A conversation with Propeller’s Senior Finance Lead, Linda Villarreal
We sat down with Linda Villarreal, Propeller’s Senior Finance Lead, to hear about her work and the path that brought her to Propeller. Above all else, Linda’s story confirms how the power of personal values CAN align beautifully with a company’s ethos-driven culture in a way that makes work meaningful and purposeful.
Linda shares a story of reflection and gratefulness for her challenging and rewarding journey, as she continues to grow by tackling more challenging projects, uplifting Propeller’s community and people, and starting her postgraduate educational path.
What has been the biggest “ah-ha” moment for you in your time at Propeller?
I never imagined I’d have the ability to confidently bring my whole and authentic self to work—and be energized, inspired, and rewarded for it. To Propeller’s credit, the values that continue to drive our fast-growing success have not changed since I joined here in 2018. It is an ethos that’s genuine and true. They are not empty words. I’m aware of how rare that is!
Where did your deeply held values and convictions come from?
I grew up in Colombia as the middle child of a single mom. She was central to my learning about the importance of responsibility, hard work, and dedication.
You’ve shared that education has always been a priority for you. Tell us about how this became a reality for you.
Growing up, I knew that a college education would give me far more opportunities in life, both personally and professionally. But it was a new concept for my family; I would be the first-ever to graduate from college! To this day, I’m grateful that my family was able to immigrate from Colombia to the United States when I was 17 years old. After several years, I was finally able to begin the eligibility process to enroll in a community college. It was a step that allowed me to eventually transfer to my dream university: North Carolina State University (NCSU). Recently, I transitioned to a new academic challenge, an MBA. This is a professional step I’ve been meaning to take for some time, and I am finally working on it.
We know from experience that you are a hard worker and someone who knows how to get things done! How did this work ethic shape your career path to Propeller?
As a non-traditional college student, I simultaneously worked and attended school full time, which ended up being a more rewarding experience. I was able to graduate summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and a concentration in Finance. During my senior year at NCSU, I was also chosen to participate in a Study Abroad Program in Madrid, Spain, then earned an internship with Dell EMC. This role led to me being recruited for Cisco’s Leaders in Finance and Technology (LIFT) Program, where I spent two years rotating in accounting and finance roles. Upon graduating from LIFT, I was hired by Cisco Capital as a Customer Contract/Partner Relations Manager, and then transitioned to a Business Operations Analyst role for Cisco's Worldwide Sales Training organization. During my fourth year at Cisco, I was completely burned out and started to doubt my professional abilities. When I interviewed with Propeller, I felt at ease about sharing this vulnerable personal and professional time, and instead of being rejected for my honesty, Propeller responded to the drive and dedication they saw in me.
What does your work involve today at Propeller?
As Propeller’s Senior Finance Lead, I partner closely with the Senior Director of Finance to manage and oversee Propeller's finance operations.
Propeller’s ethos provides daily direction as I make sure I take a holistic approach to support every aspect of the business—financially, strategically, and culturally.
You are fond of saying, “You never know who you might inspire.” How did this motto become real for you?
I knew I was attempting to break through economic, educational, and cultural barriers. I’m a firm believer that hard work, dedication, commitment, and perseverance are character traits that can take you to places you never imagined. Reflecting on my journey, one of the most rewarding aspects of my life has been to be able to positively impact those around me by being there for them and serving as a role model.
What is the value of having both internal and external support systems throughout your career?
I’m married to my biggest personal and professional advocate—and that is a role I also fill for him. Having cheerleaders who believe in you is essential, but first, you must believe in yourself.
I am proud to say that as I look back over my life and career to this point, the progress I’ve made has to do with that internal voice inside me and the support I got along the way from friends, colleagues, employers, and now Propeller.
How do you feel supported and empowered at Propeller?
Propeller has been key to my internal and continuous growth in the last three years to the point of making me feel confident enough to go back to school. In addition to my day-to-day job at Propeller, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to collaborate in some of Propeller’s organizations that support our people and our communities, including Propel Her, Uplift, and Propeller’s DEI mission.
As part of Propel Her, I was able to partner and co-lead our first workshop on Imposter Syndrome. While preparing and coordinating for the event, I really lived the imposter syndrome, but everyone involved was very encouraging. They inspired me and gave me the confidence I needed to execute a successful event.
In addition, I also received a great deal of support to participate in the small businesses mentoring sessions with a Portland nonprofit through Propeller’s Uplift program. I felt intimated as I am not a consultant, but the Uplift team members encouraged me — reminding me I was using my financial knowledge and people-oriented skills. It was such an amazing experience to help small business owners while learning throughout the process!
Summary - Commit To People
One of the founding values of Propeller is its commitment to people. A diverse and inclusive culture make it possible for every individual to feel heard, supported, and to realize their unique contributions—unlocking the potential for untold growth.
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Linda Villarreal is a masterful curator of meaningful connections. Her experience includes business operations and financial asset analyst roles at Cisco and Dell EMC, where she defined and executed innovative budget management, forecasting, and talent recruitment and onboarding strategies. Linda holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration, accounting, and finance from North Carolina State University.