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Esther Aguilera: “Let’s unleash our collective power”
Esther is a two-time CEO known for her expertise in turning around nonprofit and association organizations, corporate governance leadership, and global networking. Over 30 years, Esther has built strategic partnerships with Fortune 500 companies, institutional investors, search firms, and private equity to enhance the talent and leadership landscape.

Currently, Esther is a Senior Advisor to Altura Capital Group and the Altura Economic Opportunity Zones Fund, focusing on social impact private equity and private capital. She also advises ALPFA, the Association of Latino Professionals for America, on executive leadership programming. Esther serves on the Advisory Board of Angeles Investors, as Vice Chair of the Thirty Percent Coalition Board of Directors, and on the Board of the Women Business Collaborative (WBC).

Please tell us about the origins of your wealth journey.
First, I appreciate that HWP has broadly defined “wealth” as not just about financial success, but about success in any field and creating a legacy. Financial security is important; it gives Latinas more independence to thrive, create, and support their family. I define “wealth” as being fulfilled and leaving a legacy by making massive contributions that will benefit generations to come.

My wealth journey began after graduating from college. I was given the incredible opportunity to move from San Fernando, CA, to Washington, D.C., in 1990 to work for the National Council of La Raza (now UnidosUS), then on to Capitol Hill. As an immigrant to this country and daughter of a landscape laborer and garment worker, growing up I was not exposed to role models who knew about our Nation’s Capital; we did not discuss politics and financial markets at our kitchen table.

As a result of this move, I had had the privilege to work with our Nation’s most powerful leaders, from Members of Congress, Cabinet Members, Corporate Directors, and CEOs in the nonprofit sector. I have held leadership roles since my mid-twenties, starting with Executive Director of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), galvanizing the power of Latino Members of Congress to be the voice for Latinos and advance the community.

Describe the main milestones, opportunities, and challenges
My wealth journey has been unique. I have shifted career lanes over 32 years to make massive contributions in distinct professions every step of the way.

During my tour on Capitol Hill, as Executive and Legislative Director of the CHC, we launched a groundbreaking effort working with the White House to drive Latino presidential appointments. Then-President Clinton wanted an Administration that looks like America; yet Latinos were woefully underrepresented. Then-Congressman Xavier Becerra, at a meeting with President Clinton, reported the facts to the President. The President agreed to do something about it. The President tasked his Chief and Deputy Chief of Staff to meet twice a month with Chairman Becerra and myself to resolve this gap. I led a massive comprehensive effort working with legislative, non-profit, and business leaders that resulted in historic levels of Latinos - equal to our size in the population, to serve in the highest ranks as Presidential Senate-Confirmed Political Appointees. I am in touch with many of those who we advance and see their incredible legacy, plus, bringing others behind them.

Next, then-Secretary Bill Richardson opened another incredible opportunity to serve as Executive Director of the supplier diversity office in the U.S. Department of Energy. To be honest, I had no clue how I was going to add value. In that journey, I lifted-up a demoralized staff to perform at their best. As a result, the team and I were commended with the Secretary’s Outstanding Achievement Award for driving $1B in new contract opportunities with small, women, diverse, and veteran-owned businesses. This was a first and a tremendous achievement.

With the support of Members of Congress who were mentors and believed in me, I was given the opportunity to serve as President & CEO of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) - an organization that offers unbelievable, paid internships and fellowships in congressional offices and much more. There, I tripled the size of the organization and programs. I am proud to have empowered and changed the life trajectory of thousands of young Latino leaders, who today are making an incredible impact in the world.

As the first President and CEO of the Latino Corporate Directors Association (LCDA), I built the first and largest network of Latinos in the boardroom and C-suite. I led LCDA’s rapid expansion over 7 years, increasing membership, revenue, and size of the organization 10-fold. I developed measurable program areas to grow the demand, grow the supply, and raise awareness to increase the number of Latinos on corporate boards. I launched the LCDEF BoardReady Institute and served as executive producer of the annual LCDA Board Leaders Convening covering trending board governance topics, bringing together corporate directors, CEOs, and foremost experts. Today, this organization is both aspirational and inspirational for current and future generations.

Share Tools and Tips to help you create wealth
One of my favorite sayings is, to give Latinos and Latinas the opportunity to compete and we deliver in spades. I am a prime example. I had good advisors who helped to open that first door and encouraged me as I made that leap of faith. Success comes in unexpected ways.

Embrace uncomfortable places, because that is how you grow. Put yourself out there; be open to new challenges on your wealth journey. Whether it is a new position or new place to live, you must tackle the uncertainties before you.
Surround yourself with leaders that are in your corner and don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Call on your friends when you have doubts or need someone to talk to. You’ll find out that it is lonely at the top and most Latinas experience self-doubt or the imposter syndrome. That is when your friends and allies come in. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Build your team with good people that augment your skills. We all have strengths and weaknesses. There are terrific assessments like Clifton Stregthsfinders and others that truly help reveal your strengths and your blind spots. These tools will help you feel empowered and will help you grow.

How would you like your wealth legacy to be remembered?
For decades, my personal and professional pursuits have been to elevate Latinos to positions of power and enable wealth creation. My early experiences taught me that unless there are people like us in positions of power and leading enterprises, our unique perspectives and economic force are undervalued. In these pursuits, I feel fulfilled by lifting others up, making powerful introductions, and promoting one another.

After my early success, I have been fortunate to have many exciting opportunities presented. Towards my wealth journey, I have always been compelled to add value and contribute my best in every endeavor. Even when I was not sure how I would add value and succeed, it was my tenacity and resilience to never give up that won the day. Along the way, I learned I have many superpowers - I’m strategic, a futuristic thinker, and practical in the day to day.

By definition, a new challenge means you will work hard; at the same time, you learn new skills and beat the odds. It was my tenacity, resilience, and drive to strive for measurable impact that fueled me every day. I built a track record of transforming and leading impactful organizations by embracing new challenges and opportunities, thanks to an incredible circle of mentors, friends, and colleagues.

Today, I continue my wealth journey as Senior Advisor at Altura Capital, a private equity and private credit firm with a social impact mandate to transform societies through entrepreneurial success. I am inspired by our co-Founder and CEO Monika Mantilla, a leader of impact and integrity who has demonstrated that you can do good and create value. The firm has an 18-year track record of success. We are enabling dynamic business leaders to grow enterprises that create good jobs and enhance communities. We are harnessing the power and under-tapped potential of the incredible Latino community, to build stronger communities, society, and promote overall business success.

My legacy to elevate Latinos to positions of power and enabling wealth creation is without an end date. While I see some progress, too many gaps persist for Latinos in leadership and wealth. The most powerful way to advance the Latino community is to promote and advance one another. Count on me as a collaborator and bridge builder.
Let’s unleash our collective power.
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