In celebration with the Hispanic Heritage Month, we have Chris Cindy Cordova on the podcast today. She is a full-time MBA, class of 2020, fresh graduate, and alumni. Before Haas, she studied aeronautical and astronautical engineering at Stanford and worked several years with Honeywell in various roles. She’s currently a Sr. Product Manager at Amazon Web Services aside from being an awesome mother.
Chris talks about her struggles and successes growing up from an immigrant family from El Salvador. She shares her experience of going to a school that was 1-5 hrs away from her home so she could join a gifted program, the people in her life that made it possible for her to get the best education she could have given her circumstances, and how much her mother’s sacrifices for her and her siblings gave her the motivation to succeed and accomplish her dreams.
She also talks about her career as an astronautical engineer, why she’s passionate about it, and how it was to be the only woman or Latina in an industry that’s dominated by white men.
Chris is also passionate about increasing the representation of women and minorities in tech and entrepreneurship. She aims to provide more funding and create more opportunities for people of color.
Lastly, she shares her experience being a mother of three daughters and balancing her time between that and being a career woman.
“One of the main things that I have learned and I try to teach my kids is not to be afraid, to stand up for yourself, and to pursue the passions that you have regardless of who’s around you or who’s not, what people are saying or what they’re not.”
“Find the mentors and the champions that will help you, even if they don’t look like you, even if they can’t relate. The people who don’t look like you can also be champions for you and not being afraid to reach out to them and not being afraid to ask for help when you need it, I think that’s been crucial for me.”
“I want them to see the example that I saw in my mom of this hardworking woman who did not let any limitations hold her back. I want my kids to be able to see that and to see that there are no limitations for them, especially because they have so many more opportunities and advantages that I didn’t have when I was growing up.”
“We want them to recognize their privilege because despite being a minority, they are also privileged with having parents that are educated and having opportunities. And we want them to use that privilege for good and to be the voice for those who can’t speak for themselves.”
Sean: Welcome to the OneHaas alumni podcast. I’m your host, Sean Li. And to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re joined by Chris Cindy Cordova, a full-time MBA class of 2020, fresh graduate, and alumni. Welcome to the podcast.
[00:00:15] Chris: Thanks, Sean. I’m excited to be here.
[00:00:17] Sean: How does it feel to be on the other side now, you know, done with school?
[00:00:20] Chris: That’s very refreshing. I graduated during COVID times, I think, for a moment there, I thought maybe graduation wasn’t gonna happen. So, it’s really refreshing to be on this other side.
[00:00:34] Sean: Yeah. You guys didn’t have a commencement either, right?
[00:00:37] Chris: We didn’t.
[00:00:37] Sean: Yeah, that’s getting pushed to next, next May, I believe.
[00:00:40] Chris: Yeah.
[00:00:40] Sean: I was really curious about that. I’m asking this question too because I know you’re a mother of three daughters, you’re in the full-time program. So, extremely busy. Do you feel a void now that school has gone or has work filled that in?
[00:00:55] Chris: Work has definitely filled in the void. I don’t feel a void. I think it’s more manageable now that I’m not in school. My deadlines are a little bit more flexible and I kind of manage my own schedule, so that helps.
[00:01:10] Sean: So funny. That’s one thing I’ve been asking fresh grads because I start to feel this like I miss school a little bit. You’re still up in the Bay, right?
[00:01:20] Chris: I’m not. I’m in Seattle now.
[00:01:21] Sean: Oh, you’re Seattle. Okay. Was your family from Seattle before?
[00:01:25] Chris: No. I got a job offer from Amazon and so we moved the family here. It was not on the radar before this.
[00:01:33] Sean: That’s amazing. Okay. That makes sense. Let’s take our listeners through your life journey, starting with where you were born.
[00:01:42] Chris: I was born and raised in LA, South Central LA.
[00:01:45] Sean: Okay.
[00:01:46] Chris: Yeah. I was both born and raised right at the border of Watson Compton. Like literally blocks away from both. That’s my neighborhood. I went to school mostly in East LA, actually, from K through 8 and then in South Central after that, so I was bused around quite a bit but always in black and brown schools.
[00:02:04] Sean: Why did you go to school in East LA?
[00:02:06] Chris: At the time, so this was in the nineties, the schools in South Central were considered not the best. In LA USD, they were once some of the lowest-performing schools. I tested into the gifted program when I was in kindergarten. And so, my teacher recommended I go to a school that has a gifted program that was not in my neighborhood.
[00:02:25] And she was afraid of how I would deal with being in a school that was not primarily minority because I didn’t have any experience going to schools like that. So, she was the one that suggested that school in East LA and so that’s where I went. We didn’t really know much about what bought schools at the time.
[00:02:44] So once I went to school in East LA, everybody in my class was Latino and we were all in the gifted program. So, it was an interesting experience.
