Q&A with Juan Galarraga, a senior VP at Target who started out folding shirts

Juan Galarraga, senior vice president, Target Stores in the Midwest and Northwest region was born in Caracas, Venezuela. He moved to Miami by himself when he was 18 without knowing any English and now in his mid-30s he seems to perfectly embody the American Dream. Here are his answers.

What was the defining moment of your career?

The defining moment in my career was when Target offered me a store manager position after working in a Target store. At that moment, Target went from being a job to being a career. I was very young at the time and it was my first time leading others with more experience than me, which taught me to surround myself with a team that makes me a better professional and complements my skill set.


What was your biggest obstacle and how did you overcome it?

Let me first start by saying that I believe everything happens for a reason and that I measure success based on how you handle and overcome a challenge. When I began my career at Target 16 years ago, I spoke very little English and had to quickly gain confidence in myself. From the moment I first moved to this country – on my own – I learned to work hard, dream big, and most importantly, never forget where I came from. I owe my career success to my parents, who instilled these values in me at a very young age. That’s because I had the perfect balance at home – my dad taught me to work hard while my mom taught me to dream big. Target has given me the opportunities to put this philosophy into practice and has supported me along the way.


What needs to be done to bring more Hispanics into the corporate workforce?

It all starts with education. We need to invest in our youth and ensure they have the skills and tools they need to succeed, which is one of the many reasons I love working at Target. Since 1946, Target has given five percent of its profit—which today equals more than $4 million per week – to communities. The heart of this giving is deeply rooted in education and helping to put more U.S. children on the path to graduation. In fact, Target is on track to give $1 billion for education by the end of 2015.


There were two key factors that served as a turning point for me after moving to America – receiving an education and having support from others. That’s why today I strive to pay it forward. From my involvement in the Hispanic Business Council at Target, to serving as a board member for the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, I strive to do my best to mentor others and give them the tools they need to succeed.


Some say “do what you love” or “follow your passion” is actually bad career advice and that it’s more important to learn to love what you do. What do you think? Also, what is your one token of career advice?

I think it’s important to wake up every day and feel happy and fulfilled with what you do. Throughout my career I’ve had some jobs that I’ve loved, and some that I had to work hard to fall in love with. But no matter the role, I always strived to impact the work and the teams I led.


My one piece of career advice is to stay true to yourself, and not let the job responsibilities define who you are. One of the things I’m most proud of is having stayed true to myself throughout my career and for that, I hope to make my family proud. I’ve also been fortunate to work for a company where leaders encourage me to bring my culture and experiences to work every day.


How do you anticipate the Hispanic presence in the U.S. market 10 years from today?

Today, one in six people in the U.S. is Hispanic and according to a Nielson study, the U.S. Hispanic community is expected to grow 167 percent from now to 2050. We are experiencing a new mainstream marketplace where food choices, music and style transcend culture. I think that in 10 years, Hispanic origins will play a bigger role in our everyday lives, no matter where you come from.


With this new reality in mind, I’m proud to work at a company like Target, where diversity and inclusion drives the way we work. You can see that come to life through our innovative programs and partnerships. For example, I work closely with the National Society of Hispanic MBAs (NSHMBA) to recruit great talent and serve as a board member for the Hispanic Scholarship Fund to help children reach their full potential.


There is something unique and beautiful about the Latino culture and I hope that future generations continue to embrace and build upon the pride of our community.


Have your Latino roots helped you along your career?

Absolutely. The family values that my parents instilled in me combined with my heritage have shaped my passion, dedication, perseverance and ability to push myself to goals that others, including myself, might not have thought possible.

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