I am Danielle Beyer and I am the chief executive officer of the New America Alliance, a national advocacy organization that focuses on ensuring that the Latino community and all underrepresented communities have more access to capital.
I would describe myself first and foremost as an advocate because of what I do on a day-to-day basis, but more deeply, as a leader and a doer. I try to lead by example as much as possible which is more challenging at times than one might like.
I want people to remember me as what I just said—a leader in the sense of someone who may change someone, who made real change, a sustainable lasting change for not only the Latino community but other communities as well, like, women and other minorities. At the end of the day, equal access is equal access for everyone. One of the things I talk about a lot in my job is that talent is equally distributed but opportunity and access are not. If you are advocating on behalf on one community, you’re really advocating on behalf of all communities that may not have that equal access.
Danielle Beyer Career Journey
I would describe my career journey as a series of lucky events and really good mentors. I have a very, very long way to go journey-wise but when I look back, it’s really hasn’t been exactly what I had planned and in some cases not even remotely what I had planned in terms of where it all started. I think that had a lot to do with how I was brought up. I was brought up in a bilingual family. My father is from the upstate New York Buffalo area and my mother is from Puerto Rico. Almost as soon as I was born, we moved to Puerto Rico. So I grew up within a bilingual family which I think ultimately allowed me to communicate with and relate to lots of different people along with being able to relate to different cultures.
I went to the University of Rochester for undergrad and I was so undecided about everything that I overloaded for every class. And so, almost by accident, because I had overloaded the first few years—I ended up finishing my degree in three years. After those three years, I still wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. My parents, who are my two most important mentors, told me that the University of Rochester offered this program where if I had a high enough GPA, interviewed well, and had good test scores, I might be able to get into an accelerated MBA program. It was called the Three-Two Program. So I thought to myself, “What else was I going to do?” I wasn’t really prepared to enter the job force, as I was around 20 or 21 at the time. I also obviously didn’t want the funding to end so I ended up applying to the program—and I got in. I ended up essentially, having my senior became the first year of my MBA. Thus while my friends were enjoying senior year and finishing up college, I was starting my business degree. I finished that in two years. Though, I had been much unprepared for the program—but by luck, because of the fact that I was so young, I got a lot of exposure to mentors and advisors that I probably wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. The school almost over resourced the candidates that were in this program, in a sense. That was very lucky for me because I had no idea what to expect. Throughout it, I decided finance sounded cool. Corporate strategy was what I was going to focus on in my MBA. I had gotten a degree in psychology and French in my undergrad, so there really was no relation.
During the MBA program, I also had some really great mentors. I ended up working for a former CFO from PepsiCo, Leonard Schutzman, who was also a graduate of the school. I ended up working on one of his portfolio companies. He’s a serial entrepreneur and that was such great exposure. I had no bad habits since it was really my first job. I didn’t really know much about habits, as it was my first internship, but he really taught me some very good ones. I was able to apply those good habits that he taught me into my first job after business school, which was a bank called NatCity Investments which is now part of PNC. Another thing by luck, I was connected to an alum that worked at this bank, who encouraged me to apply to this development program at the bank and said that I should join it. It was a corporate development training program. I was probably six or seven years younger than everyone that I was surrounded by in the class. Everyone there had joined after their MBAs and associates, so again there was a lot of exposure and I was over resourced. They really gave me the best access to mentors and advisors in the company. I was there for about a year and a half and then I was transferred into a group. The group that I was transferred to was very challenging but I really started networking my way through the East Coast, mostly New York City. Then I landed at Mariner Investment Group, where I was at for almost nine years. That was really where the journey kind of defined itself in a way. I had three different, amazing bosses and several different roles in the company. That’s where I started to really feel like I was getting something done, like I was improving something and had some sort of control over a process. I felt like I had decision-making power where I could actually affect change which is what I want my legacy to be. I want to be someone that has made change that is sustainable. I think I was really able to improve some things there.
