Nina Vaca is the CEO of Pinnacle Technical Resources. (Photo courtesy: Nina Vaca)

INNOVATOR: Nina Vaca, CEO of Pinnacle Technical Resources

Entrepreneurship runs in Nina Vaca‘s blood. Vaca is the one of the most visible Latina entrepreneurs as CEO and Chairman for Pinnacle Technical Resources, a top firm providing workforce, vendor management and IT solutions to Fortune 500 companies. The daughter of Ecuadorian immigrants who started their own companies, Vaca was first thrust into the corporate world at the tender age of 17.  When her father passed away just as she was finishing up high school, Vaca had to step up and take charge of the family business to make ends meet. She credits that humbling experience for giving her the inspiration to start Pinnacle- all from her living room. Sixteen years later, Vaca has been an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award recipient, is a director of two publicly traded corporations – Comerica, Inc. and Kohl’s Corporation, and has been named the second Latina Chairman of the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC). Vaca has used her place at the table to help Latino businesses succeed. With the USHCC, she advocated for more Hispanics at the CEO level and created programs that would benefit Latino-owned companies. Most recently, she worked with Eva Longoria to launch a program with the USHCC that empowers Latinas to run their own businesses.

HERITAGE: I immigrated to this country. I was one of five children- all of the others were born in Los Angeles when my parents immigrated from Quito, Ecuador.

BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU RECEIVED: The best piece of advice I’ve ever received came from my mother. She says good leaders know how to be good listeners. I find that whether it’s in business or leading the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, you need to learn to listen thoughtfully. Its not reacting, but listening first and thinking things through.

LIVING PERSON YOU MOST ADMIRE: My mother. This is a woman who immigrated in the 1960s. She knows a lot about life and leadership. Her constant counsel and advocacy has made me who I am today.

WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: Being a mother of four is one of the hardest and most rewarding positions I’ll ever have. Credibility is not about a title. My greatest accomplishment is my experience as a mother and seeing my kids’ ability to influence the future.

FIRST PAYING JOB: I think it was taking pictures and putting them on t-shirts.

IF YOU COULDN’T DO WHAT YOU DO FOR A LIVING, WHAT WOULD YOU DO: I grew up with the crazy notion that in this country you can do anything you want. Why couldn’t I do what I do now?

WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO: If you surround yourself with amazing people you can do amazing things.

LAST TIME YOU WERE TRULY HAPPY:  I’m happy every day. There’s a myth out there that other people make you happy. But true happiness comes from within. There isn’t a day in my life, no matter how bad my schedule is, that I’m not happy.

WHAT GADGET CAN YOU NOT LIVE WITHOUT: I cannot live without my iPhone. It runs probably too much of my life.

MOMENT YOU KNEW YOU HAD MADE IT: Success is different for different people. For me, success is not measured by dollars, it’s measured by the ability to be happy. Not everybody has to build an empire or make a fortune. The question is do you find yourself in a place where you are happy? It took me a long time to figure that out. To some I’m successful and to others I’m not. But the fact that I can go out and move the needle for other Hispanics means a lot to me.

ONE PIECE OF ADVICE YOU’D GIVE SOMEONE COMING UP BEHIND YOU: It’s not enough to want something in life; you have to prepare yourself to receive it. Whether it’s running a business or running a triathlon, you have to prepare yourself to actually live out your dreams, not just tackling what it takes to get there. You have to plan big, write things down, and have a plan.

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