Hatch Tribe Hero | Geiza Vargas
Hey, it’s OK to admit your workaholic tendencies - that making time for connection isn’t always on the top of this week’s ‘to-do’ list. That’s what we’re here for! Hatch Tribe is devoted to reaching out and connecting those who are badasses in business by sharing insights from all walks of life. Focused on women, and the lives we’ve made for ourselves, tune in and allow yourself space to breathe, sit back, and reflect on these wise words cultivated especially for our TRIBE because as one, we’re better together.
This Q&A is a little different than the latter. For the month of April, I wanted to explore an OZ behind her curtain - a figure in business who helps us glue our business’s building blocks together and making it look easy as she does it! Introducing, Geiza Vargas-Vargas, an esquire specializing in Corporate Law. Driven by passion and the notion to make a name for herself in the money world, Geiza has found herself a long way from home but has loved every day of her professional journey!
Meet Geiza! A badass woman in law.
Q: Open up by telling us a little bit about who you are. What are your passions? How did you land in Charleston, SC?
A: “First, my name Geiza is pronounced in Spanish and sounds like “heysa”. I am Puerto Rican, born in Puerto Rico, and I speak Spanish. My father is a US Army veteran, so I grew up in El Paso, Texas, Germany, Hawaii and as an adult lived primarily in Boston and New York. I wear a lot of black – it’s my favorite—although living in Charleston you might see me sometimes in Nantucket red, and 98% of the time I am in heels. I moved to Charleston from New York in 2009 to be a professor at the law school but am back practicing law at Nelson Mullins. I am a corporate attorney and I work with companies at all stages of the life cycle, from startup to operating, financing and sale or acquisition.”
Q: Have you always had a passion for corporate law or is your career something you’ve grow into over the years? And what does your job entail on any given day?
A: “I went to Wellesley College, an all-women’s college in Massachusetts (Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright are alums) and really became interested in economics, which generated an interest in Wall Street and investment banking. After graduation, I worked at a pension fund advisor on the acquisitions and asset management team and loved the buzz and energy of institutional investment and capital markets. So when I went to law school, I already knew I wanted to practice corporate law with a dash of tax.
I work a lot, including most weekends, even if it’s just a few hours. My days are pretty random and a deal or something that needs attention can come up at any time (it is not unusual for me to commit to some fun activity and then have to cancel). Today, I reviewed a couple of supply agreements for a manufacturing client. I finished up the due diligence in connection with a merger (Company A buys Company B). A technology client is doing another round of financing, so we are in the second phase of a preferred stock offering, and I also finished drafting an independent contractor agreement for another technology client. There’s more but that’s the gist. & tonight, if nothing crazy comes up that locks me down at work, I will be cocktailing with friends somewhere.”
Q: Do you feel that you are treated equal to your male coworkers?
A: “The answer to this question could produce an essay! This is a complex subject for which I definitely have a ton to say. I cannot recall ever experiencing an overt form of inequitable treatment, but I think this is because I have generally worked in the money world. And when you make someone a lot of money, they don’t care that you are a girl. That said, I am pretty sure I have taken a hit on salary and bonus where a male with equal or less knowledge/skill/education did not. And generally, my observation is that the boys get away with stuff that the girls would NEVER. In many respects, we have to be perfect and they do not.”
Q: What do you think is the biggest strength for women in the workplace?
A: “I have struggled with an answer to this question for days. Women have to manage more – not just work but personal life and relationships. Just like we have a higher pain threshold, I think we can do more and efficiently. I also think that we are smarter in how we approach problem-solving and wish more women, especially young women would assert themselves and demonstrate that.”
Q: How has your life experience made you the leader you are today? What other female leaders do you admire and why?
A: “I am Puerto Rican, born in Puerto Rico, and I do not come from a privileged family. I have always had to hustle get what I want. At a younger age, that meant get the best grades, being at the top of the class and getting into the best schools. As an adult, this has meant making many difficult decisions on my own and taking risk… & frankly, sometimes being my own unapologetic advocate, or essentially, a bitch.”
Q: If you could go back and give your younger self a piece of career advice, what would it be?
A: “Life is messy, but the result is a balance of perfection with imperfection. If you told me when I was 27 that I would be living in South Carolina instead of New York City, I WOULD NOT believe you. And I would probably crap my pants because seriously, *what horror* the idea of living in the South. But that’s what happened - I ended up here chasing opportunity (major risk) after the market collapsed in 2008, and my ride has been bumpy sometimes, because honestly, this is a trippy place for a Latina, BUT I absolutely love my life here. I am in my element in New York – that’s my heart, where my mind, body and soul are from. But my life is here, in Charleston, and I love it.”
Q: What advice would you give to an aspiring female attorney?
A: “Two pieces of advice to women, regardless of profession: 1) Be good and kind to other women and girls. 2) Do not care what people think of you—let them call you a bitch.”
Q: Anything else you'd like to share with the TRIBE?
A: “ I would love to be a legal resource for women entrepreneurs, especially because very few female attorneys do what I do, and because all of the entrepreneurs or business owners (small business or big) that I have worked with are men. I know the women are out there, which is why Hatch Tribe is so important and necessary to connect us.”