As part of the Hispanic Heritage Month celebration, we’re featuring Jaime Raul Zepeda, a graduate of EWMBA 2019. Through grit and hard work, he moved alone to America at 17, took classes during the day, and mopped floors in the evening. His family in Mexico developed his passion for business and civic leadership. His dad runs a small business, while his mom actively serves the community by feeding the prisoners, giving free haircuts to the homeless, and teaching adults to read and write. Jaime continues helping others by mentoring first-generation college students, youth starting their careers, and social impact entrepreneurs.
Jaime served as VP of Partnership and Programs in Great Place to Work and Customer Success Regional Manager at LinkedIn. He currently helps fresh graduates land career opportunities as SVP of Customer and People Success at Hive Diversity, a virtual recruitment platform.
Listen to this episode to know what inspired Jaime to serve the community as he runs for State Senate in California’s 10th District.
Your family has a small business in Mexico, why did you choose a very uncomfortable life as a teenager in America?
[00:02:26] “My dad set this example for me to just always dream, always chase what you want. Hustle for what you’re looking for, like work hard. And my mom, very same way, same things. But she also added this layer of always serving the community.”
On the role of the community as he pursued education and career independently
[00:05:45] “I’d relied a lot on the people that were there once I got there. I relied on the family. I was going to high school during the day because I was on my own. I had a full-time job after that. So, I had a very different experience. But teachers at high school knew about that. Eventually, they knew that I was my own guardian. They would just come in and say, you know, ‘Do you need some help, Jaime? I know that you got a lot. You can do that homework tomorrow.’
And it was just awesome because it was like those little moments that just taught me to appreciate the community that I had around me at all times. And I still bring that to this day. I still believe educators are amazing nation builders. My wife is an educator, and I think they’re amazing, but I had some community that helped me out.”
Having a lot of experience in business, what led you to enter politics?
[00:24:54] “Politics and business have always just been super fascinating for me because in politics, if you do it really well, and if you do it for the right intentions, it is to empower people. It is to move the levers of government through laws, policies, and movements so that more people get more power. To get elected is not to get power, but to give power, as I always think about it.
Business is very similar in many ways too. If business is done really well, it is to create a sustainable positive agent of change in society. And that’s largely why I’ve only worked at organizations where I believe in what they do. Not just because it’s a good paycheck, but because I believe they’re actually doing good to society and are able to sustain that because of the business model they have.”
(Transcripts may contain a few typographical errors due to audio quality during the podcast recording.)
[00:00:05] Sean Li: Welcome to the One Haas Alumni Podcast. I’m your host, Sean Li. And today we’re joined by Jaime Raul Zepeda. He is an EWMBA, class of 2019. Welcome to the podcast, Jaime.
[00:00:19] Jaime Raul Zepeda: Thank you, Sean. I appreciate it. Thank you for inviting me to and happy to be here.
[00:00:21] Sean Li: We are here in the midst of Hispanic heritage month, which is always a fun time of the year. I always love it, I feel like it’s an excuse for me to get together even more so with my Hispanic friends living in Southern California. It’s just, I really get to enjoy a lot of good food.
[00:00:40] Jaime Raul Zepeda: A lot of good Mexican food down there.
[00:00:41] Sean Li: There. Oh yeah. Speaking of that, can you tell us where you’re from, where you grew up? Just a little bit about yourself?
[00:00:47] Jaime Raul Zepeda: Yeah. Absolutely. So I think the story starts with my parents. So my dad is a small business owner. He still hustles to this day. I think that’s probably one of the reasons why I was inspired to go get an MBA because I was raised by an entrepreneur and he has a small business. And his first business partner, his number one employee, was my mom. And as with any family business, they worked together on everything, they set everything up. And my dad started with a van, $200, and my mom was pregnant as his first employee and business partner, and it was a working-class family. So I grew up in a working-class family and I grew up in Mexico. So I grew up in Mexico for the first 16, 17 years of my life. Right north of Northern Mexico, like right by Tijuana.
[00:01:39] Sean Li: Yeah. Mexico is a big country. And as I always have to ask, it’s so diverse.
