Executive at Napa's AUL Corp. wins North Bay Latino business leadership award
A pandemic lesson is that family is most important, said Elizabeth Gutierrez of AUL Corp., a 2020 winner of the Business Journal’s Latino Business Leadership Awards.
Professional background: I have worked for AUL Corp since 2001. I started as a customer service representative and worked my way up to senior accounts and currently FP & A Leader. Education has opened my mind to the power of knowledge and has helped me move up in my career.
Education: Master’s degree (MSA, Master of Science in accountancy)
Tell us your story and that of your organization: When I was eleven years old my father sat me down. He proceeded to tell me that he expected me to study and learn English so that one day I will have a better life than he and my mother did.
This conversation shaped how I dedicated myself to study, I spent most of my young life working full-time while attending night classes in my local community college.
During those years, I earned multiple undergraduate degrees and was in the Dean’s Honor list. When the time came to transfer to a four-year university, AUL Corp stepped in and covered the tuition cost, so that I could focus on my dreams to complete a bachelor’s degree.
In December of 2013, my hard work and dedication paid off as I became the first person in my family to graduate from college. The hours I sacrificed to be away from my family while I simultaneously worked full-time and attended Sacramento State were all worth it.
Later on when I became a mother, I decided to pursue a graduate degree. Once again, AUL Corp was there to help me with the high cost of tuition. In August of 2019, my 4-year old son cheered from the stands as I walked to the stage to receive my master’s degree.
Education has opened my mind and because of it, I am a confident woman. I will forever be grateful to AUL Corp for supporting my growth.
Is there a major accomplishment in the past year or so that you would like to share?
Last year, a major accomplishment for me was graduating with a master’s degree. It was not easy but I am so glad I stuck with it.
What is your biggest challenge today?
My biggest challenge today is raising a bilingual son who is kind, yet strong when he needs to be.
What are you most proud of regarding the achievements of the area Latino business community and what are the greatest challenges faced by that community?
I am proud that the Latino business community is being acknowledged. I believe the Latino business community greatest challenge they face is the lack of positive Latino role models.
Words that best describe you: Fearless, go getter, hardworking, humble, and eager to learn.
As a successful professional, what were the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?
I am still overcoming obstacles. The automotive industry has been male-dominated over the years. Although I see some change, there is still room for improvement. I have learned to focus on what I have control over which is education and taking a hard look at what I can do to become a better leader.
How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?
My profession entails presenting financial reporting and analysis regarding how the business is doing. I do see that keeping up with the latest technology is instrumental. Technology will change my profession in the next five years and I welcome the change.
Who was your most important mentor?
I have had many mentors in my life.
My first mentor was my father. He has instill in me that hard work pays off. He was also my inspiration in enrolling in community college.
My second mentor was Luis Nieves, AUL Corp founder. He believed in me and he taught me to be humble. Most recently, Jose Fleites, AUL Corp CIO/COO, has been my mentor. He has taken time out of his schedule to help me reach my full potential.
Tell us about your community involvement: I have been involved in several projects that give back to the community. Some of the causes I have helped include: helped assemble 10,000 food packages for Raise Against Hunger, helped raise over $37,000 for Leukemia Lymphoma LLS, and helped raise over $98,000 for Napa Humane. There is so much more I would like to do.
It’s a challenging time for all but the COVID-19 virus has been especially tough on the Latino community. Tell us your experience either personally or with the group or company you work with in dealing with the economic impact of the virus.
2020 has not been the year I expected. This year has been a test for many of us. My personal experience was going to the grocery store and not finding basic items such as toilet paper, pasta, etc. but then noticing that the produce section had fresh fruits and vegetables.
This made me proud of my Latino population, those field workers who helped pick fresh fruits and vegetables. No matter what is going on in the world, they still go out to the fields so that our families can have fresh food to eat. The heroes during COVID-19 became those who exposed their lives such as these Latino workers.
What are the lessons of this difficult year – including the COVID-19 virus, the economic downturn and the fires – for you and how has it changed your outlook for the future?
The lessons I have learned from the pandemic and the fires is that family is most important. Being in quarantine made me slow down to focus on my health and well-being. It also make me closer to my son and husband.
Is there something we didn’t ask that you would like to add?
I am honored to have been considered for this award