And then again, by a stroke of luck after almost nine years of being at this company, the opportunity to run the New America Alliance presented itself. It was really something that I was simultaneously afraid of and excited about because it was such a huge responsibility to be managing this organization on behalf of the Latino community. But it was also one that I couldn’t say no to. It was an opportunity that I would say is the only one thing where I actively said, “Absolutely. This has to be my next step.” I felt like an opportunity like this didn’t come along every day.
Danielle Beyer Top Accomplishments
I don’t really think my top accomplishments are just mine. I think they are really my mentors’, my family’s, my friends’ and my significant other’s and mine. In terms of what I think I’m most proud of when I look back at everything, it hasn’t been about the titles that I’ve been granted or the titles on my business card. It’s been more about the people that I’ve had the pleasure of working with and who have gone on to bigger and better things after working with me or working on teams that I’ve managed especially when I was in Mariner Investment Group. I had the opportunity to manage a very lean team that was very productive and which got leaner and leaner because of the needs of the company over a period of time. A lot of those men and women that worked with us on that team went on to become entrepreneurs, went on to huge companies, big roles and big companies or went back to school to improve their opportunities down the line. That’s what I think I’m most proud of. It’s having given the next generation, or not even the next generation but people that were coming after me—because I’m not that much older than a lot of these people—the opportunity and the platform to improve themselves and their careers and do better and be happier.
Danielle Beyer Background and Success
I grew up in Puerto Rico. I went to school in Mexico City and grew up perfectly bilingual. So it was English with my dad every day and Spanish with my mom and my two younger sisters. And now with my two nieces, I speak Spanglish. We encourage my nieces to speak Spanish but it doesn’t always work. Those are the two languages and that allowed me, especially when I moved to the continental United States, to connect with a larger number of people.
I always remember my parents working so hard. They were always working so hard. My dad was a director of finance for a big pharmaceutical company in Puerto Rico. My mother was the head of operations for a hospital and medical supplies company in Puerto Rico. Right around the time when she found out that she was pregnant with my younger sister, who is eleven years younger than I am, she decided she wanted to pursue a law degree. Thus, she was pregnant and then nursing during law school and just watching that really made me realize that nothing is impossible. You can always get things done if you really want to. Something always will give. You have to make compromises. You can’t have it all. It’s very exhausting to live life that way. Watching them growing up, I thought I can pretty much do anything.
Going back to how I grew up culturally, the latter part of my career had benefitted. The fact that I have a father, who is half-German and half-Sicilian because of his parents, but grew up in Buffalo, New York and a mother, who is a one-hundred percent Puerto Rican culturally has helped me a lot to get to where I am today. I wouldn’t be, I don’t think, representing the Latino business community if I didn’t have my background but then I was also able to relate culturally to people who were very different to me at Mariner and 55 Capital and at NatCity because they hadn’t grown in a Latino community. They didn’t grow up in Puerto Rico or Mexico City. So I think the fact that I had the other background with my dad’s side was very, very beneficial for me. It just allowed me to connect and gain the trust of people that maybe I wouldn’t have known how to manage in some cases. There’s actually a new stereotype that’s been written up and it’s called, “Latina Lista” which is because Latinas or Latinos in general are a really diverse group. We have the ability to connect to a lot of cultures and that benefits us in business and life and it’s also a lot of fun to meet people where you can speak their language. That is kind of an instant connector in many, many ways.
Danielle Beyer PO-LING
I think the PO-LING principles are very practical. In this life, you have to be practical and keep things simple. So I think the principles are a very good framework for how one should not only work but live as well.
