Happy Mother’s Day!

I hope everyone had a great day yesterday! All the moms of course, but especially my mom, Maria Novoa-Brenholz. I love, respect and admire you so much! I think we all know it’s nearly impossible to thank our moms enough for everything they do for us, but I will still say it. Thank you Mom!

It seems obvious to say that my mom inspires me, but she does. She’s an inspiration and a mentor. She is fearless and persistent, as well as smart, caring, honest, and tough when she needs to be. She perseveres. She makes leaps of faith when needed, and after she lands she works very, very hard to be successful. Her story, so familiar to me, is newly inspiring as I grow older and take on more responsibility for running the company. I appreciate her choices, her abilities, her courage and work ethic even more now that I am faced with the same challenges.

At first…

As a young woman my mom moved to the U.S. from El Salvador to go to college. She didn’t really have family here, a cousin or two, and didn’t know anyone particularly. But she saw the opportunity that the country offered, took that leap, and came on her own. After graduation she held several jobs, eventually joining SER, a nonprofit which works to transform lives and communities, especially Hispanic, through education, employment and empowerment. She loved the work and the experience was vital to her later business success.

Along the way she met and married my dad. Marriage always requires a bit of a leap of faith, doesn’t it? She was El Salvadoran and raised Catholic while he was Polish and Jewish, which added to the depth of their commitment. Neither hesitated to make that leap and they never regretted it. Eventually, I was born! Career-wise, she left SER and took a position at Stanford University in the Dermatology Clinic. She loved working there too, as an academic setting always suited my mom, a natural mentor and friend. By the time she was 40, she was a wife and mother, had a successful career and a house to run. She was happy, and busy.

…and then…

Then she took another crazy leap of faith.

My mom and dad decided to start a business. They cofounded ATR International 30 years ago.

There were naysayers and very real long odds, but they went for it. They leapt. They were a great team and that’s why it worked, but in many ways my mom was the rock of the team. The first few years, she continued to work at Stanford. ATR was her “second” job. My mom wore numerous hats through the years, especially early on, doing whatever needed to be done. She juggled what seem to me now like way too many things. When I feel like my life is crazy, I remember her schedule, take a deep breath, and instantly feel better.

She established so much of the culture at ATR. Treat people with respect; act honestly and ethically; strive for excellence in everything you do. Make sure everyone understands their role and their importance. Help your colleagues maintain a balance between working hard and living a good life. My mom’s influence and example are everywhere at ATR. Most of our leadership team are people who my mom hired, trained, mentored, and worked with for years. Together they built ATR into the successful firm it is today.

I was four when they started ATR, so seeing her run a company was pretty much all I knew growing up. Being at work with my parents was normal. It was a startup, a family business. I was there too, playing or doing homework. A family business is just that: a family business. We sometimes joke that I was the third employee! Even after my grandma lived with us, I still spent plenty of time at ATR. I often came after dance class or choir practice and I worked at ATR in the summer during high school and college.

…and now.

I have had many opportunities to see my mom at work and to learn from her. She has never shied away from making bold choices. She has shown me by example that you need to believe in yourself and sometimes you need to take a leap of faith. She taught me that you should be smart and make decisions based on the best information you have. Once made, be confident in your decision. If you make a mistake, correct it, learn from it, and move forward. You don’t have to be perfect. You do have to work hard!

My mom also taught me how important it is to give back. To help those less fortunate and support the important institutions and organizations that make our communities better places for all. She established philanthropy as a cornerstone of ATR’s culture and spearheaded many of our corporate charitable efforts. As a Latina and a woman in business, mom was a champion of diversity early on and always ready to mentor and work with individuals and help organizations working to promote diversity.

I am proud to now serve as the CEO and President of ATR, continuing to work with my dad to bring workforce management solutions to our clients and great career opportunities to our consultants. My mom is an example to me every day, as her daughter of course, but especially as a business woman. I want ATR, the company my parents built, to continue to be successful, with its founding values a guiding principle. I want to meet my responsibilities with the same grace and capability that my mom did. I want to be persistent and fearless when I need to be, just like she was. I want to help others and give back to make the world a better place. I want to make my mom proud. I try to remember everything she taught, and continues to teach me, and behave like her each day.

She will always be an inspiration to me. She’s my mom.

Thanks again Mom!


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