Celebrating Over 20 Years at West Pak
Meet Berenice Martinez – West Pak’s new HR Coordinator. Don’t let the newness of her position fool you. This smiley people-person has had an illustrious career during her two-plus decades with the company, where she served in reception, field services, and finance. Today, Berenice is an integral part of the new HR team that’s changing the recruiting and hiring arm of the company.
How long have you been with West Pak?
Berenice: It’ll officially be 21 years on April 30th. I was hired through a temp agency, and I celebrate January 20th as my anniversary, but April 30th is when I officially became an employee.
What is your current job title and role?
Berenice: My title is HR Coordinator, and I am currently the recruiter for the company. Right now, I’m recruiting for temps out of our other DCs. We are in full gear here at Sky Canyon, so there is not as much need as we are fully staffed. I’m concentrating more on New Jersey and Dallas, filling positions out there so that we can get the job done as a team.
What is the best aspect of your role?
Berenice: I took this position because I like helping people. There are a lot of people who may not speak the language or don’t fully understand what they’re signing, and I want people to be comfortable enough to know that I am here to help them.
How has your role at West Pak changed over time?
Berenice: When I started back in 2001, I was a receptionist. I did front desk work from 2001 to 2004. However, I found that the role just didn’t keep me busy. I made good friends with Maria Sabir and started helping her in the field department. When I returned from my maternity leave in 2004, I was promoted to Field Operations Coordinator. I worked in the field department for 15 years.
I had really good relationships with our growers and our field buyers during that time. I reported directly to Galen Newhouse, and we worked really well together. We had a solid team and did a lot of barbeques and such. It’s fun going out to the groves and intermingling with the people who get us our avocados. It was just a fun job. We got the job done but had fun while doing it.
While I was in the field department, I started doing payroll for the company. And then, I did fully transition out of the field and went 100 percent into finance doing payroll for six years. Next, the opportunity presented itself and I was asked, “would you like to be part of the HR team?” After getting a glimpse of it and realizing there was a need to help, I thought, “I think I do want to be part of the HR Department.” I never thought about it before, but now it’s like, “okay, yes… let’s recreate this department from scratch, make it new and improved, and help the company in the process.
Tell us about the current HR department.
Berenice: There’s a lot of change, but it’s a lot of positive change. We’re bringing a lot of experience together from a lot of angles into a new department, and I really like the current team; working with Robin, Leonard, and Luis. They have been wonderful, and everybody works well together and has a common goal. I feel like we’re a solid team. I know it may be temporary, but the group makes it so that you want to dive in head-first.
What do you think is the most challenging part of what you currently do?
Berenice: This is a totally unfamiliar role for me. It’s been 21 years since I interviewed for a job, and things are so different now. Even though I worked closely with HR with my payroll experience, it’s still a whole new different side that I’m getting accustomed to.
It’s a bit overwhelming how much needs to get done, but I don’t want to disappoint anybody. For example, maybe someone wants to start a 401K. I dealt with contributions on the payroll side, but I don’t know how you start a 401K. I just don’t want to disappoint anybody or leave anybody behind.
The HR team has taken me under their wing and helped me with any questions that I have had. Nothing’s off-limits is too silly to ask. They really welcomed me with open arms.
What is a typical day like for you?
Berenice: The four of us meet daily, and we go over open positions and what’s needed to fill these positions, and I actively start recruiting. I open up my emails in the morning, and I just start shooting out what I need. I go through resumes and forward them to the correct supervisor.
Although my main focus is recruiting, I joined the HR team in the middle of open enrollment for benefits for production. So, I’m getting that ball rolling and making sure all the applications were submitted, and everything is correct. There’s a lot of double-checking and a lot of catching up to do on unfinished business.
How did your time in the finance department help with your current position?
Berenice: My experience is helpful, but it’s just this is unfamiliar territory so there are a lot of questions. I don’t sometimes know who to ask, but I will ask my peers, who are more than willing to help. They give me a name and a phone number or a name and an email address, and I take it from there.
How do you incorporate West Pak principles and values into your job?
Berenice: The reason I have been here so long is that West Pak has always been a family-oriented company. It doesn’t matter how big we have grown; Randy and Galen stand firmly on we are family. So, I like to treat everybody like family.
Family is important to me. When I started West Pak, I had no children; now, I have two boys and an extended family in the company.
What do you like to do In your time off?
Berenice: I have two boys, Alek (20) and Dakota (18), who have always kept me busy. One is in his third year in college, and the other is a senior in high school. Preparing for the younger one to also leave the nest, we try to have as much family time together as possible. So, if he wants to go to the movies or to his friend’s game, we try to tag along as much as possible. Come August, he’s flying the coop. We have it narrowed down as to where he’s going to college. He’s been accepted to NAU, which is a possibility. He wants to go to the East Coast, as he was accepted to seven schools in that area, but mom wants to have him stay on the West Coast, so we’re currently negotiating. My older one is up in Santa Cruz, so he’s only six hours away. I’m proud of them, but it’s just harder on Mom and Dad when they’re gone.
Any favorite hobbies besides your two boys?
Berenice: I like to work out – it’s a good destresser, and I really enjoy it. During Covid, everything shut down, and you couldn’t go to the gym. That was really affecting me, so I got a Peloton and created an at-home gym. Now, with my workout buddy, my husband, we just work out at home. With my younger son being a wrestler, he sometimes likes to train me, which I enjoy because the gym is one of the only places, but I like to be told what to do. So, he gets to be a boss for an hour or so.
Do you have a favorite quote or motto?
Berenice: I like to live by “Live and Let Live” – I try not to judge people. I may have my way of doing things, and if yours is different, and as long as you’re happy and not hurting anybody, go for it.
What is your favorite way to eat or prepare avocados?
Berenice: I eat an avocado a day. I like to incorporate avocados into everything, whether my Mexican soups, tostadas, or my sandwiches. I love avocados, and I’m not just saying that because I work here. It’s a great perk working here because I do love avocados, and I eat an avocado a day, and I basically incorporated it into every meal that I either make or have.
Do you have a favorite recipe?
Berenice: I don’t think of myself as a good cook or anything, but my kids seem to think so. So if it works, then good. It’s funny because anytime we get invited to a friend’s dinner or a party or anything, they want my guacamole. I see it as normal guacamole, but people think it’s amazing. At every party I get invited to, I’m asked to bring the guac.
What I do differently is that I don’t add the lime. I don’t like the lime taste with guacamole. However, I do add vegetables like red onion, tomatoes, cilantro, and garlic. I do like to add Serano, so I warned people that it could be a bit spicy and then season with salt and pepper. The key is to garnish it using a couple of avocado pits to keep it from turning brown.
Funny story: one time, my husband and I were home with our younger son, and I was making guacamole to eat. Then my son said, “oh, where are we going?” I’m like, “nowhere. This is for us to eat.” He always associated guacamole with my friends and family.
Do you have any favorite avocado memorabilia?
Berenice: Being here 21 years, I have quite a bit. I have the shirts, jackets, even our 25th-anniversary wine glasses – I have different stuff that not many employees have. But I have to say that was my favorite is a beautifully etched bottle of tequila that Randy and Galen gave us. They would always make sure that we had really good grower gifts when I was in the field department. But this bottle was beautiful. Not many of us got it, so it was just very special that I was one of the few that did – it was such a unique gift.