The work is such a big part of what we do and I do see that in a lot of salient moments. You remember some those salient moments more because of the challenges or because you had to deal with great adversity career-wise. I look back and now that I know what the principles are, they’re there almost in every instance, especially in the most important ones and what I consider with some of things that I’m most proud of. For example when I was in Mariner, I managed a team of people that was lean, very productive and effective. The team consisted of mostly younger professionals that have been maybe three or four years out of school. There was a very, very high talent caliber and it was a matter of making sure that they were learning what they had to learn but also getting done what they needed to get done. It was also about giving them the platform, especially on the end for a network. It was about giving them that platform that they needed to meet people outside the company even if it wasn’t great for me in the end, since they would end up moving on to different roles after several years. But it was essentially about leading, empowering and prioritizing in a managing team. You have to prioritize. If you don’t do that, there’s miscommunication and there’s disorganization. No one really knows what they’re doing and when you’re in a team with seven of eight people, it is very necessary for you to make sure that you’re prioritizing things correctly. Again if I go through every single principle and I look in detail with what I was experiencing in those salient moments of my career, the PO-LING principles are all there. I really kind of wish I’d known them before.
Danielle Beyer POWER
The POWER principles resonate with me. I think that it’s a way to simplify and to put into a very succinct set of words, something that I think is very important in everything that you do. Personal, career, fun, it’s important for all. Though hopefully, there’s some fun in your career and personal life.
In terms of “Prioritizing,” that’s always been my biggest challenge. For me, it’s a recurring theme in the sense that I get so excited about all the things that need to be done that it’s really hard to say this is focus on one or two, versus three, four, and five. I kind of want to get everything done yesterday or now and because there’s such a sense of urgency especially in what I’m doing now. It can’t be another eighteen years before the New America Alliance achieves what it has achieved these past eighteen years. I constantly feel that sense of urgency. Sometimes you don’t have the discipline to prioritize things, or even to write them down or put them on a cork board or dry erase board that you’re seeing every day. Some people that do very well with to-do lists. I’m the kind of person that needs it to be written on the wall. I need to see it whenever I’m working to remind myself this is what we decided is number one, two, three, four, and five. It’s very easy for me to say, “Let’s just jump around and do what we want to do. Let’s do everything now.”
With my “Obligations,” I never feel like I’m meeting all of them. I’m not talking about the responsibilities that are listed in your job description. I hold myself to a very high standard and I hold others to a very high standard too, especially as it pertains to integrity and really doing justice to the trust that you get from others, whether it’s your peers, your bosses, and the people who work for you. But I never feel like I’m getting everything done and doing everything I wanted to do for everyone around me. Thus, the obligations part is a very hard for me, especially now in this organization that I’m in because we’re an advocacy organization. We’re funded by memberships. I feel very responsible to our members as there’s about seventy of them. If I get a call or an email, I feel like I have to respond right away, because I’m there at their service. I’m really there to support them and their communities and businesses to continue to help them grow their businesses. In a sense, it’s hard to balance it all. Do I work until two in the morning and respond to all of the emails I have in my inbox? Do I return all the calls and voicemails that I have on my phone or do I not? I think it comes back to cutting some slack for myself sometimes. I almost say, “Okay well, maybe that’s not necessarily an obligation. Maybe it’s a perceived obligation on my part.” That’s a big, big challenge for me and it’s been always. I’m very loyal so if I feel like I’m not doing enough for the person that I’m working for, I feel very stressed out about it and anxious. This is an anxiety-inducing thing for me, when I don’t feel like I’m meeting my obligations. I interpret obligations as my to-do list. I’m never done with it and I don’t think you ever should be. Once you’re done with your to-do list and you’re just sitting and twiddling your thumbs, you’re wasting your time.
