By: Judi Jordan
Entrepreneur extraordinaire Nina Vaca’s legendary optimism is real, intense, and highly contagious. Genetically wired for success and coded for brilliance, this sparkling leader, triathlete, benefactor, mentor, scholar, mother of four, immigrant, presidential ambassador, and CEO of her thriving information technology services corporation, reconfigured the paradigm for achievement on her own terms. Vaca never held a corporate job, nor did anyone in her family; she grew up in a busy hive of entrepreneurs. “I came from a family of entrepreneurs; you could argue that it’s all I’ve ever known. I grew up thinking that’s what you do—you build your own company! It’s my ‘safe space!’”
The ultimate outsider made good, Vaca created her own mega corporation.
Having discovered her calling early in life, twenty-one years in, Nina is very serious about Latinos accessing their destinies. “We have to create wealth in our communities where wealth does not exist. There are Hispanics in the C Suite, just not enough of us. There are Hispanics on corporate boards but again, not enough. There are Hispanic entrepreneurs but they’re not scaling.”
“Often times as I was climbing and finding success I was the youngest and the ‘only,’ I looked around and said it’s not enough to be the ‘only’ or ‘the first,’ to me that is not acceptable. The higher we climb and the more opportunities we see at the table, the more I want my community to be there.”
“The more successful Pinnacle becomes, the more opportunity, and frankly, the more bandwidth and financial ability I have to give back. What I do at Pinnacle feeds my family, but what I do in the community feeds my soul.”
The Vaca family bond is tight, full of wisdom, moral support, and patriotism.
“My parents ingrained in our minds, that yes, we are immigrants to this country, but we need to give our best to this country. My dad worked three jobs, he parked cars; he had a night job and an afternoon job… we were your classic immigrant family in LA.” Nina’s mother was a role model; Nina witnessed the power and strength in numbers. Now when she launches a big project she gathers her ‘troops.’ “I’ve been like that all my life, I’m the daughter of a real grassroots activist! All I ever saw my mother do growing up was gathering people together, inspiring them, taking action. It’s in my DNA. I’m happiest when I know that I’m helping people. To me, this is how you build a legacy.”
My secret to success? “I never do anything by myself! I always have an army of people along, much like I never take all the credit.”
After coming to the US from Ecuador when Nina was two, the family’s early years in California were no picnic. The Vacas moved from town to town in California, in search of the best schools for their children. Vaca credits her determined parents who actively prioritized their children’s futures. “Those schools were in different cities; where there were no Hispanics. I never saw myself as a Hispanic growing up; I always tried to blend into the mainstream. I thought, ‘I’m just as good as everybody else,’ and I worked just as hard.”
When Nina was a teenager, her dad altered the course of her life by buying a computer.
“What led me to technology was seeing my first computer when I was fifteen years old. My father in his infinite wisdom brought a Sabre Travel System terminal to the office—this huge thing—and I thought it was the coolest thing in the world! I was savvy enough to know that the technology sector was growing very fast.”
This major AHA! moment for Nina never gets old.
“I was fascinated by technology and I knew that if I pursued a career there it would be something that would have a future, so like a good entrepreneur I started diving in!” Nina’s unsinkable spirit lives in these words: “Good entrepreneurs see opportunity where others see none and they dig! They go through the back door, the side door, the chimney!”
Nina didn’t stray from her entrepreneurial roots.
“Twenty-one years ago I realized that corporations would need a technology workforce and the need would go up every year! This is the industry of the future. 65% of our elementary school children are going to be doing a job that doesn’t exist today! And 80% of the new jobs in this country will be STEM related. With the rise of Artificial Intelligence and technology everywhere, you are going to see America transform!”
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