For this Commerce team member, Hispanic Heritage Month is all about togetherness.
As someone who was born and raised in Mexico City, Paulina Perea feels a strong connection to Hispanic Heritage Month. Perea, a sales training strategy and design manager at Commerce Bank, views it as an invitation for people to become more familiar with a culture she loves.
"The culture in Mexico is very rich, from food to traditions and so much more,” she says. “If Hispanic Heritage Month encourages people to dig a little deeper and learn what we celebrate and what’s important to us, I think that’s a great thing. It helps us all understand each other a little better and it opens our eyes to other people’s histories.”
Perea came to the United States at age 18 to attend college in El Paso, Texas, after which she moved to San Antonio, where her husband was attending medical school. She began her career at Commerce after moving to Kansas City in 2019. “I had been a trainer for a healthcare company in Texas,” she says, “so when I joined Commerce, I took on a very similar kind of role, and it was an easy transition.”
Today, Perea helps lead training strategy for sales and sales support teams in Commerce’s commercial group, which works with business clients. She moved into a leadership role a year ago. “My supervisor was incredible and empowered me to take on many challenges, I became a team lead, had the opportunity to hire and train my replacement, then was promoted into a manager role three months ago, where I lead a team of four people.”
Growing into a leadership role at Commerce has suited Perea well. “I enjoyed being an individual contributor, but I also enjoy being a leader,” she says. “Commerce provides the right resources, which helps each person be successful. It’s the right fit for me. I have consistent support, and it helps me get better every day. I love it.”
Regardless of the role she’s been in, Perea appreciates that she has always felt comfortable being herself at work. “Being able to share my culture with my team has been wonderful,” she says. “It’s part of who I am, and it’s empowering to work with people who are excited to learn about different cultures.”
Earlier this year, Perea and her family moved back to San Antonio, where she continues to work for Commerce remotely. “My husband wants to serve the Hispanic community with his practice, and we wanted our kids to grow up a little bit closer to what feels like home for us,” she says.
That sense of community is important to Perea, who notes that family and friends play a central role in her culture.
“Every Hispanic person I’ve met in the United States cares a lot about connections — building a group of people they can embrace and become like a big family. I’m the same way. I never had so many friends as I had during our years in Kansas City. We would have big gatherings, big fiestas, and the group just kept growing. People went to Spanish-language concerts with me. We found that connection with other people. I feel like Hispanic Heritage Month is a great time to make and strengthen those kinds of connections.”
Krystal Pittenger, an assistant vice president and commercial card sales manager, has worked with Perea for years and values the approach Perea takes to her work. “She’s such a joy to have as a colleague,” Pittenger says. “She’s always wanting to really understand any problem and find the best solution. On top of that, she’s one of those people who will drop everything to help someone else out — and not just with work-related things. She once delivered donuts to my son’s class for me when I couldn’t do it myself. She’s always thinking about other people.”
Pittenger also sees the influence Perea’s heritage has on her work. “Paulina’s got such a great story, and I think her background has helped give her such a unique skill set that she brings to her role,” she says. “She adds a great perspective to our team and is naturally curious. She always wants to know as much as she can about other people’s work so she can identify ways to help them.”
Perea believes her heritage is present in her work every day.
“Part of my background is thinking about the greater good and finding the best way to do things. The Hispanic community is one that, in my eyes, finds joy in serving others and having a sense of unity with other people. I think that’s something that is part of my core. It’s the way I grew up.”
For Perea, the common thread that connects Hispanic Heritage Month with the people in her life — whether at work or at home — is togetherness. “I want to bring people together, serve them well, and never expect anything in return,” she says. “That’s part of my personality and has always been important to me. Staying focused on helping others is very powerful.”
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