[00:01:44] Jaime Raul Zepeda: It’s huge. And you know, my dad is from Central Mexico, Michoacan and my mom is from Mexico City. And so we ended up north about 10, 15 miles south of the US border. And so it’s very, anybody out there who’s listening on who was raised by the border, either on the American side or the Mexican side will tell you that it’s a very different experience because there’s this nice little blending of the two cultures that happens all the time. And so that was true for us. So I was in a working-class family. We had enough to get by. We weren’t rich and thankfully weren’t poor, but I was raised there until I was 17. And you know, like my parents, I love them very much. They’re still with me and they just set this fantastic example. My dad set this example for me to just always dream, always chase what you want. Hustle for what you’re looking for, like work hard.
And my mom, very same way, same things. But she also added this layer of always serve the community. She came from some of the poorest parts of Mexico. And her going from being very poor to working-class was just like a blessing for her. And so she was just always very grateful about it. And she always rallied us and our neighbors and our friends and just saying, we got to go out there and help people. Because there are people who have less than we do. And so we’d be out there cutting hair for people in the street for free. We’d be packaging up lunches and taking them to people who were in jail. Because unfortunately in a lot of places in Mexico, if you go to jail, you don’t get fed at all. And we’re just like very little. So my mom knew this and she was like, let’s do something about that.
Like she would personally go out and the town that we were in, which was, there was a lot of poverty there. And she would teach adults how to read and write. So I kind of saw that as like, you know, hustle do well, but also do good. And then I finally made my way to the US when I was 17. I landed in Rockford, Illinois of all places, I went to high school there. Yeah. Very far away. So I went from, you know, growing up in this town, that was, I was half a mile from the beach to now going Midwest, Midwest rural winters, scraping ice off my windshield every morning.
[00:03:55] Sean Li: I’m from Michigan. My wife’s from Chicago. So we’re Midwesterners.
[00:03:58] Jaime Raul Zepeda: So you know exactly what I’m talking about. I love Chicago, but the winters, the winters, man, they built some character.
[00:04:06] Sean Li: I’ve never heard anyone say that that’s the best way to put it.
[00:04:07] Jaime Raul Zepeda: One thing that I do love, and I miss the Midwest for memories, but one of the things I really miss about it is the fact that is seasons. Because when it’s summer and you know this really well, right? When it’s summer, you’re like, it’s summer. Like we gotta do everything. Cause you know what happens after summer, like fall is like, okay, we can still do some stuff. And then winter is like, we don’t see the light of day. We just, we’re not going to leave the house.
[00:04:32] Sean Li: It starts late spring. If you remember when it gets to 40 degrees, you’re just like, oh, this already feels like everyone’s in shorts here. 40 degrees. Everyone’s in parkas.
[00:04:41] Jaime Raul Zepeda: No, here at 40 degrees. People think that the world’s falling apart, starts raining, people forget how to drive. They’re like, oh, it’s only four inches of snow. I can do that. I can get to work. No worries. I just got to go a little bit slower. So, you know, I made my way there.
[00:04:55] Sean Li: How’d you end up there? Did you have a family there?
[00:04:56] Jaime Raul Zepeda: I did have some family there and this is where the story gets a little bit weird or two because I decided I still don’t know why I did this. I just decided that I just wanted to live on my own. Because I had family that I could have stayed with. I was 17 at the time. So it wasn’t, you know, I was kind of at the cusp there being technically an adult and my parents were like, okay, we have people over there. Let’s set you up over there and then do that. No, I want to do this on my own. And I think, I don’t know. I’m still not sure why that 17-year-old kid decided to do that. But I think he was, it was just something that I still have like to this day is I want to figure it out.
I want to test myself to see how much can I do. I’d relied a lot on the people that were there once I got there. So I wasn’t just like saying, oh, I’m a lone wolf and I’ll figure it out. I relied on the family. I mean, I was technically still going to high school. So I was going to high school during the day because I was on my own. I had to change clothes and go to work. I had a full-time job after that. So, I had a very different experience. But teachers at high school knew about that eventually. They knew that I was my own guardian and it was also because there were just some teachers that I still remember to this day, like Mr. Bird, Mr. Allen, who knew that and they would just come in and say, you know, ‘Do you need some help, Jaime? I know that you got a lot. You can do that homework tomorrow.’