In terms of “Energy,” I actually focus on energizing. I think that life is too short to not spend it doing the things that you love and that energize you. I’m very lucky to now be in a role that energizes me. Every day I’m learning new statistics, reading new studies, and speaking to new people which I love doing. I love meeting new people and I love being surrounded by entrepreneurs and business owners who have worked so hard to get where they are or academics who have published cutting-edge research on different topics. It doesn’t have to just be on diversity or inclusion. It can just be on the best investment strategies or something even more technical than that. Being in a position where I’m constantly learning and meeting other people, but also feeling like I’m achieving something on a day-to-day basis even if I’m not meeting all of my obligations, is very energizing. Outside of that, you also have to take time away from what you do for your nine-to-five job even though this isn’t a nine-to-five job. You have to take time away from what you do on a daily basis to for work. It’s important, for me personally, to spend as much time as possible with my family who is in between Puerto Rico and Miami and upstate New York. Back to my “Obligations,” I feel like I’m never spending enough time with them. I could spend a month with them and then come back to New York or wherever it is that I’m traveling to and I think that I should have spent a month and two days. So with reenergizing, I think it’s a beautiful thing to be in a role where you feel pumped up and stoked by the people that you’re talking with on a daily basis and what you’re learning, though I also think that it’s important to recharge in other ways. It allows your creative juices to flow when you’re not surrounded by the same topics. When I was working at the Mariner Investment Group, where I was in the process of managing this team that I’ve loved, I said to myself that I’m too much in this hamster wheel of managing the team and I’m really spending all of my time in the office and stressing out about work. I needed to stress out about other things. Thus, I decided I was going to go to culinary school. Not just a two or three month program. I wanted to become a chef. So I went to the French Culinary Institute in SoHo. I got permission to leave the office at 5:00 on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I would leave the office at 5:00, and take the six train down to SoHo. I would open my locker and change out of my work clothes and into my chef clothes and cook from 5:45 to 11:00. Many people said, “You’re nuts. How are you working a full-time job and going to a school for so many hours week in a hot restaurant kitchen?” This was the most energizing thing I’ve done because it’s so different. I’m surrounded by people who have completely different backgrounds. They don’t work in financial services at all and they’re way better than me in what I’m doing, so I’m constantly learning. That was by far the most exhausting year of my life. It was a yearlong program but it was also the most energizing. Energizing doesn’t necessarily have to be about going on vacation or sleeping eight hours a day. I think it’s about doing things that get you going.
Danielle Beyer Challenges
My biggest challenge right now, is doing my current role justice. Every day, I feel the weight of the responsibility of being effective in my job. I am not working for a company that is doing what it’s doing to make money and pay everyone Christmas bonuses and to just have fun. We are doing what we do at the New America Alliance (NAA) because it is very much needed. We are advocating on behalf of the Latino business community, but really more in general on behalf of all underrepresented communities that want equal access to capital for their businesses. If there’s no one doing what we do and if the NAA wasn’t in existence, there’d really be no one advocating for what we’re advocating especially for the Latino community. We’ve been around since 1999 and we’ve helped our members and our communities create a tremendous amount of wealth for themselves. That’s a big responsibility and the biggest challenge about that is trusting myself to be able to do it right. We have a long way to go in terms of making sure that Latinos aren’t just a fraction of the businesses that are being built or the investments funds that are being created and raising capital. We have a very, very long way to go.
In this role, the other big challenge is learning. Speaking the language and learning more about government and policy since that’s a big part of advocacy is a challenge. You have to be involved on the policy side and by reading a lot of studies. One of the most interesting ones that I recently found is a Knight Foundation study, done by Professor Josh Lerner from Harvard University. It essentially shows that only 1.1 percent of all dollars in the markets are managed by women and minorities. 1.1 percent out of 70 trillion dollars and Latinos are a fraction of that. So yes, the NAA has been around since 1999. Yes, we’ve done a very good job thus far but it’s not enough. We have a long way to go. And my challenge, is to multiply the effect that we’ve had in the last 18+ years. In terms of how I’m dealing with it, I’m really trying to breathe and pause because I think it’s very easy to get caught up in the, “We need to all of these things done. We need to talk to all these people. We need to get all these signatures. We need to write all these letters for support,” and to really get caught up in the hamster wheel of your to-do list without really pausing. It’s very, very necessary for these kind of roles and really for any role no matter how junior, how senior, or how experienced, or how green you are. I think it’s always important to reenergize but there is an importance to step back and say, “Okay, this is why I’m doing what I’m doing.” Any role has its days where you feel so empowered and you could go for hours or days or weeks. And then there are some days where you feel like sometimes you’re banging your head against the wall and not really getting done what you want. So, in terms of dealing with those challenges, it’s really about taking a moment to kind of pause and make sure that you’re keeping yourself on track and making sure that you’re reenergizing. That’s key, for any role.