[00:02:53] Sean: How did the transportation work? I can imagine that was, that couldn’t have been easy.
[00:02:59] Chris: No. Yeah, it took the school bus every morning. Had to be at the school bus stop by 6:30 in the morning to get to school on time. And then, on the way back would get to get back home like between 4:30 and 5 most days.
[00:03:13] So I didn’t really have afterschool programs or any of that because most of my time was on the school bus.
[00:03:18] Sean: In LA traffic.
[00:03:19] Chris: In LA traffic. Yeah. I was always the last stop too. So, it took the whole time.
[00:03:36] Sean: That’s like as a kid, I can’t imagine you had to go through just to be able to go to a better school. That’s amazing. Tell us a little bit about your family. Like where’s your family from? Because I don’t want to say Hispanic heritage month is such a misnomer but it’s such a broad term, right? I was actually even looking up the other day, the difference between Hispanic and Latino, and they’re used interchangeably, but I actually don’t know if there’s a preference between the two. But first off, where’s your family from?
[00:04:26] Chris: Yeah. So, my parents are both from El Salvador. They both immigrated here during the civil war. So, if you don’t know, El Salvador had an 11-year long civil war throughout the ’80s into the 91. And a lot of people were displaced during that time, either thru death or migration. So, both my parents were some of the people who fled during that time.
[00:04:50] And they met in LA, got married in LA, and then I came out of that in LA. And they were both, at the time, they were both garment workers. They worked in sweatshops in downtown LA. I think I believe that’s how they met actually. But my mom continued to work in sweatshops for quite some time.
[00:05:08] My dad actually left the industry to start his own business. He started a trucking business. So, he gathered money to buy trucks and that on his own, um, his brothers were also part of the family business. And so, he did that for a while. He passed away actually when I was five years old.
[00:05:28] So, after that I was raised just by my mom and me and my three other siblings. And, we were very low income. We lived at the time in South Central. Just barely making ends meet. For periods of time, we were on food stamps, on welfare at sometimes. From my dad’s death, my siblings and I experienced a lot of trauma.
[00:05:53] And so my mom couldn’t really work because she had to really be there, especially for my sister. So financially, it was just really difficult for her. But we had what we needed, she always made sure that we had what we needed and she also did a lot of side jobs, making clothes and selling it or making quick way to those, there are these like party favors that we use for quinceañeras and like Latino events. And so, she would make those to sell them as well.
[00:06:19] Sean: Wow. Are you the oldest or the youngest?
[00:06:22] Chris: I’m not. I’m the second. My oldest sister is 10 years older than I am. She was actually born in El Salvador also, so she migrated to the US with my mom.
[00:06:30] Sean: I see. That’s amazing. I guess growing up, were there any defining moments that you remember? Because I imagine something transformative must have happened for you to ultimately end up at Stanford.
[00:06:43] Chris: Yeah, there were a lot of transformative moments. I think for me, it starts with my father’s death. That was a pretty defining moment for me. He committed suicide and I was five years old and I sob it so that it had a big impact on me emotionally.
[00:07:01] But also as time went on, I think it defined a lot of how I saw my mom and how I saw her struggle. So, you know, just see how hard she worked to make sure that we were okay and that we had what we needed. She valued education a lot and she made sure she instilled that in us. And so even though she was working all these side jobs and trying to make ends meet, she was also going to community college in the evenings to better her English efforts and then to do child dedication classes.
[00:07:36] And so just seeing her work that hard, to me it made me feel like I have no excuse to not succeed and to not accomplish my dreams because she’s worked hard for me already and she’s laid the groundwork for me and as low income and as disadvantage maybe I was at the time, I didn’t see it that way because I saw my mom’s example and I saw that if she can work that hard, then I can work just as hard or try to work just as hard to accomplish my dreams and not just help myself but also help her.
[00:08:11] Sean: Wow. So, let’s fast forward a little bit to Stanford. How do we go from Southcentral to aeronautical, aerospace, and astronautical engineering?
[00:08:25] Chris: Yeah. Yeah. I have a hard time explaining that because it wasn’t a clear journey for me. I was lucky to have a lot of great teachers along the way who helped open doors for me and without them, I wouldn’t have been able to do any of it. And starting with my kindergarten teacher who even told us anything about what the gifted program was and what school to go to, that was like the first step there.
[00:08:51] But even along the way, you know, I had great math and science teachers and in middle school who told me about engineering. Had no idea what engineering was for a long time. And, you know, they helped teach me what that was and why I should even look into it as a career. And in high school, a lot of my teachers were extremely supportive, my counselors who were very supportive in helping me find what schools I can apply to.
[00:09:16] All of them played a big role in my life. There were a lot of nonprofits that I was also involved with. So, Coca-Cola at the time they had this nonprofit that now I think they’re separate from them but they’re called C5. At the time they’re called Campaign Rock.
