By Victoria Palkon ’24
Stefany Mendez ’13 MBA ’16, trustee, is a procurement category manager at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, where she supports the procurement process by onboarding new vendors, negotiating contracts and managing vendor relationships. She enjoys that, “for the most part, it’s never the same. I have never done the same contract again. Sometimes I’m helping HR with something, and or I’m helping marketing with a commercial or advertisements, sometimes with real estate when I’m talking to construction companies, and sometimes I’m talking to finance about outsourcing.”
Stefany shared how she achieved her current position. “I was a temp but after 6 months, they hired me permanently and I was promoted twice to where I am now.” One reason she believes she’s been successful at Harvard Pilgrim is her involvement. “I started going to employee resource groups and supporting their missions, helping plan events, going to the events. I was smart, passionate and a resource to people,” she says. She suggests that female professionals who want to advance and grow should, “demonstrate their commitment, be yourself, diversify your time, and be open-minded. Be open to help and approachable, it goes a long way.”
When asked her how she chose her career path, she replies, “it chose me. Many of us have no idea what we want to do or good at. I was a first-generation college student, I applied on my own, I did my financial aid on my own, I didn’t have guidance from anyone in my family because no one has ever been through this process. I was very scared about making a mistake and choosing the wrong career, and major and so I went to Nichols because business is everywhere.” About her time at Nichols, Stefany said, “I double-majored in marketing and international business, I’m multilingual and have a creative side. During my time at Nichols, I worked in IT, I was president of my class all 4 years, a research assistant, an orientation leader, and a part of the Campus Activities Board. I was involved in anything you could possibly be involved in. I wanted to take advantage of any opportunity because any type of knowledge could have helped me open some door.”
Demonstrating the power of networking, Stefany explains how “through Nichols, I got connected to three alumni, one of them had an injection molding company in Worcester. After I met with him, I sent him a thank you letter, and then he told me if I needed a job after college to let him know. I reached out to him and received a job in the finance office there. I worked supporting payroll, accounts receivable and payable, logistics, and purchasing. I was the youngest person who worked there, and I learned a lot through it. After that, I landed this job at Harvard Pilgrim.”
For Stefany, confidence is key for female leaders. “There are always moments of doubt and when I ask myself if I’m good enough, that’s true in everyone but for some reason, women, we do that to ourselves. It’s transforming little by little; we are receiving more support and the glass ceiling is being opened. There are more women in leadership positions, women are having more flexibility. I would say myself that the most challenging aspect has been overcoming the fear of failure, but if you embrace the challenge and say, ‘If I was selected for a reason, people believe in me.’ You have to give yourself pep talks as a woman leader and not stay in a negative headspace.”
Stefany is passionate about diversity and inclusion, saying, “We have to give everyone an opportunity. Your sex, culture, nationality does not define how smart you are. There is value in being diversified because of different perspectives, the opportunity for others and it is a powerful tool for success for any organization.” To get more women into leadership positions, she believes, “Companies have to have goals and educate the decision-makers… First, state the commitment, make the goal and educate the people who can impact that goal so that they are aware that they are the ones that will either make the business succeed or fail. At my company, we are talking about doing blind hiring, so you look at resumes but without the person’s name. You are just looking at the qualifications, without being guided by stereotypes.”
Stefany shares this advice for students: “Be happy. Don’t do something that won’t make you happy. Realize if you are ever in a situation that challenges you, it makes you grow. Accomplishing things, growing — is the greatest gift you can give to yourself and other women.”
This interview is part of a series focused on women’s leadership, conducted by Research Associate Interns Victoria Palkon ’24 and Madison Perrotti ’23. As part of their Spring 2021 internship, the students assisted Prof. Jean Beaupre research and develop the 2021 Massachusetts Women’s Leadership Index.
Victoria is a rising sophomore concentrating in International Business with a minor in Management. In addition to being a panelist for the Institute for Women’s Leadership, she is a member of the Nichols varsity tennis team and is active in her community. She works part-time in a nursing home and in the Conant Library on campus. She is honored to be a research assistant on this project and is looking forward to continuing her education at Nichols College.