Iris Barbosa, 43, training director of McDonald’s for Latin America and the Caribbean
Iris’ story: starting at an entry level position and climbing the ladder of success
For Iris, the key to her success is commitment and liking what she was doing.
Iris was 16 when she got her first formal job. She worked at McDonald’s preparing the snacks in a McDonald’s restaurant in São Paulo. Previously, she worked in her father’s grocery store in Osasco in the metropolitan region of the state. The search for first jobs came on account of the needs of the then teenager, who wanted money to buy things. “I didn’t want to ask my father because I knew that what he had was scarce,” she says.
At the time, working in the kitchen of a cafeteria was not her dream job. “I started taking a typing class because I wanted to get a job in a bank or an office. Without experience, I couldn’t get a job.”
Iris learned about the selection of candidates for a new McDonald’s restaurant and decided to take a chance. She was going to night school and had nothing to lose. Less than a year later, she went from being a clerk, whose function was to prepare the snacks, and had been promoted to coordinator of the team. Iris says she was encouraged by the opportunity. “At 17, I had already coordinated people who, until then, were co-workers.”
Since then, she had eight other positions: after coordinator, she was promoted to assistant manager of the restaurant and at age 21, she became a general manager. Being a woman and black, she admits to having suffered prejudice. “Once a customer asked to speak to the manager and when I showed up, he said ‘no, it’s not you that I want to talk, but with the manager responsible for the store.’”
After general manager, Iris became a training consultant (that visits the restaurants to help managers in the training of staff), operations consultant (supporting the training consultant), franchise consultant (the same job but with franchisees) training manager (responsible for setting the strategic actions of the consultants), director of training in Brazil and, finally, director of training for Latin America and the Caribbean, a position she held for almost three years.
Occasionally, visiting units, Iris admits to being questioned by the attendants how she got where she is. For her, it is important to identify with the work and seek development in order to differentiate oneself and attend to the needs of the company. The first thing, she suggests, is that the person know what they want to do. “Everybody works because they need money. But it is much better when you enjoy what you do and get paid while you’re doing it.”
During her career, Iris managed to complete three years of college studying economics but had to stop because of the rigors of business travel connected to her job. She went back to school and earned a degree in pedagogy. Then, she studied for an MBA (Master of Business Administration) with the support of McDonald’s. She also studied languages and focused on learning Spanish, a language for which she says she has more affinity.
“I’m proud of my path. I’m a woman, I’m black and when I started I didn’t have much experience. I did my job with so much love and commitment that the promotions started coming.”