[00:09:31] And they helped us learn about college and A through G requirements and just everything that we needed to know about how to get into college. And so, all of those things just lined up to lay the groundwork for me to be able to even apply to college and to even think of Stanford as a possibility.
[00:09:46] That organization, actually, I convinced the director to take me to see Stanford on a college tour. So, we took a little detour from the original college tours so I could see Stanford because I really wanted to go there. So, that’s how I think, you know, all of that led up to me and ending up at Stanford.
[00:10:03] When I got there, I was still learning what engineering was. I still didn’t really have an idea of what it was. I couldn’t even really think of what a career would look like because I had never met an engineer in my life before. And Stanford actually has this really great summer program for incoming freshmen, underrepresented minority freshmen, who might be interested in engineering, doctoral, no, he lives on a, one of the deans at the time there, he started this program to bring in freshmen for five weeks before school starts, spend those five weeks on campus and take different engineering classes with different professors to learn about the different types of engineering tracks. And yeah, that was really where I learned what is an engineer and what is it that I’m actually going to study if I study this.
[00:10:54] I’ve always had a passion for space and flight. I think it comes from my dad who was really into the model airplanes. We used to go watch flight shows for model airplanes. And I was always really interested in it. I never thought it could be a career but when I was there and listening to the professors, taking these like sample classes with them, I realized that I really enjoyed that.
[00:11:18] I had a passion for that. And so, from there on I started studying aerospace engineering and at the time was actually the only undergrad in the program because it was an independent study major. It wasn’t an official major yet. And so, I was the only undergrad taking it. And then after me came larger and larger classes. But I was only the undergrad taking classes with graduate students there. And it was a great experience.
[00:11:43] Sean: That’s cool.
[00:11:44] Sean: You were taking undergraduate courses with graduate students, so it was as graduate coursework as effectively.
[00:11:52] Chris: It was, yeah. The major was designed so that I took half of the coursework in mechanical engineering, the undergrad mechanical engineering coursework, and then the other half was electives and that were graduate courses.
[00:12:04] Sean: I see that’s, that’s amazing.
[00:12:06] Sean: What is the difference between aerospace and aeronautical?
[00:12:10] Chris: So, the actual major is aeronautical and astronautical.
[00:12:13] Sean: Oh, got it. Got it.
[00:12:15] Chris: So, aeronautics are things that fly like airplanes, things that fly in our atmosphere. Astronautical are things that fly outside of our atmosphere.
[00:12:23] Sean: And then what does aerospace mean? Does that just encompass everything?
[00:12:28] Chris: Yeah. Yeah. Anything that flies.
[00:12:31] Sean: Okay. I wrote down the notes wrong. No, cause you worked at Honeywell, right, in aerospace. And does Honeywell do both, aeronautical and astronautical?
[00:12:43] Chris: They do. Yeah, they work on mostly components of both space and airplanes. So, space could be, they have a lot of NASA contracts. With the, at the time, the space shuttle and then also satellites, things like that. And then I worked mostly in the jet engine propulsion unit. Mostly private airplanes and building engines for private airplanes.
[00:13:09] Sean: Can you share with us a little bit more about what you did there?
[00:13:13] Chris: I worked on a lot of things but the majority of the time I spent it on designing jet engines. I was a project engineer and was working on how to make our jet engines more efficient. Different combustion and compressor designs, gearbox designs. I did some work on alternative propulsion engines as well.
[00:13:36] So things like hydrogen and fuel cells and things like that. So did a lot of different things, in terms of how do we make things fly more, better, and more efficiently. And that was the product manager for mechanical components.
[00:13:53] Sean: That’s just, I can’t even wrap my head around that. As a layman, that does sound so cool that when I get into a plane, cause I was flying every week right up to Berkeley. I just think every time, just think it’s such a miracle that this thing with these thin little wings can just take off and just soar through the skies. And it’s just amazing how it all works.
[00:14:17] Chris: Yeah. I always tell people, like, even though I know how it works, I still am amazed cause I do think there’s a lot of, I don’t want to call it magic because obviously there’s something behind how it works, but it’s just magical how it all comes together, you know? And I actually worked as an accident investigation for a while so I also know what could go wrong and even that, like, it is so many different things that have to line up in the wrong way for it to go wrong or fatally wrong. And just that, I think it’s amazing. That’s why I enjoyed working in it so much.
[00:14:52] Sean: What’s amazing is, did you ever do any industrial engineering work?
[00:14:57] Chris: I did. Yeah. In the beginning of my career, I was a manufacturing engineer and did a lot of industrial types. Yeah.
[00:15:03] Sean: Okay. Cause I learned about industrial engineering from Bree Jenkins. And it just, as I’m thinking about what you’re saying, designing an engine is one thing but then another industrial engineer has to figure out how to assemble it, how to build this thing.
