Podcast by InnovatorsBox®

Curious Monica: Season 3

Dream Big, Be Resourceful, Practice Gratitude with Nina Vaca

Curious Monica – a Podcast by InnovatorsBox®. Hosted by Monica H. Kang.

The Curious Monica podcast features candid conversations with innovators in thriving organizations across various industries. In each episode, host & founder of InnovatorsBox, Monica Kang interviews her friends in diverse fields about what they do and why they love what they do. If you’re curious too, you’ll gain incredible insight into the workplace patterns that can change the way you think about work, no matter what industry you’re in or who you are.

How do you define success? For Nina Vaca, it was starting a business at 25 to connect people to opportunities. Born in Ecuador, Nina moved to the U.S. with her family in search of more opportunities. Watching her parents work multiple jobs, she learned the values of diligence, determination, and authenticity. Discovering her passion for serving others at 17, Nina pursued her entrepreneurial dreams wholeheartedly.

Today, in 2024, Nina Vaca embodies the American Dream as a pioneering Latina entrepreneur, philanthropist, and global leader. Over 28 years, she has transformed Pinnacle Group from a one-woman IT staffing firm into a powerhouse providing workforce solutions across industries. Beyond business, Nina is deeply involved in philanthropy, supporting numerous global causes. Appointed as Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship by President Barack Obama in 2014, Nina is a beacon of inspiration.

Outside of work, Nina cherishes life to the fullest. An avid triathlete for two decades, she has redefined failure and emphasizes the importance of living fully. She also treasures time with her husband and four children in Dallas, Texas. As we celebrate Women’s History Month this March, we are honored to share Nina’s remarkable journey.

Connect with Nina Vaca on LinkedIn and visit her website at ninavaca.com. For more inspiring stories, subscribe to Curious Monica by InnovatorsBox, where host Monica H. Kang shares compelling narratives. Visit curiousmonica.com for more.


Chairman & CEO at Pinnacle Group

Nina Vaca founded Pinnacle Group in 1996 and has served as its Chairman and CEO for over two decades. What started as a one-woman IT staffing firm has grown into the largest Hispanic-owned global workforce solutions company, serving industry leaders in financial services, technology, communications & media, transportation, and utilities. Today, Pinnacle serves customers in over 20 countries and has been included in the Inc. 500/5000 list of fastest-growing companies 13 times. In both 2015 and 2018 it was named the fastest-growing women-owned/led company by the Women Presidents’ Organization. Nina has received numerous awards and recognition for her business success, including the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award and the Goldman Sachs Most Intriguing Entrepreneur award. In 2016 she was inducted into the Minority Business Hall of Fame and in 2017 she was named a Trailblazing Woman in Labor and Business by the Women’s History Project. Nina is also a committed civic leader and philanthropist. As a seasoned public company director, Nina is an advocate for diversity in the boardroom and in the C-suite. In 2014, Nina was appointed by the White House as an inaugural member of the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE) program, spreading the power of entrepreneurship to lift individuals, families, and communities globally. A graduate of Texas State University, she was the youngest Distinguished Alumna in school history and in 2020 established the Nina Vaca Innovation & Entrepreneurship Endowment. A lifelong learner, she completed the Corporate Governance Executive Program at Harvard University. In 2016 she became a Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute. For her work in the community and business success she’s received honorary doctorates from Northwood University, Mount Mary University, and Berkeley College.

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Episode Shownotes

1. Title of the Episode:
“Dream Big, Be Resourceful, Practice Gratitude with Nina Vaca”

2. Host:
Monica H. Kang, Founder & CEO of InnovatorsBox

3. Guest:
Nina Vaca, Chairman & CEO at Pinnacle Group

4. Key Topics Covered:

  • The essence and power of leadership and entrepreneurship
  • The journey of Nina Vaca and the establishment of Pinnacle Group
  • The significance of mentorship, community involvement, and personal development
  • The role of resilience, resourcefulness, and continuous learning in achieving success

5. Highlights:

  • Nina Vaca’s reflections on her 28-year leadership journey and her approach to mentorship and personal growth
  • Insights into balancing professional success with personal fulfillment and family life
  • The importance of gratitude, faith, and giving back to the community in Nina’s life and career

6. Quotes from Nina Vaca:

  • “Leadership is really about service.”
  • “You can have it all, but you can’t do it all.”
  • “What this world needs is people that are awakened and are passionate and are on fire about what they want to do.”

7. Some people suggested that we should learn from:

  • Maria Lensing (Transformative C-level Executive), Tandy Mitchell (Co-Founder of Cinemark), and Erin Stewart (General Counsel and Chief of Staff at Pinnacle Group) for their exemplary leadership and contributions.

