It’s been a little while since our last installment of Women Who Inspire and this time, I’m hyping Nina Vaca, the CEO and Chairman of Pinnacle Group. Nina has been an inspiration to me for quite a long time, so I was thrilled to see her a few months ago at a conference in Miami.
Now, I’m excited to share her story. Nina founded Pinnacle Group—a staffing firm that specializes in IT—in 1996 as a one-woman company, and it’s now a leading provider of services worldwide.
Hmmm, a woman who is running a staffing agency… That sounds familiar.
Our similarities don’t end there. Nina was born in Ecuador and grew up working in her family’s business (a travel agency); I am El Salvadoran and grew up working in my family’s business (which I now run). Nina is an accomplished runner, and I am a devoted, pretty decent golfer. I admit it, I’m a fangirl! I love any parallels I can find.
Nina has been described as “a trailblazing Latina entrepreneur, a world-changing philanthropist, and a dynamic global leader.” I agree, and I think I would be hard-pressed to find a better role model.
Finding Inspiration, Not Competition
Some might be surprised that I’m writing about a “competitor,” but that isn’t how I see Nina. Yes, we are both in staffing, but we lead different firms on different paths – and Nina’s is definitely one of note.
Pinnacle has been included in the Inc. 500 and Inc. 5000 lists of fastest-growing companies 13 times! And in 2015 and 2018, it was named the fastest-growing women-owned and -led company by the Women Presidents’ Organization. Nina herself has been recognized with numerous awards for her business success.
I see no problem with admiring another successful company in our industry and the fellow businesswoman who runs it. Who better to learn from? Nina has likely faced similar challenges in her career, and she is working in the same economy and business landscape that we are. I absolutely follow her in hopes of learning something, and I’m always inspired by her tremendous example of success.
Leading by Giving Back
Nina is more than just a successful business leader. Her philanthropy is truly inspiring.
After the devastating earthquake in Ecuador in 2016, Nina leveraged the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon in San Francisco to raise over $100,000 to help small business owners. The following year, she completed the Ironman 70.3 in Manta, Ecuador, raising another $100,000 to build the Villa de la Alegria in Muisne to house hundreds of earthquake survivors. These are just two examples but, wow!
Nina has supported organizations that improve the lives of disabled veterans, people experiencing homelessness, families of children battling cancer, and beyond. She’s particularly focused on expanding opportunities for women and girls in STEM, as well as for women and Hispanics in business.
My family has also been committed to giving back to our communities, both personally and through ATR. Triathlons are not for me, but I’ve been fortunate to play in numerous charity golf tournaments with my dad. I’m not sure if I’ll match her fundraising feats, but I am happy to have that bar to reach for!
A Lasting Role Model
As readers of previous Women Who Inspire posts know, I find inspiration in many places. Women are doing incredible things every day, everywhere. When I meet, read about, or see someone who makes me feel hopeful and inspires me to work harder and do my best, I want to share their story. Usually, it is someone I didn’t know about until that minute—someone who is doing something that I admire but isn’t necessarily in my wheelhouse. However, Nina is someone who I have looked up to for almost my whole career.
Nina and I share similarities, but her example of working hard (and giving back just as hard) is one that I think anyone can be inspired by. Thanks, Nina!