December 2010 Leadership Board Spotlight – Juan Maldonado

What is your occupation and how did you come to work in this area?

I am a program manager / senior financial coach for The Financial Clinic, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting financial security for the working poor.  I started as a volunteer with The Financial Clinic during the 2009 tax season and was offered a full time position after a few months.  While volunteering I quickly began to see how their mission was very much in line with my passion of helping others achieve control over their finances.  In fact, much of the work we do is similar to my decade long advocacy efforts with friends and family of saving and planning for the future.  I have always promoted savings even as an adolescent.  However, now I am able to expand my reach beyond friends and family and that is what excites me the most about my career.

The way I joined the Clinic was a 2 part effort.  Many thanks go to my cousin Diego who has been in the non-profit sector his entire career and played a critical part in exposing me to a platform I never knew existed.  He showed me how to combine my personal life experiences growing up in poverty with my financial background in order to help others navigate through personal money matters.  The second person I have to give thanks to would be my fiancé, Maria.  She gave me the freedom and encouragement to leave a well paying job at an investment advisory firm to pursue my passion.  She knew I was unhappy at my job and felt that I was lacking purpose.  I recall her telling me: "If you’re unhappy, do something about it" - and we did!  There is no question that her support was crucial given all the sacrifices we both had to endure.  I owe her a great deal.

What is your strongest characteristic and how has it assisted you in your career?

Drive.  Unquestionably it is my drive that has allowed me to make it this far.  I could have dropped out of HS and gotten a GED like everyone else around me or remained a janitor and not bothered with college, or even remained on Wall Street and not follow my dream.  However, my resilience to push myself and maximize my potential is what has kept me on course to achieving my long term goals.  Interpersonal skills and the ability to articulate effectively are qualities I feel I possess but what has truly brought life to my career is the passion and drive for the work I do.

Describe three lessons you have learned during your career?

1) Passion overwrites fortune any day.  Don't get me wrong, I love the idea of making money as much as the next guy but it's so much more rewarding when you enjoy what you do.
2) Know your strengths

3) Always look to add value to your brand through education, volunteering, or doing things outside of your comfort level.

What has been your biggest accomplishment to date?

I remember when the answer to this question was "graduating high school".  I say this only because I am the only one of my high school friends who actually graduated (I am not exaggerating either - it’s scary!).  However, I would have to say that the notoriety I have been able to gain for my work in only a short time of being in this field is a testament to what I said earlier about pursuing your dream.

What have you learned as a Leadership Board member about the significance of board service?

Getting involved is very important.  Not only for professional development but it is also a great fulfillment to know you are helping others.  Especially when you can help shape a community you once came from.  It gives new meaning to paving the way.

What advice would you give someone who is interested in serving on a board?

Take time to figure out what your interests are.  Is it education, arts, your community?  Once you have that, then you can begin to narrow your search.  Join something you are passionate about and the rest will follow, I promise!

What do you do in your free time?

Spend time with my loved ones.  They are very important to me and I take my family and friendships very serious.  I also enjoy playing sports, boxing, football, dancing, exercising, working on my house and going out to dinner with my fiancé.