Or they would just see me coming in, exhausted for having worked the day before. And they could tell I was just dozing off in the back and they would just swing by every now and then be like, ‘Are you okay, are you alright?’ And it was just awesome because it was like those little moments that just taught me to appreciate the community that I had around me at all times. And I still bring that to this day. Like, you know, I still believe educators are amazing nation builders. My wife is an educator and I think they’re amazing, but I had some community that helped me out. It was really tough. It was really rough. And I thought I was going to stay there to be honest, in Illinois because I was going to high school, I was doing all right.
I wasn’t doing great, but I was like, I know I’m going to graduate. And by my senior year, I was working at a call center. So I started working as a janitor. And then I was worked at Taco Bell of all places for a long time. And then I got a sweet gig at a call center. I went from making $8 an hour to 9.50, which is like, whoa. And so I did really well there, my English got a lot better because they just have to get better. And I became an assistant supervisor there at the call center. And I thought, maybe I’ll just ride this out. I’ll just see where this goes. I don’t need to go to college. I could just stay here and work. And I’m getting paid 10.50 an hour, which is pretty sweet.
[00:07:36] Sean Li: In the midwest. Just give people some context.
[00:07:37] Jaime Raul Zepeda: Yeah, exactly. Well, and also funny enough, because I looked back on that time and I remember as like, I didn’t, I was scraping by, I didn’t have much furniture in my apartment. I had a chair which now looking back at it, thinking about it’s a pretty sad setting. It’s like I had a chair, like one of those kinds of Wicker chairs. I had a TV, I had a table and I used the chair. I had to move the chair around when I watch TV or what I had to sit down and eat. And then I had my bed and then I had the microwave and a fridge. But that was it. That was my furniture. Because I couldn’t afford anything else. As I looked back and like, I remember that I got pretty deep in debt because I had to use credit cards for everything else that I couldn’t afford.
And I looked it up and I found that for the wage that I had at that time, I was technically below the poverty line where I was like right there, the poverty line. And even in the Midwest, that was pretty low. But then I just, you know, I remember what my parents taught me was like, your education is your inheritance. We can’t help you get to college, but really hope that you do. And they applied to a handful of places. All of them rejected me except for one, which was St. Mary’s College here at Moraga in the Bay Area. And I never visited the school because I couldn’t afford to travel from Illinois to California just to check out the campus. So I just said, okay, yes, I’m going to go. I have never talked to anybody there. I don’t know what the school is like. And I said, yes. And so then, once I graduated, sold everything made my way over and I’ve been in the Bay Area ever since.
[00:09:03] Sean Li: That’s an amazing story. And I definitely can relate a little bit, just very fast. My parents came here as immigrants and paved the way for me the same as what you were doing for your family and your kids, which made it a lot easier for my life. Definitely. So what I can relate with is your spirit of wanting to put yourself into an uncomfortable situation, just to challenge yourself. And that was kinda my case when I moved out to LA was after college was all my friends naturally will be in the Midwest. They went to Chicago, they went to New York and nobody went to LA. So I was like, you know what? I don’t know anybody there. Can I just put myself there so that I’m forced to meet new people and learn some new things? And that’s what I did. I remember. I mean, all I had was just a mattress on the ground. I should know when I moved out as this day, it was just a sleeping bag that I had on my car when I drove out. And I slept on that for, I think two months until one of my buddy, a friend that I met out here gave me an air mattress that had like, actually you know, an air mattress that has those things, those columns in the middle that stick that to two sides together? One of them broke. And so that just had this huge hump in my air mattress.
[00:10:12] Jaime Raul Zepeda: So your back was totally whacked.
[00:10:14] Sean Li: But looking back, you know, it didn’t feel that bad. I was like, I’m roughing it. And I’m loving it in some ways. But I just remember when I got my bed three months like finally bought a mattress, could afford one for Thanksgiving, like a Thanksgiving sale, obviously. I was like, this is amazing. Just a mattress on the ground.
