Woman of the MonthJune 2016
Meet Debra Cesaro
Regional Directory of Herman Miller
It is exciting to see employees work intuitively in their workspace and not have to adapt because the space doesn’t provide the choice as to where to accomplish the different activities we actually do each day.
What do you do? I lead an expert sales team focused on helping companies develop their unique solutions for workplaceso help employees engage in their work environment. My region covers Central and South Texas from Waco to Brownsville and the state of Louisiana. San Antonio and Austin are the major Texas markets we support.
Length of time at this job: Three Ω years in this role at Herman Miller; before that I was on the Herman Miller development team to create the Space Utilization Service, an automated way to determine how assigned workspaces are actually used in order to develop new plans to incorporate places to collaborate without increasing square footage.
What is it that you like best about your job? Every day is different. We work with companies in the area to gain insights about their corporate culture and key business drivers and then how that translates into the office environment. It is exciting to see employees work intuitively in their workspace and not have to adapt because the space doesn’t provide the choice as to where to accomplish the different activities we actually do each day.
Education/Major: Graduate of University of the Incarnate Word with a BFA in design and a minor in business.
What career path led you to where you are today? I started my career in 1982 as an interior designer for Corporate Interiors as a staff designer. Major projects included the Ferguson Map and Travel stores, Negley Paint Company headquarters and, most notable, the design for the H-E-B Headquarters on South Main. In 1989, I joined USAA as a senior interior designer as part of the facilities team. In my 18-year career at USAA, I developed new workplace design standards for the portfolio and, led design efforts for the major building renovations at the headquarters in San Antonio as well as other regional locations. In 2007 I joined Herman Miller.
When did you know that you were in the right place in your career? My first major was elementary education, but after my first art class, I decided to explore a career in interior design. After graduation, I started work as associate designer doing corporate design. When I joined USAA in 1989, I knew my real passion was the strategic side of design — developing strategies on how space functions to enhance productivity.
Would you encourage your children to go into the same field? I have encouraged my sons to follow their own passion in order to find a career that is meaningful to them and doesn’t feel like work.
Who were your mentors? Sounds corny, but my Mom and Dad were our guiding stars. They always encouraged us to be the best we could be and instilled our core values of being honest and true to yourself first so you can always look at yourself in the mirror with pride, be generous with your time, help others and laugh a lot.
What do you enjoy doing on a day off? You will absolutely find me with friends on the golf course, that is, if I am not with my three grandchildren. I usually make time for both!
What is your favorite vacation? My husband, Dennis, and I love to travel. We enjoy cruising and have been fortunate to visit many islands in the Caribbean, Alaska and the Baltic Sea. Our next trip is a cruise in the Mediterranean.
What do you like to do in your spare time? Play golf, read
What books have you read lately? I just finished The First Person You Must Lead Is You by Becky Halstead. This was personally the most inspiring leadership book I have read. Becky is a retired brigadier general and graduated in the second class to allow women at West Point. Self-discipline, personal mission statement and always act with integrity resonated with me as I continue to be the best team leader I can be. For pleasure, I love to read Ken Follett and Diana Gabaldon books.
What is your all-time favorite book? The first book that made an impression on me and really fueled the fire to read more was To Kill a Mockingbird. I have read it three times over the course of my life and each time, because I am in a different place in life, have gained a different perspective on Scout and her relationship with her dad and life in the rural South.
What brought you to San Antonio? My father was a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force and retired from the service when I was only 6 years old. He took a job at Kelly AFB, so our last family move was from Louisiana to San Antonio. We loved San Antonio, and now this has been home for over 50 years.
What do you like most about San Antonio? I have traveled a lot in my career and love many cities in our country, but every time I come home, I appreciate the eclectic culture of our city. The heritage of the city, the arts, music and our beautiful River Walk provide a diverse choice of things to do. It is a great city in which to raise a family, and I am pleased our sons have stayed and now enjoy our grandchildren here as well.
What community groups or not-for-profit groups are you involved with as a volunteer? Because of my love for golf, I began volunteering for the Valero Texas Open and four years ago joined the Tournament Leadership Council. The Valero Texas Open raises over $9 million each year for local children’s charities. I always meet great people.
Do you have a favorite restaurant? San Antonio has so many wonderful restaurants to choose from it is hard to pick just one. We love Sunday brunch at Feast, we often meet friends for a drink and appetizers at Wildfish, and for a Hill Country experience, we love to go to Grey Moss Inn.
How do you find balance in your life — career, community and home life? I think we find balance the older we get as we reprioritize what is important. We really take time to be with our family and friends as much as possible each month.