[00:15:22] And I remember last April, last year’s spring break for SIB study and international seminar and international business. So that’s an international trip that we have in the part-time program
[00:15:45] Sean: Our SIB was in Brazil and they took us to go visit Embraer. And we got to see just the assembly facility. And it is mind-blowing how these massive warehouses and the plane, just starts with the assembly of the individual tube rings, to make the tube of the cabin. And then we’re just looking at this, like, how does someone figure out how to put this thing together? Because there are so many pieces. And there’s so much, obviously, components that go into electrical and you’re looking at this complex thing, you’re like, this is what we’re flying in.
[00:16:30] Chris: Yeah.
[00:16:31] Sean: And just the engineering and the precision that needs to go into it. And us learning about RFID tagging of like tools so that if you bring a tool pass this line, it needs to make sure that it goes back and it’s not just sitting in the plane somewhere, just like the amount of engineering all around that goes into it just is unbelievable.
[00:16:54] Chris: Yeah. Just to build an engine, it takes hundreds of engineers working together and each one is specializing on one component and then the project engineers like me are like trying to bring it all together and make sure that everything works together. Even that and that’s just one engine, right?
[00:17:10] There are hundreds of other components in the airplane as well, then.
[00:17:13] Sean: Yeah. That is so cool. Did you get to work on any, uh, astronautical stuff?
[00:17:38] Chris: So, I worked very little on space products. I did work on when I was a product manager. So, I didn’t actually build these, it was more proposals that I was working with Blue Origin and Space X and NASA on some of the crafts that they were working on at the time and helping them develop actuators and valves for some of those crafts, but nothing that I actually designed or built.
[00:18:05] Sean: That’s still cool. That’s so, so amazing. Let me ask you this. I mean, how many Hispanic, aeronautical, astronautical engineers, do you know.
[00:18:16] Chris: I don’t think I know any actually.
[00:18:19] Sean: Cool. Isn’t that crazy? That’s crazy. Right.
[00:18:22] Chris: When I was working at Honeywell, so I worked there from 2010 to 2017, I believe and there were just a handful of times that I can tell you that I was in a room where I was not the only woman, that was only a handful of times and in the room with another Latino, that’s probably even less times.
[00:18:48] I’m like trying to think of when there should have been at least one or two, but I can’t even think of when that was. So, there’s not very many of us there.
[00:18:56]Sean: I imagine, there might be alumni who might be listening to this in the car with their kids, what’s some advice or just hindsight wisdom that you can give to the URM kids of the next generation to believe in themselves that not only anything’s possible, they can become, and I still can’t even remember the words, aeronautical, astronautical, aeronautical and astronautical engineer. I guess my question is more around, in one way you say that there are these externalities that influenced you. And in a way, your story is an externality. It’s an influence on someone else potentially listening to this.
[00:19:44] Is there any advice you can give?
[00:19:45] Chris: So, I think one of the main things that I have learned and I try to and my kids are not to be afraid to stand up for yourself and to pursue the passions that you have regardless of who’s around you or who’s not, what people are saying or what they’re not.
[00:20:04] But just to push through. I think as a young engineer, early on in my career, there were times when I thought, I don’t know if I should continue doing this and I might maybe step away from this, because of the lack of representation and there was just so much I didn’t know and just couldn’t find people that I could relate to, to help me get through some of those issues that I was having.
[00:20:36] Sean: Right.
[00:20:37] Chris: I think the other big piece about that is also finding the mentors and the champions that will help you, even if they don’t look like you, even if they can’t relate. And I think I find myself very lucky to have found those people.
[00:20:56] Some of the leaders at Honeywell that I was able to form friendships with and they were white and male, so not, did not look like me, couldn’t necessarily relate to my story, but they valued my story and they took the time to go get to know me and to get to know what I cared about and what I wanted to do with my career and helped me form the path that I needed to get there.
[00:21:21] And, without them I wouldn’t have been able to move forward. Although there is a lack of representation in tech and then these more science-based careers, I think it’s something that’s changing. And I think even if you can’t find the people that look like you, even the people who don’t look like you can also be champions for you and not being afraid to reach out to them and not being afraid to ask for help when you need it. I think that’s been crucial for me.
[00:21:54] Sean: That is really great advice. Thank you so much for sharing that. Let’s move on. So, you were a Honeywell for what, almost eight years or seven yeah, okay. What’s inspired you to come to pursue an MBA?
[00:22:08] Chris: While I was at Honeywell, I think Honeywell was a great launching place for my career. They gave me a lot of great opportunities and I got to do a lot of different kinds of roles and responsibilities that helped me see how a business works at a high level. Within that, I started learning that there were some things that just weren’t working. And, over time I was in a product manager position. It was actually a product marketing specialist but I did a lot of product management work during that. One of the things that I was really struggling with is aerospace is a very risk-averse industry.
