For Nuveen’s Minaya, Success Comes in Different Shapes, Colors | The Riverdale Press

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By Stacy Driks

A first-generation American in his family, Jose Minaya grew up in a Dominican household in Washington Heights, where his parents focused on saving rather than spending. Today, he is Managing Director of Nuveen, a leading TIAA investment firm, overseeing all investment activities for over $1 trillion in assets worldwide.

On September 21, he was welcomed to his alma mater Manhattan College in honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month. He gave a talk to discuss his accomplishments in hopes of providing the next generation of students with a glimmer of inspiration.

Donald Gibson, Dean of the O’Malley School of Business, with just 750 students enrolled, said the students attending seemed to be really into it. During a question-and-answer session, the students asked the finance executives questions they were eager to ask.

In the intimate space of De La Salle Hall filled mostly with finance or business majors, students engaged with Minaya. The event was co-sponsored by the O’Malley School of Business and Fuerza Latina, a club immersed in Hispanic culture.

Kayla Reyes, a computer engineer and sophomore at the private institution, thought she was sticking out like a sore thumb because she thought she was the only engineer in the room.

For her, you don’t need a business degree to learn about business.

“One day I want to do something like this,” she said.

Minaya is responsible for Nuveen’s vision, strategy and day-to-day operations. He has over 27 years of investment experience in companies such as AIG, Merrill Lynch and JP Morgan.

After Manhattan College, he earned his business degree from the Amos Tuck School of Business in Dartmouth.

“It’s not just cool to see your own people, but to see people who grew up in a similar community,” Reyes said.

“Being able to hear this gives me the motivation to keep moving forward.”

Before the event, Reyes did his research to find out more about Minaya. She discovered that they were both cut from the same fabric.

Both are of Dominican origin. She grew up in the South Bronx and in Harlem on 125th Street, home to the Apollo Theater, just off Minaya’s hometown. She realized that if he could rise to a position of power, she could do the same.

It hasn’t been easy for Minaya, however.

“Once I left (Manhattan College), it was stressful. It was just the real world,” he said.

Like today, there were a lot of first-generation students in 1994. But there, he spent time with a group of friends from the same background. At the time, he didn’t know it, but the institution fed him.

As for Reyes, when she was beginning her college career, one of her “technology” courses seemed strange to her. She realized that she might be the only woman in the class of 20 students.

But the next day, a second woman entered the classroom. For Reyes, she said it wasn’t just that she was a woman in the class, but a woman of color.

“At the start of my career, I didn’t share my story,” Minaya said. “My dad was a dishwasher and my mom was a housekeeper at the Waldorf Astoria.”

According to statistics from the US Bureau of Labor, foreign-born people had the lowest unemployment rate compared to native-born people.

The business manager was never bothered by his father’s low salary needed to pay the household bills.

But as he got older, he realized it made his peers uncomfortable. Instead of telling the truth about his parents, he would say that his father worked as a chef in a restaurant.

He realized he was in an alien world by listening to the experiences of his peers. He felt they were avoiding an awkward conversation by deliberately not talking about their experience in the Hamptons when he had never left Washington Heights.

On average, in 2016, Hispanics spent less time on hobbies and sports than non-Hispanics. While Hispanic women were also noted in the office data to spend more time tending to home and family needs than other non-Hispanic women.

Once Minaya got married, he realized he wasn’t the only one thinking that.

“My stepfather once told me this (anecdote) where he was a CFO in Philadelphia, and he was from India,” he said. “Everyone for lunch was going out and talking about the Flyers (Philadelphia hockey team).”

Unsurprisingly, this action hurt the CFO’s feelings as he was never invited. But he had never seen ice before. So he learned hockey on his own by watching TV as if it were a lesson.

One day, Minaya’s in-laws said to her co-workers, “Hey, what did you think of that game last night?”

The general manager said he didn’t take it personally. It was the exclusion that was the hardest part.

However, like Reyes, his life growing up was slightly different. She was not a first generation student. After serving as a Marine, her father graduated from Manhattan College to become an electrical engineer.

“My dad taught me PEMDAS,” Reyes said. It stands for “Please excuse my dear Aunt Sally” to help elementary school students learn the order of operations. Her father, an alumnus, was an electrical engineer, which prompted her to choose engineering as her career path.

She had someone to go to if she got frustrated with something. Something he knew so well.

Minaya wanted to give this experience to her younger brother, who was 14 years younger. When Minaya became successful and encountered his own obstacles, he helped his younger brother after he graduated from high school and eventually Brown University.

“When he went to Catholic High School (All Hallows), I remember saying you should apply to those other wider schools, and his adviser was like, ‘Hey, it’s not for people like you’ “, said Minaya.

Education statistics indicate that 11.9 million students attended colleges and universities in the fall of 2020. While that same year, 9.5 million were white students, followed by 3.6 million Hispanics.

As of 2020, 25% of Manhattan College’s population was Hispanic.

Minaya thinks the counselor was not discriminating or doing a disservice. In the South Bronx, he was trying to enroll kids in any college or get a technical degree.

A great fear is rejection. What if a college refuses them?

“You’re still alive,” Gibson said enthusiastically and encouragingly.

Minaya said that in life you will often be refused. But he suggests students apply to college just for at least the whole process.

“I’m going to try to face a Major League pitcher right now. I’m going to look like a fool… But hey, you know, why not? »

The general manager was a baseball player who signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates. But he quickly realized that it wasn’t for him.

“You can go from being the best at something to not being part of the team anymore,” he said. “It was a humbling experience, so now I better find something else.”

For him, it was a process of elimination.

In addition to his position as general manager, he dreams of his next career move being a visiting professor, as he enjoyed the energy in the room during his lecture and missed the college campus experience.

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