Moss Adams Voices

Maria Reyes: We Have Hope

Maria discusses her experience navigating her career as a first-generation American, the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic in her community, and why this year’s Latinx Heritage Month is all about hope.

Maria Reyes

Maria Reyes, assurance senior, grew up thinking she’d be a teacher—it was one of few career options she knew. Raised as the oldest of five first-generation children in an underrepresented Fresno neighborhood, Maria didn’t understand how expansive her career options were until she enrolled in a middle school with the Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) Program. Now, since joining Moss Adams in 2019, Maria and her sister, Evelyn, are leaders in their own nonprofit to help high school students in Fresno’s Latinx community understand the importance of continuing their education.

Why do you feel like it’s important to give back to your community with the nonprofit?

My parents really encouraged me to pursue my education and take it seriously so I would be better off economically. I felt a lot of pressure as the oldest to be a good role model for my siblings and even family friends. I had to learn along the way, and I always felt like I had a touch of imposter syndrome.

I remember when I was in middle school, I was learning advanced math and my parents couldn’t help me with it. I was the first in my family to be taking this educational journey, and we didn’t have the Internet at home because we couldn’t afford it, so I felt I had to figure it out on my own. With the nonprofit, I want to give back to my community and inspire them. If I can do it, they can do it, too.​​​​​​​

​​​​​​​Was the imposter syndrome present at any other point in your life?

When I started at Moss Adams, I had to adapt to a new environment just like in middle school. In my first days, I worked through my lunch expecting someone to tell me it was time to clock out. That’s what I was used to, watching the way my family worked, but this environment was different. I had a harder time adapting to that.

My current career advisor helped me in my transition. I opened up to her that I wasn’t used to this environment, and she really took the initiative to let me know how things worked.

Maria Reyes

Would it have been helpful to see others like you at the firm?

Yes. The Latinx community makes up less than 15% of the accounting industry. Everyone at Moss Adams did a great job of making me feel included, but I was hard on myself to prove that I’m a great representative of my community. Seeing very few Latinx accounting professionals in the firm’s senior leadership positions felt isolating because it made me question whether being in a leadership position would be attainable one day.

You also want to connect with people in the industry with similar experiences and challenges to yours so you know you’re not alone. I’m hoping that in the future I’ll be in a senior position where I’ll have the opportunity to mentor young professionals entering the field. I encourage others at the firm to be mentors so our diverse group of junior team members feels empowered and knowledgeable about how to move up to a leadership position. It will take time, and we’re moving in the right direction, but seeing people we relate to at the top will help even out the pyramid.

You mentioned your hope for your career, and hope is a big part of this year’s Latinx Heritage Month celebration. This year’s theme from the LatinX business resource group (BRG) is “Tenemos Esperanza,” or “We have hope.” How does this connect for you?

I see hope as an important pillar that is shared across my community. Throughout my educational journey, I always remained hopeful that someday I would be able to provide my family a better life. Many of us hold on to hope despite the challenges we endure. Those challenges include immigrating to a new country, learning a new language, graduating from college, or facing socioeconomic inequalities.

Can you speak more to the challenges the Latinx community has faced during the pandemic?

For instance, in my city, Fresno, most of the testing and vaccination sites were disproportionately put in well-off communities. At the beginning of the pandemic, I noticed these inequities when there was only one testing site in my community. I know people in my community who don’t own cars, or don’t even have licenses, and figuring out how to get to these sites is a struggle. Who will take you? If you can’t afford a babysitter, who will watch the kids? The city should be distributing these resources to those who need it most.​​​​​​​

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​One of my uncles in the service industry wants to get the vaccine, but many places may fire you if you request time off—including where he works. My brother was working full time during the pandemic and got very sick, requiring a week off work. His employer let him go, and we tried to get him help. Because he was a contractor, he didn’t qualify.

In the Latinx community, there’s always a fear of losing your job. They’re the ones providing for their spouses, their children, even extended family or the elderly. If they don’t get paid, they can’t put food on the table. They have to make a choice—their health or supporting their family. Without any help, they’re going to choose their family.

How can we all better support the Latinx community during this difficult time?

People can support the Latinx community by volunteering their time to places with disproportionate access to resources and supporting your local Latinx businesses in your area. Even just volunteering your time at a school so students can learn about your job can help, as those students may have never heard of your career before.

The Latinx community can feel unsupported at times and may not voice their struggles due to misinformation about the pandemic and fear of retaliation that may cause them to lose their jobs or be questioned about their immigration status. I encourage our allies to support the Latinx community by listening to the struggles of the Latinx community in your area and advocating on their behalf. I remain hopeful that if we continue working together, we can achieve a future we’re all proud of.

Go Beyond the Desk

At Moss Adams, we believe in the power of possible to empower our clients and people to pursue success however they define it. Explore stories about our professionals, including their personal achievements, at our Beyond the Desk page.