Jennifer Valdovinos Talks Family, Smith, and Why She Almost Said No to Her Promotion
Jennifer Valdovinos began her journey at Smith in 2004 in Guadalajara, Mexico as a bilingual receptionist with two law degrees. Ten years later, she is in charge of the entire Guadalajara office. Jennifer describes her career at Smith as an adventure that has taken her to different positions, departments, and continents! She wasn’t always ready for the changes at the time, but, looking back, Jennifer reflects on how fortunate she was that management recognized her talent, even before she did.
"I've always been a strong believer that . . . if you take care of the company, the company will take care of you," said Jennifer.
It was only a matter of months after starting as a receptionist that Jennifer was promoted to Purchasing Agent. She took the leap to becoming a buyer in 2007 and, shortly thereafter, was invited to interview at the Houston office. Jennifer knew from the moment she walked through the door that Smith was a special place. She was immediately struck by the fast-paced, positive, and multicultural atmosphere. “People seemed happy,” said Jennifer. “I wanted to be as happy as these people seemed to be!”
"I've always been a strong believer that . . . if you take care of the company, the company will take care of you."
Moving to Houston
Despite the great first impression, Jennifer was hesitant when the job offer from Houston came. Should she accept the offer to leave her family, friends, and boyfriend to come work in Houston? At 26, Jennifer had always lived at home with her parents and she was drawn to the independence and adventure that Houston could bring. So she packed up her Toyota Rav4 with just a TV and some clothes, striking out on the nineteen-hour drive to Houston and a whole new chapter in her life.
“I'm the kind of person, if the dishes needed to be washed when I was here in Mexico, I washed dishes," said Jennifer. “You know I did everything that I was asked. Anything that you guys need, that's what I'll do.”
Jennifer has brought a spirit of competition and a willingness to do whatever she is asked to each position she has held. However, she values the personal relationships and family dynamic at Smith above all else. When asked to name the best part of her job, Jennifer’s answer is immediate: “The people I work with! I love the people I work with. The people you work with day in and day out are not only your coworkers, but they become part of your family."
This was particularly true for Jennifer when she made the move to the U.S. office, not knowing a soul in Houston. What could have been a very lonely time was not because the Smith family instantly embraced Jennifer; they invited her to hang out on the weekends and one coworker even drove her around for apartment hunting!
"The people you work with day in and day out are not only your coworkers, but they become part of your family."
Returning to Guadalajara
Trader Development Manager Jennifer Kabbara describes Jennifer Valdovinos as loyal, customer-oriented, and laser-focused. These attributes served Jennifer well when she moved into Sales in 2009. She thrived in the competitive atmosphere, but, after three years in Texas, she was homesick for her family in Mexico. The Guadalajara office had closed down in 2007 and was reduced to two satellite employees, but – in 2012 – Smith was ready to reopen the office. Smith offered Jennifer, now married with a baby, the opportunity to open up the office with Senior Account Manager David Rawbone. Jennifer was thrilled to return to Guadalajara and embark on the next phase of her journey with Smith.
When David returned to Houston this fall, Jennifer was asked to take over managing the Guadalajara office. She resisted at first because she was happy working in Sales and she didn’t think that she had enough experience. Eventually, Smith’s confidence in her abilities convinced Jennifer to trust herself as the best person for the job and to take on the new challenge of managing the office.
Jennifer honed her ambitious spirit early on, competing in the Junior Barstow Olympics when she was nine years old. Still an avid swimmer, these days Jennifer spends more time on the beach with her family than doing laps in an Olympic-size pool.
Family is very important to Jennifer. Despite her busy schedule, she cooks her family fresh food from scratch every evening while her husband cares for the children.
“In our culture you express your love through food,” said Jennifer. “Food is a big part of our culture. When you cook for your family, it’s a way of saying ‘I care.’” She includes her 3 ½-year-old daughter and 10-month-old son in the meal preparations, as well. They get to choose the flavor for the nightly aguas frescas (fruit blended with water).
A New Chapter in Guadalajara
Whatever comes next for Jennifer, she knows that she can count on her Smith family for support. “It’s a great company to work for if you're a hard worker and you have a good work ethic,” said Jennifer. “You could be in the company forever.” Her journey from receptionist to Purchasing Agent to buyer to Sales and, finally, to Mexico Trading Manager in just 10 years seems extraordinary, but her story is by no means unique at Smith. Smith strives to identify employees both within and across departments who can create opportunity for themselves.
"It’s a great company to work for if you're a hard worker and you have a good work ethic."
Jennifer forged her own career path by working hard and taking advantage of all the opportunities presented to her.
“Jennifer was able to navigate to her successes and we were able to support her,” said Todd Traylor, Vice President of Global Trading. “We had faith in her because we knew she was a valuable employee.”
Thank you, Jennifer! Please join us in congratulating Jennifer on her promotion to Mexico Trading Manager.