Cecilia Zamora of San Rafael’s Latino Council has won one of North Bay Business Journal’s Latino Business Leadership Awards.
Tell us your story and that of your organization:
Latino Council was a seed project of the United Way of the Bay Area. At the time, there was only one agency serving Latino Spanish-speaking residents in Marin. When it closed due to financial reasons, the United Way was asked to explore the issue and the Latino Council was a result of that community research. The Latino Council helps other organizations (nonprofits, government, businesses) create culturally responsive approaches to their work with the Latino community. The Latino Council was a founding member of the Marin Human Rights Roundtable on Hate Violence, the Breast Cancer Coordinating Council of Marin, Legal Self Help Center of Marin and the Domestic Violence Coordinating Council. We represent Latino community concerns on the Workforce Alliance of the North Bay, San Rafael City Schools Community Network, and Equal Employment Advisory Committee. Currently, the Council is working on a statewide project, the California Advocacy Network on Aging Latinos, with 3 other nonprofits across the state. This is the 20th year Anniversary of the Latino Council. In addition, I am the President of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Marin (celebrating 25 years in Marin).
Is there a major accomplishment in the past year or so that you would like to share?:
In March 2017, during National Women’s History Month, Senator Mike McGuire named me “Northern California Woman of th e Year.” To be honored in this way, with a California State Senate Resolution, was quite an honor.
What is the achievement you are most proud of?:
For the past 19 years, I have been chairing and facilitating the San Rafael Leadership Institute (a program of the San Rafael Chamber of Commerce). Leadership development is one of my passions. I am most proud of helping to lead others to find their own leadership path. And I continue to learn and grow my own leadership. I am a fellow of the Women’s Policy Institute of the California Women’s Foundation and a graduate of HOPE (Hispanas Organized for Political Equality).
What is your biggest challenge today?:
I find it disturbing that we are still live in a racially divided country. In particular, I feel that professional Latinos are invisible to the world.
As a successful professional, what were the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?:
I do not recall being discriminated against professionally as a Latina, but I did feel too young, too female and too short at the beginning of my career. After college, I worked for the phone company in San Francisco. All the executive management were tall, white men. But I was also given the opportunity to succeed and to learn during those years of working in the Financial District. I learned early that getting to know the receptionist or Administrative Assistant was as powerful as knowing the CEO. The dynamics of leadership and how its played out in the corporate world helped me to hone my own leadership style. As a nonprofit Executive Director, I better understand the great potentials of public/private partnerships and have used my corporate experience to enhance the nonprofit work that I do now
How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?:
Nonprofits, in general, will be asked to maintain services that will be cut back during the upcoming health care revision and tax reforms that will greatly impact our economy.
Who was your most important mentor?:
Personally, my grandmother was a great influence on me. She had a hard life and gave everything to her family so that they could succeed. I think I get my tenacity from her. My mother was an Aide to a State Senator in Southern California, when I was growing up. I think I get my sense of community involvement from her. Professionally, I think my most important mentor was the late Elissa Giambastianni, former CEO of the San Rafael Chamber. She was a strong advacate for business and the economy. We have not been able to replace her in that role, even to this day. I learned from Elissa that everyday people can make a difference in this world.
What advice would you give to a young person today?:
Travel and learn from the world around you. As the world gets smaller through technology, there is so much to share and to know about each other. Don’t wait to accomplish your dreams. Time flies too fast.
Most admired businessperson outside your organization: Cynthia Murray, CEO, North Bay Leadership Council
Current reading: Biographies and Science Fiction
Most want to meet: Michele Obama
Stress-relievers: Gardening and hanging out with my husband.
Favorite hobbies: Wine tasting in Sonoma and Napa counties.