Cornbread Connects the World: Diversity & Inclusion at Hilti

By Jennifer C., Project Manager, Materials and Specials

My career with Hilti has included ten positions which have led me to live in four different countries and work across four continents. With each new role, and especially each new move, I knew that I needed to integrate within my new working and living environments. One of the top questions I’m asked when someone learns about my career history is, “How did you make friends?” As many of us know, a great way to connect with others is by sharing a meal and this is one of my favorite ways to introduce myself in a new environment and ensure I am more integrated within the culture.

Food connects our team

Growing up in small-town Alabama, I learned to cook southern recipes. With my global exposure, I have come to appreciate foods from a multitude of cultures. One of the first things a person joining a new team at Hilti can expect is to be welcomed with a team lunch. During my time in Dubai, this meant sampling Thai, Indian, Pakistani, Turkish, Lebanese, and many more foods from cultures which I had not previously experienced.

My 16-member team in Dubai included ten different nationalities and many different food preferences. There were vegans, vegetarians, and also those who observed Ramadan and those who did not. When we all ate together, we certainly enjoyed the experiences. Given my assortment of positions within Hilti, I’ve also been able to plan several goodbye parties as people moved on to new roles within the company. 

Food connects our lives

While absorbing the new cultures around me and working to be inclusive, I also like to share something of myself. For me, this usually involves planning a dinner party with friends, colleagues, and neighbors. In Dubai and Switzerland, I shared Christmas, 4th of July, Halloween, American Thanksgiving, and birthday traditions with multi-cultural and multi-generational groups. 
While we Americans may consider a turkey, cranberry sauce, and cornbread dressing for Thanksgiving commonplace, others may not yet have been exposed and may appreciate the exposure. In the same vein, I have loved experiencing all the cultures I have been exposed to, many of which started with a shared meal. 

Food connects our language

Food is also one of the foundations of language and an easy way to get started learning. I may not speak Arabic, but now I can certainly order in a restaurant. While I was living in Switzerland and working at our global headquarters in Schaan, Liechtenstein, Hilti began our focus on Diversity and Inclusion. This included the creation of OWN IT!, our D&I focused employee resource group (ERG). I was also able to lead the OWN IT! organization during my final year in Schaan.

We recognized early that the Diversity and Inclusion challenges faced in HQ would be different than those we could see in other countries. Our first focus was on connecting our diverse team members by encouraging language inclusion. We implemented programs for Language Buddies and set up regular Language Lunches. The opportunity to learn a language over food is not only a way to improve our own skills, but also to share our challenges in a positive environment. 

Food connects the world

Hilti has a strong focus on Diversity and Inclusion and we focus on the three G’s (Global, Gender, and Generation). What better way to connect with your colleagues than over a shared meal or discussions of food.

Recently, Hilti North America released our first cookbook, “Food Connects the World,” including over 60 recipes from 30 countries. In this cookbook, I was able to share the recipe for my grandmother’s cornbread, “Mary Cobb’s Cornbread.” Grandmother’s cornbread has not only been shared with my teams and friends in Dubai, Liechtenstein, California, Texas, and Oklahoma, but also was shared with my favorite restaurant in Switzerland. When I entered the restaurant for the first time and the owner found out I was from the American South, he immediately asked if I had any recipes for him and so I obliged. Thus began the international renown of Mary Cobb’s cornbread. I recently lost my Grandmother, but I will work to continue her legacy by cooking her cornbread and spreading the recipe.

Just as Mary Cobb developed her cornbread recipe over years of practice, each of my positions at Hilti has allowed me to develop myself and further grow within the organization. Hilti is certainly an organization that can offer a fast-paced, interesting, global career.

Hilti North America is a company focused on improving Diversity and Inclusion within our corporate culture, Check out our diversity and inclusion page to learn more.

About the Author

Jennifer C. is a Project Manager in the Logistics department at Hilti North America. Jennifer first joined Hilti in 2009 with the Martin Hilti Foundation Fellowship, and has since held numerous positions across the world, living in Oklahoma, California, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and the United Arab Emirates. Currently, Jennifer lives in Texas and enjoys travel and cooking.