Valerie Salazar admits she is a lucky lady, with a job that allows her to fulfill her passion every single day: “I love to help people,” she says.

For the past six years, Valerie has been a Route Process Administrator at Coca-Cola Refreshments’ busy Glendale, Arizona, location. She’s one of five people who work on the admin team at that location. “We are just a small little group,” Valerie says, but their role is an important one. “I’m in charge of all the customer service tickets (CSTs). Any help the sales folks need, whether it’s with getting orders out or any issues with customers, any time a customer calls in, whether it is good or bad, I’ll get on there and talk to the customer and find out what the issue was or what we did right. As soon as I get into the office, there are people waiting for me to help.”

Over the years, she has found that “people just want to be heard and know that you understand what they are going through. I love solving problems.”

That’s what Valerie refers to as her “actual job,” but she also plays an important role throughout the company and the larger Phoenix community.

Making an Impact Locally

As Coca-Cola’s Community Champion for Glendale, Valerie is the point person whenever anyone calls looking for help from the company. “It just feels so great to be able to help almost everyone who calls – sometimes there are things we can’t do but most of the time they just want volunteers or just a little bit of product. Most of the time they are running the events, and they just want water or Powerade for their volunteers.”

Events the Glendale team supports can range from fundraisers for important local organizations (“we just did one with the Children’s Museum of Phoenix – a 5K race where we handed out water and cheered on the runners at the finish line”), to being there for the Special Olympics, military families, hospitals, homeless programs, food banks and community gardens.

Personally, Valerie looks forward to the annual Ocean Conservancy International Coastal Cleanup event at Lake Pleasant, which is held in partnership with Keep Arizona Beautiful. In addition to providing water for everyone who participates, the Coca-Cola team gets their hands dirty for this one. “We’ve done it for six years. We are the biggest group. Whole families, including children, participate, and we clean the whole area. Everybody gets a trash bag, and we all pick up the trash. It's a lot of fun.”

Teaching About Polar Bears

Another fun part of her job is the school visits, where Valerie and some of her colleagues, including senior managers, spend time answering questions and educating students about one of Coca-Cola’s most beloved ambassadors – the Arctic polar bears. “Every year, right around the time the holiday campaign starts airing, we get a lot of calls asking for information. I usually set up the visit by going to the Coca-Cola Company’s website and researching information about the Artic Home program and presenting some of the bears that we have featured on the website. I have played the role of Coco the Bear. The kids love the interaction with the bear and it really piques their interest in our program. I would say we have visited at least three schools a year.”

A Job That Continues to Evolve

Working for Coca-Cola these past seven years has been extremely rewarding for Valerie, whose daughter recently moved to Tucson to start her freshman year at the University of Arizona. “I started as a cashier, and my job was to take the money every day from the drivers who stocked the full-service machines, count it and make the deposits every evening. I got to work on a lot of other small projects around the company, and I was able to learn a lot, which led to this opportunity. It started as a catch-all job, a new role for the company.”

It’s a job that she has helped define, and that has helped her grow personally and professionally. Before joining the Coca-Cola team, Valerie held a series of different jobs, working in catering and the hospitality industry. Now, whenever she meets new people, they are intrigued to learn about her job. “Everyone always knows where you work, and they are always so interested and have so many questions: ‘How did you get this job?’ ‘What do you do there?’ I love to answer them all!”