With a family dedicated to helping others and patriotic service, Cecilia Montoya opens up about her commitment to empowering female veterans and women at Morgan Stanley.
Hard work and commitment to service has driven Cecilia Montoya for her entire life. Growing up as the youngest of five children to first generation parents, Cecilia witnessed her parent’s generosity and decision-making that over time and commitment, positioned their family for success. Drawn to this service and growth-minded framework, Cecilia embraced these values and developed work ethic and compassion from a young age that would ultimately lead to her position as Executive Director and Regional Business Service Officer for Morgan Stanley’s Pacific Coast Region. In this position, she shares the same leadership approach and development process with the Business Service Team, modeling once again how generosity and intention can lead to success.
“My mother was so charitable and even at a young age, I remember we always gave,” Cecilia recalls. “Whether clothes, canned goods or small monetary donations, it was all about giving to someone less fortunate.”
A commitment to our country was also a priority in the Montoya household as Cecilia’s father and uncle served in World War II and her husband was also in the Army. In addition, Cecilia’s father-in-law was a Marine and many family friends also served in the United States Armed Forces. Such patriotic service has inspired Cecilia to focus her time and energy in support of veterans. “They gave so much to us and it’s very easy to give back to our military,” she explains.
Today, Cecilia is directing the commitment and zeal that has led her to a successful wealth management career toward efforts that benefit young military women making the transition to civilian life. It’s part of larger personal project to motivate young women at Morgan Stanley to seize opportunities to advance their careers.
In 2017, Cecilia spearheaded a Pacific Coast Regional clothing drive at Morgan Stanley to source business attire for female veterans to wear on job interviews. The drive helped collect 7,800 items of clothing for young Marines at Camp Pendleton in Southern California, far surpassing the old record of 3,400 items. In 2018, this clothing drive exceeded 10,000 items. As part of a Power Up for Success career fair, organized through a group called Working Wardrobes in conjunction with VetNet, Cecilia led a group of Morgan Stanley volunteers in outfitting an entire class of female Marines.
“The best part was actually getting to know the Marines,” Cecilia says of clothing each of the young women.
But dressing for success is only the beginning. Cecilia advises young people seeking a career in wealth management to focus on three key goals:
- Listen before you speak
- Follow your gut as your instincts are usually right
- Take yourself out of your comfort zone, take the leap of faith in your abilities
Developing self-confidence is another key ingredient for success and one that does not always come easy for young women. Cecilia has observed that many women lack the self-confidence or the right encouragement along the way to achieve their full potential. Being part of the MAKERS family gives her a unique opportunity to be a mentor and role model. “In my role as a leader, I have a new platform to continue telling the story of empowering women,” says Cecilia, who with 17 direct reports and another 75 business managers reporting to them, has myriad opportunities to make a difference.
Cecilia credits many mentors in her professional and personal life – siblings, teachers, managers, friends -- for spurring her to break out of her comfort zone and tackle new challenges. But it all started with the foundation and work ethic established by her parents. “Everything they did, they did for family, and that had a tremendous impact on my life,” she says. “My mom is the core of who I am today.”
Early in her career, a mentor offered Cecilia a job as an operations manager. With no experience managing either people or operations, she didn’t think she was ready. It was his confidence in her ability that helped her accept the challenge. “It was truly sink or swim, but I learned from my parents that you put your head down and get through it,” she says.
That initial promotion and Cecilia’s contagious work ethic soon led to more encouragement and more advancement opportunities. “I know that if it weren’t some of the great leaders I had who tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘You can do this,’ I wouldn’t be where I am today,” she says.
Cecilia is dedicated to doing the same for others through a mentorship program she is designing to help all managers, male and female, recognize that even the most competent woman may lack the self-confidence to step forward. “A woman never thinks she’s ready for the next step, so it’s up to the mentor to say, ‘That’s where you’re wrong. You are ready,’” Montoya says. “I live that every day.”
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