By Gloria Romano-Barrera
A graceful woman in a black suit delicately accented with pearl and silver jewelry, United States 44th Treasurer Jovita Carranza rushes back to her historic ornate office after being presented an award from the Latino Coalition in D.C. With the U.S. coins displayed on her desk and her phone buzzing constantly, it quickly becomes apparent that she was well prepared to handle anything in life.
Carranza’s career has come a long way due to hard work, discipline, perseverance and optimism. Born in Chicago and the youngest of three, her mother was a housewife and her dad a foreman at a factory. At a young age, Carranza took the lead in setting the example by helping her parents with matters of life. The first in her family to move out of Chicago, Carranza attended college, got married, had a daughter, Klaudene, and moved up the ranks – from loading the docks to the corporate offices of UPS. She served as President of Latin American and Caribbean operations and Vice President of Air Operations in Louisville, KY before becoming the Deputy Administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration under President George W. Bush.
Fast-forward to today, Carranza is the highest-ranking Latina in the United States serving as the U.S. Treasurer. “I received a call asking if I was interested in serving. And I said ‘of course’ and that is what brought me here,” shares Carranza.
With vast experience in corporate America, the non-profit world, and community service, today Carranza walks the halls of the U.S. Treasury serving as a principal advisor to Secretary Mnuchin, overseeing operations which include the Office of Consumer Policy, U.S. Mint, including Fort Knox. Carranza also serves as the Secretary’s designee on the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund’s Community Development Advisory Board and the Financial Literacy Education Commission (FLEC). She is also a key liaison with the Federal Reserve System.
“Serving the new administration, especially as a Latina, with the responsibility for all operations of coin currency production, overseeing the Office of Consumer Policy, promoting financial literacy and education, and Treasury’s mission to maintain a strong economy collectively provides an important platform to represent the community that is such a part of me: the pride, the entrepreneurial culture, the work ethic and so much more to offer this country,” she states.
Storing the nations gold and managing operations for the U.S. treasury is a tremendous responsibility. To explain her motivation, Carranza tells the story of living in poverty, meager means, working two jobs at once while attending college and being a single mother at a young age. Despite all these challenges while growing up she learned to remain strong and look forward with optimism.
In college, Carranza was intrigued by several subjects: education, nursing, and political science. But plans changed when she went from being an independent and engaged student in politics to a single mother.
“When I first started college, I wanted to be a teacher and I thought that I wanted to work with young minds and offer them the schooling that I lacked, always aspiring to make a difference,” she shares. “I wanted to have better than what I had, better than what I was exposed to, and I knew things could be better, and selectively set out to improve. I worked at ‘overcoming’ the fear of engaging in pursuit of it.”
Whether it was part-time or at night, the desire to attend school never stopped. Carranza felt that if she ever stopped, it would be much more difficult to launch or stay focused on her education, so she always kept involved at some college. “It was very difficult to go to school and have two jobs,” she shares. “I always tell young ladies if you are going to go to school, commit to attend, stay in school and finish it fast. If you can attend graduate school immediately, go straight through—receive your Master’s degree. Don’t break from something that is going to build your character and build your fortune.”
Although it was difficult for Carranza to immerse herself in school and raise her daughter at the same time, she leaned on her mother’s support, this enabled her to be multifaceted in her approach to school and work toward a career while raising a child.
“If you ask any middle-income family member what seems to be a barrier to success, it’s typically…money, education and poor decisions,” she shares. “I’ve had my share of each, which motivated me to work smarter, save wisely, and never stop acquiring an education by whatever means possible; learning by example, counsel and classroom, and optimizing every opportunity to excel.”
Carranza never shied away from learning opportunities and her education wasn’t always in the classroom. She recounts learning the value of earning trust and responsibility while working at a department store when she was in high school.
Looking back, Carranza believes those years were very critical in the development of how she operates today. “Later in life, I realized my parents were the drivers of change, and their impatience with me taught me to be anxious about mediocracy,” she states. “They served as a baseline to what developed in to a mindset of improving conditions within my means. However, after attending college, international exposure, receiving an MBA, and working with executive coaches, I realized a reservoir of informed innovation that had not yet been applied. In other words…an expanded capacity to be and do more. Instinctively, I knew that if I didn’t study the particular role, my performance would be minimally noticed. Within time, a competitive nature further developed. An essential trait to play in the big league; a lesson I learned from a high school basketball coach.”
Observing successful people, reading, and discipline played an important role in her career, but rationalizing things is what she does most. She narrates how she would take the road that was the most difficult because no one else would take and if she could overcome that particular obstacle, then the next obstacle would be less intimidating. “I would think through the path and determine where it will take me,” she states. “I observe people in my own way; I would observe very successful actors, very successful business people. Even at a young age, I would compare which teacher provided the best education. People say ‘you always have a list on your mind, it is always working’ and it is really true.”
Always processing several things at once, her inspiration also derives from other’s failures. I would say to myself “how do I avoid making that same mistake, what do I need to do, what should that person have done to avoid that mistake?”
With a desire to give back to her community, coupled with her determination to make herself the most informed, engaged citizen she could be, she would research and read everything she could get her hands on. Inspired by her mother to read daily, Carranza shares the story of how her mother read the Sun Times newspaper page by page every day to learn and understand English. At one time, I was reading several newspapers,” she says. “My husband would ask me, ‘Are you going to read all those papers?’ I would say “yes.” I thought, if it worked for my mother it was going to work for me!”