8. Resources Mentioned:

9. Contact Information for Nina Vaca:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ninavaca/ 

0. Closing Thoughts by Monica Kang:
Encouragement to pursue dreams, embrace opportunities, and the importance of grounding and giving back, reflecting on the inspirational journey of Nina Vaca.

11. Episode Length and Release Date:
Episode Length: Approximately 47 minutes
Release Date: March 12, 2024


Monica H. Kang
What’s something that you’ve been dreaming about that you wanted to fulfill? For Nina, it has always been about connecting people with opportunities and a chance to bring out their best potential. And I think it’s something that she thought about because of her journey into business leadership and realizing that all of this started from nothing. That’s right. Today you’ll see Nina Vaca almost everywhere. She is the founder and chairman of CEO of Pinnacle Group. She is a philanthropist, a civic leader, and somebody who has personified the american dream as a trailblazing Latina entrepreneur and a world changing philanthropist and a dynamic global leader. And it’s not a coincidence that you hear these references because for those who do get a chance to meet her, you immediately sense her energy, thoughtfulness and enthusiasm and deep care for the world. 


Monica H. Kang
And so, yes, she may have started a one woman IT staffing firm and grow that into a workforce solution powerhouse, providing multiple service lines to industry leaders in the telecommunications, financial services, transportation and technology industries. But that’s not the only thing that makes Nina the leader and person she is today. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Nina as a friend and mentor since 2017 and really been inspired by her authenticity and her genuine care for people development. She is very adamant about being your true self as a leader. She’s always striving to improve her leadership skills and she’ll share about some advice that she has for all of you, whether you are in leadership or not. 


Monica H. Kang
So with further ado, let’s dive into the conversation with Nina Vaca and how we rethink about entrepreneurship and a beautiful reminder that you got this dream bigger and be resourceful. You never know what opportunities you have ahead. Meet Nina. 


Monica H. Kang
I am very excited to have my friend and mentor Nina here on the show. Nina, thank you so much for joining us. So many questions to dive into, I guess. First question, you’ve been a leader for a long time. I wonder as you celebrate your, what is it, 20 eigth year this year for pinnacle group? And even before that, you’ve been a leader. How do you feel today as you look back at that whole journey? 


Nina Vaca
Wow. You’re asking me to look back a very long time. Before I answer the question, I just want to personally say, Monica, how proud I am of you. Since the moment you and I met, you have captivated my heart and my mind and I’m so proud of you. What you’re doing. Curious, Monica, just having authentic conversations with leaders, I think is a beautiful thing because there’s a lot that we can learn from each other when we’re in our real self and authentically communicating. And so I just want to say how proud I am of you. 


Monica H. Kang
Thank you. Nina’s making me cry already, and we haven’t even started. 


Nina Vaca
So the first question is, you’re right. I have been what you would call a leader for a very long time. In fact, I was elected into my first role when I was 17 years old. I always looked for leadership opportunities. I was student body vice president in my high school, and I always have looked for ways to lead. And for me, leadership is really about service. And so when I look back at a 28 year career over my leadership, I think what a privilege it has been to serve so many people, and it has been quite a journey and quite an experience of innovation. 


Monica H. Kang
We’re really excited to have you here, and we’ll get to all those different chapters because we want to get a chance to really learn and humanize what it means to be a leader, bring us back to perhaps maybe the beginning. Young Nina, where were you? What did you envision? You want the future to look like, and who did you want it to be? 


Nina Vaca
That’s a great question. So I’m an immigrant to this country. I was not born in the United States. I was born in Quito, Ecuador. My mother and father uniquely lived in the United States. They came, and my mother had six children, five of which are living. But my mother and father left their country of origin. My father had a job offer at a factory called Pacific Games in Los Angeles. And so I grew up as a classic immigrant family, lots of kids. My father worked three jobs. My mom was an activist. I’ve learned so much from both of them. And so early on, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. But eventually, my parents found their way to entrepreneurship. It was their american dream. And through that front row seat of watching my parents run a business fail. 


Nina Vaca
Run a business fall get up, fall I feel like I had a large appreciation for what it was like to be an entrepreneur. And so I wasn’t quite sure what kind of entrepreneur I’d be. But I love the idea of taking, building something from the ground up. I watched my parents do it. And so shortly after college, I landed in a place called New York City at the height of the.com era. And I ended up, either by accident or intentionally, I ended up in the tech industry. And so it was very clear to me then what was happening in the technology industry. It was just booming, specifically in new York City. And so that’s where I first devised the idea of getting into the industry. And as they say, the rest is her story. 


