Interviews with Kim Rivera, Diedra García and Lorena Cantarovici
They succeed at leading big and small enterprises in Denver. They have initiative and they have excelled in the art of leading and motivating others. However, all three agree that their biggest achievement is being mothers. And their biggest challenge is to find the perfect balance between their role as being mothers and professionals. They know the value of fitness and a healthy diet. But they differ greatly on their musical and culinary tastes.
By Jesús Sánchez-Meleán | Translation by Eva Reinoso Tejada
“You have to dream big”
We chatted with Kim Rivera, in downtown Denver, at the top of the DaVita building, where her office is located. DaVita is an international company headquartered in Denver, specialized in dialysis services. Kim is DaVita’s Chief Legal Officer. She got there after a long career as an attorney and as legal counsel of Clorox and Rockwell Automation. She obtain these positions after completing her studies at Duke University, and her juris doctor at Harvard University. Her successful career in the United States was preceded by a series of challenges she faced in her home country of Paraguay and Puerto Rico, where she lived for some time. She overcame all obstacles and succeeded in a big way.
¿Qué clase de líder es Kim?
KIM RIVERA: I am an authentic leader. I do not have different faces that I wear at the office, or with my family, or with my colleagues. Authentic leaders are comfortable with who they are and are able to transmit their authenticity to their teams, their employees and their communities. People can tell when leaders are authentic in their passion about the things they do.
Do you believe men and women perform different styles of leadership?
KR: Yes, I believe so. Both have the ability to inspire others. But they use their ability in different ways. Men and women communicate differently; they create different work relationships. And I insist in the fact that they are different, not superior or inferior form each other. It is very effective when they are able to adopt qualities form the opposite sex at the time of leading. The main point is for men and women to learn to collaborate with each other.
What has been your biggest achievement?
KR: The fact that I am doing the job that I like, which is the most challenging of my professional career; and I am also the mother of a toddler girl. I didn’t have to renounce my professional career in order to be a mother.
What obstacles did you overcome in order to succeed?
KR: I have a long list. I come from a humble family. My sister and I were orphans at an early age and we rotated a lot of different relative’s homes. Before I finished high school I had decided to come to the United States, but I didn’t know how. I also didn’t have the resources, or the support of my family. I believe those were not obstacles, that’s just how life is.
What is your next goal?
KR: I think a lot about the next 20 or 30 years form now. I would love to use my experience to help the community. I haven’t decided how. It could be from the private sector, with a foundation. Or I could be a public speaker. My goal is that women, specially, pursue their dreams with no fears. And maybe the testimony of a woman can be helpful.
What would you have done different if you could change it?
KR: I would have enjoyed more my time in college to make friends and share with people. Just enjoying more the college environment. But I was really focused on my studies and my financial issues, and raising my younger sister.
Do you exercise?
KR: Yes. I try to exercise 5 times a week, for 30 minutes. My family has a long history of high blood pressure and cancer. For that reason I take care of my health by exercising and keeping a healthy diet.
What is your favorite food?
KR: “El Pastelón”, a typical Puerto Rican dish, made with plantains. Specifically the one my Aunt Lucy makes.
What is your favorite music?
KR: I will tell you in order: Salsa, merengue and bachata.
Do you like to dance those rhythms?
KR: Yes, I love it. I’m not sure if I do it ‘in-style’, but I enjoy it. When I talk about music and food, I remember my family. I made the choice to stay here, but I miss that kind of family interaction.
What is your final message for Hispanic young women who are seeking a better future?
In life you have to look for help, ask for help and give help. I am here because someone guided me to get here. A friend’s aunt guided me about the options and explained the steps to me. She held my hand and motivated me. She opened a window to the world. It is important to listen to advice, because many times, we create our own limitations. And a mentor can show us that our dreams are achievable. All we have to figure out is ‘how’. If I regret one thing is not have dreamed of bigger things.
“In life, you have to seek help, ask for help and give help”. Kim Rivera
“I am happy for my achievements; but now I think I should have dreamed of bigger things.” Kim Rivera.
“A leader needs to have integrity”
Diedra García has excelled as an entrepreneur and community leader. She was the chosen one, amongst many, to be the president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Denver, the second chamber with the largest number of members in Colorado. For over 15 years, she was in charge of her family construction business. “I am an innovator. I like to break the rules and the status quo, and that’s how I was able to perform in an industry that is mostly for men,” she said.
“I handle myself with integrity, because that is the only way to keep people’s trust in me,” she comments. But her success has not been free of obstacles. “I had to be a mother, and at the same time be in charge of the business and involved in the community. I had to take my daughters to school, and her sports activities; and I also had long days at work and community activities,” said Diedra.
Diedra thinks she did a good job raising her daughters. “My girls are smart, responsible and independent. They worked since they were 14 years old. They understood the value of education and they graduated from college.” She also added “I, however, got married when I was 21. I graduated later, after I had my kids.” With a reflective voice, Diedra told us: “If I could turn back time, I would have finished college sooner. And, I would have worked less and have more kids. I love big families.”
“With a little planning, a little vision, and hard work, everyone can achieve what they set out to achieve.” Diedra Garcia
“You have to be ready for change”
Lorena Cantarovici founded her company. “In 2005, I opened an empanada house, ‘Buenos Aires style’, in Lakewood. And since April of this year, I have a Café, where I also sell Argentinean empanadas and many other dishes.” She explained how her life has changed. “I used to deal with three people, now I am in charge of 15, and I have to supervise production, business and even finances. I keep learning and preparing for every new day. I need to be ready to make the right decisions,” she said.
Lorena explained to us her way of life. “For me, an achievement is something that makes me smile. Examples: The first time I got a promotion and I was able to bring more money home; finding the love of my life, here in the U.S.; starting my own business with very little money; having my beautiful children.” She explains how she learned that “time is the most important asset I have and I must administer it very well. I have to take care of this new baby –the restaurant–, and have time for the babies at home.” Lorena also spends time exercising; she is a fan of biking. “I don’t do it for fun, but because it is good for my health, and it is fun,” she confessed.
Lorena is not the only one who exercises. Diedra Garcia told us she likes hiking and tries to do it every week. She also goes to the gym when she has the chance. The topics where Kim, Lorena and Diedra really differ is food and music. Lorena likes flamenco and Spanish food. Meanwhile, Kim likes tropical rhythms (salsa, merengue, and bachata) and Puerto Rican food. Diedra, on the other hand, loves shredded beef burritos and listens and dances to “old school”. But all of them, women leaders in Denver, agree on how important it is to dream big, be wise in the use of their time, and the importance of their role as mothers.”
“Latinas must know they can succeed in this country”. Lorena Cantarovici