How I Got My Job: Alexandra Navarro sees role as disruptor, model for Latinas in tech

Alexandra Navarro, chief of staff at Scotts Valley's Paystand.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Alexandra Navarro, chief of staff for Scotts Valley-based Paystand, spoke with Lookout about being a Latina in the tech industry, advice to women and people of color seeking jobs in the industry, and what to expect when getting into this career field.

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Alexandra Navarro is an author and chief of staff at Paystand, a business-to-business payment network based in Scotts Valley. Navarro’s journey started in Colombia, where she studied engineering at Universidad de La Sabana, just north of the capital, Bogota.

After graduating in 1997, she worked in roles including product development specialist, but left Colombia in 2001 due to political upheaval — including narcotics trafficking and guerilla warfare — that affected the economy and ultimately her job. After a stop in Florida, she landed in Aptos in 2007, where she founded Blue Leaf, an executive coaching and employee management program. She began working at Digital NEST, an organization that provides youth in agricultural areas technical and soft-skills training, in 2016. After a stop at nonprofit Latinas in Tech, Navarro moved to Paystand in 2021.

Navarro began her journey at age 20, stretching her ability from engineering to marketing to finance to tech. She is an author of three books: “How to Balance Your Life,” “The Confident Woman: Tapping Into Your Inner Power” and “What’s the Difference? Embracing Diversity and Inclusivity.” As a Latina in tech, she says she fights hard every day to maintain her self-confidence and her life mission, cutting through the sexist barriers she often encounters in a male-dominated industry. When Navarro isn’t working, she’s traveling the world and spending time with her three children.


  • Universidad de La Sabana: Bachelor’s degree in engineering
  • UC Santa Cruz Silicon Valley Extension: Executive Business Certification

A regular feature as Lookout talks to people in Santa Cruz County about their jobs and offering advice to those looking...

Lookout: What is your job, and can you describe what it is?

Alexandra Navarro: I am chief of staff at Paystand, which means I have to maximize the CEO’s needs to reach across the organization. So what that means is that I facilitate decisions through the organization, manage the execution of the company and work with the CEO to make sure these things are implemented — that everyone knows our mission statement and our vision. I also follow up with strategic teams and special projects. For example, I make sure they are creating a foundation, a vision, mission and business plans. I work with the heads of every department to make sure that each department needs to align with the strategic vision. I create all the agendas, content, strategic planning and quarterly reviews.

Alexandra Navarro, chief of staff at Scotts Valley's Paystand.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Lookout: How did you become chief of staff of Paystand?

Navarro: I started March of last year, and before that I was the chief of staff for the nonprofit organization Latinas in Tech. There was a level of customer service so I spoke to companies like LinkedIn and Google, because the main goal of Latinas in Tech was to help Latinas go into technology. But there were no Latinas to assist with — I was talking with mostly men. I ended up talking to someone about this, and how I felt about that. He said, “Why don’t you work for a technology company — you have the experience.”

Lookout: What made you want to become involved with the tech industry?

Navarro: I was an engineer, and had six years of experience in the financial world. So I wanted to leverage my skills and also be an example for other Latinas. I like to think that I am a role model for women. I can be an engineer, I can be a Latina and work here. If I can do that, anyone can do that.

Lookout: What does the salary range look like for your career?

Navarro: It goes between in the $100,000 to $200,000 range.

Lookout: What does a typical day on the job look like?

Navarro: It’s a lot of meetings — I’d say around 70% of my time is meetings. Then like 15% of my time is traveling. We have seven offices in the United States and Mexico. I have to make sure that everything is working on any project, and any project the CEO is handling or working. I have to work with several people, from the CEO to stakeholders. My day is between meetings, projects and traveling. I also have to be looking forward to the future of the organization, so I have to be a step ahead. This is so that the team can be clear on what is next.

Lookout: What are your biggest challenges?

Navarro: Wow, many … I have to deal with men thinking about their male thoughts. Just recently the [chief revenue officer] sent a message saying, “Hey, chief-suite plus Alex, are we having brunch tomorrow?” and the CEO said, “Why are you saying C-level plus Alex? Don’t you realize that Alex is chief-level?” I was really offended by that comment — why are you saying chief-level plus Alex? I decided to take this as an opportunity to educate the chief level to learn my role. Then he came to me and he apologized.

Alexandra Navarro, chief of staff at Scotts Valley's Paystand.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

The reason I am telling you this is because this is actually my day-to-day. The role of chief of staff is also still new, for many organizations. I still need to educate everybody about my role. The other challenge that I love: being on top of any vision that the CEO wants. If he mentioned that we are going to start strategic planning for 2023, I have to start the vision, execute it. I have to know what he wants, even before saying it.

Lookout: What is your experience of being a Latina in tech?

Navarro: I notice as a Latina I have to build, day by day, my self-confidence and work over my values, no matter what. No matter if they are not trying to listen to me, I need to maintain my mission in life and dream big. My mission in life is to be a disruptor and to be a model for my kids, for other women and for the community.

Lookout: What would be your advice to women and people of color when coming into this industry?

Navarro: I would say first know your purpose in life. Connect your purpose in life with the mission of the company. That helped me a lot. Work day by day on your self-confidence, for sure. Keep reading, listening to podcasts that keep you updated in the topic or sector that you are. We all can learn! I didn’t have experience with blockchain, or in Silicon Valley, and in two months I was able to read the company, understand the business, and keep conversations with chief levels at the company. Also make sure you generate trust with the team you’re working with.

What types of skills or qualifications are needed to be a chief of staff or to be involved in the tech industry?

Navarro: I’d say an engineer with people skills would be ideal. Someone with a business degree and project-management skills. Maybe someone with a good marketing background, with good project-management skills. You have to know how to execute projects at a fast pace. Need to be someone who is detail-oriented, organized and communicates well. Someone who is accountable, can execute high-level projects, and someone who can translate the vision and voice of the CEO to the team. Help maintain the regions and the cultures of the business.

Lookout: What advice would you give a new graduate or career-switcher interested in pursuing this job?

Navarro: You should understand your values and what your purpose is. You also want to have a complete ecosystem of people; make sure you get a mentor, a coach or an advocate. Learn from every department that you can. Interning at any department, at any level, will give you a broad approach and vision. Try to handle any project from the beginning to the end, such as budgeting, who is setting the goals and executing.


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