Monica H. Kang
I love it. And the intentional word of her story. Very important in how we think about the references and all the different keywords throughout those chapters, though, I think just to bring to perspective, I think one of the things I was always inspired by you, and what I continue to be inspired by you is just how much time and leadership you also care about giving back. And I think that what makes you different, there’s a lot of leaders who’s like, yeah, 28, 30 years, I’m going to just focus on my company growth, my profit margin. But I think I sometimes forget, like, wait, actually, Nina has her own company. She’s everywhere. She’s doing so much, but she also has her company. She has a life and family. I’m curious, because there seems to be that drive. 


Monica H. Kang
Why work so hard, but why also care so much to give back to the community? And what does that mean for you? 


Nina Vaca
That’s a really good question. It took me a long time. As I have matured in my life and how I have grown and leaned into my own personal development, I’ve done some deep soul searching about who I am, what my purpose is. And I’m very clear on my purpose in life and why I’m here and why God put me in the places that he did. And my purpose is improving people’s lives, and my company’s purpose is connecting people to opportunity. I found out at a very young age that I’m people centric. I love everything about people, inspiring them, motivating them, coaching them, challenging them. People, people. And so I realized that about myself. It came very naturally, as I mentioned, because at 17, I was serving people, I was representing people. I felt the responsibility of people being in my care. 


Nina Vaca
And so it took me a long time to crystallize why I do the things I do. I think it’s my love of people, coupled with my gratitude as an immigrant that came to this country who started a business when she was 25 years old and in the last 28 years has had so many blessings. To be appointed by the president of the United States to espouse entrepreneurship around the world, to have been honored with three honorary doctorates, to have learned business and grown a company from the ground up to a global business operating in 13 different countries. I just feel so humbled and so grateful because statistically, none of those things should have happened in my life. 


Nina Vaca
I mean, sitting on publicly traded company boards and learning so many new things that the gratitude that I have towards people or my role as now a coach, not a player, and my role as a door opener and my role as a role model, I take all of that really seriously. So when you balance my purpose and then you balance the gratitude that I feel for what I’ve been able to accomplish and the desire to love and open doors for others, that’s where you get all that. I’ve like my time leaning in my time and helping others. 


Monica H. Kang
I love it. And for folks who do have the pleasure of getting to know you in person, I mean, they get to experience the sincerity, the authenticity. I mean, folks, if this is the first time you are hearing Nina, you’re in for a treat, because she really means, and you can feel how much she cares. And I want to dig a little bit deeper. So bring back to that 25 year old Nina. What was she dreaming? What skills helped her to know that this pinnacle group is going to maybe blow up one day? But I don’t know if you had that clarity from the beginning, did you? And I’m curious, so bring us back to that time. How was it starting? 


Nina Vaca
It’s really funny that you asked me that because never in my wildest dreams did I sit there at 25 years old and say, in the next 28 years, we’re going to double and triple and quadruple and become the largest Latina owned workforce solutions business. And then you’ll get challenged, and then you’ll go from a regional to a national and then a global leader. I never would have dreamt that I didn’t start the business to make money. And perhaps that is where we could begin. I never started the business to make money. Pinnacle’s purpose is connecting people to opportunity. That’s actually why I started the business. At the time, it was connecting myself to opportunity, my family to opportunity. And then that has expanded to thousands of contractors, customers, and community. But I did not start off focused on the money or the complexity. 


Nina Vaca
I started off by just searching for an opportunity. And when you focus and you have a level of discipline and you focus on other things, the business outcome are just outcomes of my discipline. My passion, my desire to serve people, my desire to grow people, my leadership, my learning mindset, I would say was number one ingredient, just being willing to learn. Because I was 25 years old, I didn’t have access to the frameworks, I didn’t have access to the networks, I didn’t have access to practically anything. And so there’s a difference. Entrepreneurs often say I didn’t have the resources. When I started pinnacle, we practically didn’t even have the Internet. We certainly didn’t have social media. The Internet was very new, as you recall, in 1994, and I didn’t have the resources. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be resourceful. 


Nina Vaca
And so I feel like those are two of the most important assets that has led me to where I am today. One is a learning mindset and the desire to learn and to have discipline in that learning. And number two is being resourceful. 


Monica H. Kang
Could you share an example of where you had to be resourceful that other people might have missed? 


