Read the Conversation
EF: You were appointed Managing Director of 3M over a year and a half ago; what was your given mission, and why were you the right person for the position?
FG: A very important milestone for the subsidiary was having a local person represent the company. Due to the geopolitical environment and the importance and relevance of Mexico -in the top ten global organizations- 3M wanted the value of somebody who understands the language and culture. My expertise as a former supply chain leader and my work in corporate affairs in complex regional projects of high strategic impact gave me the necessary skills to represent 3M in Mexico. Even though I have the skills and proven expertise, choosing a woman was part of 3Ms message showing that diversity, equity, and inclusion are important for the company. The culture of diversity is fundamental; all 3M employees contribute to a welcoming, respectful work environment that brings out the best in people.
Our culture of inclusion is a strength that drives success, specifically growth. We cultivate a connected community, one of our biggest strengths; we seek and celebrate diversity in all leadership groups; 3 M is intentionally taking action on these points. We transparently welcome and accept all employees as they are, value expertise, not seniority, and foster the learning and development of those who work with us. Leadership appointments consider these points; we have a holistic overview of the development plans for leadership advancements. I feel honored to lead 3M in Mexico.
EF: Companies are transforming, and 3M is no exception. You are part of the new generation of executives shaping the future; considering the iron triangle of business management: time, price, and quality, which two variables would you pick for the transformation, and why?
FG: The appraisal is fundamental to the new leaders and me. A company is more than financial results; this view transforms from how leaders approach new challenges. Before, leaders were very focused on numbers, targets, KPIs, etc., which are important for a business as we need to deliver. But the "why" has been overtaken by the “how” and is deeply embedded in 3Ms culture. The "how" covers many topics and priorities: sustainability, inclusion, innovation, and people. It is about seeing people from another perspective, other than HR management and outcomes; it empowers and inspires them to live the company's purpose. 3M is a company based on scientific exploration; we work with the conviction that every problem has a solution. We start every sentence with "what if…" and this curiosity sparks the creativity to innovate and improve people's lives. At 3M, we strongly believe that innovation has created what we are. Our portfolio has 55 thousand products and more than 110 thousand patents, and one of our biggest priorities is to transform 3M in Mexico.
EF: What is Mexico's strategic importance to the Group? What is 3Ms footprint, including the hard and soft variables, R&D, manufacturing, and people?
NL: 3M celebrated its 75th anniversary in Mexico last year; over the previous 76 years, 3M has supported the country's growth. We have an extremely broad portfolio in Mexico, including transportation, abrasives, filtration, automotive tapes, filters, design and signing reflectors, graphics and films, electronics and communications, chemicals and electronic tapes, consumers and offices, adhesives, and products for consumers. Our healthcare portfolio includes all related to auscultation, asepsis, sterilization, microbiology, skin and dental care, services for security and protection, and industrial cleaning. We participate in twenty-three different industries, with various ways to impact Mexico's development and growth. We have almost ten thousand employees and four manufacturing sites. Our manufacturing footprint is very strong and has been strong for many years. Our plant in San Luis Potosi focuses on abrasives, fibers, and fastening mechanisms for diapers, packaging tapes, electronic tapes, components for the telecommunication industry, medical devices, and personal protection products. Our Ensenada site focuses on aerospace because that industry's hub is there. Our Monterrey plant concentrates on water and air filtration. And in Ciudad Juarez, we have our biggest manufacturing site in the country dedicated to our business consumer group with very important brands in the market, such as Scotch-Brite, Command among others, and cleaning products such as abrasives and a few healthcare products.
EF: Is it only for the Mexican market?
NL: We have been nearshoring for many years. The three manufacturing sites in the north, Ensenada, Monterrey, and Ciudad Juarez, are dedicated to the North American market and export to other countries to a lesser degree. The site in San Luis Potosi serves the Mexican and Latin American markets, the US market to some extent, and countries in Asia. We export to twenty-three different countries. Regarding R&D, we have an innovation center based in Mexico City that is a tool to showcase what we have and offers technical support to our customers. Our high-end products have innovative technology, and we must ensure they are well applied and used to their full advantage. It also brings in university students and secondary and elementary school kids. We are interested in reaching out and fostering girls interested in science, and innovation is a powerful tool to achieve this. We also have an R&D center in San Luis Potosi with many innovative manufacturing improvement processes. Our footprint is very large, and we have plans to be leaders in Mexico for the next seventy-six years.
