Maria Piastre worked her way up from inside salesperson in the male-dominated industry of precious metal refining to Company President within 12 years, we find out more about this determined Latina’s journey in her interview.
Who are you?
My name is Maria Piastre. I was born and raised in Cali, Colombia. In 2000, I migrated to the US and started a new chapter in my life. I got married and became the mother of two boys. Life with my family has been one grand adventure. I am so proud of the two brilliant, bold young men my husband and I raised. In 2004, thanks to the unconditional support of my family, I was able to graduate in Economics from Kean University. In 2005, I joined Metallix as an inside salesperson where I found an ecosystem more in line with my professional and personal goals. In 2017 I was appointed Company President after only 12 years working in this male-dominated industry of precious metal refining. Ambition fuelled by passion has always been a driving force for me, but I ever imagined being President.
The precious metals industry is known to be male dominated, so as a woman breaking ground presented challenges, but with such challenges come satisfying rewards. I represent a minority; I am a woman, Latina, and immigrant, but the judgements and labelling by others merely fuel my ambition because before others believe in you, you must believe in yourself. The only limits are those you set for yourself. I always believed discipline, dedication, empathy, resilience, and desire would overcome challenges to achieve the proposed goals. I always seek to have the understanding and unconditional support of my family, my parents, and my mentors. Discovering new challenges is daunting, involves uncharted risks and sacrifices, but I know facing challenges will open opportunities to infinite possibilities and greater rewards.
What has been your biggest mistake in business and what did you learn?
A mistake is not a word I use, preferring to reevaluate the choices I have made and learn from the reasoning behind those choices. In life and business, we make decisions every day, and invariably on reflection, there are always improvements. We learn, grow, and build on past choices.
A particular project which comes to mind was one with a new associate, looking back at the decision taken too quickly before doing all due diligence. The tight timeframe restricted the selection process for key service providers and in-depth consultation with risk exposure experts. This experience taught me never to rush such a decision, research is king, and to always consult with experts from different fields to evaluate risk versus returns, and only then can you make an informed decision. Get to know the people, their drives, and perspectives because although we may have different objectives, we should share the same goal.
Being a Company President does not give you all the answers to business, however, it places you in a very privileged position of accessing the guidance of the skilled professionals within your team before taking that important step. I am privileged to work with some of the industry’s leading authorities within precious metals refining and now we implement a very rigorous analysis and risk prevention protocol to safeguarding the company’s reputation and financial stability.
How do you take care of your body/mind and soul?
When a person exercises, sleeps well, and takes care of their nutrition, their feelings, or the way they face their day to day everything is different. I take care of my body and try to exercise it daily and sleep at least seven hours a day. I have an exercise routine and I am strict with my schedules.
Diversity enriches each and every one of us
I take care of my mind by focusing on positive thoughts and preventing the negative from affecting me. Every day I wonder how we can make Metallix a better company.
Which woman inspires you?
Quite a few, but if I have to choose one, I identify with Isabel Allende. This Chilean writer is a prolific author and avant-garde feminist in Latin America. Her works are examples of strength, overcoming, struggle, and resistance. Apart from literature, Isabel’s work is remarkable. Her charisma as a speaker and communicator inspires me.
What is your typical workday like?
My daily routine starts with exercise. Despite my busy schedule, I prioritised my training and found a way to fit it in. I realised the more I exercise, the more I get into it, and the more I see results and pushing for the next level. After my exercise, my day can go in a multitude of directions.
Despite all that, I will always find time to schedule family time. I call my mom in Colombia every day. She and my father play a vital role in my life, my best source of emotional support. I have called my parents daily over the last 20 years.
The most important title I have is mom-in-chief. My sons are at the centre of my world. On most nights, we get together and have dinner as a family. It is time we all enjoy, a time to watch our nutrition and talk about the ups and downs of our days and connect as a family.
What is your favourite quote and why?
“Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.” Franz Kafka
Specially the second part of the quote….follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly…
How have you had to adjust since COVID-19?
2020 has seen the impact of COVID-19 on businesses globally, and Metallix has been no exception.
Business models once tried and tested no longer applied, and the way to survive and grow in this new economic market would be through technology. Metallix has always made a significant investment in equipment and applied sciences resulting in the Metallix Precious Metals Refinery becoming a world-class facility. This now needed to be the approach to sales and communication.
With travel and face-to-face meetings no longer possible, video conferencing and social media platforms have been our tools in which to maintain stability in our supply chain. Metallix has an experienced team of buyers providing materials management guidance and support, managing social risks to protect our employees, suppliers, and the community. Metallix strives to provide exceptional customer service with world-class facilities which continue to achieve excellence for our customers.
How important is Diversity in the work force?
I believe in a multicultural workforce, diversity enriches each and every one of us and this makes us a better company. And is not just about race and origin it’s about the freedom to be accepted for who you are, live your life and not be judged on background, gender, cultural differences, sexual orientation or political party. I have made it clear on all levels there will be zero tolerance on bullying or discriminatory acts of any kind.
Tell us about your Paid Maternity Leave policy.
Metallix prides itself on being a forward thinking, progressive company caring about our employees and their families. With that in mind, I introduced a new company policy; Paid Maternity Leave for all eligible employees.
In the United States, only 12% of women in the private sector have access to any sort of paid maternity leave. During the first stages of motherhood where new mothers are dealing with a baby who is not sleeping through the night, medical bills, day care concerns and postpartum issues; the last thing we wanted for our Metallix mothers was to have the additional stress of not receiving their full regular pay.
We pay all eligible employees their full salary for up to eight weeks after childbirth, instead of only receiving partial pay through state’s shortterm disability program. Often through shortterm disability programs, you may have to wait 30 days or more before receiving any benefits. Through our new policy, there is no disruption to receiving the full weekly pay while recovering from labour.
Metallix believes in the importance of family and we wanted to show the company’s commitment to our employees’ financial and personal wellbeing.
What are your thoughts on gender dynamics in the workforce?
The best place to work is the place you can be at your best, to learn and be rewarded on individual merit, where the only limits are those you set yourself.
As an immigrant to the US, I know only too well the challenges some will encounter, especially for minority groups. The road will not always be smooth, and regardless of your cultural background, you should believe in yourself, your self-worth, your ability to succeed and that your qualities will always shine through to achieve rewards. And I incorporate this ethos into my leadership.
Ambition fuelled by passion has always been a driving force for me
As President, one of the most important responsibilities is to establish a vision, a longterm mission with short-term objectives. These will ultimately determine the expectations for the company’s culture and core values which will lead Metallix at multiple levels ensuring alignment throughout. Equally, recruiting talent and nurturing Executive growth for succession planning is key to building sustainability and industry expertise.
As a woman in a male-dominated industry, I have witnessed and experienced many changes over the last 12 years and have been influential to many changes myself. Through our values, Metallix is a multicultural employer with promotions based on ability, not gender, and an environment where there is no place for discrimination or bullying.
Read the full issue here