Andrea Martinez-Mejia is the Chief of Staff for the New Jersey Department of Health. She has extensive experience in government, serving in various capacities. During her tenure in state government, she worked closely with statewide stakeholders and diverse constituencies. In addition to her career in public service, she has served on various boards and mentored first generation college students through a college mentoring program. As a woman and Latina, she is passionate about the empowerment of younger generations of women and Latinas.
Andrea will be a speaker at the upcoming exclusive Latinas in Business 2022 Women Entrepreneur Empowerment Summit. The Three Pillars of Women Success: Personal Power, Financial Wellness, and Business Innovation panel will share key insights from women leaders who have found success in their industries.
Originally from Ecuador, Andrea emigrated to the United States at the age of 15. She decided at a young age to pursue a career in government and started working toward that goal in her teenage years. After she graduated from college, she was soon offered the opportunity to work for a political campaign in NJ in 2001 and that opportunity opened the door to launch her 20 years in government.
In addition to her career in government and in the public sector, Andrea is incredibly active in the Hispanic community, seeking to work with other women to empower and motivate more Latinas to engage in the public arena via civic engagement.
“As the President of the Latina Civic Foundation, I’m working with our members to engage, educate and train more Latinas to become civically active in their communities,” she says. “As an immigrant to this country, I also believe in the power of education and mentoring the new generation of young Latinas therefore, throughout my career I have mentored several young individuals who are pursuing careers in government or the public sector. We need more Latinas in decision-making positions that can help elevate our potential and our needs as a community.”
The Latina Civic Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to build a network of civic engagement that expands Latina women’s capacity to develop their leadership potential and impact policy change via civic engagement in their local communities. By training women with the skills needed to run for office, manage and run electoral and issue-based campaigns, and build a base of strong community leadership, they hope to lay the foundation for future changemakers.
Achieving success to inspire the next generation
Being a Latinas is not always easy, Andrea notes. Throughout her career journey there have been obstacles and challenges that have stood in the way of her success. For her, like for many others, one of the first obstacles she faced was the language barrier.
“For many it takes years and a lot of reaffirmations that it’s ok to make mistakes or speak with an accent. However, we know two beautiful languages and we can communicate with a lot more people,” says Andrea.
Another challenge she faced starting out was being young and not being taken seriously in her abilities.
“Being young can also be an obstacle sometimes, folks question the experience and knowledge of younger individuals and sometimes tend to underestimate their potential and ability to lead and get things done.”
Along the way she learned the importance of being able to reinvent herself, utilize networks and transferable skills. “Sometimes we must start all over again and that’s ok; it is building our resilience,” she says.
How she defines success has also changed throughout the course of her career journey. When she first started out, achieving success was always about making her family proud. She was raised by a strong mother who has always believed and taught her that nothing is impossible if we believe in ourselves. As she has grown older, success has been about representing her community, being able to speak on behalf of other women of color, and ensuring that doors are open to other women and Latinas. Finally, being a mother has shifted some of her reasons for achieving success.
“I want to achieve success for my son to be proud of his mom, just as much as I am proud of my mother. I define success these days as the ability to raise the next generation to be kind, accepting, and above all good human beings. I strive to do that every day with my son and any young individual, I am lucky to mentor.”
To other women looking to achieve success in their own careers, businesses, or ventures, Andrea says, “The sky is the limit. We are the engine that moves society, and nothing is impossible because we have the impetus and resiliency needed to make anything happen. We are constantly juggling multiple projects whether at work or at home; we are the CEOs of our lives, families, and communities. We are guerreras, luchadoras and we don’t give up easily. Keep trying, success will happen, believe in yourself, and don’t forget there is a tribe of women ready to help you.”