EF: Do you have a favorite area in 3M?
NL: That is a tough question, but probably innovation. Our name is synonymous with innovation, and our company culture is centered on believing everything can be improved. Innovation does not just mean we can innovate on a product, it is everywhere, and everybody can innovate daily -that is our company culture. The company's rule states that all employees can spend 50% of their time innovating on whatever they want without any necessary justification. This rule has existed since we were founded and is a tremendous strength. One of the reasons I moved to 3M was the company's purpose, which is to help solve the most important problems worldwide through science, and reimagining what is possible makes 3M unique. With our big portfolio, there are many areas where we can touch many lives everywhere. Science brings solutions. Innovation is a state of mind that can be applied to everyday situations, and 3M applies science to life improvement.
EF: Could we talk about women in science and your program on the subject?
NL: Our program, "25 Women in Science in Latin America, " aims to recognize women's role in science and innovation. The program was created to position women in science at the center of the action. This year was our third edition of recognizing women researchers that promote and develop projects in the scientific field to inspire women in the region to study STEM disciplines. A jury of 3M representatives oversaw selecting 25 female scientists for 2023, and we also invited external guests with extensive experience in science, research, innovation, and entrepreneurship in Latin America. The ethically robust and solid jury went through thousands of applications. Our first edition received one thousand applications demonstrating the interest in these kinds of initiatives, and six Mexican scientists were selected, seven in 2022 and eight this year. It is a wonderful program because we can inspire girls.
We know 85% of the jobs for 2030 don't exist today, and most will be based on STEM disciplines, so it is very important to have a strong pipeline of girls and boys choosing STEM careers and to inspire young girls not to be afraid of science. There are a lot of myths and stereotypes about the scientific world, so having examples of real women is necessary. We have created a book for the 2023 selectees featuring an illustration of each selected scientist, a short story of her life, and the project that got them selected. The information can be downloaded for free from our Curiosity Blog to spread the word about what they are doing. We already have 75 stories of great female scientists across Latin America. I am passionate about this project because having strong programs drives a difference and inspires the next generations to be scientists. We are walking the talk.
EF: Do you have any advice for women pursuing a managerial career in Latin America? What would be the needed tool kit?
NL: The tool kit changes, but self-belief is essential for leadership positions and scientists. As women, we must believe we can take on the next role and be prepared for it. We don't want the management role because we are women but because we have proven to the organization and our colleagues to be the right person for the position. We must do our homework, not so much in the technical areas as we have those due to the career we have followed, but in the new soft skills needed to lead an organization. Networking is important, and as women, we are often uncomfortable networking as we feel it might be misinterpreted, or we need to be more confident we are doing it correctly. The only way to be seen above your first circle is by networking. Networking must be part of our everyday work and a way to relate to other company employees. In my case, the decision to appoint me was not made locally, so it was important to do my homework and ensure the right organizational stakeholders knew me and my work and had positive feedback.
EF: How would you like to celebrate 3M’s 80th anniversary? What would your celebratory speech be about?
NL: I want to keep creating opportunities, enabling more innovation, and be of help in assisting the customers, employees, and shareholders in taking advantage of the moment to deliver results. We must be creative in a challenging environment, innovating and capitalizing on global megatrends. The biggest megatrends we are working on are auto-mobility, electronics, sustainability, vitalization, robotics and automation, e-commerce, well-being due to the pandemic, home improvements, and safety. Our N95 respirators were fundamental during the pandemic. 3M Mexico wants to accelerate these science and innovation megatrends and continue focusing on active portfolio management, strong balance sheets, and healthy cash flows to invest in growth markets and return capital to our shareholders. We focus on the megatrends because they help to make better-informed decisions for the next five to ten years. We have an independent study called the “State of Science in the World,” which we have been doing for about eight years with Mexico as part of the study. The study provides us with much data to know what to drive and focus on in the future.