It’s one thing to move to Washington, DC, from the barrios on Houston’s indigent Northside. It’s another to grow up as the youngest child of a migrant farm worker and land a seat as deputy general counsel with a Fortune 150 on Independence Avenue. But for Raquel Tamez, these are chapters in a book still being written.
She has a BA from the University of Texas at Austin. She has a Juris Doctor from St. Mary’s University School of Law. She’s been a cheerleader. She’s raced mountain bikes. She’s served as a lead prosecutor at the US Department of Labor. She’s been the in-house counsel for companies like Mary Kay and ACS, Inc. She trained for and placed at an international figure competition. She currently oversees CSC’s global litigation and electronic discovery operations. She’s pursuing a certification in data privacy. She’s an aspiring Pilates teacher. And that’s just for starters.
The thread that binds all of this together, according to Tamez, is one of simple pragmatic credence: “Be the best you can be, in all things.” She speaks with effusive optimism, and reflects on her path as one testifying to the virtues of the marrow-deep work ethic she inherited from her father, who emigrated from Mexico to Texas where he worked as a migrant farm worker in his youth and then settled in Houston with his growing family in a rough neighborhood. “If you say ‘Northside’ to someone in Houston, they know exactly what you’re saying,” Tamez says. “It’s a tough area, and the house my parents still live in to this day was built by my father over 50 years ago. It’s home base.”
Tamez was the youngest child of six in her home, and though she’s ready to admit that a silver spoon was nowhere to be seen, she also recognizes—and is grateful—for the sacrifices made by her parents that ensured the best possible lives for her and her siblings. As an example, she cites her selection and placement in the Vanguard Program at one of Houston’s most prestigious grammar schools, River Oaks Elementary, and then well-to-do private schools for junior high and high school. Despite the hour-long bus rides, Tamez was able to learn the politics of haves and have-nots firsthand, establishing an ethos of social awareness and rhetoric from a young age. “I learned as a young girl what I now know to call ‘socioeconomic differences.’ Over the years, I have been successful in leveraging that knowledge and those related experiences.” Tamez says. “I grew up in a barrio, but somehow I knew inherently that I could be just as smart and just as successful as anyone, and that’s what motivated me.”
It was this fierce spirit of independence that also began to guide Tamez, in her teenage years, to what would come after school. With ideas and aspirations stewing—exploring in her young age everything from cheerleading to National Honor Society presidency—Tamez recalls a typical night around the dinner table with her family. “It was a very typical Hispanic home,” she explains. “What my father said was the law, and there was no questioning that. My dad once told my mom that she doesn’t have an opinion, because she’s a woman. He most certainly does not think that way now. He was a different person then. People do change. But, even back then, as a young girl, I knew it didn’t sound right.”
Despite their occasional difference in viewpoints, Tamez has always respected and identified with her father, and is boastful of her present relationship with him. “He is one of the wisest people I know,” Tamez says. “He has always helped me understand that there is more to life than a career, and for someone like me—ambitious and competitive—that’s important to know.”
Of course, it’s ironic that out of a conservative social upbringing, which sidled a woman’s opinion based on assumed family politics and culture, Tamez is now an active and assertive legal professional, balancing her rhetorical skill with her analytical knowledge of the law, litigation, and electronic discovery (the latter of which she operationalized and globalized). “I’ve always been a fighter, and drawn to what’s right, and I think that’s why I have been drawn to the law,” Tamez says.
Tamez credits curiosity as the driving component of her evolution in the professional world. After graduating from St. Mary’s University School of Law and passing the Texas Bar, Tamez worked for four years as the lead prosecutor for labor and employment at the US Department of Labor, then moved to in-house counsel positions with Mary Kay and ACS, then worked for Sumner, Schick & Pace. The professional relationships she cultivated during these years led her to relocate from Texas to Washington, DC, in 2010 to work for CSC.
“The opportunities I’ve had have been partly due to being in the right place at the right time, but beyond that, working with good people and nurturing meaningful relationships has helped,” Tamez says. “My current general counsel was also my general counsel at ACS. When he left ACS, he asked me to be a part of his team at CSC. I consider him a friend and mentor. Managing the global litigation and e-discovery operations for a Fortune 150 is not without its challenges, which is why relationships are essential.”
That Tamez locates value on inter-personal relationships as much as she does self-sufficiency suggests an outlook favoring personal accomplishment over material reward (though the rewards aren’t exactly shabby). For Tamez, the key ingredient here is balance; a trait reflected in her extra-curricular pursuit of certification as a Pilates teacher.
Tamez has always been athletic, pursuing track, drill team, and cheerleading in high school. At the University of Texas, she made it to the podium at a national collegiate women’s powerlifting competition, and at law school, she picked up mountain biking—a skill complemented by her weight-training background. And as she embarked on her legal career, she became a certified personal trainer. “Being healthy, strong, and flexible in body, mind, and spirit is of the utmost importance to me. Maintaining a balance in all things is essential,” Tamez says. “I work long and hard and I decompress at the gym, outdoors in nature, and at home with my partner and 13-year-old Labrador. It’s all about a holistic balance.”
Compared to weight training and mountain biking, Pilates is arguably a much more refined, subdued pursuit, but utilizes the same mental faculties and is itself founded on the principle of balance, focusing on the core, the “powerhouse.” Raquel’s decision to pursue her Pilates teacher certification is merely another extension of her ongoing effort for self-evolution and self-sufficiency. “I’m not ready to give up the practice of law anytime soon, but maybe one day, in addition to my legal career, I can partner up and invest in a Pilates studio,” Raquel ponders. For now, it’s full steam ahead.