A Mexican American With Dual Citizenship Is Leveraging Her Expertise to Coach Others
Inez González Perezchica, Ed.D. Cal State Fullerton like Latin Business Today is coaching success.
Latin Business Today: Inez we understand you have a dual citizenship, how did that play itself out?
Yes, I do, I was born in Tijuana B.C. Mexico the youngest of eight girls. My parents were born in the U.S. so that qualified me as a dual citizen of Mexico and the U.S.. The dual citizenship is not just a status, it’s a way of life. I’m proud to be a binational citizen and happy to live in a border region with easy access back and forth. I enjoy the people, the food, the culture of Mexico.
My dad was born in Brawley, California and my mom in Merced, California both of these are heavily dependent on agricultural. My grandparents picked fruit in the fields. My dad fought in WWII. He was a paratrooper and saw a lot of action. He jumped in Normandy on D-day. I firmly believe experiences fighting in the second world war solidified his faith in God. His faith defined him and helped him make bold moves in life, because faith makes your fearless.
Once my parents got married in the U.S. and started a family they considered moving to Mexico. Neither had ever lived in Mexico before deciding to move their young family to Tijuana. Moving to Mexico would be a catalyst for my parents and my sisters. Now that I’m older looking back, I’m amazed at their vision to moving South of the border contrary to what others were doing at that time.
Now people do move to Mexico for retirement or for affordable housing, but it was unusual at the time my parents made the move. They didn’t have much when they left and started a new life, but they thought Mexico could provide a better opportunity for them and their kids – and they were right.
Latin Business Today: Your dad has roots and an entrepreneur. Would you tell us about that?
Yes, he started an import business, buying oranges from Los Angeles and selling them to Tijuana. Strangely it was easier during that period in time to purchase produce in the States and sell it in Mexico. It was a true family business as a number of my older sisters helped my father sell produce from the bed a rented pick-up truck. As soon as he saved enough money he purchased a truck and began driving longer distances across the state.
The business grew and our life took a turn for the better when my parents purchased land in one of the nicest neighborhoods in Tijuana. They didn’t have enough money to build a house on par with the others in the neighborhood, so they started with a small house with the goal of expanding when they secured the funding. Initially neighbors with nice homes weren’t that happy, but eventually that changed with an upgraded very nice home. Looking back, I’m really just blown away to think about what they accomplished in Mexico.
Latin Business Today: Would you tell us a bit more about your childhood?
Sure, my sisters and I went to one of the best private, Catholic schools in Tijuana. I continue to be in close contact with friends as fae back as kindergarten which is a blessing in itself. My parent’s hard work resulted in a very comfortable life in Tijuana. Their good fortune was a catalyst to giving back and they became active in providing assistance to underprivileged children.
For most of my life in Tijuana, my parents gave their support to orphanages in the area. They eventually “adopted” an orphanage in Tecate, B.C., they mobilized their friends and family, especially from Merced California, to contribute to the orphanage.
Many people helped, but my parents had a vision which started it all. We tracked a number of girls who lived in the orphanage and went on to college. Observing what my parents accomplished made me realize the power ordinary people have to change people’s lives.
While my parents chose to raise us in Tijuana they knew the opportunities were in the U.S. Their plan for their daughters was to graduate from college in the U.S.
In my first year in the U.S educational system was my senior year in high school. It was a public, catholic, mostly white high school and I suffered from culture shock. Although I do not have the typical immigrant story, because I was a citizen, I still felt like the other and lost my voice for many years thereafter.
Latin Business Today: Please share the factors that shaped your career and business aspirations.
Since I was youngf I needed to find my purpose in life. I’m not sure if most people think that way, but was certain I was on earth for a reason. I just wasn’t sure what the reason was, but wanted to find it. As previously mentioned, I understood ordinary people have great power to make a difference and I wanted to make a difference…but didn’t know how.
I spent most of my career in government or non-profit organizations. Some people were confident as to what they want to be as kids, but not me. At my dad’s suggestion I studied computer science in college. When he passed away, a year after I graduated from college I quit my computer science job and looked for something else.
I’ve had an interesting career. I’ve worked for eight employers in different sectors which I saw as negative experience. I remember thinking I was a cog in the wheel with no real specific expertise. It took quite a while to see this as a positive. I realized I had versatility, a track record in transportation, health, government, media, and currently academia.
Latin Business Today: How did do end up in academia?
It was fluke, just like the rest of my career. I’ve had to check the definition of the word to make sure I wanted to continue using it to describe my career, but yes it was an ”unlikely chance occurrence, especially a surprising piece of luck,” or in other words a blessing.