Danielle Beyer Influences
My major influences have been my mom, my dad, and my two younger sisters, who inspire me tremendously every day. My parents have always been there and my sisters as well. I think what’s very important about that is that we’re all very tight. They’re all in Miami and I’m in New York City so we don’t really see each other every day but we’re very, very close. It’s almost a safety net, where I feel no matter how badly I mess up, there’s always someone that will listen, that will support me, and that will tell me that I messed up but still love me all the same. I think it’s kind of important to have that kind of support network because you’re not as afraid of failures in a sense. You’re always afraid of failures, but knowing that there’s always someone there that’s a constant—not just one person, in my case, but a group of people—has been instrumental. Even when I had some personal challenges in my marriage, that had been very important. I think that the love and the support that I’ve experienced in my family has really helped me to have great relationships with other people. It’s just been a very good example. Another major influence for me is the former CEO of Mariner Investment Group, Brace Young, who was my boss and a really huge inspiration for me to work harder every day and to lead better, manage better and be more productive and effective in my job. When I messed up, he would tell me, “You messed up. Let’s do better next time.” It wasn’t a, “You messed up, you’re fired,” or “You cannot make mistakes.” This is a learning experience for all of us and we’re growing a business, we’re improving a business and we’re trying to improve the people that work with us so they could move to bigger and better things. He was just a phenomenal boss and I tried to be as good as he was. It’s hard though because again, you get caught up in, “Am I doing this right?” and “We don’t have any time for mistakes.” Thus, I think it’s important to give people a chance to learn from their mistakes. Those are my very important influences. Those are constants of people who have been in my life for a very long time and have inspired me in different ways.
Though, there’s also those little interactions that you have with people, and there’s one particular one that I go back to all the time. I used to be a tour guide at the University of Rochester. They called it the Meridian Society. You were almost the first impression for a visitor that came into the University of Rochester and I loved it. It was so much fun. I learned so much about the history of the university that I wouldn’t have known otherwise, just kind of studying and spending my extracurricular time at the university. I really enjoyed it. But, then I got a question during one of the tours that I had no idea what the answer was. It was about Frederick Douglass. There’s the Frederick Douglass Institute at the University of Rochester and I grew up in Puerto Rico and came to the United States after finishing high school in Mexico City, so I didn’t know as much US history and definitely not upstate New York history as I now do.
That was a pivotal moment for me because it got me very interested in Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, the civil rights moment, and women’s suffrage. A lot of that comes up in conversation in my job today, which is incredible to think about, That was a thirty second interaction that I had with the parent of a potential student that was on a tour and it really made think if I don’t know the answer to this question about the Frederick Douglass Institute, there’s a lot that I don’t know about the history of not just this place, but this country and in a lot of other places. The Silver Movement and women’s suffrage are two things that are much related to how I feel about my job and in why I think it’s so necessary. Though, we are nonpartisan and we don’t really talk about the civil rights movement much. We really focus on the business case for diversity and inclusion and the fact that diversity is a source of alpha and better decision-making from diverse people, but not as much the civil rights movement. That’s one of the things that energizes me. That this is part of our history. Let’s not let it be part of the history again. Let’s not go back there.
Danielle Beyer Career Advice
My advice to younger Danielle, I’m sure will be the same advice I would give to the Danielle today and ten years from now. It’s to breathe, take your time and to prioritize. It’s to stick to the priorities and don’t think that you can get everything done immediately. Be a little bit more patient. I really like things to be done well and yesterday, and you can’t have both. I think it’s really about letting go and trusting yourself. You’re going to get the right results. It might not be today but you’re going to get the right results.
