It’s all about experiences for the self-described self motivated Nancy Gonzalez.
Nancy was born in Colorado, a place where dreams and experiences can be as big as the neighboring snow-capped mountains. One of her dreams is to expand her skills as a writer and nature photographer. In fact, she said if she wasn’t working at the Houston Zoo, her ideal job would be a writer and photographer for National Geographic. Nancy earned Associate degrees in both journalism and marketing management. She finished a year towards her bachelor’s degree in Communications at Colorado State University – Pueblo, when a big box retailer recruited her. She has held positions as a Multi-Unit Manager, Buyer, GM and District Manager before joining SSA. In 2010, Nancy went to Cheyenne Mountain Zoo to continue to hone her skills in retail Operations Management. She’s now the Retail General Manager at the Houston Zoo and Hermann Park Conservancy. Nancy said one of the reasons she likes working in Zoo retail is that everyone has a story, and it makes work life interesting to discover the story.
Nancy believes strongly about animal welfare. She explained that animals can’t defend themselves and depend on us to help, and it’s truly a gift for us to care for them. “For that reason working at a zoo, and supporting their efforts, works for me,” she said.
When Nancy isn’t working, she likes to experience the outdoors. She said the oceans, especially the Caribbean, and the mountains, the Rockies in particular, ground her. Her favorite memories involve outdoor experiences. Camping, fishing, skiing and snowmobiling with family and friends are among her favorites, where she enjoys the experience of exploring nature at its best. One of the craziest things she has done is to jump into an icy cold whitewater creek from a gigantic granite rock in the picturesque wild San Isabel National Forest, which is home to several of Colorado’s Fourteeners.
Also special to Nancy are visits to Puerto Rico to spend time with her father’s family — nine aunts and uncles as well as more than 200 cousins. On her last visit she swam with a manatee, and she said her father called it her boyfriend from then on (“lol,” she added). Family is important to Nancy as her parents recently passed away. It has been a bittersweet experience. With the passing of her mother, she “inherited” two cats, which quickly became inseparable with the cat Nancy already had. Nancy believes that animals are just like family, so she now has three “children.” She laughingly said she has become a cat lady!
Her other after-work experiences includes visiting museums, seeing big screen movies, reading, and seeing live plays and musicals like the nut cracker, which she has been to several times. Life should be a musical she said, and then even bad news would sound pleasant. Nancy said she hopes to finish two books, The Ambition and Lean In “sometime this year!”
Additionally, Nancy does find the time to read another bestseller, The Bible. At the encouragement of one of her brothers, Nancy started to read this epic story of love, life, death, war and family. This life-changing book has given Nancy an insight not only to her life, but also history. It’s an experience that reminds her that there are other ways to think about the happenings in one’s life. She shared it is an eye opening, life-changing book. “It makes a huge difference in my life,” she added.
One eye-opening experience taught Nancy to have a love for all people. Humor is the most important quality in people, Nancy shared. One of the men she admired most was John Candy, a comedian, who unfortunately died in 1994 while filming the Western parody, Wagons East! One of Nancy’s favorite movies and one of his most popular movies was Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
Nancy was an active volunteer for the Catholic Charities in Colorado Springs, before moving to Houston. This non-profit provides help and creates hope for people. Her volunteer experience involved listening to defeated women. “I loved it when I saw the light bulb come on for them when they successfully understood or changed a behavior,” she said. She plans on soon offering her expertise to this national charity in the Houston area.
Her first real paying job, aside from being the most popular neighborhood babysitter, was working at Peterson Air Force Base Golf Course as an attendant where her father was the Superintendant. “There’s nothing like the sound and feeling of air from golf balls flying by my ears while picking them up!” She added the Air force had not yet invested in golf ball retrieving machines so her job was secure. But that experience didn’t stop her from learning to play golf. Golf is her favorite sport to watch.
Nancy shared that she is never bored. Few people know she’s a closet karaoke singer. Her staff may know as she sings at work as well as does impersonations. Nancy has worked hard at this talent of impersonations and accents like actress Sophia Vergara and fictional animated character Marge Simpson She jokingly said she developed this talent because she loves the sound of accents and got tired of hearing her own voice. It also keeps the team entertained. On her iPod, she has mostly classic rock and Christian music playing and a little bit of everything in between.
Many people would not be surprised that Nancy is very loyal, committed and honest, but many may not know she can’t keep a secret. She shared that if she’s asked, she will tell. This characteristic ruined a lot of family Christmas surprises, unfortunately. Another attribute that Nancy has is the ability to laugh. “Laughter takes away all worries and pain naturally. I laugh at myself all the time,” she added.