[00:22:45] Because we can’t afford any kind of risk, people die if you take risks that don’t work out. So, because of that, it’s really difficult to innovate. It’s really difficult to do something different. And even if you have an idea of this great thing that will make the airplane more efficient or make it greener, whatever it is, it’s really difficult to push against, to push change through the company and just the industry in general.
[00:23:16] I was having a hard time with how do I even lead my teams to think in an innovative way? How do I communicate my message to leadership so that they understand why this is important?
[00:23:32] I had some wins but I also had other things were other times where I was just like, it’s just not working out. Something’s not clicking. And I think this is more about me and who I am as a leader and who I want to be as a leader. And I need to step outside of this industry for a little bit to be able to learn how to do this effectively.
[00:23:54] And the way that I felt I could best do that is by going back getting an MBA. I wanted to get an MBA from a school that was specifically focused on technology and innovation. And I was specifically interested in learning from startups and the startup culture because I think there’s a lot of really interesting ways of innovating that happens at startups that don’t happen in large companies. And I wanted to learn more about like what is that, what makes that happen? And so that’s why Haas was a very natural school for me to be attracted to. And I also wanted something where, you know, because I had been there for so long, I had been there for seven years.
[00:24:37] A lot of my peers were doing like part-time programs at ASU but I felt like if I didn’t completely step away from it, I wasn’t going to completely learn what I wanted to learn. And so, I needed to do a full-time program that would take me completely outside of this industry and company and just refocus how I thought about leadership.
[00:24:57] Sean: There’s the, once you came to Haas, I noticed that you explored product management at Amazon, right? You had an internship there but you also had an internship at the venture capital firm, Flexible Capital.
[00:25:27] I’m just really curious to hear, what was pushing you towards the venture capital space?
[00:25:32] Chris: So, I feel like I have a lot of different things that I’m passionate about and then trying to figure out how to turn that into a career has been one of my struggles, but what I, the way I see it is I have my, what I want to do as a career. And then I have all these side things that I want to work on.
[00:25:49] I love technology. I love innovation and leading teams. I really enjoy product management. So that’s why Amazon for me was just a really great fit. But on the side, the other thing that I’m really passionate about is how do we route capital to more entrepreneurs of color.
[00:26:08] That’s something that I’ve thought a lot about and throughout many years and have dabbled in here and there. But the main issue I see is I, and I specifically think about my community. So, you know, South Central LA but also just like the Latino community that I’m familiar with. I’ve mostly run in largely immigrant Spanish speaking Latino community.
[00:26:33] And, what I see is a group of people that are very entrepreneurial. I know so many people that have, you know, have launched their own businesses and small businesses, but they’re doing great things and they’re very scrappy. Everything that you think of when you think of a typical entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, right.
[00:26:53] Very scrappy. They do a lot with just very little resources. They’re very passionate, they’re working day and night to make these dreams happen, but I don’t see enough of them getting the kind of capital and mentorship and all these great things that Silicon Valley entrepreneurs get. And I see that as a really big problem and because of the spaces I’ve been able to be in, even though my career is very different from entrepreneurship or VC, but the circles that I’ve been able to be in through Stanford and through Haas and through, you know, all these different things that I’ve done on the side, I feel like I’ve learned so much about how this industry works that I want to figure out how to create opportunities for more people of color, too, to have the same kind of resources.
[00:27:37] The other big thing is you see a lot of entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley who’ve dropped out of high school and college and get millions of dollars in funding to launch companies that just doesn’t happen in my neighborhood, you know, and people drop out of college, out of high school and that’s it, you know, you’re working a minimum wage job.
[00:27:58] And I see that as so unfair because the talent is there. They just don’t have the capital to make it happen. And so, it’s one of the areas that I’m very passionate and I’m in and also interested in continuing to work on that’s one of my side projects. So, I did this internship with Plexo capital.
[00:28:19] Lo Tony, he is one of the biggest VCs, he’s very passionate about underrepresented minorities, has done great things in terms of routing funding to LPs of color and women, as well as companies, and made great investments in some of these companies.
[00:28:39] And so I wanted to learn from him. I got in touch with him through one of the EW students last year. And I just wanted to learn from him. I really just wanted to spend the time talking to him and learning more about how he got to where he is and how he thinks about these investments.
[00:28:56] And then trying to learn more about how can I do this myself? So, it was a great experience to do that. At the time I was also president of the VC clubs. So, I really dove into VC while I was there as a passion more than as a career. And, now that I’m here in Seattle, I am volunteering with a nonprofit called Ventures Nonprofit.
[00:29:18] And what they do is specifically help small businesses. Mostly URM small businesses, get an education on how to run a business as well as funding. They do microloans. And so, I’ve been volunteering with some of their classes on business basics. So just how do you build a business plan?
[00:29:36] Like how do you understand your cash flow? Like, you know, just the basics of how to run a business. And I think that’s one of the first steps to like helping these businesses to be successful. But then the next thing I want to work on in the future is also how do we get more of that funding to them?