Danielle Beyer Call to Action Individuals
I think the best way to look at the call to action for individuals is that this is not just the job of the Latino community or the leaders of the Latino community or it’s not just the job of the African-American community and the leaders of that community and so on. It’s everyone’s job and I think if everyone starts to do a little bit more to challenge the lack of equal access, we’ll all be a lot better off. It’s not in the hands of a few. It’s in everyone’s hands. More importantly, it’s also about understanding that we all have biases that we’re not always aware of and that’s where I believe the problem with equal access comes up. It’s where a person doesn’t think they have biases and so they make a lot of decisions with the best of intentions, but it’s always informed by those biases and not being aware of them. I think we are all responsible for studying ourselves. Self-study is very important in recognizing that even we have biases. I think it’s a strength to admit that and to know it and study it. Some of the best companies on Wall Street, especially at companies like JPMorgan, for example, have bias training for a lot of their leaders to help make them aware of some of these biases that they might be experiencing which I think is very, very important. Then, I think once people start to recognize that, they’ll recognize that it is everyone’s job to fight for equal access and help provide equal access to underrepresented minorities, women but also people from lower socioeconomic statuses. It’s not always about gender, it’s not always about race or ethnicity. Sometimes it could be about the neighborhood that you grew up in. You can be a white male and have grown up very poor and your perspective is very different to someone who grew up in a wealthy family. That’s diversity. At the end of the day, it’s everyone’s job to make sure that we’re treating people equitably and that access is as fairly and as equally distributed as talent—because talent is equally distributed.
Danielle Beyer Call to Action Organizations (Cut out 2:08-2:12 —“and to not poverty”)
Another call to action as it pertains to diversity and inclusion, especially at the corporate level or any large organizations, is to think about how diverse your leadership is. Not just your hiring practice. A lot of companies, again, with the best of intentions, will hire people out of college or out of business school or out of law school and that’s fantastic because you have to build a talent pipeline. But how many managing directors do you have that are women or Latina or Latino or Asian or African American or Middle-Eastern? Let’s talk about the leadership levels—who is running the companies? Who is making decisions? Who is deciding on where capital is being invested, which is very important because there’s a very important trickle-down effect if the people at the top making those decisions aren’t a diverse group of people. Then it’s very unlikely that the capital will flow to a very diverse group of communities. So I think that’s definitely a call to action for any organization, not just for-profit companies. It’s for any organization that is putting in place a diversity initiative to make sure that it’s at all levels and not just at the entry level. Sometimes you’ll hear, “We can’t find Latino managing directors,” or “We can’t find women managing directors.” They’re out there. Call the New America Alliance, they’re out there. We have an amazing database of talent. The other thing is that the flow of capital is key for socioeconomic empowerment of communities that aren’t represented at leadership levels. That’s what really grows communities and moves communities from poverty. That would be my main call to action to larger organizations.
Danielle Beyer iD Community
In terms of making an impact and what the iD community brings to the table, I think it really comes down to role models. It’s in the mission statement and it’s very true. I think the Inspiring Diversity movement and organization knows itself very well and that role models are key for every community. I love that it also highlight leaders from all communities, genders, ethnicities, and backgrounds. I’ve looked at the portfolio of role models that are highlighted and I think it’s very important that it doesn’t stick to one or two or three because again, diversity for one, diversity for all. It’s equal access for all. I think role models are very, very important in all of that. If you’re really going to inspire communities to take on leadership roles, to take on roles where they’re controlling capital or making decisions where capital gets invested, they have to know that it’s possible. I always knew it was possible for me to have this kind of a role or really, a lot of the other roles that I’ve had, because my parents told me it was possible. And not only did they tell me that it was possible, but I saw it in them. They were working very hard and had great careers while I was growing up. So, from a personal perspective, I understand the importance and the value of role models one-hundred percent and I think that is something that iD does that is incredibly important.
Danielle Beyer Surprising Fact
Well I don’t know this is as much fun as it is embarrassing but my dream when I was a teenager was to be an Olympic synchronized swimmer. I competed in synchronized swimming internationally for Puerto Rico until my family moved from Puerto Rico to Mexico City when I was about 15. Then I became a swimmer. That was the connection for why I swam varsity in college for my first two years. Though really, I wanted to be a synchronized swimmer in the Olympics. I didn’t get there but I had a lot of fun trying.