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Business Club speaker lives in Indiana for job in California

Always stay open to opportunities — even if it means keeping a job in California while moving home to Indiana, ULonda Sainz told Southwestern Michigan College Business Club Nov. 2. “If you’re unsure about what you want to do in life,” Sainz said, “don’t shut yourself off to opportunities you may not see coming. Be inquisitive. When we look to hire, it’s people driven to make a difference in their position. They don’t say, ‘That’s not my job.’ Hard work yields results. My career shows me that.”

Sainz, a 16-year Jack in the Box veteran, gave a glimpse behind the scenes, from how she “works remote” from Goshen to tacos outselling burgers and havoc Hurricane Harvey wreaked on Houston’s 260 restaurants.

“We had employees stuck for two to three days,” she said. “Then Irma hit Qdoba on the East Coast.”

“I’m very familiar with this area,” said Sainz, who grew up ULonda Troyer in Middlebury, attending Northridge High School.

“I had preconceived ideas of what my career would look like,” said Sainz, who grew up on a dairy farm with three brothers and a sister.

“Work ethic was drilled into me,” she said. “Graduating from high school, my intention was to teach math and coach. I was an athlete throughout high school. By the end of my first year of college, I was not so sure that’s where I fit.

“A friend of mine and I drove across country and ended up in San Diego. The trajectory of my career changed. Math teacher and coach was not where it was headed. Looking back, the progression of my career stems from choices. In high school, I took accounting, typing and shorthand, which allowed me to take my first job in California as a receptionist,” Sainz said.

Her accounting background shifted her to accounts receivable within a few months and transitioned to another company in a year and a half.

“A husband and wife owned the copier/fax business,” she said. “Eleven years later I was the operations manager, managing 30-35 people. I could sell you a fax machine, set it up for you and train your staff. I gained the total experience because I asked questions. Some people fall short and don’t take initiative (by saying), ‘It’s not my job.’ Whenever someone came to me, I always said, ‘I don’t know, let me find out.’ Choosing to go find answers expanded my understanding and enabled me to walk into Jack in the Box,” whose headquarters sat across the street from her employer.

Jack in the Box Inc., based in San Diego, is a restaurant company founded in 1951 that operates and franchises one of the nation's largest hamburger chains, with more than 2,200 restaurants in 21 states.

Guam and Hawaii restaurants serve Spam, southern outlets sold grits.

Additionally, through a wholly-owned subsidiary, the company operates and franchises Qdoba Mexican Eats, a leader in fast-casual dining, with approximately 700 restaurants in 47 states, the District of Columbia and Canada.

Sainz started supervising the distribution accounting group, which meant a substantial pay cut.

“Jack in the Box started out manufacturing hamburger patties,” she said. “We were a self-distributed fast-food company. We owned all of our distribution centers and assets such as trucks. It was a business I was not familiar with, but opened doors. After a year they offered me a position reporting on our corporate food costs, which was kind of a big deal because of exposure to upper leadership. Reporting I did is what we reported to Wall Street.”

Sainz also delved into enhancing the old mainframe system working with the information technology staff.

Commuting three to four hours a day from north of San Diego, when she became pregnant seemed time to return to northern Indiana.

“I was their first employee to work from home.” What was meant to be temporary has continued for 13 years due to her attitude.

“I made sure they never felt the three-hour time difference,” even if it meant being on the phone during her kids’ baseball games. “They don’t feel the distance because I’m always accessible,” said Sainz, who helped move Jack’s supply chain off the mainframe to Oracle.

That two-year project meant more frequent trips to San Diego.

“A year later we outsourced distribution” and Sainz added tracking contract compliance for five distribution companies, 27 distribution centers across the United States and Canada and the two brands’ more than 3,000 stores.

“I have been promoted twice while remote,” said Sainz, who oversees a staff of five. “With video conferencing, it’s easy to have dialogue in a meeting setting, I’m just on a screen. I travel, to North Carolina, Portland, Denver, you name it, and San Diego once a month.”