Nina Vaca
Sure. I have to tell you very early on, it’s a classic case. Entrepreneurs, I hear them all the time, access to capital, finding who is going to bank you, whether they understand the complexity of your business or not. That is one example. At the time, were very small, building the network in advance, finding the resources, networking within the right areas. I know you’re a member of Webank and NMSDC, joining the right groups, but another example early on in my business of being resourceful is it was after 911, and were trying to build up our statement of work, business, fixed price, deliverable based IT solutions fortune 500 companies. And the way to win work with Fortune 500 companies was through RFP writing. 


Nina Vaca
Well, I wasn’t the best RFP writer at the time, and so I used my recruiter hat and went out and sought the best people that could help us win the business and negotiated that if they won, they would have an automatic role. And it was an interesting time because it was after 911 where there were massive layoffs. So there was lots of technology people who were laid off but had incredible assets and had great tools and technology. And so I was resourceful in finding them, convincing them, enrolling them in what were doing. That is one example of how at. 


Monica H. Kang
A very early age, that’s really powerful to hear how you found earlier on how to be strategic and seeing resourcefulness in many ways. And in fact, speaking of talent, I know you are also good at keeping them. I’ve heard the story of even the person you started the company with way back when is still with you. If I’m not forgetting it correctly. 


Nina Vaca
One of the things I’m most proud of is the tenure within our firm. We’ve had two young leaders, I say young because they’re still very young, celebrate their 20 year anniversary. We’ve had now five or six celebrate their 20 year anniversary. At least 15 celebrate their 15 year anniversary. Ten year anniversary and just a whole slew. It speaks to our culture, but it also speaks to what pinnacle tries to do is focus on the human versus focus on anything else. Because when you help people develop themselves into their next level of leadership, when they’re progressing as a leader, when they’re growing, the outcome can be really fascinating. Not only will they make more money, they are better in their relationships, they’re better in their outside life, they’re better in work, out of work, and they stay. 


Nina Vaca
So as long as people are progressing and they’re moving forward, people feel really happy. And I’m proud to have developed a culture that could provide that. 


Monica H. Kang
Now, I appreciate you leading and showing an example to dive a little bit deeper into that. Usually in business and entrepreneurship, we often say, like, hey, your first five years, you’ve survived. Congratulations. The next ten years, like, you survived again. Congratulations. You’re like, way beyond. You’re now ready to hit your next 30 very soon around the corner years of business. And I’m curious, because I feel, even for me, way at the beginning of how I felt the first, maybe even 90 days of entrepreneurship, versus even in the past few years, perception has changed. And I’m curious not only as a leader who’s running a business, but also mentoring others, helping your talent be a better talent, pull to the workforce. You’re seeing that trend of leadership evolution in multitudes. So I’m curious, first level, how has Nina as a leader changed a bowl? 


Monica H. Kang
What do you think? And let’s do that one question at a time, because if not, I’m going to bombard you with all these questions. 


Nina Vaca
Sure. Well, I should point out that I have more years behind me than I do ahead of me. And my personal leadership has certainly evolved. Today, I consider myself the coach, not the player. However, the way I feel is I am constantly becoming. Everybody has a next level. It doesn’t matter the size of the company. It doesn’t matter the success that you have in life. Every celebrity, every artist, everyone you can think of has a pro athlete. They all have a next level. And so I have always felt like I was becoming, and that hasn’t changed. Even though the company has grown significantly, I feel like the reward for solving some of the most challenging business problems is just another set of them. 


Nina Vaca
And so in terms of feeling, being feeling challenged or motivated or passionate, I am as passionate, as motivated as I was 28 years ago. And I’m just as curious. I have the same learning mindset, but I’ve evolved my leadership to be a coach, not a player and to focus on other people versus my own. 


Monica H. Kang
What skills would you say also becomes even more important. In addition to that, as a leader evolves and grows? 


Nina Vaca
I think one of the biggest skill sets in leadership, there are many, but one of them is meeting people where they are, because not everybody has your same worldview. And being able to lead different people with different worldviews, that can be very challenging as a leader. But leadership is a practice. Anything that you want to be good at, you practice. I am an avid triathlete. I’ve been racing for 28 years, and I practice being in a difficult situation. I practice being humbled when someone is faster than I am. I practice getting in the water and getting beat up, like you have to practice these things. And so a challenging part, but an opportunity to lead different people with different worldviews, to meet them where they are and to accept people for who they are and want to grow them as humans. 


Nina Vaca
For me, being a leader is a lot like being a mother, quite frankly. 


Monica H. Kang
And that’s another part I would love to dive into because I don’t know how you manage it, but you seem to have a really good balance between family and work life, which is also often part of the challenge of being a leader and especially for female entrepreneurs. How do you do it all? 