[00:10:33] Jaime Raul Zepeda: Yes. You can appreciate this stuff. I think you and I are weird people, right? We’re weird, rare people. Cause most people well, not all, this is just a generalization. A lot of people would just say, go to what you know, go where you know people, and that makes a lot of sense. I totally see why people would do that. But I think there’s something in people like you and me we’re like, no, but then it’s the fun in that? Like, you know, what’s going to be the same person at the end of that journey than I am right now. I don’t want that. I want to test myself, learn something about myself. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know if you have thought about this too, but I thought about it because my wife is not like that. And most people that I meet are not like that.
And except that like in Haas, what are the things that I loved about Haasies, I met a lot of like-minded people who, especially, you know, like the evening weekend program. You’re doing that on top of everything else, right? And nothing against the full-timers out there. But when you’re full-timer you’re like, okay, this is what I’m doing right for the next few years. When you’re evening-weekend, you’re like, I’m doing everything I was doing before and now I got to figure out how I’m adding this rigorous multi-year challenge that is not cheap that I selected myself into. Like, nobody forced you to do it. And so I met a lot of people like that too. And you know what I think it’s, there’s something to it where it’s a kind of like a very immigrant. You talked about your family has done that. I wonder if they kind of like through osmosis or something, telepathy, pass that on.
There’s something about that where, you know, if you get to see it, but I have like Alexander Hamilton, right from Hamilton. I love that show because of just the immigrant story in it. And one of the things that I love about it is how unabashed he is about ‘I’m here. It’s a privilege for me to be here, it’s a privilege for me to be alive right now. I’m going to do something with this. I’m not just going to say, happy to be here. Great. Let’s just see where this goes is that I’m going to make something out of this.’
[00:12:36] Sean Li: Question the status quo. I can drop that one.
[00:12:40] Jaime Raul Zepeda: Yes, exactly. Pushing the status quo for sure.
[00:12:42] Sean Li: I think that’s a perfect segue into Haas. Love to hear about your journey to Haas. What you did before Haas and what brought you to Haas?
[00:12:51] Jaime Raul Zepeda: Yeah, sure. So after I was at St. Mary’s College, had a great time there. So for anybody out there Go Gaels, I love St. Mary’s. I made my way to the nonprofit world because again, it’s like the spirit of my mom is to go ahead and do well, but also do good. And so I just said, okay, let me try out the nonprofit world, also tried out the education world. So I was an organizer. I’m a fundraiser for education. It was a partnership of the creative partnerships between the nonprofit that I worked at and school districts across the country so that we could bring our curriculum for free to as many kids in the country. And then I made my way to, I guess, traditional for-profit. And I did that at a small business that was just perfect for me at the time, which was a Great Place To Work.
That’s the name of the company, Great Place to Work, or GPTW, and spent a good chunk of my time there. That’s actually where I went to Haas at the same time that I was working there. A very mission-driven organization, like the goal of that organization, is to help companies create great workplaces for their employees. And it was like this beautiful merging of let’s create great companies that are financially sustainable, obviously and growing, at the exact same time, we do that by treating our employees with respect, fairness, and trust, and we helped companies do that. And big names that we were doing that with. That’s where I also started to build my career in customer success, which is where I am right now. We didn’t have a customer success department. And so the CEO there, Michael Bush, who is still a mentor and friend to me to this day. He said, ‘Jaime you know a lot about the clients, you know, a lot about what we need, how about you build us a customer success department?’
And I said, sure, I have no idea what any of that is. I don’t know how to do that. And it was funny cause I was doing that at the exact same time that I was going to Haas. And so it was this amazing opportunity to learn something and then apply it, learn it, apply, learn and apply, which I think is again, if anybody out there remembers there or went to the part-time program, EWMBA, that was one of the things that I loved about it the most. It was hard because you had to switch from work to school to work to school all the time, but it gave you this amazing opportunity to apply it right away and test this out. So I did that, but you know, backtracking a little bit why Haas, I thought for a long time is I want to learn the language of business, and that largely came from my dad.
