Joanna M. Bauza
President and Co-Founder
The Cervantes Group
You have to know how to work as a team. You have to lead people to one goal.”
Family businesses are in Joanna Bauza’s bloodline. This third-generation entrepreneur raised in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, learned about business from her grand-parents and parents. She recalls breaking a customer’s credit card by pressing too hard to make an impression on the manual card reader while working in her parents’ hardware store as a teen.
Today she doesn’t need to work so hard to make an impression.
The success of The Cervantes Group, a multinational, multi-million-dollar business she co-founded with her husband, speaks for itself. The technology talent acquisition and services company ranked No. 1,465 on the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing private companies in the United States, as well as one of its top Hispanic companies.
Bauza is comfortable as a female executive on the international stage. She has traveled the world for both business and sport: the former as a business owner with offices in Puerto Rico, Spain and Mexico, the latter as the No. 1 ranked tennis player in Puerto Rico.
“I relate everything back to tennis,” she says. “Sports and business are very similar. You have to know how to work as a team. You have to lead people to one goal. You need mental toughness, and you cannot lose faith when things don’t look good. When you are losing 6-2, 4-2, it doesn’t mean that the game is over. You can stay strong and try to find your opponent’s weakness. You keep striving, keep pushing and never quit.”
Athletes excel at career transitions that require them to pivot, Bauza believes. “You go through different chapters in your life. You have to successfully close one chapter and start another, but you bring all that knowledge and experience to the next one.”
Bauza encourages students at DePaul, where she teaches a class in leadership, to emulate this practice. “I tell students, ‘Where you are right now will be very different from where you will be in five years.’” She advises them to bring their special experiences and accomplishments forward to apply them in a fresh context.
In Bauza’s iteration of the family business, responsibilities are split by professional strengths. Her husband focuses on business development functions for their organization, while her background as a programmer and web developer positions her as the technical expert on clients’ staffing needs.
Bauza is mother to a 12-year-old girl and 10-year-old boy. Her best advice for balancing family and business is to “have self-determination, be forward-looking and always be a great leader. You never stop learning or growing.”
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