[00:29:53] Sean: I think it’s so important that you’re doing this work because we just had this conversation, we interviewed as part of the undergraduate Haas alumni podcast. It’s a secret side project that we’re booting up for the undergrads out of Haas. And, there’s this alumni, Sally Jian, which is a published episode this week. She is a head at the corporate venture arm of SAP.io and she was saying, one of the things that she was telling us was that she cares a lot about women and URMs and founders of color and the initiatives that SAP is pushing out there and the reasoning, which is something I never really thought about until she brought it up.
[00:30:42] And I’m sure, where this is that, how do you not have these, how do you not support these founders, female and founders of color, because not only do they make up a huge percentage of the population but how do you build products for them without their representation.
[00:31:00] How do you think about innovation and from a product or service standpoint without including these people? Right? Because then you’re just building isolation. You’re not necessarily building products and services that are beneficial to everybody. So, I was like, wow, that’s very true. Never thought about that.
[00:31:21] Chris: Yeah. It’s an underserved population for sure. And I think, as we talk more about funding women, for example, we’re starting to get more women-founded companies. And now we have companies like Frida, who they design things around like mature post-maternity products that, you know, when I had my kids, I would have loved to have these products.
[00:31:44] And I always thought like, why doesn’t anyone sell products for that post-maternity time and no one even talks about what do you need? But they’re designing it, right. And they’re selling it now. And just an obvious thing when you’re a woman and going through it but until we start thinking about this and thinking about how do we fund minorities then how we’re not gonna be able to make those strides and serving those communities.
[00:32:08] And, same with the Latino community, growing Latino. It’s a growing community in the US, it’s one of the fastest-growing groups in the US but without entrepreneurs that are serving at this is a growing market that we’re not serving right now.
[00:32:25] Sean: Yeah. This is an area that I’m also very interested in. I think after banking, the end goal for me was always to have found businesses and sold them. I was like to enter the VC space, that’s the natural progression. But then after exploring VC a little bit, I realized my heart was still on the creation side, the founders’ side.
[00:32:44] I still want to build stuff but just the aspect of advisory and mentorship, right, is so important. So critical. And even just yesterday, I was telling my brother that I really need to be more proactive about seeking out advisors and mentors for the businesses that I’m building because part of the reason why as an entrepreneur went to business school, there’s a limitation as to what I can teach myself.
[00:33:10] I’m very scrappy. I’m very savvy. Student always. I’m always reading. I’m only reading what I know to read. I’m only learning what I’m aware of what I should learn. It’s that whole, you don’t know what you don’t know and that’s where I think having the VCs around, especially for people of color and women is just so important to be able to provide that level of support on top of the money.
[00:33:37] Chris: Right. There’s just so much that you don’t know what you don’t know if and I think it’s having that outside perspective, especially from the people who are providing the funding and are seeing other companies, they can help you see those blind spots that you’re not seeing.
[00:33:52] Sean: Yeah. Any other stories you want to share? I guess from your perspective as a Hispanic American, that has shaped your life. I guess during your career at Honeywell, during your time at Haas, or even after Haas.
[00:34:10] Chris: I guess the one other part of my life I haven’t talked very much about is just being a mother. And I don’t know if you want to talk to that or not.
[00:34:18] Sean: Yeah, a hundred percent.
[00:34:20] Sean: Tell us what it’s like to be an engineer at Honeywell and being a mother of three and then coming to business school. I just had a baby, my last semester of business school and that was rough. And I was very fortunate to be able to be at home with the whole working from home, COVID thing so it actually worked out pretty well, but I can’t imagine challenges that you had to face as a mother.
[00:34:44] Chris: Yeah. So, having three kids during COVID was definitely tough. And being in business school during that time but I think for me, my kids have always been my motivation. So, I had my kids young. I actually had my oldest while I was at Stanford. So being a mother and being in school wasn’t new to me, I’ve done it before.
[00:35:06] But I also didn’t have three kids at the time. It was just one. But it was, I think it’s shaped a lot of how I think about my career and how I think about just how passionate I am about my career because I have three girls and I feel like, you know, I want them to see the example that I saw in my mom of this hardworking woman who did not let any limitations hold her back.
[00:35:33] And she continues even to this day to work towards her dreams. And I want my kids to be able to see that and to see that there are no limitations for them, especially because they have so many more opportunities and advantages that I didn’t have when I was growing up. They’re growing in a whole other world than I was.
[00:35:55] I want them to have the examples of both professional woman in a professional career in the US that I didn’t see when I was growing up. But at the same time, I also want them to be very connected and proud of who they are, of their heritage.
[00:36:13] To me being Latino is really important. Everywhere I go, I can’t hide how I look, you know? No, I’m obviously brown. I’m not even white presenting. I’m obviously brown. And that has an impact everywhere I go, whether it’s positive or negative, it has an impact.
