Claudia Behnke brings a story of perseverance and determination to today’s Wednesdays for Women blog. A contract specialist at Blue Yonder (formerly JDA Software, Inc.), Claudia dives head first into adversity without fear of failure and doesn’t take “no” for an answer. Having lived in two different countries by the time she was 10, Claudia learned from a young age that the unknown doesn’t always have to be scary.
Where did you grow up? Where do you live now?
I was born in San Juan, Argentina but most of my formative years were in a beautiful, quiet suburban town in Cordoba, Argentina. My world turned upside down in 1976 when my parents decided to immigrate to the United States in order to provide a better and brighter future for my brother and me when I was 10. Children are resilient – I put all my effort into learning English and within no time I was like every American girl. But like most immigrants, I missed my homeland very much. After two years in the U.S., we returned to Argentina. I could still speak Spanish, but lost much of my grammar and all my knowledge of history and geography. It was a difficult road learning everything I missed in the two years we were in the U.S. It was so difficult that we couldn’t adjust. We missed our life in the U.S. too much! After begging and pleading with my parents, we returned to U.S. in 1981. And again, I found myself struggling to learn English a second time.
Today I live in Gilbert, Arizona with my husband of 34 years, Jerry, who is my best friend and soul mate, and I’m fluent in English and Spanish thanks to my upbringing. We have two amazing children with equally amazing spouses and one four-year-old grandson who is the love of my life.
I’m eternally grateful to my parents – I have a beautiful life due to the risks and hardships they endured. My childhood taught me the valuable life lesson that the unknown doesn’t have to be scary. If you are willing to work hard and give it your all, you WILL succeed!
Where did you go to school, and what degrees do you have?
I attended part-time evening college for business management and accounting. At the time, I had two little ones at home. My husband looked after them while I went to school at night but between you and me, I was really done with higher education. After four years of part-time school, I decided to open myself up to all life had to offer and teach me. Although I believe in higher education, I also believe hard work and dedication can bring you success in any avenue of life.
What was your first job (ever)?
I could not wait to start working! I started my first job on my sixteenth birthday. I worked behind the counter at Lenders Bagels. It was a fun job interreacting with the public and taste-testing as many bagels as I wanted. In my opinion, they made the best bagels ever!
What was your first job at Blue Yonder? How did your career progress from there?
I became an associate at Blue Yonder in 2012 when I was offered the position of senior collector for Latin America and U.S. accounts. I learned a great deal about our products in this position. In 2013, the collections supervisor and I visited several customers in Mexico City, which helped me develop much better relationships with our customers and gave me the ability to truly listen and provide the solutions they needed.
In 2014, I was the first associate to take on an online billing position at Blue Yonder. During that time, I was also Blue Yonder’s credit analyst. I performed research and analyzed data to establish customer’s financial health before Blue Yonder would release software or projects.
In 2016, I accepted a consulting operations position at Blue Yonder. Since then, I’ve moved into a contract specialist position, which challenges me every day and provides the perfect opportunity for growth.
How do you live the Blue Yonder values?
I love our values, they provide the perfect roadmap! I live Blue Yonder’s values by being me. At the end of the day, it truly makes me happy to know I spend my time collaborating with our teams and relentlessly finding solutions for our customers – ultimately providing the best results possible.
What are some of the challenges you’ve had to overcome in your career and how did you tackle them?
My grammar has always been a challenge (thank goodness for spellcheck!). It was a personal insecurity, so I became a court appointed interpreter and translator. I believe in facing problems head on in order to overcome them!
Have you ever been ‘professionally stuck’? How did you become ‘unstuck’?
Yes. It was very difficult at the time and I felt like I wanted to quit. Instead of quitting, I put my head down, prayed a lot, tried to control my Latin blood, worked even harder and held fast. In time, it all worked itself out, so I would say I became ‘unstuck’ through patience and perseverance.
What is the best advice you ever received? Who gave it to you?
“You already have the NO. If you don’t ask, the answer will definitely be NO. You have to work for the YES.” This advice was given to me by my mom. It may sound cliché to some, but I take it to heart. Whenever I feel insecure or unsure, I always think ‘What do I have to lose? I must work for the yes.’
What is your proudest achievement?
Children are the future leaders of our companies and our world. I’m so proud that my husband and I have raised two responsible, caring, hardworking and highly moral individuals that positively contribute to the world we live in.
Where do you see your career headed? What’s next for you?
I am #BYProud! I will go wherever Blue Yonder takes me. My life motto is to “be part of the solution for whatever problem is at hand.”
What female leaders do you admire and why?
My mom! For her vision, bravery, wisdom and entrepreneurial advice.
How do you motivate yourself and others?
Positive energy! Every situation can be viewed in a positive or negative way. I choose to ignore the negative and embrace the positive every time! The energy one exudes by being positive is contagious.
What do you think are the biggest obstacles of gender diversity in the workplace?
I’ve discussed this topic with family and friends in the medical industry, education and professional services. One thing they have in common across their industries is a very “traditional mentality.” I’m very proud of the proactive role Blue Yonder takes in normalizing gender diversity.