So, my dad lives and breathes business. He’s just a salesperson and a business person to the core. He loves it. He is turning 83 this year. Yeah. And he still likes dreams about, well, you know, if I had more time, I could build this other business or I’m thinking about pivoting the business in this way. And it’s a small business. It’s not like an empire, but he just thinks about it, he loves thinking about that sort of stuff. And so I just kind of grew up doing that. And I think that I just have that fascination with it too, I was like, I want to learn the language of business really well. And people told me that you should take a look at getting an MBA. Michael Bush, my mentor, told me that. And as I was looking for, you know, around for programs, I noticed that not all of them are the same and again, no offense to Stanford or Wharton, but they have a certain culture that is not my jam. You know?
And I think everybody out there knows what I mean. I would talk to people there. My, Hm you’re obviously very smart and capable, but I just, we’re not clicking. We’re not thinking about this in the same way. And I just, as I was having conversations about this, he said what’s your take on Berkeley? They’re pretty amazing. They got some really good stuff. They’re doing a lot of work on their culture. This is when Dean Lyons was like working on that and bringing it out. And as soon as we started talking to people there, people who had graduated from there, professors, staff, absolutely right. And I, that’s where I need to go. I didn’t apply anywhere else. I applied there. I didn’t get in the first time. And then I applied a couple of years after that. And I got in, you know, super excited.
[00:16:48] Sean Li: That’s amazing. What have you been doing since? I mean, it hasn’t been that long, you’ve been quite busy, because you’re a candidate for state Senate, among many other things. We’d love to hear what you’ve been up to.
[00:17:00] Jaime Raul Zepeda: Sure. Yeah. So right after I graduated, so I graduated may in 2019, I got a really cool opportunity to work at LinkedIn. So I became a Regional Manager of Customer Success on LinkedIn. And I was there for close to two and a half years. I just left about a month ago because I got this other great opportunity at the startup where we essentially, it’s a virtual recruiting platform that connects companies to a uniquely qualified, diverse pool of talent that we have. And there’s a funny story here, that just kind of goes back to the community that I just talked about. This was 2016. So this was, I think, August of 2016, about to start my first year at Haas and I’m at SFO. So I’m at SFO, waiting for my plane and I was going to New York at the time that the company that I was working for had an office in New York and we had to go there for a meeting.
So I’m waiting there to board my plane. And you all remember the summer before, I guess more recently, right? I don’t know about the OGs if this was the case back then, but before you started, they said you have this statistics book and take a look at it because we’re going to be reviewing it very quickly and there’s going to be pop quizzes. I don’t know if you remember that. And so I was like, statistics, I do not love statistics. So I’m going to get ahead of this as quickly as I can as early as possible. So I had this big statistics book as I’m waiting to board my plane, I’m just leafing through it. And this young woman in front of me, she’s like, ‘Excuse me.’ I’m like, Yeah? Why are you reading that book? And I said, oh, I’m reading it because I have to read it because I’m starting school for this in a couple of months.
She’s like, oh, me too. And it was like, what school do you go to? And it’s like, well, I’m actually going to go to Berkeley. I’m going to go to Berkeley Haas. She’s like, ‘What? Me too.’ And I said, really well, I’m on the evening weekend program. She’s like, well, I am too. And then I said, whoa, okay, what cohort are you in? She’s like, I’m an Axe. I was like, I’m in Axe too. And so that was Tess Peppers.
[00:19:06] Sean Li: I was going to guess that yeah.
[00:19:06] Jaime Raul Zepeda: Yeah. That’s Tess Peppers. And so she was the first person that I ever met at Haas before I even started. And the reason that story is funny. And I just, because that I happened to bump into someone that was going to the same program, she was flying I think to Philadelphia and I was falling to New York but we all go on the same plane, is because fast-forward to two months ago, she is the Chief Product Officer of Hive Diversity. And I was checking their website and I said, Hey Tess, I see that you’re looking for a vice president of customer success. I was like, what’s that about? And she’s like, ‘Well, are you interested in?’ It’s like, well, I don’t know. Maybe I’m not looking, but I’d be open to doing it. Within three days, she talks to the CEO there and I have an offer letter in my inbox and now I happen to be working right next to Tess Peppers every single day.
[00:19:58] Sean Li: Come full circle. Right.
[00:20:00] Jaime Raul Zepeda: That’s amazing. Full circle. Yeah. And so that’s what I’m telling you like the community at Haas. Just amazing.