[00:36:29] And I’m proud of that. I’m proud of my people. I’m proud of my heritage and I want them to be proud as well, especially because unlike me who grew up in schools that were mostly Latino and black, they’re growing up in schools that are mostly white. And now they’re in Seattle, there’s actually more Asians than in some of the schools that they were in previously.
[00:36:51] But Latinos and black students are under 10% in most of the schools. And in fact, you’re like 6, 5%, most of the time. So they really are the minority now. But I want them to be proud of that. I feel like I go out of my way a lot of times to make sure that they’re learning about their culture and they’re learning about our history, even our history in the US that’s not talked about, that and that they’re learning how it may present itself in the workforce. I want them to know you can do anything you want to do but I also warn them about some of the struggles they might face as they’re doing that and how to overcome some of those struggles. So, we have a lot of conversations around what is it like to be the only woman or the only brown person in a room and lead these meetings. Now during COVID, they get to hear me leading some of these meetings and talk about, we have these conversations around the dinner table of what is it like to be that, you know, to be the woman who’s leading these meetings when no one else really relates to you.
[00:37:56] My husband is also Latino and he works in the education space at community colleges. And he has seen both from the administration and on the students’ side, the struggles that Latino students face so this is something that’s very present in how we talk to our kids and how we instruct them. We want them to recognize their privilege because despite being a minority, they are also privileged with having parents that are educated and having opportunities that around like just knowing the world and knowing different cultures that we were not exposed to.
[00:38:33] And we want them to use that privilege for good and to be the voice for those who can’t speak for themselves.
[00:38:40] Sean: You know, this brings up a question, and it’s not often I get to ask this question and hear this perspective but, you know, with all the rhetoric that’s been going on in this country since Trump came into the presidency, what kind of impact has it had on your family and your kids, especially because you guys are of El Salvadorian descends and for our listeners, Chris is wearing a closed the camp’s t-shirt, what kind of effect has that had? And what are the conversations that you guys are having to have with your kids?
[00:39:13] Chris: I think for a lot of people since 2016, it’s been a rough time, I think, for people of color and especially the Latino community. That’s been an even harder time. I, yeah, I think I can illustrate this the most with my oldest daughter. She’s now 12 years old. She was born in 2008 when Obama was elected as president. And she actually ended up being very passionate about politics from a very young age. So, her first election that she knew about when she was four years old, she was actually like really we into it, like more than I was, she was watching all the debates. I don’t think she understood a lot of all this happening but she was just really interested and asking a lot of questions.
[00:39:57] And during election night she wanted to have an election night party and it was just our family, but like she wants, she plans everything. She wanted cakes and balloons and snacks and all kinds of things because she wanted to celebrate the election. And so, since then, it became a family tradition that on election night we have a family election night party.
[00:40:18] And we talk about the election and when she was eight years old, she, uh, the next election, she also did the same thing, watched all the debates and everything. That’s it on the 2016 election. I can tell you it was really rough because she was watching everything. She was hearing the rhetoric around, you know, the bad, all this stuff about how Mexico is sending that people and build the wall and all of these things. And, as a child, as an eight-year-old, there’s only so much she could really comprehend what that meant. But what she did understand was that it was seeing her as a Brown person, as someone who has family in Mexico and El Salvador because my husband has family in Mexico.
[00:41:01] That her family was somehow bad people and that the whole build the wall thing, it really impacted her. Like she cried many times asking, like, am I like never going to be able to see my family in Mexico, because if they built the wall like maybe I won’t be able to visit them anymore.
[00:41:18] And we had to have these conversations with her. You’re safe and don’t worry. Like we will take care of you. But there’s only so much reassurance we can give her. Wouldn’t like so much it’s up in the air and this rhetoric is happening. That night, for many other people, it was really rough on us.
[00:41:36] And especially for her, she went to sleep crying that election day night, the next day week. She stayed home from school and we had to stay home from work, to be there with her because she took it very deeply. It was just deeply upsetting for her. And I think what was harder was that we didn’t really have words to reassure her or word to really tell her it’ll be okay because we don’t even know it’s really going to be okay. Um, since then, so she’s suffered from anxiety so since then we haven’t watched the news around her until very recently started watching the news around her.
[00:42:13] Chris: She just couldn’t, it would cost too much anxiety for her.
[00:42:17] You know, we stopped listening to NPR. We stopped like, you know, just stopped doing this around her to give her that space to heal. Um, but you can’t, you know, they’re not living in a bubble, she’s still hearing things that are happening. And, the camps were something that was very upsetting for her and for us as well, you know, to think that children are being incarcerated and taken away from their families.
[00:42:42] Something that she feared in 2016, and we told her, don’t worry, this isn’t going to happen. And here it is happening. Maybe it’s not happening to her right now but if you look at history, it has happened to US citizens in the past as well going back even to internment camps and all these things that have happened in our history.