Nina Vaca
Well, I certainly don’t do it all, but I learned that you can have it all. You can have it all, but you can’t do it all. And it is a beautiful balance. My husband and I just celebrated our 25 year anniversary. We have four beautiful children, three dogs and a cat and business. And so we have spent a lifetime together. And I don’t know that there is a such thing as balance. It depends on the year, it depends on the dynamics. It depends on the complexity. It depends on the situation. All I can do is try to be the best mother that I could possibly be. And again, I am very resourceful in terms of the younger years, when the kids were a lot younger. But I feel like that is an area where women specifically, I don’t know. 


Nina Vaca
My personal experience has been that we have to. I mean, there’s so many sides that are pulling at us, right? We’re wives, we’re mothers. In some cases, we’re sisters, aunts. We’re not a grandma yet. But women have a lot of roles that they play in their lives. And I always tell them, do not beat yourself up. Somebody else will gladly do that for you. Have some grace in your life. Be resourceful. You can be resourceful. I’ve had stunt doubles. I’ve had people help me, including my own family, my mother, my brothers, my sisters. It does take a village, but there’s no such thing as balance. You just do the best you could possibly do and give yourself a little grace, because God didn’t create us to be perfect. 


Monica H. Kang
Building on that, I would love. Nina, if you can share more, what really helps you ground yourself, because as entrepreneurs, leaders around the world who’s tuning mean, they’re going to have a more extensive time to reflect on your full experience. And I think you’ve done a lot and you’re continuing to do a lot. And sometimes when we are successful, it could kind of get to us. And despite that, I feel like one of the reason why I love and respect you is you’re just the same human person. More energy, actually, somehow over the years. And there’s something grounding you. What helps you stay grounded and not let those flashiness get in the way? 


Nina Vaca
Wow, that’s a real good question. I mean, my honest answer is God. I have to remember that at the end of the day, doesn’t matter how much money you make, it doesn’t matter how many doctorates you have, it doesn’t matter the shoes you wore, the clothes you wore, the house you lived in. At the end of the day, what really matters, and I find myself leaning in to my faith more and more. And it comes from a place of gratefulness. And like I said, I’m just so grateful for what I’ve been able, what God has blessed me with, that I want to find ways to give it back. 


Monica H. Kang
And that gratitude mindset, I’m sure as a human being, you also have difficult days. You have days you’re frustrated. You have days when you’re sad, stressed, feeling stuck, failed as well. What do you do when those moments happen? If you can bring us back to maybe an incident when you had those moments, how do you navigate those? Because sometimes I think, even with babe, we’re like, I don’t know where the faith is today. 


Nina Vaca
It’s really funny because I can bring you back to about 100 moments of failure. And the beautiful thing about failure is it always brings you a gift and it brings you a gift of experience. And so, again, God didn’t make us as perfect. So there are so many times in business and in life where I’m like, oh, I failed. And a lot of times where you’re afraid or your fear is holding you back from doing. A lot of times it’s our own. We stand in our own way, and we’re fearful, which is why I practice being courageous when I throw myself in the Pacific Ocean or I’m swimming in an ocean or a river. But I find that, again, gratitude can really melt away fear in a beautiful way. I’ll never forget it. 


Nina Vaca
I was in Barcelona about to enter what was a very angry ocean at a 70.3 iron man. And I was scared. I was with my cousin, the water, they were pulling grown men out of the water, and I was so scared. I looked over at my cousin and she had a tear in her eye. And I just wasn’t sure if I was going to throw myself out there. I mean, I know I’m courageous, but that was a really scary time. And I’ll never forget that moment where everybody had gone. We were the last ones to go. And there was a man who came out to the edge of the ocean, and I noticed that he had his hands wrapped around two other men, and then they threw him in. And as they were throwing him, I noticed that he had one leg. 


Nina Vaca
And so at that moment, gratitude hit me like a ton of bricks. And that gratitude that I had two and he had one, and I threw myself out into the ocean, and I finished the race. 7 hours later, I finished the race. But sometimes I find and I invite listeners to think about out gratitude a little bit more often. Even once a day, even in my darkest moments, I find that I find my most inner strength by saying, is this happening to me, or is this happening for me? And I can tell you nine out of ten times when challenges occur, if I can put myself in a mindset, whatever challenge is happening, it’s not happening to me. I am not a victim of my life. It is happening for me. And I have to seek and find the goodness. Like, why? 


Nina Vaca
What am I to learn here? There are no failures. There are just learnings. And so how do I get to the other side of that? Your creative side starts opening up your mind and going, wait a minute. This would be working for me if A, B, and C were to pass. And so it allows you to be creative. But I find that oftentimes, even at your darkest moments, with gratitude, there’s a learning in there for you that’ll make. 


