Photo courtesy of PIMCO.
The most rewarding career paths are often filled with twists and turns as we develop new skills and interests over time. The trick is to find a company where you can follow this path and continue to grow.
We sat down with Amber Ochoa, vice president, manager, technology and change communications at PIMCO, to discuss where she started at PIMCO and how she got where she is now, as well as where she sees herself in the future.
I have been with the firm since I moved to Newport Beach nine years ago. Before PIMCO, I worked in real estate and prior to that I was at a start-up functioning in a branding, marketing and communications capacity. My job choices were between PIMCO, a venture capital firm and being a real estate broker. I liked the idea of doing lots of different things, but the role I was considered for at PIMCO involved starting as an executive assistant, and I was not sure if the role would grow over time. I met with the chief technology officer (CTO) at the time and shared with him that I was worried about being boxed into one type of role. He said, “Yes, I would love for you to join the team, we will be supportive, and if you find something you are interested in, we will find a spot.” Although a lot of my growth was self-directed, it was a combination of hard work, guidance and opportunity. I have grown so much over the last nine years [at PIMCO] and really spent time learning what my brand is and where I can add value to the firm.
Shortly after getting my feet wet as an executive assistant, the technology group wanted to build an intranet landing page for their part of the organization. This was an opportunity for me to take advantage of Microsoft SharePoint training and exposure to project management responsibilities. I had the opportunity to leverage my knowledge and interests in marketing and branding toward content development for the intranet site. I even took advantage of learning how to build websites and took HTML classes to learn how to customize webpages. I then assumed responsibilities for SharePoint Administration. As that project grew legs, we needed communication and someone to drive marketing for all of the content, so I stepped in to manage that, too. When our CTO formed the technology program management office (PMO), he hired an amazing woman to manage the team. I had the pleasure of working with her on special projects. This partnership blossomed into an additional set of responsibilities. I began planning and executing engagement events and large conferences for the global tech organization. Eventually, I was able to carve out a project management role on the PMO team. In addition to event coordination, I created and delivered training and communication strategies for assorted software implementations.
As time went on, our former CTO needed a communications person to increase transparency and improve connectivity of our global technology team. For the first six to eight months in that role, I handled not just the communications but also developed change management plans to support large-scale, high-risk digital transformation initiatives.
As the number of these complex initiatives increased, I saw the need for my team to formalize our change management approach according to an industry recognized standard. Our CTO sent me and my team to a change management certification bootcamp, where we learned a formal methodology. We incorporated what we learned into our process and now also provide internal change management consulting to teams across PIMCO.
I have definitely worn many hats during my time at PIMCO! I’ve been a program manager to a variety of initiatives, from software implementations to even helping to open a new office in Austin, Texas. I sometimes joke that my team is a mini HR/Talent Development, because we’re constantly developing programs for upskilling, career development and so on. Because of this, I’m often approached by colleagues who want to grow in their career or are exploring alternative career options. My absolute favorite hat is looking for opportunities for these individuals to gain exposure, learn and grow. Sometimes, I pull them into a special project, volunteer opportunity or recruiting event. Seeing them get excited about something new and gain recognition from leadership makes me so happy. I really feel like I’m making a difference.
From a career perspective, because I work in change management, my career has transcended all types of teams, projects and industries. I’m involved in projects about anything ranging from data science to infrastructure engineering, as well as HR and talent development. PIMCO is full of innovation, which makes it the right environment for a self-starter. There are also programs and departmental firm infrastructure to support growth in other ways. We invest in our people through upscaling and being inclusive in our conversations. We continue to find ways to make the environment more suitable for everyone.
One of the beautiful things about PIMCO is that even though we are a global firm, it still feels like our teams are pretty small, and everyone is always willing to chip in. I can never remember a time where someone ever told me, “No, I can’t help.” Through organic conversations, I learned about concepts I never would have otherwise. The firm provides fundamental training and development opportunities to everyone, and then you can select different ways to grow as a professional if you want to.
Working in PIMCO tech has offered me the opportunity to grow into who I truly am as a professional and as a person, learning and growing consistently along the way. I’ve learned about the world of non-profits, helped several individuals carve out meaningful career paths and been part of major, global initiatives. All of this was made possible by my hard work and dedication, as well as by opportunities presented to me at PIMCO. I am so thankful that I found that admin role nine years ago!
Aside from tools like Slack and working across different groups, I’ve developed a system for managing relationships. People think I’m extraverted, and when I’m really familiar with the people in my circle, I can be. When it comes to networking, the reality is that I’m not the greatest, and I have to make myself do it. So I have a list of current relationships that I need to nourish and future relationships I’d like to build. I block time on my calendar every month to focus on these goals.
Another step I’ve taken is to join the board of a non-profit. Our Purpose at PIMCO team helped me find PureGame, which I’m so grateful for! It has been a rewarding experience and holds me accountable to my networking goals.
Here’s the thing: up until five minutes before almost any networking meeting, I get a feeling that I really don’t want to go! Knowing I may be able to help them and vice versa pushes me through it. I hold up my end of the bargain and feel proud of achieving my goals while making a difference.
The best advice has been: “Everything you do, find a way where you can be you. If you find a time where you cannot be you, then it’s time for a change.” It’s true what they say about growth: it can be like going through the stages of grief. There is a lot of sponsorship at PIMCO, and I was supported from very early on in my time here. If there were opportunities to learn and grow, I felt comfortable communicating that with leadership. That’s important. But overall, I am happiest when I can be me.
Another thing that I would say to anyone looking for growth in their career is to look at the things you know how to do well and other skills you can easily learn to get your foot in the door. For instance, although I helped with administrative tasks, I was not solely an admin before I joined PIMCO. I knew I was good at anticipating the needs of others and communicating, and I could book travel and organize expenses. I’ve always been a continuous learner and knew I could excel in the role. This also applies to how I’ve built my career: I’m constantly looking for opportunities where I can add more value.
I love how so many tech methodologies can be applied to life outside of work. Whether it’s change management, product management or even holding retrospectives, I’m always looking for ways to cross-pollinate practices across sectors of my life. Beyond that, I’m currently reading Donald Miller’s Business Made Simple so I can learn new practices to help me be a more effective board member at PureGame.
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PIMCO as a general matter provides services to qualified institutions, financial intermediaries and institutional investors. Individual investors should contact their own financial professional to determine the most appropriate investment options for their financial situation. This material contains the current opinions of the interviewee but not necessarily those of PIMCO and such opinions are subject to change without notice. This material has been distributed for informational purposes only and should not be considered as investment advice or a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form, or referred to in any other publication, without express written permission. PIMCO is a trademark of Allianz Asset Management of America L.P. in the United States and throughout the world.
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