[00:43:03] And so we can’t confidently tell her it’s not going to happen to us, you know? And we can think like, Oh, the laws, we’ll protect us or whatever but the thing is that like these things happening and there’s not a whole lot that we can do to reassure her. And that’s been really rough.
[00:43:18] You know, one is I’m happy. She has empathy and understands that even though we are living in really in a different world than a lot of our community is right now, that they’re still our community and we’re still connected and what impacts our community impacts us. And so, I’m happy about that, but the other thing is that as a parent, it’s hard to protect our kids from what’s happening now with the black lives matter movement. She’s been very involved in that as well. You know, she because of COVID we didn’t let her go to protests and she really wanted to go and she’s seen how there’s a lot of parallels, you know, we may not be black but we’re equally, we’re also impacted by police brutality.
[00:44:06] And, we have to support our black brothers and sisters and, just seeing how these injustices are affecting minority communities, it’s not, they’re not isolated incidents and we can’t say, Oh, it’s not our community or it’s not us. It, it’s still things that it’s still human beings that are being affected and having that compassion towards them. It’s a long way to say it’s been rough since, with all the rhetoric that’s been happening and with everything that’s going on right now. And honestly, you know, I fear for the next election night and she’s already talking about the election day party that she wants to have.
[00:44:45] But there’s also in the back of her mind that fear of the last time we did this and how impactful that was and what will the next four years look like for us?
[00:44:54] Sean: Right. Thank you for sharing that. It’s important to hear these stories, right? These perspectives of our fellow Americans, the rhetoric that ripples out into these decisions that impact our friends and family. Yeah, we need to end the episode on a lighter note. We do have these fire round questions that, and on a lighter note, where we ask our guests what have you guys been doing for fun as a family during COVID? Any tips, any secrets that you guys have, secret ways to cope?
[00:45:43] Chris: I don’t know about secrets. We’ve been playing a lot of video games. We like video games or my kids love video games. I do too. And so Animal Crossing has been big. Let’s do that one. Just dance. The kids love Just Dance.
[00:45:58] Sean: What are you guys playing on a Switch or…?
[00:46:00] Chris: On Switch. Yeah.
[00:46:01] Sean: Switch. Okay. That’s cool.
[00:46:03] Chris: Yeah. And then we also just bought a house. It has a large yard and so we’ve been spending a lot of time out there, trying to one, clean it up, but also just giving the kids the room to run around that we didn’t have before.
[00:46:14] Sean: Yeah. Congratulations. Any, I see some books behind you. I’m curious, you know, are there any books that you recommend for our listeners to learn more about Latin X people?
[00:46:29] Chris: It’s a good question. What I have here,
[00:46:32] Sean: I see manager, economics.
[00:46:34] Chris: I have a lot of managerial stuff.
[00:46:38] Chris: I think, just off the top of my head, there’s not, I haven’t seen a good, a good nonfiction book that covers it. This is actually a kid’s book that is off the top of my head right now but I was just reading in the summer with my daughters and their cousins. We did a little mini virtual book club during the summer and I think it’s called The Rules of Punk.
[00:47:02] Sean: The First Rule of Punk.
[00:47:03] Chris: The Rules of Punk. Yes. So, The Rules of Punk and it was really interesting to read it with the kids. It’s a kid’s book. And it’s about, uh, this girl who was navigating, you know, she was born in the US to her mom was Mexican American and her dad, I think was white and navigating that, like being in that intersection of being American but not, and like being proud of your culture but also ashamed and kind of like figure out, like where do you fit in the world? Especially as a middle schooler. And her mom actually she’s an English teacher, an English professor who moves to Chicago to live on campus and teach in Chicago.
[00:47:48] And so it was really interesting because like my kids had that experience of leaving home to live on campus. And, their cousins are actually just moved to UC Santa Barbara because their dad is doing a program there. And so, that merging of everything, of all these different cultures and personalities that we carry it when we’re US men and American.
[00:48:13] And, just how do you navigate that? And even though it’s from a kid’s perspective, I think there’s a lot of truth and like, it’s really true as we grow up that we’re still kind of navigating that. And, it was interesting having these conversations with the kids of like, you know, you guys are struggling with this and you know what, I still struggle with some of this as well.
[00:48:30] And just kind of like talking through that, it was really interesting. So, I’ll have to send you more once I think a little bit more about it, but that’s the one that’s off the top of my head right now.
[00:48:39] Sean: No, that’s no worries. That’s perfect. There’s a lot to be said about a children’s book. I mean, they are written by adults who are in a way telling sometimes their own life story and kids are definitely a lot more mature in many ways than we think they are.
[00:50:53] Sean: Yeah, this has been wonderful. This is really been a pleasure, Chris, getting to know you and hear your story. Thank you so much for taking the time to come on the podcast today.
[00:51:06] Chris: No problem. Thank you very much. It was great talking to you too. This was really fun.