when I first got to Southeast, it gave me a true sense of an “American college,” which really helped me to develop some of my skills and expertise that I’m able to apply today.

My time at Southeast allowed me to become a well-rounded professional. It allowed me to develop mainly soft skills that today are extremely valuable in the workplace. It also taught me how to interact with different cultures and nationalities, as I was surrounded by several students from different parts of the world. Southeast’s business program had a strong curriculum in entrepreneurship and international business that provided applicable business knowledge and know-how that I still use today in my day to day job.

On advice for Southeast students:

Be who you truly are and feel free to empower and embrace your differences. This will set you apart and help you succeed in your personal and professional lives. You need to be willing to take risks and try new things. Traveling and experiencing new cultures is a key element of someone’s success. It completely changes your perspective in life.

I love to help and support young professionals in their careers and personal lives, so I’m always open to chat and listen to any Southeast student and provide them guidance in their careers.

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