Juan Granados-Zúñiga

Juan Granados-Zúñiga, Lilly Pride Chair, Says ‘Be Yourself’

Eli Lilly and Company  | July 8, 2020

For Juan Granados-Zúñiga, intersectional identities have been a hallmark of his life. He grew up in Mexico, speaking English at home. He grew up gay in a culture that wasn’t always welcoming. And he found success at a company that encouraged his unlikely move from chemist to marketer – a job where he found he could truly shine.

Here’s more about Granados-Zúñiga, chair of the Lilly Pride employee resource group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) employees and allies, and why his differences have made a difference in his 16 years at Lilly.

Taking a Leap

Lilly’s employee research into the Latino experience showed that many immigrants share core values – especially humility. Like others, he came to Lilly thinking that “hard work alone would pay off.” He was raised not to brag. He didn’t feel the need to be out at work, instead hiding his personal life and tamping down his vibrant personality to fit in.

After several years at Lilly and earning a master of business administration (M.B.A.) degree, he considered a move to marketing. At the end of his first marketing interview, the hiring manager asked him a surprising question: “Tell me one compelling reason why I should not hire you.”

Granados-Zúñiga responded, “Honestly, I am really different from the others on your team. If you are looking to hire someone with the same background and ideas as everyone else, then don’t hire me.”

The hiring manager said, “That’s exactly why I want to hire you, because you bring something different to the team.”

And in that moment, Granados-Zúñiga realized it was not just OK to be different and speak up with new ideas, it was important to the company and was really welcome at Lilly. “That is when I realized that I could unapologetically be myself,” he said.

Landing Well

Since that day, he has been promoted three times and now is a senior director for consumer marketing in Lilly Diabetes. His team often brings a multicultural perspective to consumer outreach about new medicines. His career took off because he found something he was good at that he also loved to do.

Granados-Zúñiga said he is the same person whether he is meeting with a VP or an intern. “If I am holding back or changing who I am, I can’t build trust among my teams,” he said.

“That’s my superhero origin story,” he said. “You not only can be yourself – you owe it to yourself and your company to contribute the full you.”

Diversity and Inclusion Progress

“In all the years I’ve watched progress in diversity and inclusion at Lilly, it’s better now than I think I’ve ever seen. We truly embrace and celebrate not only dimensions of difference in race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality – but also differences in work styles. Eight years ago, even in marketing, I probably would have felt I needed to conform. Today, I’m me – and that’s enough.”