Meet Community Leader, Mayrose Munar, Known For Making A Difference!

dcdfed0620693c813d4ba16812578af4.jpgQ: Please share with us your how career path started?
MM: It was never a conscious decision where I sat down and planned my education then arrived at this destination. Opportunities were presented, and I jumped at the chance. I would say it was 20% luck, 30% intuition, and 50% hard work. My first job was with a Honolulu law firm in loan transactions and real estate. The Internet began to take shape around this time and after two years I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. I had plans to attend law school, but then pivoted to work in tech. I found my first role at Inktomi, a technology start-up in San Mateo. It was the early 90s and I was an early employee. We were search engine pioneers with ambitions to go public. The general council offered me the chance to build the stock administration department from the ground up. I had minimal resources, and we were a few months away from the bell, but I made it happen. At Inktomi, I earned my chops and discovered grit. Our public offering in 1998 was well received, beginning the first tech boom. During the decline, I dabbled in day trading and freelanced with companies who needed my help after their IPO fell short. I went to Webvan and Tumbleweed. Then after my first decade in Silicon Valley, I took a break to travel the world.

Q: Tell us about your experience working at Google?  What happened that led you to think it was time to move on?
MM:  I moved to Barcelona, Spain, with two suitcases and my dog. After Google went public, the hiring manager for the stock team reached out. A few weeks later, I was back in the Bay Area, initially working as a consultant then hired on full-time. After living abroad for a year, I arrived at Google and was blown away by the innovation. I shared an office next to the CFO, and our building housed both the finance and legal teams. There were 3,000+ people globally, and Google's stock traded dynamically. I had my work cut out for me, but this was an opportunity to experience an organization moving from post-IPO to ongoing growth. After two years, we hired a rock star executive from Microsoft to move us from good to great. It was also a turning point for me to step away from my role and prioritize my personal decision to be a mom. I took the leap of faith to partner with this executive, and we rose beyond the 2008 financial crisis, built an in-house trading floor, and received multiple accolades. Everyone hired on was best in class, but with quirky passions. It was tough to get the personalities in a room to see eye-to-eye, and that was my new role: To move everyone in one direction as a team. After nearly nine years with Google, I was ready for a new challenge. I moved on to follow my manager to a little-known start-up in San Francisco called Uber.

Q: Tell us about your role at Uber?  I imagine it was very fast paced as they’ve experienced a tremendous amount of growth … what was your experience like working there?
MM:  I was nicknamed Mama Bear because I valued people and stood up for them. This was crucial when building as fast as we were and when leading teams in over 800+ cities worldwide. What I accomplished at Uber was not a climb up Everest; it more closely resembled a climb up Meru Peak. It tested my willpower, stamina, and my appetite for uncertainty. I was the CEO's point of contact, and my job was to solve, decide, identify talent, and execute within a matter of hours -- sometimes minutes. I lived for E.T.A. (estimated time of arrival) and getting the experience just right. We navigated people and projects like a busy airport control tower. What we accomplished was breathtaking. At Google, I earned my MBA. At Uber, I did a double Ph.D. It felt like a combination of becoming a triathlete, finding a new way to enter space, piloting my way there, and then writing the book.

Q: What led to your philanthropic work, “Help and A Hug?”  You also launched a book drive, what led to this and how successful was it?
MM: I grew up in a marginalized area on the Kauai westside in Hawaii. After leaving Uber, I wanted to give back to my community there, especially with the students. After Hurricane Iniki and the sugar plantation closure in the 1990s, the town fell deep into poverty. I met with the Hawaii Community Foundation and Keiki to Career, local organizations who provided services to students on Kauai. My first task was editing personal statements for high school students who depended on scholarships to cover their tuition. While working onsite, I discovered the elementary school was in need of resources, most urgently books for a summer reading program and to fill both their library and classrooms. I donated funds through Keiki to Career to cover the school’s summer reading program and launched a book drive in my neighborhood with an old friend and neighbor. We received over 5,000 books in a three-week period. It was very grassroots with a lemonade stand run by our children who made signs and sold baked goods. I applied my experience in tech, and we leveraged our offline and online connections. The outpouring of support was incredible with families dropping bags of books at partner locations and local businesses and leaders stepping up to help.  

Q: Tell us about your work at the YMCA where you championed the After-School Program, Project Cornerstone.
MM: My involvement began after an end-of-year potluck dinner for the afterschool program when my son was in Kindergarten. We were in line to grab food, and a young boy approached me, to ask if everything was free. It was obvious he was hungry, but it was not until later that I realized this was his last meal, I wanted to do more, so I became a board member and mentored the after-school program leader. She showed me the challenges on the ground, and today we continue to work through them as partners. With YMCA Project Cornerstone, I am leading a group of parent volunteers at my son's elementary school in Redwood City focused on learning values. The program builds assets in youth by providing connections with caring adults and lessons that promote a more caring school climate.

Q: Between your philanthropic work, business, and family, do you believe there is such a thing as work-life balance?
MM: I don’t. I believe there is love for life and love for one’s work. When you have both and are accountable to each, it works organically. It is truly important to be fully committed and ‘in-love’ with both. Otherwise, it becomes a self-sacrifice, which leads to many spiraling emotions, such as regret, stress, and sadness. So, it is super important to be invested in both.

Q: What’s next for you?
MM: To raise my son, my greatest product delivered. To continue my work with the youth in the poorest communities here in the Bay Area and in Hawaii. To author my next chapter in Silicon Valley technology.

Q: Which woman inspires you and why?
MM: Mother Teresa.  I read her biography many years ago, and it was not until recently that I realized what it truly meant to give in such a way that your life takes on meaning and purpose. For many years, I thought giving meant money and material things. In fact, giving takes many forms—a kind act, a smile or an offer of help to a stranger. 

Q: What are some of the challenges you feel women face today?
MM: I will answer this from my personal experience as a working mom. Our most significant challenge today is flexibility and finding work with companies that support our role as mothers. While lactation rooms and laptops are great, it is still very one dimensional. Think about what it truly means to be a mom. It is getting home in time to have dinner with the family and still enjoy it without having to gulp everything down in five minutes. Alternatively, something as simple as a nap or a place to rest. We are up very early to fit in a workout, prepare lunches, start a load of laundry, and correct homework or pay bills, all before commuting to work. Then, we are up late after the kids are in bed to answer emails and hopefully take a shower. Wash, rinse, wring, and repeat. There is a great opportunity here to support us.

Q: What do you like the most about living in the Bay Area?
MM: The people. Hawaii is still the best melting pot in the world, and it is not that I am biased. However, the Bay Area has the most diverse group of people regarding culture and social backgrounds. 

Five Things About Mayrose Munar

1. If you could talk to one famous person past or present, who would it be and why? 
Marcus Aurelius. I would be fascinated to discuss the combination of humility and power.

2. Who’s been the biggest influence in your life?
My family. They have always been there for me.

3. When you were 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A pastry chef. I discovered PBS cooking shows and was addicted to watching them when I was eight years old and allowed access to our four-channel television. 

4. Which celebrity do you most identify with? 
Oprah.  We are both women of color, and she is well read, versed, and has the right amount of intelligent sexy.

5. Is there an app you can’t live without?
Spotify. I thrive on music.

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