Meeting challenges head-on in life or the workplace and finding the best path forward has always been a part of Switch director of accounting Jennifer Chavez’s DNA.
Growing up in Mexico, Chavez knew adversity early in life. She recalls days when no food was on the table, the heartbreak of her mother’s sorrow when she could not provide for the children, and lining her shoes with cardboard to keep her feet dry because there was no money for new shoes. She also started working at a very early age to help her family.
But the drive for opportunity is also very much part of her life story. She immigrated to the United States as a teenager with her brother and grandmother to seek a better life. The adversity she faced instilled in her a steely resolve to change her circumstances and to build a better future for her own family.
“You can choose to be driven by your circumstances and be the victim, or you can choose to rise above them and be in control of your life,” Chavez says. “I chose to rise above.”
To be able to attend college, Chavez began working as a server at a nursing home during high school. She worked there for several years, eventually balancing working and studying accounting at Santa Barbara City College.
Initially, she was going to stop her education when she earned her associate’s degree. Inspired by the sacrifices her mother went through to provide a better life for her children, Chavez kept going, working to pay for school and earning scholarships. A testament to her perseverance, she graduated with honors. Because she was such an inspiration, she was selected to be a keynote speaker for the graduating class of fellow graduates of Hispanic descent.
It was an ad in the newspaper that started her long career at Switch. Although she was not quite sure what all the job of “staff accountant” entailed, she sent in her résumé. “I felt like it was meant to be,” she says.
When Chavez started at Switch in 2008, the company was a smaller start-up with about fifty employees. Through the vision of founder and CEO, Rob Roy, the company quickly grew to a global technology data center ecosystem corporation that is powering the future of the connected world. The company has expanded to develop some of the largest data center locations on the planet, in Las Vegas and Tahoe/Reno in Nevada; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Atlanta, Georgia; and global locations in Italy and Thailand through a joint venture.
Inspired by the culture of Switch, Chavez is driven to always look for innovative ways to find solutions that support the company’s rapid growth. She has led teams to research, analyze, and select the best technology available across the entire enterprise, whether in accounting, financial management, or general business systems.
The number of Hispanic women finding their way to careers in the tech industry lags in the workforce. Chavez, as her own kind of “glass ceiling” breaker, is a role model for young Hispanic women who might be considering careers in tech. “Over half of Switch’s senior executive team are women, an industry-leading achievement that should show the technology industry that more women are needed in technology and can find robust careers,” she says.
Her own department has grown from three people to about thirty people today. “The opportunity to grow the department and have a hand in selecting the best talent and helping to develop them is not just a big responsibility, but a big accomplishment,” she says. “I am very proud of the people I have been able to bring into our team at Switch. We have a very strong team of the most talented people anywhere.”
Switch’s corporate logo, designed by Roy, is the Karma wheel. Every employee at Switch follows the belief system that if you put good energy out into the world, good energy comes back to you. That is how Chavez approaches her job and her role in the company—to always do the right thing.
“The company’s motto, as well as the company’s growth, has allowed me as a minority, a woman, and a senior team leader to grow beyond my accounting career and be able to get hands-on in the technology industry,” Chavez says. “Being a part of that is very exciting. It’s an honor to work for a company that provides so many opportunities and truly embraces diversity
A TODOS ELLOS
An excerpt from Jennifer Chavez’s keynote speech at her graduation.
A todos ellos que su nombre es un legado, un ejemplo.
A todos ellos que con sus asperas manos construyeron un sentimiento en nuestras vidas.
A todos ellos que con sacrificios llenaron nuestras bocas dia a dia.
A todos ellos que hoy no estan y dejaron su nombre, su recuerdo, como un legado, como un ejemplo.
. . .
Con este poema, quiero dar las gracias a todos ustedes por creer en nosotros. Somos un ejemplo vivo de ustedes, nuestros padres y abuelos, nuestros hermanos y amigos, nuestros profesores y mentores, que con esfuerzo y dedicacion nos han enseãdo el camino y la forma de alcanzar cualquier meta.
To all of those whose name symbolizes a legacy, serves as an example
To all of those who built meaning with their bare hands into our lives.
To all of those whose sacrifices filled our mouths day to day.
To all of those who planted that seed of hope.
To all of those who are not here today and who left their name behind as a memory, a legacy, an example.
. . .
With this poem I want to thank all of you for believing in us. We are a real-life example of you, our parents and grandparents, our professors and mentors, who with commitment and dedication showed us the way and how to reach any goal.