Learning on Isle 15

You never know when a learning opportunity will present itself. Today it happened in the grocery store. While on the road in Chicago today, I needed to stock up on some travel supplies so I went to a local grocery store. As I entered, I noticed the store had what looked to be a terrific deli section so I walked over to see if anything looked appetizing. As I browsed the menu and selections, I noted a businesswoman doing the same thing, and I asked if she had any recommendations. She suggested the chicken salad, but since I’m a vegetarian, I asked if she had another choice. I noted she had a Latin accent so I asked about her background. It turns out she is a 1st generation Hispanic and works as a bank officer for a bank down the road. As we waited for our respective orders, we discussed her career and work environment. Since my current study was on my mind, I asked what she felt was an important factor to her success thus far. Without hesitation she said it was her ability to develop relationships. She said while other skills were also essential, relationship and building rapport came naturally because of her culture.

We spoke a couple of more minutes before she scrambled out the door and back to her office. As I made myself down another isle, I asked a stocking clerk for help finding a brand of eye drops. Again, I was greeted by a Latin accent and discovered the woman was from Puerto Rico. I couldn’t resist striking up another conversation (I rarely get to talk in Spanish) and asked why she enjoyed her job. Like the banking officer before her, she said it was all about the relationships and that she enjoyed being able to help shoppers find what they wanted. The feeling of helping someone, even if it was just to find the right bar of soap, gave her a lot of satisfaction.

As I left the store, I was struck by how two very different Hispanic workers shared a single and common Hispanic cultural characteristic – building relationships. It’s a powerful tool. We as Hispanics love to build relationships and make friends. We like the thought of community and enjoy listening, sharing, and helping others. We enjoy working in teams and foster camaraderie. We carry these communal traits as an innate qualities and employ them in both our social and professional environments – even while stocking shelves on isle 15.