Alma Guajardo-Crossley has spent more than a quarter of a century working with General Motors, but it’s just last year that she arrived at the destination she’s always wanted – to be able to give back to her Latino community as director of diversity. In addition to collaborating with organizations such as, National Council of La Raza (NCLR), League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) and Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), among others, she has also helped establish various educational programs for students. For example, “GM Growing with You” a national partnership between LULAC National Educational Service Centers, Inc. (LNESC) and General Motors to provide science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programming to Latino youth in six high-need communities around the U.S.
Today, she was one of five Latinas given the 2012 Latina Trailblazer Award by LatinoJustice PRLDEF in New York City. The other honorees are also leaders in their fields, including Magda Jimenez Train for law, Sonia Manzano (“Maria” on “Sesame Street”) for entertainment, Sara Elena Rios for philanthropy, and Margarita Rosa for community service.
The bubbly Guajardo-Crossley is no stranger to awards, but she teared up when asked what being named a Latina Trailblazer meant to her.
“When an outside organization appreciates your work and acknowledges you, it makes it all feel worthwhile,” she says. “Sometimes you don’t know you made a difference until someone acknowledges it.”
She says personally, one of her most important accomplishments was when she was able to buy her mom a burgundy Chevrolet HHR.
“Being able to help my parents was probably one of my biggest accomplishments,” says Guajardo-Crossley, crying even harder.
She says being able to help has always been important to her, and that’s why she’s enjoying her newest role of establishing relationships tremendously. She recently conducted a workshop on how to interview for corporate America, and she says her five steps to success include, mentorships, internships, networking and resources.
“Try to connect yourself to people who have succeeded,” says Guajardo-Crossley. “I had a couple of male executives that supported me. I think they noticed that I would roll up my sleeves to do anything, no problem!”
She also recommends being accessible.
“You know how many people don’t return phone calls?,” says Guajardo-Crossley. “People appreciate the responsiveness and hear that.”
Guajardo-Crossley was often the only Latina student in her class while studying engineering at the General Motors Engineering & Management Institute, which she now says is called Kettering University. She also got her MBA in 1997, and she says she can’t stress the importance of an education enough.
“Look at schools that offer internships,” she says. “Take the time to do your homework. You have to have perseverance and passion…Each one of us can be a trailblazer.”