2017 Powered by Women

From reader nominations, DBusiness selected eight professional women who are driving growth in Michigan, the nation, and the world.


(page 4/ of 8)

Terri Harwood // Katie Bowman Coleman // Amy B. Robinson // Monica Martinez
Lilly Epstein Stotland // Christine Sitek // Tricia Ruby // Sara Blackmer

Monica L. Martinez

Senior Vice President of External Affairs/National Director of Hispanic Business Development • Comerica Inc., Detroit
Employees: 8,000 • Revenue: $2.8B

Monica L. Martinez’s ambition during her years at Dearborn High School was to become a teacher, but that career path took a U-turn when she enrolled at Eastern Michigan University. Shocked to see how many others had the same goal and were in the same field of study, she searched for another career.

“I decided to go into a business program called language and international trade,” she says. “It was also a year longer because it included traveling abroad, which appealed to me.”

The teaching profession’s loss was Comerica Inc’s gain. Last July, Martinez was appointed senior vice president of external affairs, a position she holds in addition to her work as national director of Hispanic business development. In the latter role, she serves as the liaison for the bank within the Hispanic community, directing business and diversity community outreach in the bank’s primary markets around the country.

Fluent in English and Spanish, Martinez hasn’t strayed far from her Dearborn roots. Her 10-year tenure at the bank matches that of the decade she spent earlier in the corporate offices of Ford Motor Co. While at Ford, she was introduced to fields that would eventually assist her career in banking: government relations, diversity, community outreach, philanthropic efforts, and volunteerism.

“Having that experience working for a Fortune 500 company (was) very valuable for me,” she says. “The department that I was hired into at Comerica was just getting started, and it included many of those exact things.”

Joining Comerica meant moving to Dallas, where the bank relocated its headquarters in 2007. Her move to Texas also precipitated two defining moments in her life.

First, she broke her ankle. Coping with that mishap was merely a warm-up for another injury in 2014 — two broken arms and a fractured jaw, suffered in a fall from a Segway motor scooter.

“Something like that really teaches you the importance of having people around you who are there for you,” Martinez says. “One of my grandmother’s and mother’s sayings is: ‘You know who your friends are when tough things happen to you,’ and that’s so true. You turn around and see who’s around you. It’s those who help you in your greatest time of need that you can consider your closest friends.”

The bank supported Martinez during her months of suffering. “I had swelling in my spine and a concussion, and I was unable to move my arms without severe pain. I spent much of the first month in bed. The loss of my independence was tough, and (because I lived) alone, I had to rely on others for help.”

She says kindness from those close to her and, in some cases, complete strangers, kept her going. After leaders in the Detroit Hispanic community heard about her accident, get-well cards and care packages poured in.

“I found it amazing how a simple card would lift my spirits,” she says. “Tough times teach us more about ourselves. I’ve found that those challenges allow us to emerge stronger and more resilient. It also reinforced that in business and in life, it’s important to know who’s there in the best of times and, even more important, who you can count on during the worst.”

After receiving her promotion, Martinez was transferred back to Detroit. “It’s wonderful to be among friends and family, and to see the changes that are happening in and around the city,” she says. “Comerica has been influential in working with some of the organizations to help create change, and we’re very excited to be a part of that change.”

Apart from the demands of her job, her spare time is usually spent reading job-related trade journals or attending seminars. Martinez also mentors eight young people. She says mentoring was something that popped into her head when a reporter called in 2008 to ask if she had made a New Year’s resolution.

“I spend time with them about three times a week, and I spend time keeping up with them,” she says. “I spend time whether it’s going to an event or an activity, or taking them to Tigers ballgames, or listening to them and seeing how I could help them. In many ways, we’re all somewhere because someone believed in us. Mentoring helps me be that person for others.” — Norm Sinclair

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