In the latter part of 2016, the city of Mentor hired Dr. Mercedes Sanchez-Moore, PhD, MBA, to be its new international trade manager. The aim was to fulfill the city’s International Trade Initiative mission of assisting “Mentor-based companies who seek to expand or develop new export markets as well as foster trade relationships with international partners.”
Dr. Sanchez-Moore holds a BSBA in International Business and a PhD in workforce development from Ohio State University, as well as an MBA from Capital University and the Ohio Economic Development Certification. She first came to the United States from Madrid, Spain in 1994 to study international trade. Initially, she planned to return to her native land but opportunities, both personal and professional, presented themselves. She remained in this country and became a United States citizen in 2007.
At the time of her hiring, Dr. Sanchez-Moore was quoted in the Mentor News Herald about her achievements, saying, “I have 20 years of experience in exporting, importing and trade compliance. I’ve worked with several governmental agencies engaged in providing international trade assistance and foreign investment attraction services, both in my native Spain and the USA.” Dr. Sanchez-Moore’s duties include participating in yearly trade missions to England and Germany to lay the groundwork for future transactions. Here in Ohio, she “leads seminars and consults one-on-one, helping businesses find partners, get grants and guidance from states and federal government and learn such things as intricacies of currencies and shipping laws.”
Quite a bit has already been written about Dr. Sanchez-Moore’s success in her position, so we will not write any more. We were more interested in discussing what it was like transitioning between her homeland of Spain to her new life in the United States. Let us be clear that Dr. Sanchez-Moore expressed her own personal views only. Since the Mentor International Trade Initiative’s efforts are non-partisan, her views do not represent policy.
Not surprisingly, Dr. Sanchez-Moore considers herself to be a “cultural hybrid.” She has not lost touch with her native customs, but has also adopted certain aspects of our U.S. culture in order to feel more comfortable here and conduct effective professional outreach. Very early on, she wisely chose to not pass judgement but to learn. When asked about differences between culture in her adopted vs native home, Dr. Sanchez-Moore noted with a smile that people in the US tend to focus more on being “politically correct,” whereas Europeans are more straightforward and say what they mean.
Along these lines, we talked for a moment about how easy it is for well-intended people of different backgrounds to misunderstand each other. She shared with us a humorous information sheet about what native English speakers might say vs. what they actually mean, and how a cultural newcomer might misunderstand. For instance, “I hear what you say” really means “I disagree and do not want to discuss it further,” whereas a non-native English speaker might interpret it as “they accept my point of view.” Dr. Sanchez-Moore also noted that Spain and other Mediterranean countries have a tendency to be more family-oriented than we are in the United States. Also, Spaniards are more collectivist, whereas Americans tend to be more individualistic.
Regarding opportunities for a person to achieve economic prosperity and move forward in her/his career, Dr. Sanchez-Moore believes that the United States clearly has the edge. She felt that the US is less class-oriented than Spain and is not struggling with the extensive unemployment problems that are so prevalent in Spain. In Spain, she felt, one almost certainly has to have strong family connections as well as a college degree in order to move ahead.
On the issue of women’s advancement, which Dr. Sanchez-Moore knows quite a bit about, countries such as Spain look to the U.S. to lead by example. While it may be true that the US is further ahead in terms of moving away from traditional gender roles and elevating women than Spain is at this point, Spain is moving rapidly to make up for lost time. Right now, Spain’s legislature is half women, and there is a special cabinet office which advocates on behalf of progress for women. This is not to say that the United States is exactly where it should be in this area; in fact, Dr. Sanchez-Moore often goes to events where she is troubled by the scarcity of women in leadership positions, though the situation is constantly evolving. She has a daughter who is 17 years-old, and is confident that she will enjoy more gender equality than she herself did.
Next, our discussion shifted to immigration. Dr. Sanchez-Moore is very concerned about the current political climate in the United States regarding this matter. As an immigrant herself, she is very much aware of what a tremendous asset foreign-born people can be to this region and this country if they are provided with the proper encouragement. She then took out a pamphlet distributed by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services titled “2014-2024 Snapshot of Occupational Projections.” She pointed to a chart that showed the occupations in Ohio with the most annual job openings and the projected median wage. Dr. Sanchez-Moore contended that every immigrant living here in Ohio, if not the United States, should have access to this information because it would tremendously help them to flourish in this country. She said that getting information out to them is truly one of her passions.
She also believes that it is very important to reform the foreign certification process. As we know, it is often the case that professionals who immigrate to the United States must undergo a rigorous re-education procedure before they will be allowed to practice their trades at all. Along these lines, Dr. Sanchez-Moore believes that a more productive route for all concerned would be to allow them to, at least to a certain extent, practice what they were trained to do in order to make a living while they attend classes.
As we concluded, Dr. Sanchez-Moore, who has traveled extensively abroad and considers herself to be a lifelong learner, wanted to impress upon us that she believes that all peoples are more culturally similar than different. She believes that we are “90% the same” meaning that we all value the same things including family, faith, and economic stability. Thus, despite language barriers, it is always possible to find common ground for us all to communicate as long as there is a willingness.”