She was driven by a strong desire to help in improving people’s life. She knew her destiny, she only had to find the way. As she fervently continued her professional journey with hard work and dedication, she found her vocation. She is a leader, she is an achiever, she is Alejandra Guzman, Vice President, Performance Management and Strategy of New Orleans Business Alliance, an official economic development partner with New Orleans and its business community. Alejandra stayed focused in her vision to help others and with the same view she joined the company. She is an inspiration for women, and we are thrilled to share her journey in this article where Alejandra shares her success in her own words.
- What were your dreams and aspirations while growing up?
My journey began in Mexico where I grew up and started my career. From a very early age I witnessed the lack of economic opportunities our community had as well as the limited opportunities women had to advance in our careers. Within this context, I knew from an early age that I wanted to contribute to improving people´s quality of life. This is why I decided to pursue a professional career that focused on community and economic development.
- What were the initial challenges and setbacks that you faced when you first joined New Orleans Business Alliance?
The nature of the roles I´ve had in most of my professional positions required mastering the balance of blending technical and relationship skills.
Most of my positions have required an understanding of a complex web of internal and external relationships in which I have to act simultaneously as a diplomat, influencer, team player, leader and listener. Economic development does not occur in a vacuum, so it is critical that I work well with others to accomplish my goals.
In another instance I have had to lead a multi-sector group of senior consultants to design and execute an urban development proposal that required me to understand when to switch from a leader to a follower. The project required that I assemble a very specific set of skills and professionals including traffic and mobility engineering, architectural and landscape design, and sustainable real estate. Given the high-end nature of our real estate investments, we hired senior consultants, top in their field. Although I was ultimately responsible for leading our project, it was critical that I had the capability to step aside and follow the lead of technical experts to deliver a successful project.
To master this career challenges I have invested in my professional development. It is important that as professionals we have a clear understanding of what are the skills that we need for our current professional challenges and our next career move. I have worked with an executive coach to help me identify skill gaps and ways to address them. A coach can also help with preparations for salary negotiations and to address issues at work that have to do more with politics rather than technical skills.
- Tell us in brief about the services of New Orleans Business Alliance
The New Orleans Business Alliance is a public-private partnership and the official economic development organization for the city of New Orleans. The organization was formed in 2010 through a coalition of business and civic leaders to employ the best practices in economic development to position New Orleans as the ideal intersection of commerce and culture. As the official economic development partnership for New Orleans and the hub of its business community, our goal is to continue to show the world that New Orleans is the best American city for business investment, quality of life and inclusive economic opportunity. We focus our work on small business growth, business expansion and retention, talent & workforce development, as well as strategic neighborhood development. Our business model includes pursuing an inclusive economic development strategy, in which we create the perfect intersection of culture and commerce while delivering New Orleanians enhanced economic security.
- How has technology impacted economic development?
There is a lot of discussion in our field on how technology is changing the nature of our current jobs and what that means for the future of work and designing curricula to meet those demands. In New Orleans, the different organizations that are involved in this topic, including NOLABA, are in constant communication and coordination to help address this challenge.
What is less discussed when it comes to technology is how this is positively contributing to other areas of economic development. For example, at the Business Alliance, we use data and technology to support our work around business attraction and retention. In the case of real estate development, we partner with internationally recognized data analytic companies to build the case of why investment opportunities have a high probability of being successful in our market. We also offer relevant data to our broader business community through our website Nolaba.org.
- How do you define the growth of the company over the past few years? (Can be explained with statistical data too)
In the last two years our organization has reimagined what economic development means for our community. We developed and implemented a strategy that prioritizes inclusive economic development. This means looking at our work with a lens of equity and making sure that everyone in our community receives support and not just certain members of our community. We have expanded our portfolio to make sure we have a holistic offer that includes support for our workforce, small businesses, and business retention and attraction. We have also gained industry peer validation by becoming one of 62 International Economic Development Council accredited economic development organizations worldwide. We are committed to the best practices in economic development.