[00:20:06] Sean Li: I love Tess. Even though you guys are above me, I had the privilege of going to SIB Brazil with her.
[00:20:10] Jaime Raul Zepeda: Yeah. That was fun. That was awesome. I heard that was a lot of fun. I went to SIB China. We went to, we started out in Beijing and then we went to Shanghai.
[00:20:22] Sean Li: That’s amazing. Tell us a little bit about Hive. What are you doing there?
[00:20:26] Jaime Raul Zepeda: Yeah, absolutely. So I’m still pretty new. I’ve only been here for a month as of yesterday actually, and we’re doing some really cool stuff at Hive. And that was the reason that you know, within three days I knew that I wanted to be there and it all worked out really well. So I’m now the SVP of Customer and People Success. So I’m managing the customer success side of the company as well as the people side because I had a lot of experience doing that when I was at Great Place To Work. We were consulting essentially HR departments. So I worked with HR a lot. And so what Hive does is we have this amazing product where it’s a virtual recruiting platform. We bring in candidates, usually like current students, early career, recent graduates that are looking to get an internship, get a full-time job. So we focus on the earlier career, younger talent.
Undergrads or just recently graduated. They went to four years after graduation, starting out. And we connect them to brands like American Express, Disney, Goldman Sachs… And the thing that makes us different is as these candidates come into what we call like the Hive and they sign up to be part of our candidate community is they have to do a couple of things that at least that I’m aware of, nobody else does right now, which is they have to go through a sort of education training process that teaches them why DEI is important. And so by them having to go through this before they can even apply to anything, they’re more uniquely qualified and they’ve shown their commitment to these ideas so that anybody like American Express or Disney knows if we get a candidate from Hive, we know that they already know why these sort of things matter and they’re uniquely qualified.
They also have the opportunity to disclose and share, they’re empowered to share any of their diversities, right? Where right now it’s really hard to do that so they can share any sort of diversity on LGBTQ+, race, and ethnicity. Also, if they’re like a first-generation college student, right? Like all these things that create our lived experiences, they get to do that. And they do that in a perfectly formatted one-page resume that is intended to be designed, to strip out as much implicit bias when a recruiter at another company ends up looking at it. And so that’s what we do. And we’ve grown a lot. Like we started out with just, I think, 600 candidates in our community and we’re coming up on our one year. So this is our very first year. We’re coming up on a one year on October 15th and we’re targeting to get 15,000 candidates in our community and working with more and more brands. So it’s exciting.
[00:23:05] Sean Li: That’s amazing. I mean, in terms of the types of opportunities, are they focused on any area? I only ask because there’s another organization that one of our alumni works at called BreakLine, that’s focused on diverse opportunities specifically in the tech industry. Is there anything that Hive focuses on in any industries or is it just very broad?
[00:23:25] Jaime Raul Zepeda: Right now we’re intended to, I mean, over time we want to be as broad as possible to bring in all of the industries. We have found that we have a really good sweet spot in finance, which is, unfortunately, traditionally not very friendly to a lot of underrepresented groups. So we are making some good headway there, but we are also bringing in, you know, organizations like Accenture. Accenture is one of our partners right now, and we’re doing a big event with them in a few weeks. So consulting, they also dabble in, they’re also a tech company in many ways and working with Disney, so for entertainment and also tech with Disney+. So yeah, our goal is to make the opportunities within the industries as broad as possible. But right now we’re finding that consulting, finance, retail, fashion even is a good sweet spot for us. Yeah. So if anybody’s interested, you can to hellohive.com.
[00:24:16] Sean Li: Last topic. You run for Senate and state Senate. What’s that about?
[00:24:20] Jaime Raul Zepeda: What is that about?
[00:24:22] Sean Li: Yeah. How did this immigrant from the Northern tip of Mexico get inspired to want to serve this country?
[00:24:29] Jaime Raul Zepeda: Yeah, I’ve said this kind of numerous times and I don’t mean to be trite, but it really does come down to my family, you know, like my mom’s spirit of service. It was something that I’ve always thought about for a long time. And I actually graduated with a Political Science major at St. Mary’s. I graduated at the top of my department. And so it’s always been something that’s just been very interesting to me. So it’s like politics and business have always just been super fascinating for me because in politics really if you do it really well, and if you do it for the right intentions, it is to empower people. It is to move the levers of government through laws, policies, and movements so that more people get more power. To get elected is not to get power but to give power, as I always think about it.
