Employee Spotlight: Leinenkugel with Larissa Torres
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It’s hard not to walk away from a conversation with Larissa Torres feeling inspired and motivated. I recently had a chance to chat with Larissa—a sales operations analyst—to learn about her journey to Kenna Security, and it’s safe to say that it only takes a few seconds to recognize that she’s anything but ordinary. Hard work, exceeding expectations, and ambition are hallmarks of Larissa’s approach to life, and it comes as no surprise to me that her confident determination has yielded such success here at Kenna Security. Over the last two years, Larissa has played a critical role in optimizing our sales processes and strategies and ensuring that our company is in a prime position for growth. A true team player and an all-around joyful colleague, Larissa is the kind of employee that gives a leg up to any organization.
Q: Where did you grow up?
A: I was born and raised in Santa Cruz, California. The taxes in that area can be very steep, so my parents and I relocated to Chicago (where some of our family resides) when I was 19 years old. I’ve been here ever since.
Q: How did you come into this field of work?
A: I didn’t go to college right after graduating from high school. When I moved to Chicago, I decided it was time to go back to school, so I enrolled in an Associates in Business program at Morton College. Meanwhile, I joined a temp agency to gain some work experience. They helped me secure a job at Keebler (the cookie company!) in the credit and collections department. My first job there was literally to stuff envelopes with past-due invoices to customers.
From there, I moved up in roles. There was an opening in bookkeeping, which required a lot of knowledge about accounting. I had some basic understanding from my studies, but the rest of it I had to learn myself or via coaching. The support I received in that position was incredible and really helped to define the rest of my career trajectory, particularly because I lacked a four-year degree. I moved up to being a bookkeeper, then a deduction analyst, and then a credit analyst. At each step, I was taught my managers and coworkers and learned on the job. Keebler was eventually bought by Kelloggs and, not wanting to relocate to Michigan, I parted ways with the team.
I finished my Associate’s degree afterward and started looking for a new gig. I ended up NEC, a display company in Itasca, as a sales and planning analyst. The hiring manager who initially interviewed me for the role was hesitant about the fact that I didn’t have a Bachelor’s degree. She was adamant, and I had to fight through the interview to prove that my five years of experience more than makes up for the lack of a four-year degree. I walked out of the interview thinking there was no way I’d be hired. Thankfully, I was wrong. Later on, my manager confessed to me that she was intentionally pushing me in the interview to see how well I could sell myself and act under pressure. She took me under her wing and she’s been my mentor ever since.
I made the decision to leave NEC 13 years later and found a listing for a Sales Operations Analyst at Kenna Security about two years ago. I wasn’t familiar with vulnerability management and had to do a bit of research ahead of time. When I came in for my initial interview and met my manager, Kevin Jennings, I knew I wanted to work here. He has such a great attitude and energy, and I knew he’d be a fantastic manager. And the role is a fantastic fit for my skills and interests. I’ve always loved working with salespeople, and they’ve always been my customer.
Q: What keeps you motivated to get out of bed and come into work every morning?
A: In the Sales Ops world, there are always new projects, requests, and issues to work on. I also love my direct team and extended team. It’s fun to collaborate with other teams, and I feel like everyone at Kenna is very supportive and willing to help each other find the best answers.
Q: What’s the coolest project you’ve worked on here at Kenna Security?
A: The coolest and most challenging project I’ve worked on here at Kenna Security so far has been rolling out a new quoting tool at the end of last summer. It was a massive project that required all hands on deck from our entire team. It was fantastic to see a big project like that through from concept to execution. It was really exciting but also had some challenges. Altogether, it was a great learning experience. We’re actually working on another new quoting tool, too, and I’m excited to get that off the ground.
Q: What is one thing unique about you that people would be surprised if they knew?
A: I love to Salsa dance! When I moved to Chicago, I knew nothing about salsa dancing. Many people assumed I did because I’m Mexican (we’re not all born salsa dancers, guys). But I have a lot of Puerto Rican friends and salsa dancing is a huge part of our social outings. I took a few classes and picked it up pretty quickly. So, whenever I have the chance (not during the lockdown, of course), I love to go out to a salsa club and dance.
Q: Who do you think has had the largest influence on who you are as a person today?
A: The largest influence in my life from a professional standpoint was my manager at NEC. I’ve known her now for 15 years, and she still checks in with me regularly. She’s always been so selfless in sharing her knowledge and coaching me. She assigned me projects that pushed me outside of my comfort zone and would always challenge me. And if I failed at something, she would coach me through the learning process. She shaped the way I view business and how every department has to collaborate cohesively to be successful.
From a personal standpoint, I’d say the biggest influence in my life has come from my children—my 18-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son. I had my daughter when I was in my early 20s, and it helped me get my life in order and really assume responsibility. They’re both so awesome I can gush about them all day. My daughter is off to college this year to pursue Nursing, and my son is a master Lego builder and Swimmer. He is such a joy. He has autism and is doing really well in school with a bit of support.
Q: What’s your favorite family tradition?
A: I don’t really follow traditions. I’m much more of a ‘wing-it’ person, and I love being able to do what feels right at the time. My kids know this about me. We don’t always have to do the traditional tree cutting and decorating or turkey at Thanksgiving. I encourage my kids to be eclectic. If you want to put Christmas lights in the bathroom, go for it. If you want to learn about and pursue another religion, do it. I guess in a weird way, my tradition is not following traditions.
Q: What is something you think people should do at least once in their life?
A: Take a road trip. My father used to take us on road trips to Mexico every summer when I was younger. Each time, he would choose a different route in order to teach us about history in Mexico. One year, he took us down to Baja California. We went to the tip of La Paz and took a ferry across. Then we drove out to my parents’ home town, León, Guanajuato. As much as my sister and I complained about being in the back of the truck or in a camper with no air conditioning, those were some of the best memories of our childhood. And I try to do the same thing with my kids, even if it’s just driving to Minneapolis on the fly to check out the Mall of America.
Q: Top 5 songs for your road trip playlist?
- “As” by Stevie Wonder
- “Unknown Brother” by The Black Keys
- ”Have you ever seen the rain?” by Creedence Clearwater
- “Todo Tiene Su Final” by Hector Lavoe
- “California Love” by Tupac
Q: Ice cream or milkshake?
A: Ice cream
Q: Stargazing or walk on the beach?
A: Walk on the beach
Q: Road trip or plane ride?
A: Road trip
Q: One horse-sized duck or 10 duck-sized horses?
A: One horse-sized duck
Q: Superman or Batman?