Margarita Calo left Puerto Rico 21 years ago and carved out a new life in Florida, but her heart has never strayed far from her roots.
Now a member of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando, she helped contact members of the organization last year to understand their needs and provide guidance about resources during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I always have a passion to continue supporting the Hispanic community even though I’m no longer living in Puerto Rico,” Calo said. “Last year was a pretty tough year for everyone. Hispanics are a close-knit community; I consider each and every one part of my extended familia, and as a familia we all help each other.
“I feel proud to be part of a company that extended a helping hand to my community in 2017 when Puerto Rico experienced the impact of Hurricane Maria, a deadly category 5. Duke crews flew into Ponce, Puerto Rico, and assisted with restoration efforts.”
Calo previously chaired the Duke Energy employee resource group, Latinos Energizing Diversity, helping organize events and activities to educate teammates about the Hispanic community and about Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 to Oct. 15).
Calo said she believes strongly in a diverse workforce.
“Every company needs to have employees and teams who represent their customer base,” she said. “That way, you have different perspectives based on different backgrounds. That makes everything stronger and better.”
Learn more about Duke Energy's commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.
Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 to Oct. 15) was established to recognize the cultures and contributions of Hispanic Americans. Sept. 15 is the anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.
At Duke Energy, Calo is the maintenance and strategy manager in Duke Energy Florida’s Distribution Organization, overseeing 12 people and the maintenance of components that extend over 18,000 miles of overhead distribution lines and about 14,000 circuit miles of underground cable. That includes roughly 1 million poles.
Jason Flynt, director of Asset Management, praised Calo for her work both in and outside the company.
“Margarita has a great desire for continual learning, which extends beyond Duke Energy,” Flynt said. “She brings tremendous skills to our team and is a joy to work with. She is also involved in several committees outside of Duke Energy, and I’m proud she represents us so well.”
Calo’s professional journey spans 1,200 miles and a number of jobs. After getting her bachelor’s degree with a concentration in accounting from the Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico, she performed audits and provided litigation support for public accounting firms in Puerto Rico. In 2000, she decided to take a break from her job to get CPA certification. She moved to Orlando and lived with her sister.
Instead of returning to Puerto Rico as planned, she stayed in Orlando and took a job in finance. One job led to another until she landed at Duke Energy in 2007.
“My daughter was two years old at the time,” she said. “I was looking for a healthier job that fit my family needs. I came over to Duke Energy in the finance department.”
One job led to another.
“Duke Energy is a great company that allows you to move in a path toward what your passion is,” Calo said. “I was working in finance supporting operations. This experience sparked an interest in operations as a career path. I put on a hard hat, went out in a truck and saw what linemen do on a daily basis. I learned more and more about what operations is and what is involved.”
She has represented Duke Energy on the board of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando for three years and is a member of its finance committee.
“Having someone like Margarita, who is a Hispanic woman that is very strategic, is crucial for us because she’s a strong role model,” said chamber CEO Gaby Ortigoni. “She’s the type of leader who, when taking action, does it quietly, and makes a very strong impact due to her excellent analytical skills, extensive knowledge of operations and her corporate experience.”
This year, Calo was selected to take part in Leadership Seminole, a program that brings professionals together to focus on issues affecting the community.
Outside of work, she and her partner, Herbert Franco, are raising four daughters. The couple met early in their careers and reacquainted years later over Facebook. Franco, who also grew up in Puerto Rico, now works for Duke Energy as a senior business analyst in the energy efficiency group.
They have put down roots in central Florida, home to 1.1 million Hispanic residents. But Calo said she will never forget where she came from. It’s her hope that based on her own experiences she can help other Hispanics navigate the complexities of the business world.