- Give us a brief of your life before New Orleans Business Alliance
Before joining the New Orleans Business Alliance in 2016, I spearheaded projects budgeted at or below $3 million which benefit more than 52,000 people in Latin America. I also held a position at Capital Natural, a leading management and administration firm for private equity funds and real estate investment projects operating in Mexico. I promoted urban and community development for real estate projects valued in excess of $200 million and lead risk management for assets in excess of $400 million.
This included integrating and implementing urban, community, and political strategies into a core business model for the company. I managed a multi-sector team of staff and consultants to promote a public private partnership focusing on urban regeneration and mobility within the city of Monterrey, Mexico. In 2016 I began targeting her efforts to the +350,000 members of the Greater New Orleans Community whom I serve daily through the New Orleans Business Alliance as Vice President, Real Estate.
I’m trilled to be able to contribute to the economic development of New Orleans. Economic development promotes well-being, quality of life and the opportunities to develop human potential. Economic Development matters because people matter. Creating the right conditions for this is a complex task that requires the participation of various sectors within our community, a holistic and deliberate approach that should be centered on people. I come to my job every day with the motivation that I am contributing to the wellbeing of my own family and thousands of people in our city.
- Tell us about your roles and responsibilities as the Vice President, Performance Management and Strategy of New Orleans Business Alliance and how does it make you feel?
Being able to serve as Vice President at the New Orleans Business Alliance has been important milestone for me because it gives me the opportunity to promote the wellbeing, quality of life of thousands of people in our region.
I have the opportunity to lend my voice to promote a holistic approach to economic development by recognizing that there are participants that work together in a system and that interact with each other. These include businesses and other sources of employment, workforce, and infrastructure. Each has interdependence to the rest, and they are all a requirement for development. Through this role I’m able to connect with leaders of all sectors of society and push for us to make ourselves important questions and take action towards a better future.
- How do you manage to balance your personal and professional life?
I believe is important to be organized by setting priorities and goals. This has helped me eliminate distractions. I also make sure to take care of my health and relationships. This is important because if there is an area of my life that is not in balance, the rest will hurt.
- Describe yourself in one word and tell us what inspires you?
I´m fortunate to live and work in a community that is culturally rich and is one of the most unique cities in America. This coupled with the potential that I see in New Orleans, inspires me to work hard every day to bring more economic opportunities so we can all thrive and be successful.
- What keeps you and your colleagues motivated?
Economic development promotes well-being, quality of life and the opportunities to develop human potential. Economic Development matters because people matter. Creating the right conditions for this is a complex task that requires the participation of various sectors within our community, a holistic and deliberate approach that should be centered on people. A holistic approach to economic development recognizes that there are participants that work together in a system and that interact with each other. These include businesses and other sources of employment, workforce, and infrastructure. Each has interdependence to the rest, and they are all a requirement for development. This development will matter only to the extent that it touches and changes all citizens´ lives. Cities that win in attracting financial and human capital will expand access to economic opportunity. However, it is also important to consider that development requires intentional action across multiple generations to allow change to happen in all neighborhoods. Everyone should have an opportunity to thrive and to be successful. In order to create opportunity for all, leadership in all sectors of society has to make themselves important questions: How can cities yield more positive outcomes for all urban residents, small business owners, and long-term stakeholders? What can we do to catalyze and accelerate more growth in the lower income and/or higher crime neighborhoods? How do we ensure that all members of our communities are involved in these discussions, so we can create move inclusive economic opportunities? Although New Orleans is no stranger to the spirit of continual re-invention that animates American cities, we have to continue to make ourselves the hard questions to remain on a trajectory of equity and growth.
Alejandra believes, “When it comes to success, there is no such thing as good luck, only hard work and preparation to seize the opportunity when it comes knocking on your door.” With this inspiring quote Alejandra looks forward to continuing to influence and help others to the best of her ability.