A Q&A with Jasmine Borrego, President of TELACU
What (or who) inspired you to pursue the career you’re in today?
Noel Sweitzer, who is currently the President of HDSI Management, Inc., inspired me to get on the affordable housing path. She identified in me a keen ability to look for detail, particularly during the time that the 202 programs were growing.
She challenged me to read the HUD Handbook, to find the source document, and to not be afraid to challenge the policy, the procedure, or the person. You cannot be afraid to get into the weeds…read, read, and find the source document. Noel was also instrumental in guiding me through the Low-Income Housing Preservation and Resident Homeownership Act (LIHPRHA) loopholes.
Who was your role model when you first started your career? Who is your current role model today?
In addition to Noel Sweitzer, and those at Retirement Housing Foundation (RHF), there was the influence of Wynthrop Marshall, who amongst many titles, was chair of Leading Age National. His encouragement opened the doors for me to be the first Latina LeadingAge board member.
Wyn reminded me often to “not be soft, to make a strong case, and fight the good fight for affordable housing.” There were many others who I learned from and were role models when I was a young Regional Supervisor with over 35 properties to oversee. I was traveling often between Puerto Rico, St. Croix, and the various properties in California, but they would make time to answer my questions.
What kind of progress have you seen happen for women in the field since you first began your career?
When I first started in this profession there was great pressure to make sure that the work was the priority above everything else. Feeling “guilty” about not completing the work was something that was nourished in the profession. Little did we know that was counterproductive. For us as women, there was more than work…there were our children and other family responsibilities. I have seen progress through the years, however, towards a clear understanding of the roles we not only hold in our profession, but also as wives and mothers.
Today, there appears to be a better balance of both professional and personal responsibilities. I have fought hard to see that become a reality and I encourage my staff to balance! As long as I continue to be President for TRM/TPM, I will challenge my staff to be mindful of that balance.
What are the benefits to having more women in leadership positions?
There is a different point of view; a different way of looking at the business. Yes, there is a bottom line, but behind that line, we need to be able to see the people that are living in our affordable housing. This is a view that I believe women bring to the profession…the most important asset we have is not the building, but the people in that building.
The messaging is different because women have a gift to see the detail, to feel the detail, and to commit to the detail. Women leaders bring a balance to the workplace.
How can women today develop their leadership skills?
There has to be a concerted effort to network and to help one another as women. The network is a critical piece in developing as well as opening doors for opportunities. It is okay to network and share the mistakes so that we can learn from one another.
Great leaders are visionaries, and without a vision, your organization will perish. To get vision you have to get out of the office, go talk with others, and see what they are doing. We learn from others and incorporate ideas; leaders are constantly looking for better ideas and for new vision.
What advice would you give your younger self when you were first starting out in your career?
To balance work and family is very important. You will not succeed if you do not balance and “feeling guilty” is not a good way to operate.
Make sure you look at the bigger picture when planning. My younger self would have tunnel vision and focus in getting the task in front me done. I would ask my younger self how this decision will impact others outside of our organization, and how this decision will carve out a path for our organization.