Many Roads Forward
Sylvia Montero's guiding principle is that there is always more than one road forward. "There are many ways to reach your dreams, and although disappointments are inevitable, it's important not to give up in the face of failures," she said.
That belief became the underlying theme of her book Make It Your Business: Dare to Climb the Ladder of Leadership. It's also been the theme that has run through her life, including her successful career at Pfizer.
Pfizer Career Path
A native of Puerto Rico, Sylvia began a career in education as a high school teacher of Spanish and Bilingual Studies in New York City and became a Professor of Literature at Interamerican University in Puerto Rico.
She started her 28-year career with Pfizer in 1978 when she joined the company's Puerto Rico operations. Six years later, she transferred to New York and subsequently held positions of increasing responsibilities in Human Resources, ultimately becoming senior vice president of Pfizer Human Resources in 2005.
As the head of Pfizer's Worldwide Talent Development & Human Resources, Sylvia was responsible for the strategy and development of HR policies, plans and practices for Pfizer's 105,000 worldwide employees. During her last few years in the role, Sylvia appreciated that the company's recent acquisitions had increased the size and complexity of its retiree population. Realizing that the needs, concerns and problems of the company's retirees were growing considerably, she championed new efforts to improve communications with retirees.
Another project she remembers proudly was the push to accelerate the transparency of Pfiizer's compensation systems and its communication to employees. "It was a lot of work, but it was essential, and it went off without a glitch. Prior to 2006 the way we communicated compensation decisions and what was communicated were very different," said Sylvia.
A Path of Service
Retirement has been a very happy adventure for Sylvia from day one. She got engaged upon retirement and was married less than a year later. One of the highlights of her post-Pfizer life is the time she spends with her close-knit family, especially her grandchildren.
But retirement hasn't meant slowing down for Sylvia. Her philanthropic activities have always kept her busy and retirement has not changed that.
She has been honored by numerous Hispanic and women's groups, and was presented in 2005 with the prestigious Orgullo Latino Award (Latin Pride) by the 100 Hispanic Women organization. She is on the Board of the Grand Street Settlement, an organization that helps the needy on the lower east side of Manhattan, where she grew up. She also sponsors a scholarship fund for young women, the Eligia and Cruz Montero Scholarship Fund, named after her parents who instilled in her the importance of education. And she's active in her church and serves as treasurer of her homeowners' association.
"Thanks to my supportive husband, O.B. Taylor, and my naturally high energy level I can enjoy my varied, jam-packed schedule," she said.
And in the midst of that jam-packed schedule, she wrote a book about her personal and professional experiences and the lessons she's learned. The book is an extension of her philanthropy; proceeds go to continuing her nonprofit work.
Her personal story, which she shares in the book, defies the law of probabilities: a Puerto Rican girl born in poverty earns a scholarship at an elite school and climbs the corporate ladder of a Fortune 50 company. Along the way she deals with the challenges of immigration, learning a second language, being a minority and a woman, poverty, marriage and divorce, single motherhood, setbacks, and unemployment.
"I share my experiences in the hope that other young men and women currently battling similar statistical barriers will believe that they too can do it and will be inspired to go beyond their dreams," she said. "There are many ways to reach your dreams, and although disappointments are inevitable, it's important not to give up in the face of failures. My life had its share of hardships and obstacles, yet I was able to learn and grow and succeed at a leading pharmaceutical company like Pfizer."
Sylvia says readers should to feel free to contact her through her website at www.sylviammontero.com. "I absolutely want an open channel of communication with fellow Pfizer retirees, and send my very best wishes to all Pfizer and legacy retirees, especially those with whom I worked – great people, from a great company."