Citlalli Rojas Empowers Her Community, Which Empowers Her In Return

In the first generation of Latina managing partners at New York Life, this Latina’s self-fulfilled prophecy of empowering—financially and professionally—the local Latino community is a full-fledged symbiosis

Citlalli Rojas, Managing Partner, Inland Empire General Office, New York LifePhoto: Jordan Engle

A friend came to Citlalli Rojas, looking for advice about making a career change. “He was unhappy and felt like he wasn’t making a difference,” Rojas says. “He mentioned that he was envious of my job because I was really helping people in times of need. My conversation with him made me really appreciate the career path that I took.”

As a managing partner at New York Life‘s Inland Empire General Office, Rojas had always relished her opportunity to generate growth—personal and professional, for herself, for new financial professionals, for her organization, for clients. But with that ability to help in full perspective, and in learning that she is part of the first generation of Latina managing partners for the company, a passion in her ignited: to elevate and empower Latinas both within and outside of her industry.

Rojas spent her childhood in Mexico, but decided to seek out new experiences at age eighteen and moved to Texas to attend college. “In order to grow you need to make sacrifices, and for me that was leaving my family and friends in search of my American dream,” she says. In her first few months in a new country, Rojas quickly learned that if she worked hard enough, anything was possible. She found herself immediately drawn to the financial field, graduating in just three years with a degree in business administration and finance.

Photo: Jordan Engle

Growing up in Mexico, Rojas noted that many people around her weren’t properly planning for their future. She saw a career in finance as a way to help others from falling into that same trap. Coming out of her first job interview, Rojas remembers calling her father to ask how much life insurance he had. “It’s just not necessarily a topic that comes up on a day-to-day basis, but it’s one of the things that can really make a difference,” she says. “Our culture is very family-oriented, so we could position life insurance as a way to protect families.”

Her arrival to the job market, though, appeared at first to be ill-timed: Rojas had graduated in 2008, in the midst of a recession. “Everyone was just saying, ‘Yeah, there are no jobs,’” she says. Luckily, Rojas was introduced to someone at New York Life, who helped her land an internship with the organization.

Not long after, Rojas had earned a full-time position and knew she had found a career in which she could make a difference. Moreover, she had been given an opportunity by a female manager of Fillipino descent, a woman who stood as an inspiring professional and an inspirational symbol of possibility. Over the decade that followed, Rojas rose in the ranks, from agent to partner to senior partner, eventually becoming managing partner in 2016. But that rise wasn’t without its struggles. “When I became a partner in 2013, I realized that there were not many women managing partners,” she says.

While she had felt that anything was possible with the right dedication, it was clear to Rojas that the opportunity was a blessing, not a given. “I looked around and felt that Latinos in my community would be fantastic on this career path, but the opportunity I had may have been less available to others,” she says. Changing that reality quickly became a big motivator for Rojas. Both by serving as a role model and by actively encouraging others, Rojas decided to make a mark on the industry by improving Latino representation.

“From the early stages of her career, Citlalli’s passion and vision to help the Latino community grow financially propelled her to grow personally and professionally,” says Liliana Canedo, head of the Latino Market for New York Life.

And Rojas quickly learned that her passion aligned with New York Life’s values. The manager who helped give Rojas her start wasn’t the only minority professional in the organization—far from it, as New York Life prided itself on rewarding exceptional performance regardless of a person’s background. Moreover, being able to represent and assist the diverse cultural markets which it works with is essential to New York Life’s identity. The organization’s offices are intentionally composed of diverse nationalities and backgrounds.

In the five years since she became a partner, the number of women in managing partner positions has nearly tripled. While New York Life continues to make strides in diversity, Rojas believes that all of corporate America needs to continuously strive for further diversity in order to bring in new voices and perspectives, and she is proud to be a part of that push.

“From the early stages of her career, Citlalli’s passion and vision to help the Latino community grow financially propelled her to grow personally and professionally,” says Liliana Canedo, head of the Latino Market for New York Life.

In the incredibly diverse Southern California market in which Rojas works, more than 50 percent of the population is Latino. For that reason, Rojas’ focus has strategic business value: when leadership reflects the customer base, its improved understanding of—and community ties to—the market becomes a competitive advantage. “We have amazing leaders and tremendous support in the Latino market,” Rojas says. “We can reach out to Latinos to truly help them cover their needs, which is so important.”

When looking for the right candidates to continue that positive community stewardship, Rojas has a few key characteristics in mind. “We focus our efforts in recruiting in the area, looking at people with determination and integrity,” she says. “The beauty of our organization is that we have the resources to help them develop the necessary skills.” To both potential New York Life employees and current teammates, Rojas stands as an example that more women can be involved in financial services. Additionally, as she considers her success a product of New York Life’s Latino market strategy, Rojas is proud to impact the caring and talented leaders in the group, showing them the path to success and giving unconditional support. “Accomplishing that success is very humbling,” she says. “Because helping others is the core of everything that we do at New York Life.”

Rojas isn’t the only one in the organization feeling empowered by her rise to managing partner. When the news of her promotion was announced via a story in New York Life’s internal magazine, the response was overwhelming. “Employees across the company, some that I had never met, were writing to congratulate me and tell me that they were sharing my story with their daughters and granddaughters,” Rojas says. “I didn’t realize how impactful my story could be. My response was simple: ‘If I can do it, your daughter or your granddaughter can do it.’ At the end of the day, opportunities are and should be available to everyone, and it fills me with pride to know that I can help people to believe in that.”