President, Vegetable Seeds Division, Monsanto
When Monsanto—the global agricultural company—offered Consuelo Madere a supervisory position in its agricultural division, Madere jumped at the opportunity—leaving her home state of Louisiana for Muscatine, Iowa. Madere had worked for the company in New Orleans since 1982, after graduating from Louisiana State University with a B.S. degree in chemical engineering.
"I was working at Monsanto, but my husband was still in undergraduate school, so having a university nearby was important. He was looking for an undergraduate program in business finance, and I wanted to finish my MBA," Madere says. "The fact that Iowa had an evening program was great, because I could continue working full time. We were both thrilled with what we found here," she says. "It fit for both of us."
Madere remembers the many team projects she worked on during her MBA studies. During her 27-year career with Monsanto, the lessons learned through them have stuck with her.
"It's important to know what role you play on a team. You can play a supporting role and contribute a piece to a project, or you may need to take charge and be the team leader," she says. "Learning those distinctions is an important part of leadership."
It's also important, Madere says, to surround yourself with smart people who bring different perspectives to the team. One of her bosses once told her, "You don't always need to be the expert," and she's implemented that advice in many of her work teams.
"Learn to rely on the people around you," she says. "Everyone brings different strengths to their work. And diversity of thought gives better results. If everyone agrees with you, just nodding their heads in agreement, you'll drive the bus right off the cliff," she says.
Currently, Madere is president of the Monsanto Vegetable Seeds Division, which includes the Seminis and DeRuiter brands, located in St. Louis, Mo. But no matter where her job has taken her—Europe, the Pacific Rim, or Africa—she's never forgotten where she came from and what she learned from an early age growing up in a family of six children in a small southern Louisiana town.
"My parents always reinforced that we should learn as much as we could because it would help us get ahead in life," she says. "We were poor, and I didn’t know how I would handle college financially, but my parents stressed that I could do it," she says.
"I carry around a bookmark when I travel that says, 'It is never too late to become who you might have been.' It is not credited to anyone, but I really believe that it is true," she says. "No matter where you are in life, at what stage in your career, at what stage of your education, it is never too late to change."