I interviewed my wonderful mentor whom I shadowed throughout my entire internship, the CEO of the Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce. Through this interview, I learned about her childhood, business struggles, and advice she has for my future. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
The interview is approximately 9 minutes long and took place in her office. I apologize for the long pauses and any disturbances.
Riley: Thank you for doing this interview with me.
Lisa Cohen: My pleasure!
First question: What inspired you to choose this career?
Well, I was in banking for 14 years, I was a branch manager, and I love the leadership part of it, but I was always stuck inside a bank branch and when this position opened I was excited to do all the things I did at the credit union which is public relations, reaching out to different people, and that's when I was inspired to have a job that you're always growing and help you expand your knowledge base and feel like you're not stale, always changing.
What was one of the most difficult points of in your career and how did you get past it?
I think the tours and marketing district was the hardest. We had set up a cutting-edge to tours and marketing district for the state of California, we were the 47th, and we thought outside of the box. It was a very progressive plan to offer the bayfront Millenia project to have bonding capability to grow those two districts within our city and the difficult part was the political side of it, where it was supposed to be a 5 year program and only lasted three years. It still inspired me to retool it, make it work again so hopefully we’ll be bringing that back.
When you were a junior in high school, what were your career aspirations?
Sports. *giggles* It’s interesting because back in my junior year I was thinking more about athletics. Loved basketball, volleyball, I was forced to do track and field to keep you in shape throughout the seasons but I liked the teamwork, being around people, working as a team, so I didn't realize it was preparing me for the bigger stadium because most sports- volleyball and basketball- there's only a couple people on the floors so you had to be comfortable being a team captain, you’re already being a leader and getting your team to accomplish major goals, so it overflows to business today.
And when did you know that you wanted to pursue business?
I always wanted to do banking, so I did the banking first and then from there it expanded. I grew up overseas, so I lived in Belgium eight years, downtown London five years, my father was an engineer and his career changed to marketing. He was vice president for a company of marketing, so he traveled all over and I went to a lot of the dinners that he was in while they were talking business, and I always found it fascinating, when you're dealing with all the different people and working together and so a lot of meetings I'm in today, I look back on, didn't realize the personal education from my parents on how to run a business and making good business choices and working with people for a win-win situation.
How did attending college change your perspective about your dream career?
It didn’t change it. There’s different types of colleges out there and I think my most important class was business law and I think that class changed my life for personal and for business. Learning about all the ins and outs, all the different types of contracts, so when you buy a car, when you buy a house, if you look at the personal side of it, and then when you look at the business side of it they're all contracts. So if you get a new copier for your office and there's a contract with it, understanding what all those contracts mean, the responsibility, so that was pretty much the main course in college that helped me be successful in business to understand all the different things in the legalities, when you sign your name and what that means and making the right prudent decisions for the different types of interest rates and programs out there. But I think I really go back to my parents and how I was raised in the business meetings I attended as a child and as a young adult that really shaped my business side of it, but I think if I would look at college I think one course every child should take is business law. Understanding it will help them personally and in their career.
What's a highlight from your career?
I think the people I work with. I have 21 volunteer bosses and they change and you get attached, but you also want look at all the different knowledge base that comes through the doors and the different styles of management and leadership, and I’m really proud that my board goes into full discussions when we’re going to support an issue or oppose an issue, and to hear all the different points of view from all different types of business leaders and then watching them online and stay and support to make a unanimous vote at the end is pretty much a highlight, to be able to present the information to them and have them all lined and down and have the company feel solid the people aren’t pulling away from the core mission of the Chamber of Commerce.
Do you have any advice for me going through life?
You're gonna be perfect! I think the main thing is always unknown. To me, I think the favorite book and program I took was the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and understanding whether it's your personal life or work that holds on. So it’s always about retooling, relearning and beginning with the end in mind. You kinda have a vision of where you want to go but understand that that path is going to take you in different twists and turns, but you can still get to where you want to go. Learning- sometimes you have to understand where other people are coming from before you can let them understand you. It’s seeking to understand before being understood, so a lot of that core part of it I think is critical and I think out of that program the biggest part was the deposits and withdrawals in emotional bank account, so every relationship is important, whether it be a business relationship or a personal relationship and your actions are putting deposits into that relationship whether it be deposit or withdrawal, so you can kind of pull it into all different categories. As you're meeting people, you think “I'll never see this person again,” and you’re going to see them again. It’s just a kind of evolution, and you’ll never know at what point, but there's a lot of recirculation of people so I think it's good to always be building strong relationships and growing yourself in the process… And you’re doing that. Just from the day one when you arrived, you’re self motivated and you’re pleasant to be around and I think attitude is that little thing that makes a big difference and a pleasure to be around, because if someone isn't happy and not pleasant to be around, they just kinda get shut out the door and they can be very intelligent. They can be able to bring a lot to the team, but if they can’t mesh with the rest the team it’s just going to go south fast. You’re going to be great. It's finding your your job, what do you want to do you, but understand that a lot of people change careers three or four times it's okay too. I've known people that have gone to school to be a nurse and then went into an operating room and then they’re like, “too much blood.” So, you don't know you think you want different things but you can also take it to learn other items.
If you could tell your junior self something, what would you tell her?
Just follow your dreams. Go with your gut instinct. I call it emotional intelligence, kind of reading the room, knowing what’s going on around you whether it be positive or negative and always knowing how you can make the world a better place. Whatever you go into, try to make it a better place. Whatever you come across, when you walk away, it’s better than when you found it. And when you take that type of initiative, you're gonna find that everything kind of just falls into place. You can't worry about everything, because sometimes it’s kind of overwhelming when you’re a junior in high school and you think, “How am I ever going to afford a car? How am I going to afford insurance? How am I going to afford a house?” and understand that all the people that came before you had those same barriers, and a lot of people have cars, a lot of people own houses, and you just go through the process. You start at one income and as you grow and develop, you’ll keep moving up, and with that your salary will go up, and with that you can fulfill your own personal goals while you’re fulfilling your career goals.