By Christine Bolaños.
Odalys Fajardo-Guerrero has a stellar career record that includes stints at the Central Intelligence Agency, the U.S. Army, and Walmart Global Security. She is a living example of the extraordinary things a Latina can achieve when she combines her grit, determination and confidence with humility, passion and pride in one’s roots.
Her story began when her pregnant mother migrated from Cuba to the United States. She and her family spent their first few years in the United States in Florida, but it was when they moved to New Jersey, that Fajardo-Guerrero’s father finally reunited with them. Those following years were life-defining.
“Their hardship. Their past is a part of me,” says Fajardo-Guerrero, who currently serves as Vice President for Walmart Global Security. In her co-leadership role, the Army veteran is responsible for developing risk mitigation strategies for the company’s global business, customers and associates.
According to Fajardo-Guerrero the greatest value she inherited from her parents was hard work.
“My parents had an incredibly savage work ethic, and pride and integrity,” Fajardo-Guerrero shares. “My father always said if you’re going to clean bathrooms you better be the best at it. There was no shame in that.”
Her parents escaped communism and instilled in her the value of education. It was the one thing no one could steal from her. They were members of the Greatest Generation, and as such, taught Fajardo-Guerrero and her siblings the importance of giving back to one’s community.
“I grew up pretty poor, but my mom was regularly contributing whatever she could,” she recalls, pointing to the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Association Labor Day Telethon.
These values permeated her life and drove her to reach new horizons in the government and corporate sectors.
In her current role, she feels she serves a greater purpose representing women and Latinas in global security.
“This is an opportunity for me to do right by them. This promotion is not about me; it’s for them,” she says.
She most recently worked as Walmart’s Regional Vice-President for Global Investigations (GI) Latin America based in Costa Rica. She created an investigative team across five countries to support the entire Latin America region.
“I was an ex-pat in Costa Rica. I was sent there with the task of building a strong team, a global team, to support our Walmart footprint in Latin America,” Fajardo-Guerrero says. “The team I built was 24 people and most of the team consisted of women and it was a diverse team. I had a female judge. I had multiple female attorneys and auditors.”
She built that team deliberately to bring in a diverse set of skills and backgrounds that culminated in a high-performing cohort.
Her entire 20-plus-year career spans both public and private sector investigations and security-related experience throughout Latin America, seven years as a Case Officer with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency having served in Latin America, Florida and Washington, D.C., and 10 years serving in the U.S. Army as a Signal Officer, reaching Captain ranking.
While she couldn’t share details about her time in the CIA, she did share an encounter with the parents of a fallen soldier while serving as First Lieutenant in Germany. He had written about her to his parents to share he not only respected her but felt she respected him too. She attributes this to her ability to connect with people.
“You didn’t treat him as a private. You treated him as a soldier,” she recalls the soldier’s mother telling her.
Before working in Global Investigations, Fajardo-Guerrero worked with Walmart Internal Audit Services where she focused on the company’s anti-corruption program. She joined Walmart in 2007 as the Regional Senior Director for Asset Protection for Latin America Region based in Miami.
There, Fajardo-Guerrero guided the company’s strategy on comprehensive security and risk management services.
Walmart allowed her to work remotely while she cared for her ill mother. “At Walmart, it’s all about the people,” she shares.
She also worked as Managing Director for Vance and two other investigation and consulting companies. Her expansive career includes managing investigative assignments ranging from corporate internal fraud and malfeasance, due diligence and litigation support.
She holds a degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Florida, graduated as a Distinguished Military Graduate from the Army Reserves Officer Training Corps, and serves as a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers. When not at work, she serves as board member of The Two-Hundred Club of Greater Miami, a nonprofit organization benefiting families of first responders who lost their lives in the line of duty.
Fajardo-Guerrero is a founding member and serves on the board of the U.S. State Department Overseas Security Advisory Council’s Latin America Regional Council chapter based in South Florida.
She advises that career transitions aren’t without challenges but so long as an individual is open to change, collaboration, leading, everything falls into place.
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