ADVANTAGE BUILDER: RAQUEL CASTRO

When Raquel Castro was in college, her stepfather died and her mother was diagnosed with cancer. Raquel took over her mother’s business, managed her medical treatment, and worked through a mortgage modification so her mother wouldn’t lose her home. All while continuing to take classes toward her bachelor’s degree.

That compassion and perseverance are still fundamental to Raquel’s life. She works as a Manager in Lease Administration for CBRE, overseeing a large technology account. “You need to understand your people,” she said. “I’m always open for questions, and if there’s something wrong and someone needs a day off, I tell them to please take it. People and compassion go together. That’s what matters to me.”

“People and compassion go together. That’s what matters to me.”

Raquel and her team volunteer, grab breakfast or drinks after work, and occasionally catch a movie together. Her Monday routine includes sending co-workers an inspirational quote about leadership or overcoming obstacles. “They’ll send me notes back and say, ‘thank you so much, I needed this,’” she said. “We are a happy team. I believe when people have a leader who really cares about them, it’s no longer a job where you just collect a paycheck.”

Raquel Castro

DETERMINED TO SUCCEED

Raquel was born in Lima, Peru. He grandmother gave her parents a piece of her land to build a small house, but the neighborhood suffered from high levels of poverty and crime. “My dad was very determined and goal-oriented,” she recalled. “When he was 7 or 8 years old he used to sell popsicles on the street. He worked really hard to move up in his company.”

When Raquel was 15, she, her dad and older brother moved to a middle-class neighborhood. “I was actually sad when we moved out, I missed my friends,” she said. “And I saw that people in the new area looked down on my old neighborhood. I thought, “Hey, I come from there. You don’t treat people like that.’”

The siblings went to a Catholic high school, where Raquel was involved in basketball, volleyball and track, and enjoyed studying multiple languages. When she graduated, she came to the U.S. for six months to improve her English. Raquel lived with her mother, who had moved to California after her parents separated. Then she returned to Peru to start college, where she studied business and graphic design.

Raquel moved back in with her mom and her stepfather, looking to transfer to a college in California to pursue better opportunities.

Raquel Castro

MEETING CHALLENGES WITH PERSISTENCE

To establish residency, Raquel had to wait a year before starting school, so she worked as a retail clerk and bank teller to earn money for tuition. “There were so many steps to follow to get my degree going, but I was not going to give up,” she said.

Raquel began classes at California State University at Hayward in 2009. Her goal was to finish school, launch her career, and then marry her fiancé, who was back in Peru. But over the next six months, her stepfather passed away unexpectedly, and her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. At risk of losing their home, Raquel quit her other jobs and took over her mother’s cleaning business while she guided her through medical treatment.

“I went to school and cleaned houses three days a week,” Raquel recalled. “I’d run into professors from my school who didn’t know they were clients of my mom, but they recognized me. Sometimes they’d give me an extra tip. We needed the money so badly.”

“My mom was so sick,” she said. “I had a 4.0 grade point average in school but couldn’t keep it up.” She also put off her wedding date twice.

But Raquel’s persistence was rewarded. She met someone who connected her to a company doing mortgage modifications, which reduced her mother’s payment by $1,000. After 12 months of surgery and radiation, her mother was declared cancer-free.

A NEW APPRECIATION

Raquel CastroAssured of her mother’s recovery, Raquel returned to Peru and married. She came back to California six months later and in 2012, finally graduated with her bachelor’s degree in business administration. She immediately took a clerical job at a hospital and gave herself a deadline: If she didn’t land a professional position by December, she would move back to Peru.

To widen her network, Raquel volunteered to help organize a TEDx conference, devoting three months to the effort. At the event, one of her professors recommended her to a manager at CBRE. She was hired as a business analyst on December 9, 2013.

Raquel’s team of 14 oversees a large technology firm’s lease contracts globally, paying rents and real estate taxes, approving invoices, tracking critical dates and ensuring records are accurate and secure. “Our client is always acquiring other companies, which makes it even more interesting, especially when it’s not in the U.S. and the landlords don’t speak the same language,” she said.

“You have to appreciate what you have and what you don’t have.”

Recognizing how hard Raquel had worked to achieve her goals, her husband left his job as a senior manager in Peru and joined her in the U.S. He found a job in real estate and they are now expecting twins. The spend weekends hiking, going to the beach and visiting her mother, who lives nearby.

“I’m so grateful to be part of CBRE,” Raquel said. “Sometimes I can’t believe it I’m here. Last time my team volunteered at the food bank, we were so tired afterwards. And then we thought about the people who work in the fields 15 hours a day, and we appreciated our job so much. You have to appreciate what you have and what you don’t have.”

Raquel Castro

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