I was born in Panama – the youngest of seven children – from very humble beginnings. My father, a trade worker, and my mother, a caregiver, neither had the means or opportunity to attend schooling beyond grade school. If you know anything about what it’s like to grow up in a low-income country, in many cases, schooling is only afforded to those who can pay for attendance, supplies and books. My parents wanted a better life for us, so my father joined the military at a time when foreign nationals were still able to enlist in the U.S. Army. This gave us the opportunity to attend schools and eventually we were moved to the United States after war broke out in my country. In America, I was fortunate enough to cross paths with a business computing professor who inspired me to explore a career in technology. Had it not been for her inspiration, I would not be where I am today. I became the first from my family to graduate college and earn a master’s degree.
I am currently the Head of Control Management, BCP & Third-Party Governance for the Clearing, Markets, Issuer Services & Treasury Technology division at BNY Mellon. I’m proud to lead a diverse team whose expertise helps embed risk and control management practices and cyber security into our systems. Outside of my day-to-day role, I find fulfillment by serving as an advocate and featured speaker for various Employee and Business Resource Groups (E/BRGs), including IMPACT. These groups, and sub-groups like DiverseTech and Women in Technology (WIT), serve as a resource for the recruitment, retention, professional development and advancement of multicultural employees. I am also very proud to take on a new global co-chair role for the Women’s Initiative Network (WIN), our E/BRG supporting the advancement of women at BNY Mellon.
Working with and supporting these groups is important to me, not only because of my career journey, but because the challenges I have faced in my career have helped to grow me into the servant leader I am today. As women of color, we are often expected to be “strong” or grin and bear some of the difficult challenges that are present in workplaces that may not be as inclusive. Having often been categorized, instead of embraced for my intersectionality, I recognize that it takes more allies and advocates to lift as we climb. When my eldest daughter began college and was experiencing some of the same difficulties I did when I moved to this country, I had to stop the cycle. I asked myself, “What am I teaching my daughters about being proud of who they are?”
Now, I try to help others who may be struggling with the same challenges I did early in my career by serving as a mentor, sponsor and coach. We all must remind ourselves that we are more than just a resource at a job. Having a mentor, sponsor and support system is vitally important for career growth, as I learned firsthand. Being able to bring my authentic self to work is important to me because I hope that maybe someone reading my story will find some inspiration that may help them with their own challenges. I would hope they know that there are others here—in E/BRGs and beyond—who can offer support. I have a small, but supportive, group of colleagues and friends that helped me navigate particularly challenging situations and find my authentic voice. Knowing how much that has helped me, I want to pay that forward.
I look back now, with over 20 years of experience in the technology audit, risk and compliance area, having served in global leadership roles across multiple industries including financial services, communication and accounting, and still often reflect on how fortunate I am. Thanks to that support, I can bring my whole self to work as a proud Latina, African American, outspoken leader and mother of three. I don’t separate any one of those, because they all make up a part of who I am as a person and as a leader. I hope that through my story, I can inspire others to blaze trails for those who may not be as fortunate, continuing the strengthening cycle of advocacy and empowerment.