Business is very similar in many ways too. And this is my belief, If a business has done really well, it is to create a sustainable positive agent of change in society. And that’s largely why I’ve only worked at organizations where I believe in what they do. Not just because it’s a good paycheck, but because I believe they’re actually doing good to society and are able to sustain that because of the business model they have. When I was thinking about this, this really came out a lot last year during the beginning of the pandemic, is because of the organizations that I’ve been a part of. I advise a few nonprofits, I am on the board of a nonprofit that focuses on after-school programs for kids who are in middle school and don’t have a lot.
And they’re going to schools that are pretty underserved. I just saw how hard the pandemic was hitting everybody from kids who had to wait for their mom to come home from work, from her overnight shift, so that they could use her phone to do their homework because they didn’t have a computer. They didn’t have reliable wifi. And I’ve heard these stories. To work with organizations that help survivors of domestic violence organizations, that help undocumented immigrants. All of these communities were just hit incredibly hard and still are because of the pandemic. I got hit a little bit hard like we all did, but in these communities, it’s like life and death every single day. And I just didn’t really see or hear that conversation happening. And at the state level, at the local level, everybody was all saying everybody in elected officials or people in the arena, ‘Oh well, we just need to get back to normal as quickly as possible.’
And I just think like that, that’s just a dismissive statement where normal, February of 2020 was still pretty bad for a lot of people. I was like, we gotta do better than normal because otherwise, we’re going to have like this once in a generation traumatic event that has setback people who already set back so much more. And as I thought about it more and more, I just said, you know, I just need to throw myself in there and have, if nothing else, raise these things right. And start this conversation, we need to go beyond that. Yeah. Raise that awareness. And so, I decided to launch this year, I’m still running. I’ve gotten a lot of great support, which has been great. We have right now nearly 700 individual contributors that are part of our campaign. I am not taking any corporate money. I’m not taking any oil money. I’m not taking any kind of big money that unfortunately funds most political campaigns out there right now, just because I want to do it differently. I want to do it right. And I’m being outraised like 10 to 1 by my opponents who were taking checks from anybody, but I think that’s part of the problem, so I want to do it differently.
[00:28:05] Sean Li: That’s inspiring. I became, I don’t know when you became a US citizen, but I became a US citizen quite recently, back in 2018 actually. I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can contribute to this on a local level, especially. I think that’s where a lot of times you can have the most impact, right? It’s just your local communities. Like what you were saying before with your mom.
[00:28:25] Jaime Raul Zepeda: Yeah. I would encourage you to follow that hunger pang. Cause I think most people don’t do it because it is scary. And then people think, well, I have to know exactly what I need to do it. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve never run for office. I’ve never done all these things. And I could just very honestly say that I oftentimes am very nervous about what I am doing. And I’m like, am I doing something that I’ve now made speeches in front of people and picnics, telling them why they should listen to me about all these issues? Imposter syndrome on that is real, right? And I just have to constantly check it and say, ‘No, not right now, because otherwise, I’m not going to do anything.’ There’s a lot of this like who are you to be out there saying these things and telling people to listen to you and say, who do you think you are?
And unfortunately, I’ve had a lot of people in the current system right now tell them that to me, to my face. And they’re just like, why do you think you’re so special that you can do this and run for this and do this. And very surprising, like, you know, just like out of nowhere, but I think you just need people who just say, you know what, I’m just going to try, regardless, I don’t know how to do it and you don’t have to do something like I did, but you could just start small, and just vote, you know, to be honest, like a lot of people don’t vote in local elections. And so then these things around, okay, what gets taught at schools? What kind of taxes get levied? How are renters treated differently than homeowners? All of these things are local issues and they get decided by the people who have the time, the privilege, the money, to make those decisions.
