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NextGen Collective recently spotlighted Andrea Osorio. Read about her work and career so far, her favorite podcast, where she gets career inspiration, and more.
Where are you from?
Proud Californian here! I was born and raised in San José and lived in SoCal at San Diego State University. While I never envisioned leaving the West Coast, I accepted a job offer based in Washington, DC shortly after graduation. Since making the move, I’ve fallen in love with the city and its passionate people (not to mention the amazing food scene)!
What do you do today and where do you want to go in your career?
My career in the social impact sector thus far has been quite the adventure. From donor organizing in support of asylum seekers at the San Diego/Tijuana border, managing a $8M grantmaking portfolio funding grassroots NGOs at the frontlines of humanitarian crises, and working on the launch of an international grantmaking fund at a Fortune 200 company, I am now a program manager at Excelencia in Education. Here, I work to advance Latinx student success in higher education by elevating evidence-based practices to a national audience through the annual Examples of Excelencia initiative.
Looking ahead, I want to continue tackling our world’s most pressing challenges with a holistic, systems-level approach.
Who inspired you the most in your life growing up?
I’m lucky to have a family that was a source of endless inspiration growing up (having abuelos who became business owners and community leaders in Mexico—despite having zero formal education—set the bar pretty high), but I would say my dad’s entrepreneurial spirit and belief in social justice inspired me as a kid to work not just for myself, but for the betterment of my community.
Whose career really inspires you?
I recently discovered the work of Sergio Avila, local outdoors coordinator for the Sierra Club on The Trail Ahead podcast. A conservation scientist from México, Sergio’s work to intertwine the narratives of indigenous communities with local conservation efforts really resonates with me as an avid outdoorswoman. I’m also inspired by his efforts to dismantle the cultural notion that humans are separate from the natural world, which I think is key to climate action.
What do you wish you had known at the start of your career?
I had this perception that I would have to specialize in a particular field if I wanted to be successful. However, six years of working in the philanthropy sector gave me opportunities to dive headfirst into topics from climate resilience to workforce development. This exposure to a vast array of challenges, and more importantly to the visionaries shaping the solutions, shaped my core belief that social impact work must operate at the intersection of social, economic, and ecological inequities. Had I known back when I was getting started that social problems can’t be solved in silos, I might have brushed off some of the pressure to specialize.
What are some of the biggest challenges you see for Latinx professionals early in their careers?
Two of the biggest hurdles I see in my work advocating for Latinx students and other young professionals include a lack of clear career pathways, and access to information on knowing your value and negotiating accordingly. For first-generation college students from low-income backgrounds, finding resources that help them understand the “hidden curriculum” on college campuses and in the workplace is crucial to closing the equity gaps in degree attainment and generational wealth.
What podcast or lifehack can you not live without?
The Yo Quiero Dinero podcast hosted by Jannese Torres-Rodriguez is my go-to! It’s a great way to learn about personal finance and leadership from Latinx and BIPOC voices. My favorite episodes highlight women who have built their careers by leaning into their multifaceted identities and without compromising their personal values.
What behavior or personality traits do you attribute to your success?
Adaptability has helped me not just survive, but thrive in uncertain and rapid-paced environments. The next would be a strong conviction in my abilities. I don’t let setbacks seep into my subconscious and make me question the value and unique perspectives that I bring, and I know I’ll be able to lean on this resilience when the going gets tough.
What’s been the biggest surprise or highlight of your career to date?
The highlight of my career has also been the most humbling. As part of the funder ecosystem, I’ve had the privilege to partner with grassroots organizations affecting change across the globe. It’s opened my eyes to how we begin to see a shift in the status quo when we cede the floor to the voices that have been drowned out for generations. The rise in trust-based funding models is a recognition of what happens when decision-making/resources are re-directed towards the local organizations, activists, and entrepreneurs that have a vested interest in unlocking a brighter future for their communities.
Which causes are you most passionate about?
Climate change. I’m angered by the lives lost and billions of dollars in damage due to inadequate investment in climate resilience, and I’ve also seen communities coming together to mitigate the impacts of fires, floods, and drought firsthand.
We need all hands on deck to ensure a viable future for our planet, which is why I’m excited to have been recently selected as a 2022 Climatebase fellow—joining peers from all different backgrounds in the push for equitable climate action.