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Monica Pacheco’s Humble Approach to Leadership Through Learning

The first thing that strikes you when you meet Monica Pacheco is her enthusiasm about her work and the process of converting raw materials to glass packaging. Her face lights up as she describes her trajectory from her early student days in Colombia to her internship with O-I Glass and her first job with O-I after graduation. After that, she moved to Batch & Furnace Manager and then to the regional Glass Science team. Eventually she would lead that team.

Monica was essential to incorporating plants in Mexico when O-I acquired Vitro and is now responsible for establishing best manufacturing practices globally. She also is the person who formulates the glass recipe and provides technical support for IVC – the largest glass factory in the world.

As you hear about her journey from student to global process leader, you’re struck by her humble ability to seek knowledge and establish best practices by putting herself in other people’s shoes.

Learning Glass Making from People on the Front Lines

Monica Pacheco is passionate about glass making and describes her fascination with the processes and the people who work on the front lines in the plants. A native of Colombia, Monica started her career with O-I Glass as a student with a six-month internship at O-I Zipaquira.

After graduating with a degree in chemical engineering, she began work as a lab technician at O-I in Soacha, Colombia, which was about to undergo a significant change in its product line. The transition from producing high volumes of amber glass bottles for beer to lower volume, but extra-flint glass for high-end liquors and perfumes, called for the installation of a lab, something the glass plant had never had.

For a young woman of 23, just six months out of university, the idea of going into the plant to help affect significant change was daunting.

“I was working with men who had been doing the same job for more than 20 years, some for 40 years. And here I was, this young woman, asking them to make major changes in the way they were accustomed to working,” she says.

With the support of her plant manager, Monica began working in the plant alongside the other employees. From her perspective, it only made sense.

“The only way to break through was to work with them so that I could see for myself, firsthand, how they were doing things and understand not only how we needed to change things but how I would need to explain the changes, so they made sense.”

As she developed relationships with the other employees and observed the processes in place, she began to gain their trust and respect. Monica started to train the plant workers in the new higher-level glass production processes. She moved successfully into a supervisory role as Batch and Furnace Manager within the plant and, over time, successfully implemented growth and built strong collaborative relationships with the employees.

Gaining a Global Perspective

Monica moved again into a position leading a regional team as a glass scientist for Latin America. In that role, she was responsible for providing support to O-I’s Latin American plants, traveling to countries such as Peru, Argentina, Brazil, meeting new people and foreign new working relationships. Again, Monica started by working side by side with the people whose challenges she needed to understand to communicate effectively and win both trust and respect.

“The position opened my mind to different cultures and different people, as well as the myriad process differences from plant to plant and country to country,” she says.

Throughout this time, Monica continued to learn and train herself to increase her knowledge base and understanding of what the workers were facing in their job settings. Despite her apparent youth, she was adept at communicating with authenticity and made it her practice to model and demand accountability from her team.

Monica was invaluable during the 2015 acquisition of Mexico’s Vitro SAB food and beverage business. The move boosted O-I’s operations and added five plants in Mexico and one in Bolivia, all now under Monica’s leadership. Delegating her duties to her team, Monica left to once again work in the plants, shoulder to shoulder with the new O-I employees. And once again, she faced workers who had been in their positions for many years and were unaccustomed to taking orders from a young woman.

“I knew I would face resistance initially,” she says. “And, I also knew that, over time, by working with people, I would not only learn how they did their jobs, but I would also learn the problems and challenges they face,” she adds.

Monica Pacheco has used this approach in every position she has held within O-I and has built an extensive network of warm connections who value her direction and follow her lead.

Building Credibility and Respect

Today, as a Global Glass Science Engineer she is responsible for GMF in Glass Science and formulates the glass recipe and provides glass science technical support for Industria Vidriera de Coahuila (IVC)— the largest glass factory in the world. She works from the O-I headquarters in Perrysburg, Ohio, and has embraced learning the English language as one more aspect of her ongoing quest to learn and improve her skills.

Today, her work is informed by each of the positions she has held within O-I and each of the people with whom she has worked. She leads a global team dedicated to standardizing processes and training materials for O-I’s glass making—a challenging effort and one that she finds immensely rewarding.

“My experience has been that working hard beside the people you lead builds credibility and respect. You make a personal mark about your work and behavior, and that’s the best way to open doors and opportunities,” she says. “I always try to do my job with both quality and passion. In the end, the results speak for themselves. It doesn’t matter what your experience level is or whether you are a man or a woman, or if you are young or old,” she explains.

And that passion, hard work, thirst for learning, and respect for her team members have positioned this chemical engineer as someone whose leadership provides lasting value to O-I and its employees.

Allen Mireles is a wordsmith from Northwest Ohio with an abiding passion for sustainability and helping build a safer and cleaner planet. An experienced writer, she has deep experience in both traditional and digital marketing and public relations and has written for a broad range of industries and media. As an avid gardener and camper, Allen loves nothing more than being outside appreciating our natural world.
Mireles Allen