Monica H. Kang
You better, make it work for you, not against you. That framing that you just shared is so powerful, and I think it’s so true. I think as we go through moments, whether you have a business, whether you are in a career, maybe you’re feeling stuck even in your dream job. There’s so many that I think when we get stuck. We say like, it’s not my fault, it’s because of the situation. And you’re reminding us that maybe it’s the way we’re treating that’s preventing us from exploring all the opportunities. Building on that theme, I want to talk about and get some advice real time on people development. You yourself care very much about investing yourself as a leader, and I think I would love to also ask how you have figured out how to manage and mentor others as well. 


Monica H. Kang
Because even with the concept you shared about, I would stop wanting to be the player and versus focusing more on the coach, which is a very important framework. Executing that still is a whole other story because I think a lot of leaders mean good intention of like, I do want to care for my people, but as it grows, I mean, you forget people’s name, you forget which department is this person. This person is new. And I don’t think I feel that when I see you and your people. And I’m always impressed. Like, if you do meet Nina on the floor, she remembers a lot of people by their name and faces. And I always ask, she knows so many people, how does she remember everyone? 


Monica H. Kang
So I’m curious, what’s been the way, whether it’s just bringing people in your company, retaining them, empowering them, what’s been your way of how you empower people around you and also not draining yourself because you’re also human? 


Nina Vaca
That’s a really good question. I’m going to give you a framework. First a pro tip, and then a framework which we can get into. My pro tip is active listening is a really great tool when you’re trying to mentor people. Listening to understand, not listening to answer. What active listening is just listening and asking questions. And I think that is a really powerful tool because when you get to know, first rule of leadership is know what problem you’re trying to solve and you don’t know what problem you’re trying to solve when you’re making assumptions. And so asking questions and just listening, oftentimes people really start to connect when they are heard. So that’s a pro tip, a framework. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the drama triangle, but in every blow up, in every situation, it’s a triangle. 


Nina Vaca
There’s always a victim, there’s always a persecutor, and there’s always a rescuer. So in every situation, somebody’s playing that role. Most of the time, I will rescue my children from doing this or doing that by doing that for them, or they feel like I’m persecuting them when I’m trying to coach them. And so these words, it’s a beautiful framework. You can look it up. There’s actually a book called Ted the empowerment dynamic, and it points out the three roles, the victim mentality, the persecutor and the rescuer. And it shows you how to move from the victim to the creator. We talked about that just by simply saying, is it happening to me or is it happening for me? Getting your creative. So you move from a victim mentality to a creator. How to move from the persecutor to a challenger. 


Nina Vaca
So using challenging energy versus persecuting language, right. I can challenge you by persecuting you, making you feel like an idiot. Or I can say, Monica, you’re better than you. I believe in you. I know. So how you come across, right. The remedy for a persecutor would be a challenger and the remedy for a rescuer. When I want to rescue my executive or my friend or my children or myself, quite frankly, is coaching. How do you coach versus rescue? How do you teach someone how to fish versus doing it for them? I can tell you there’s a lot of rescuing going on in business. Okay. Leaders feel like they have to rescue and when they can learn to become the coach versus a rescuer, become a challenger versus a persecutor, or become a creator versus a victim. That’s a beautiful framework to use. 


Monica H. Kang
That’s powerful. I love it. I can’t wait to revisit these principles to utilize, and particularly for the last one that you shared, making sure that we don’t become just a rescuer and actually come from a coaching mindset to dig a little bit deeper, could you bring us an example of where you had to make that change or make that awareness? 


Nina Vaca
Yeah, actually, just last week I was sitting in a one one with my executive and I had to deliver some feedback, and feedback is a gift. And before I started the conversation, I said, this is going to feel challenging. So we have a common language that we can use and it gave good context. I said, I care for you deeply, and the reason I want to give you this feedback is because I care and I want to make you better. So context, and I just want to prepare you that it’s going to feel like the burner is going up. You’re going to feel a little challenging energy, but I want you to know where it’s coming from. So these are small ways where you can communicate with people and frame the expectations, but most of all, your intentions. 


Monica H. Kang
Beautiful. Thank you for that real example that we can build upon. Leadership, as you said, is a journey in continuing growth. Where does Nina, as a leader, also want to continue to improve? 


Nina Vaca
Oh, gosh. I feel like leadership is not the kind of thing where you go to a conference and you’re a leader. This is a practice. I don’t know if you’ve done Bikram Yoga, but Bikram Yoga has 26 poses, and it takes a lifetime to master. I feel like leadership is the same. It takes a lifetime to master, and you just simply have the practice. Here’s the good news, is there are practicing moments. There are so many in a day. Every time you show up, every time you have an interaction with someone, it’s an opportunity to practice. And so I want to continue to lean into my own personal development. I feel like business is just a portion of who I am as a human. There’s a beautiful quote that I love that describes what I’m trying to achieve. 


