Xochitl Lopez, recruitment and engagement manager at EarthWorks, Inc., based in Lillian, Texas, has been in the landscape industry for about six years now. Lopez’s background is in interior design, and she originally worked at Michaels stores before deciding to join EarthWorks in 2016.
“When I worked with Michaels stores, I didn’t have any background in HR at all,” Lopez says. “But I applied to the position because to me it (seemed) plain and simple; you have to have people skills, you have to get along with people, and help them understand policies and regulations.”
However, it was not that simple.
Lopez consulted one of her mentors, who told her she did not have enough experience at the time. She was informed that an HR position requires much more than just having good people skills; she needed to know the company from the inside out.
Lopez says that in order to educate herself, she read and learned the company’s entire handbook. She then applied for the job and got it.
Lopez says that EarthWorks cares a lot about engagement, so there are multiple events the company plans to enhance it.
“(I’ll be) working on an event, and in the middle of that event, I’m doing work for another event,” Lopez says. “When I (came) to EarthWorks, I was hired as an HR coordinator, but I was doing more of the administrator’s job, which I liked, because I learned a lot.”
Lopez always felt that as an HR coordinator, there was more the company could be doing for the employees. She talked with Chris Lee, president of EarthWorks, and was able to partner with large hotel brands and more to give their employees discounts on hotels, flights, and other vacation-related things.
“I just thought that it was something that will attract more people,” Lopez says. “But not only the ones that we attract, the ones that have been here for years.”
Lopez says that her biggest mentor in the industry is Chris Lee. Lopez adds that Lee really “walks the walk,” and she can be honest and blunt with him about her opinions.
“He’s always listening,” Lopez says. “It doesn’t matter if you’re an employee that just started today or an employee that has been with the company for 20 years, he listens.”
On a daily basis, Lopez says that she is consistently working on events and dealing with complaints. She says that over half of her week primarily focuses on helping someone who feels like they’ve been mistreated, and rather than seeing these situations as a bad thing, she sees them as an opportunity.
“I don’t necessarily see it as something negative, but very positive,” says Lopez. “We can gain the employee’s trust; they are able to come to us and say, I don’t like this, this is unfair, or whatever the case may be, and we can fix (it) and move forward.”
Lopez says she’s learned a lot throughout her career path, but the biggest overall thing is not to take things personally.
When Lopez started as a receptionist, she says sometimes people would come in and seem to be in a great mood and act super nice, and other times they would come in and completely ignore you.
“Sometimes people can rub off wrong; that could make or break your day,” Lopez says. “And if you take things personal, like even the way you send an email out (or) the way that you read it, that response really can lead you the wrong way. So don’t ever take things personally.”
For other women who are interested in joining the green industry, Lopez has one thing to say: “Why not?”
Just recently, Lopez joined the NALP Women in Landscape Network Facebook group, which offers women the ability to connect, advocate, and empower other women in the landscaping industry. She adds that the landscape industry is a great opportunity for women to grow, especially right now.
“It’s an industry that really welcomes us as women,” Lopez says. “I think we all have very strong characters, and we bring the very best of our characters to EarthWorks.”
This article was published in the Nov/Dec issue of the magazine. To read more stories from The Edge magazine, click here to subscribe to the digital edition.