While Carranza could not attend Harvard or Stanford, she believed she could keep learning from the best by subscribing to the most expensive Harvard journals. She recounts she would read books of the best management development techniques and employee relations techniques. It was that practice combined with ambition that allowed her to work her way up the corporate ladder at UPS, where she became the highest-ranking Latina in the history of the company.
Initially supervising about 12 employees to tens of thousands nationwide and international by the time she left the company, Carranza feels her experience was unique. “I was involved as an executive at UPS and those types of company transitions, is a unique education,” she shares. “You can learn it from a book but it’s nothing like living the process.”
A clear denominator has run through all her varied positions, every task she takes on she turns into an opportunity for building bridges. If success for Carranza can be attributed to a combination of talent, drive and determination, it must be noted that it also stems from one other very important source—her network. For instance, back when she was at UPS she would be provided with the opportunity. Whether it was management, human resources, or operations, it did not matter if she wasn’t familiar with the department. As she states, she would take advantage of all the training and educational opportunities the company provided.
“One day I walked into the office and my manager asked ‘have you ever thought of going into operations?’ Because I was very good at HR and they had plans, I said ‘I’ve been thinking about that.'” And he said ‘you want to try it?’ I said ‘sure,'” she shares. “I left HR and all the administrative work, but, I believe there are opportunities available for women who say ‘sure I’ve been thinking about it.'”
Given the opportunity, training, and mentorship, she excelled at every stage of her career at UPS. “I used to say, If I could do it, there is opportunity for women who really want to bite the bullet and take advantage of it,” she shares.
Motivated to work hard and better for the long-term, Carranza is proud of her achievements. When she retired from UPS, she felt there was more for her to accomplish as she had gained so much knowledge, strength and character. “My upbringing brought me this far,” she shares. “My education provided a lot more opportunities for me, so why would I not do more. A person that feels that they’ve done it all in a particular field are really selling themselves short.”
Carranza served on corporate and non-for-profit boards, but going into politics happened by accident as one of her mentors advised her to send her resume to all of her contacts. When Carranza showed him a list of names to whom the resume was sent, he noticed she did not have any federal government contacts, so he insisted she dig deep and think of someone. So, she did.
She recalls meeting a gentleman who visited the UPS facility in Louisville, KY where she worked as Vice President of Air Operations. She sent over her resume not knowing he would take it over to the President’s Personnel Office for consideration. And that is how her political career began. Carranza went on to serve as the Deputy Administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration from December 2006 to January 2009.
“That is why when I speak to the youth I always tell them don’t ever underestimate the value of a resume,” she says. The impressive background motivated the President’s personnel office to call.
“They said, ‘We are impressed with your background and we have a need in these particular areas, would you be interested?” she says. “I said of course.” I am giving back to the non-for-profits, of course I would like to serve the President.” Giving back is another lesson learned early in life from an uncle who served in the military.
Capitalizing on her talent and innate skills, Carranza continues to approach life in a unique way. “I didn’t always make the right decisions but I never let those poor decisions over rule what needed to get done moving forward,” she shares. “I thought if I could make it out of this situation—having an opportunity to acquire leadership and managerial skills; receiving on-the-job training—I would be able to finance higher education for myself; secure better caretakers and schools for my daughter—this is the American dream—what I strived to achieve, not looking back! Everything I thought I should accomplish and everything I dreamed that I wanted to be, was not only about me, but for my whole family.”
Known as a smart proven businesswoman with a drive to serve the country, Jennifer Sevilla-Korn, Special Assistant to the President and Deputy Director for the White House Office of Public Liaison believes Carranza’s legacy will be one of helping Secretary Mnuchin communicate and advance the President’s policies for the betterment of the country and all Americans, whether it be on tax reform, financial literacy or ensuring Americans have real access to capital to grow their businesses.
“Politics is not easy and while I have been doing this for 20 years, the long hours and stress can be tough,” Sevilla-Korn states. “Jovita is someone I could call for advice and talk through strategies. She is a great listener and gives thoughtful advice. As a fellow Latina of faith, we have prayed together and that always makes a difference. In the world of politics, it is hard to find someone who is smart, loyal, humble and discreet. Jovita is all of these things.”
Not only is Carranza an inspiration, mentor and friend to Latinas such as Sevilla-Korn, she is also a respected voice among the new administration.“I cannot think of any one more qualified and suited to serve as the U.S. Treasurer than Jovita Carranza,” shares Linda McMahon, administrator of the Small Business Administration. “Jovita is an inspiration to all women, and especially our young Latinas who can look to her strong leadership as an example that all of us can follow. I am proud to call Treasurer Carranza my friend, and I look forward to continuing to work with her as we move the nation forward under President Trump’s leadership.”
Moving at an accelerated pace for the past 30 years, Carranza continues to keep that pace. “I carry the responsibility of speaking to all Americans regarding our shared values of liberty, individualism, and charity, and prosperity which allow this great country to thrive,” Carranza shares. “To be nominated by this new administration to foster economic growth, and promote prosperity and stability not only for this generation but for generations to come is a privilege and honor.”
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