Nina Vaca
And the quote says, you can count the seeds on an apple, but you can never count the apples that come from the seeds. And so I feel like business is just one component of my life. I’m also a mother. I’m also a mentor. I want to be known for building people, not building companies, although it is a beautiful thing that we have accomplished together at Pinnacle. But I feel like I have a next level, and I’m going to continue to search and lean into my own personal development to have a lot of apples. 


Monica H. Kang
Love that. The part of Nina that you have just described, which kind of leads to the next question I was curious is, what’s a part of Nina that you feel the world hasn’t gotten the chance to learn more about that you wish would understand and see. 


Nina Vaca
Oh, wow. That’s a great. Oh, that’s a really good question. I’m a pretty public person. What’s a part of me that I don’t know, that I’d want the world to know? But I think it’s the vulnerability that I haven’t arrived and that I continue to work on my own personal development. In fact, I called a friend just yesterday, and I asked her for help. And the way that I began, I said, I just want you to know I’m leaning into my own personal development. And one of the things that I’ve noticed about myself is I don’t ask for help a lot. So I’m calling to see if you’d be interested in supporting me in XYZ. 


Nina Vaca
So I was vulnerable in saying, this is an area of my life that I want to work in, I’m leaning into this, and I want you to know, and it was amazing, the response that I got. So I’m learning still at this age, I’m still learning. And I am learning that one of the biggest tools that I could have learned younger in my life, one of the biggest tools in life is the ability to ask for help and the ability to accept help. Those two things ask for help and accept help, and I frame it. Instead of asking for help, I ask for support. But that ability, I tell you, when I was young, I never asked for help. I didn’t want to be vulnerable. I put a lot of things on my own back, and all those things had consequences. 


Nina Vaca
And so as I’m maturing more in my personal leadership, I’m looking for edges and looking for ways to lean in. 


Monica H. Kang
Why do we feel as leaders, it’s hard to ask for that support, that help. 


Nina Vaca
I think. I don’t know the answer, but I know my personal experience. So a lot of my reasoning comes from culturally, where you grew up, so much of you, and how you show up in life comes from how you were raised, how you grew up. And so I feel like for me, it was some of that, I don’t know, maybe the desire to do it on your own, the desire to prove the world wrong, I’m not sure. But all those things are silly. So I don’t know why it all has to stem from our worldview and how we grew up and where we came from. So I can’t speak for anybody else’s experience, but I feel like that might be some of the reason why. I don’t know if I answered that. 


Monica H. Kang
Question very well, because one of the things I do think it’s important is just being okay, saying, like, hey, actually, that’s a good point. I don’t have the answer. And building on that, which speaks to where would we like to see Nina going in the future? Who is the Nina we’re going to meet in the next 10, 20, 30 years? 


Nina Vaca
Well, the Nina you’ll meet in the next 2030 years will be different from this nina. Her values will be the same. I aspire to be even more grounded in my faith, even more curious about my purpose, and I aspire to continue to try to use my assets, my time, my talent, my treasure to serve. 


Monica H. Kang
Love it well. 


Nina Vaca
I can’t serve God first and foremost, but, yeah. 


Monica H. Kang
So I don’t know love that well. I can’t believe how fast time has gone by. As we wrap up a few more final, rapid questions. I really appreciate all the insights you’ve shared so far. As we celebrate International Women History Month, we are continuing to empower other leaders about what it means to be a female leader, bringing that to the voice. And in that process, we are asking our guests this month to help us better educated. Who are at least three leaders who happen to be a female leader or a female innovator that you would say that we should all learn from? If you can do a shout out to their names, we’ll add those in the show notes so that way folks can learn more. But who’s at least three people we should learn from who happens to be a female? 


Nina Vaca
Oh my gosh. Happens to be a female. I can tell you Maria Lensing is an incredible leader. She’s in her forty s and in the C suite of corporate America. She is a faith based leader, unapologetically and just an amazing human. I find her to just, I want to give her a shout out. I think we have a lot to learn from her. Tandy Mitchell Tandy Mitchell is oftentimes when you’re an entrepreneur, when you are an entrepreneur, being the rock of the entrepreneur, and equally an entrepreneur, this woman for the last 40 years has helped co found cinemark movie theaters. She’s a fascinating woman and has used her time, her talent and her treasure to impact millions of people globally around the world. I think that is absolutely beautiful and I think there’s a lot we can learn from. 