Throughout my career I’ve built a solid reputation as a hard worker, results oriented, strategic and creative thinker. Each of my employers will attest to this and the quality of my work. That’s key in life, to have a good personal brand and opportunities will appear.
I had been working at the National Hispanic Media Coalition for eight years. Once I returned from earning my Public Administration Master’s at Harvard, I was trying to figure out my next career move. It was actually a tumultuous time. I couldn’t believe that once again I did not clearly see what was next. All my life there’s been question marks about what I want to do next.
Even in my early forties I still was asking, what do I want to do when I grow up? And here I was once again with many questions and no answers. I ended up hiring a career coach from the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL). Her name is Rosa and we had met years ago when I was a week at CCL through the National Hispana Leadership Program.
In the six months I worked with Rosa I figured out what I was looking for in my next job.
- I wanted to make a difference, no surprise there. That’s been my lifelong quest.
- I wanted visibility, I was surprised by this. I had considered to have been able to put my ego in check, so why did I want visibility? I realized after some self-analysis that as a well-prepared Latina, I’m a good role model, and our community needs more role models. So, I wanted to step-up and be visible instead of working behind the scenes as I had done most of my life.
- I wanted autonomy. I wanted to work on building my vision and not someone else’s vision. I realize one usually doesn’t have full autonomy, but I wanted some degree of autonomy.
Being completely clear on the criteria for a job helped me not jump to just any job and also to be very transparent with my employers about my next moves.
Inez with colleagues at NHMC
I had a conversation with NHMC’s President & CEO Alex Nogles about the fact that I was ready for a new challenge. He agreed that I was ready to lead and he said he would help me find my next job and he did. He shared with me an email about Cal State Fullerton starting a new initiative related to Hispanic Media.
I immediately jumped at the opportunity to work with college students. Working at CSUF has been a blessing. I finally found my purpose. I have mentored many before going to CSUF, but now I have a captive audience of talented, mostly first-generation college students, that want to find a way into the newsroom, entertainment, public relations, and advertising. I’ve been able to mobilize by network and create new relationships that will lead to opportunities for these students.
I feel that my entire career trajectory has led me here. Even the fact that I studied computer science and I only practiced for a year, gives students some sense of comfort that they don’t need to stress too much about what they are studying. A B.A. degree is important, but it doesn’t define you and what you will do for the rest of your life. It just provides a solid educational foundation.
Latin Business Today: Please share your thoughts and experiences on how mentoring young Hispanics can make a difference.
Inez on a MediaCon panel
Mentoring is important. It goes back to the fact that everybody has the power and capability to make a difference in someone’s life. Mentoring means sharing your time and knowledge with someone.
As a society we’ve become a very individualistic society, soley focused on ourselves and our small circle of friends and family. If more people looked outside that small circle and reached out to one student, one young professional, and just took the time to listen and share advice we as a community would be in a much better place.
I do think that people aren’t willing to mentor, they just don’t know how to make it happen. I don’t hesitate to connect students with professionals all the time. My work is about mentoring, coaching. It’s just incredible for me to witness how just some words of advice can really change someone’s future.
Latin Business Today: Latin Business Today’s mission is founded on Dr. Les “Coach” Fernandez’s mentorship legacy. Is there a mentor who influenced you? What factors and people most influenced your career in academia?
Bill Briggs, the Dean who hired me has been my biggest influence because he took a chance and was willing to bring an outsider, a non-academic to fill this position. It’s not easy to get into academia. I really was lucky, but I also was the right person for this job. I wish universities understood the value of non-academics. Of course, you need scholars, but there is a very important role for practitioner’s as well.
There were a couple of other faculty members that were very helpful in providing advice that helped me succeed. Because academia really is a different universe and to create change you need to be able to navigate that unique culture.
Latin Business Today: What advice would you give your fellow Latinos who want to make a difference in coaching/mentoring the next generation of business leaders and small business owners?
As the famous Nike ad campaign points out…”just do it”. It can make such an important difference in someone’s life. If you don’t know how to start please reach out and contact me. I’ll share some thoughts and ideas. Or just contact someone you know that works with colleges or universities.
Also, what I have learned about mentoring is that my role is not to get my mentee to do what I want them to do, my role is to listen and to be a sounding wall for them.
The mentee will either listen to me or not and that’s ok. I no longer get disappointed when someone doesn’t listen, it’s their life to live. But I must say when I see someone that I mentor, make the changes they need to make and create a new future for themselves I’m just honored to have had the opportunity to have touched that life.