Funny enough, it was something that Tess and I explored when we were at Haas. How do we get more people engaged in local politics? There was this terrible statistic where I believe it was Houston, the mayor of Houston was elected by only 10% of the people at Houston. When you look at Houston, it’s just a huge city, right? Only 10% of eligible voters there got to select who was going to be the person that made all these huge decisions for everybody else. And when you break down that number of 10%, the vast majority were much older, white, affluent. And so what you think, why is my community, how it is why are some people that I know need help not getting the help that they needed. Who’s making the decisions? And who’s voting for the people who are making the decision? Who’s funding the people who are making the decisions? That’s the story, right? That unfortunately is common everywhere. So I encourage you to like it, and I’m here to help in any way. I don’t know if I can, if you were thinking like, I want to do something, then chase that as much as you can or talk to people who are on that path too.
[00:31:00] Sean Li: That’s a powerful message for our listeners and our Haas.
[00:31:04] Jaime Raul Zepeda: Absolutely. And if you’re interested in helping me out, you can go to zepedaforsenate.com and you have more information there about what I’m running for and what I stand for.
[00:31:00] Sean Li: We’ll definitely put that information in the link in the description of this episode. Last question. This is a fun one that one of my co-hosts actually likes to ask. I started adopting it, which is, what are some things that you’re looking forward to the rest of this year?
[00:31:28] Jaime Raul Zepeda: Ooh, that is a good question.
[00:31:30] Sean Li: Or then, you know, next year.
[00:31:32] Jaime Raul Zepeda: What are the things I’m looking forward to just like anything or personally what I’m looking forward to? You know, you asked a good question when you, the other person have to wait for a second to think it through because it’s so good. Very selfishly I am looking forward to my son being able to get a COVID vaccine. And so right now he’s five years old. I think it was just a couple of days ago, Pfizer submitted the information to be reviewed. So it could be soon. You know this cause you’re a dad, it’s a kind of all the things that you hope for and worry about them. And so that’s really it right now. Cause I’m thankfully vaccinated. My wife’s vaccinated. He’s not. And so, we all read the news. I don’t think that we’re going to reach herd immunity because some people just have, they decided not to go down that route and that’s their choice.
God bless America. But that does impact my kid because he can’t, he doesn’t have it once he does, you can rest assured he’s going to be first in line and to get something that’s approved and ready for him. So that’s definitely something that I’m looking forward to because I know that’s also going to allow us to just reconnect with our family so much more, right? Like, so my parents, they’re still half in Mexico, half in the US. Right now only I’m visiting them because I’m just being very cautious. But I can tell you, they are just itching to see their grandson. Again, they haven’t in a long time. My sister’s in Illinois and we’re not doing a lot of air travel for the same reason. Once she’s there, we would love for her, for them to see, you know, my son. So that’s definitely something that I’m looking forward to.
And I’m just looking forward to seeing what the rest of the year holds. You know, if the last year I’ve taught has taught me anything is you just can’t be prepared for everything. You just have to be ready for the change. So we’ll see.
[00:33:13] Sean Li: For State Senate, is it by district, or is it just across the board?
[00:33:17] Jaime Raul Zepeda: It is by district.
[00:33:19] Sean Li: Okay. So I can’t vote for you.
[00:33:12] Jaime Raul Zepeda: You can’t vote for me but you can still send me money though.
[00:33:22] Sean Li: Will do.
[00:33:23] Jaime Raul Zepeda: I say that half-jokingly, but you have to be in the district to vote for the state Senate. But if you’re a US citizen or a green card holder, anywhere in the US, you can donate.
[00:33:36] Sean Li: Which district are you representing?
[00:33:38] Jaime Raul Zepeda: 10th district. It consists of Hayward, Castro Valley, San Lorenzo, part of San Leandro, Newark, Milpitas, Union City, Santa Clara, Fremont, and a sliver of Northern San Jose. All right. It’s big.
[00:33:55] Sean Li: Love it. Thank you so much for taking the time to come on the podcast today, Jaime. This is a real pleasure.
[00:34:01] Jaime Raul Zepeda: Thanks, Sean. It was a good chat.
[00:34:02] Sean Li: We got work to do. Let’s get to work, listeners. Love it. Thanks again, Jaime.
[00:34:08] Jaime Raul Zepeda: I appreciate it. Thank you, Sean.