Nina Vaca
And I have to tell you, I am a graduate of the stake and leadership academy, and the third woman I want to shout out is actually my own chief of staff, Erin Stewart. She leaned into her own personal development as a leader, as a coach. We’re both graduates of the Stegan Leadership Institute, except she got the black belt. I did not. And she has now used her leadership to train over 120 leaders within our company. She teaches our FLC classes. A lot of these frameworks that I talked about today come from the leadership institute, and she has really leaned into her purpose and is equally as committed to people. 


Nina Vaca
And I want to shout her out because she is my chief of staff and she understands now how important it is to build capacity and get people to their next level as pinnacle goes to its next business cycle. We’re opening up our India office on April 1 on my birthday. 


Monica H. Kang


Nina Vaca
Thank you. We’re super excited. We just came online in other countries in Latin America, including Colombia and Brazil, and so super excited about those things. I am thrilled about the India office and just moving into yet the next business cycle as a business. So lots to be proud of. 


Monica H. Kang
Amazing. Well, congratulations. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your wisdom with us. Final two question as we wrap up is, one, you shared a lot of nuggets of wisdom. What is one final wisdom that you want to share with your audience? And two, what’s the best way we can stay in touch with you? 


Nina Vaca
Let me see. I’ve shared a lot of wisdom. And so maybe, perhaps, maybe the last piece, I would say I’m going to leave you with a quote. And since I feel like we focus this entire conversation on personal development, it’s been on my mind, it has been on the forefront of me leaning into my own personal development. And so I would leave you with the quote. It’s a beautiful one. I love it. He who looks outside can dream, but he who looks inside, he or she that looks inside awakens. And I feel like what this world needs is people that are awakened and are passionate and are on fire about what they want to do. And so that would be my personal advice. And your last question was, how do. 


Monica H. Kang
We stay in touch with you? 


Nina Vaca
Oh, how do you stay in touch with me? I am very active on social media. You can go to Instagram at Nina Vaka, you can find me at LinkedIn and Nina Vaka, and you can find me on Facebook, too. I often quote some stories about some lessons learned, some motivational Mondays. I share my family. I share my life. I share my business. I share my happiest moments, and sometimes my sad moments, too. So I’m happy to stay in touch and stay connected. 


Monica H. Kang
Well, thank you, Nina. It was such a treat to have you. Look forward to continue seeing your success. And thank you for letting us celebrate International Women’s History Month with you as we continue to advocate and amplify female leaders around the world. So look forward to continue rooting and seeing where you go. And folks, thank you for tuning in for another conversation. We’ll be back again next week for another story, so come back and we will see you soon again. Find all the [email protected] and if you find a question, just send me a quick note at [email protected] so thank you so much. We’ll see you soon again. 


Nina Vaca
Bye bye. Thanks, Monica. 


Monica H. Kang
Thank you again, Nina, for joining us and sharing your story. I hope this inspires everyone else as well, that no matter where you are in your journey, you can make that dream come true. And don’t let the realities that you see in front of you now stifle you from what you can achieve tomorrow. And of course, as Nina has shared, it is important to keep yourself grounding and take the time to give back. I admire how much work she does to help the community, whether it’s helping students, women and girls get into STEM field, or helping other Hispanics get into business, or homelessness, or disabled veterans and children’s battling cancer to make sure that they get the support and opportunity. Because she knows how it felt like to receive that when there wasn’t any given initially. So create your opportunities, seize the chance. 


Monica H. Kang
And hey, as we continue to celebrate international women’s month, I welcome you to another conversation next week as we visit another female innovators who’s making change. Tune in and we’ll dive in. This is your host, Monica Kang. You’re listening to curious Monica by Innovators box. I’ll see you next week. 


Monica H. Kang
Thanks so much for tuning into today’s episode. It was so great having you. I hope this has inspired you and empowered you to know that your voice and stories matter. This is your host, Monica Kang, founder and CEO of InnovatorsBox, and little shout out to the wonderful team who. 


Monica H. Kang
Made this possible today. 


Monica H. Kang
Audio Engineering and producing by Sam Lehmart, Audio Engineering Support by Ravi Lad; website and marketing support by Kree Pandey; Graphic Support by Lea Orsini, Christine Aribal, original music by InnovatorsBox Studios, which you can also check out in any music platform, and executive producing, writing, hosting and interviewing by me, Monica Kang, founder and CEO of InnovatorsBox. Please give us feedback, questions, thoughts we want to hear from you. Send it hello at have a wonderful day and we’ll see you soon. 


Monica H. Kang
Thank you. 

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