TARRYTOWN, N.Y. -- Armed with just a willing heart and a fetching smile, Carolina Montanico has risen from an entry-level custodial job at age 19 to general manager of the Tarrytown McDonald's and was recently awarded the 2014 Outstanding General Manager Award for the giant international fast-food corporation.
Montanico has climbed the managerial ladder that began with cleaning floors on the late shift, taking her first job as an American immigrant just one month after moving from Guatamala in 1988. She said she began her career as an insecure young woman with a language barrier.
"I would smile, clean the floors and tables, and help the customers if I could, and that was all I could do when I first started," the Tarrytown resident said. "Being at McDonald's helped me learn the language, get to know how to communicate and gave me confidence."
Montanico has also served as a mentor to her employees and contributor to the local community during her 26-year career, organizing and overseeing fundraisers for The Salvation Army, Ronald McDonald House of Greater Hudson Valley, churches and other local organizations at McDonald’s.
"I have always had the support of my family and the community -- my church -- and so I am involved in any way I can to represent McDonald's in what I do," she said. "The most important thing is that I want to be a mentor to young people, who, like me, may feel insecure about their first job. Taking a part-time or job at McDonald's can teach responsibility, discipline and good work skills."
Montanico was also the recipient of the prestigious Crew Member of the Year Award in 1991, which recognizes the top-performing crew in the country and one employee per region in the United States (22 in total).
The now-experienced manager and leader recalled meeting a former employee she had helped along the way in a local parking lot. The young man stopped to thank her for his time as a staffer and said he had graduated college and was enjoying his new career.
"Knowing that you have helped a young person move on to success is so wonderful," she said. "I know it seems like a job at McDonald's isn't much, but it is. It was an opportunity to show what I could do. It's a home for me now. I found a career and a work family. And I can be a positive person in my community."
And all Carolina Montanico began with was a willing heart and a fetching smile, both of which have grown as she has.