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Miriam De Dios’ story could be defined by two things: hard work and giving back to the community. After working for State Farm Insurance and John Deere Financial, De Dios was the first hire at Coopera Consulting, a company formed in 2006 to help credit unions reach and serve the Hispanic community. After the passing of Coopera’s founder, Warren Morrow, De Dios was promoted from managing public relations and marketing to CEO.

Where are you from originally?

I was actually born in a town called El Grullo, which is a town in the state of Jalisco in Mexico. An interesting fact about El Grullo: Both of my parents are from there and my great-grandpa was actually the founding mayor of the town. I have a lot of family there and I visit at least once a year.

How did you make your way to Des Moines?

It was quite the journey. My parents moved to the U.S. when I was about 4 years old, really in the search of that American dream like most immigrants. We lived in the Los Angeles area for a while and finally ended up settling in Fairfield, Calif., right outside San Francisco. Then an opportunity came up for my dad to move to Perry, Iowa. He had friends that had moved out in search of jobs within the meatpacking industry. I ended up graduating from Perry High School and then went on to Iowa State University, and about a year ago, I ended up moving to Des Moines.

Did you start working with Coopera right out of college?

No, I was actually working with John Deere Credit (now John Deere Financial). While working there, I heard of the job opportunity from Christina Fernandez, who is actually Warren Morrow’s widow. So she gave me a call and talked to me about her husband, who was starting a company, and they were looking for someone who was bilingual, bicultural and had a marketing background. (Warren) was very passionate about serving the Hispanic community, and there was no way I could turn him down.

What did you start out doing at Coopera?

A little bit of everything. It was a small company, so I worked a lot on our client accounts and I worked directly with our credit unions in providing them advice and recommendations and how to reach out to the Hispanic community. Because we were just starting, I did a lot of work internally to help build some of our processes and how we manage some of those accounts. Also, some of the marketing.

What drives you in your career at Coopera?

I would say the biggest driver is knowing that the work I do is making a difference in the lives of people. You can’t say that working for every company, but you can say that working for Coopera and particularly helping my Hispanic community. I shared an immigrant background with Warren ... and that definitely shaped our lives in many ways. I’m definitely grateful for the sacrifices that my parents made in coming to this country, and I always wanted to give back.

What else do you do in the Des Moines community?

I teach English as a second language through Des Moines Area Community College. It’s great to actually work with people in the community and being able to share something that I had to grow up and learn because English is my second language. I love to travel as well, whether that’s with friends on road trips or just going to new places. And then just giving back in whatever way I can. I do serve on the boards of a couple of local organizations.

What do you see in the future for Coopera?

I think we have a very exciting future. Over the years, we’ve really been able to create a great position within the credit union industry and we’ve been able to collaborate with large credit union system organizations such as the Credit Union National Association, which has really allowed us to connect more Hispanics to the credit union industry. I see us continuing to expand our team and continuing to expand our footprint and then evolving our products to meet the financial needs of Hispanic financial consumers.

What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?

There’s probably two key pieces of advice that I keep with me. The first is that hard work really does pay off. That’s something I learned growing up from my parents. And I’ve really learned (from Warren) that humility definitely goes a long way, and it definitely is one of those key ingredients of being a good leader and having a successful career.