Meet the Women of OPIC: Michele Perez
March is National Women's History Month, a time to recognize the contributions that women have made to our nation. Everyday throughout the month of March, we will feature one of OPIC's 126 women employees in our Meet the Women of OPIC series. Learn about our diverse workforce and what inspires them to work for the Agency.
Vice President, Department of Management and Administration
Tell us a little about yourself:
After graduating from Cornell University, I worked in the nonprofit sector focused on issues concerning maternal and infant care, teen pregnancy prevention, and alcohol and drug addiction in Ft. Lauderdale and Los Angeles. In 1999, I was selected for a fellowship with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and it set the course for my federal career. It was a surreal introduction into how bureaucracies worked, and challenged me to explore meaningful ways to cut through red tape to make government a true partner in building stronger, healthier and more equitable communities. At HUD, my work also included enforcing labor laws and prevailing wages, and consulting public housing authorities, cities, counties and states throughout the Midwest. I moved from Chicago to Washington DC in 2008 to join the Department of Veterans Affairs. Serving America’s Veterans and honoring those who have “borne the battle” is a noble mission, and I’m so proud to have supported the work of the agency to improve the care Veterans receive.
What do you like best about working at OPIC?
My parents immigrated to the United States in the late 1960’s. Each coming from countries that were in turmoil, my mother and her family fled Haiti and my father left his native El Salvador. I grew up in Miami as a first generation American, and my parents took pride in teaching me about the cultures of both their countries and made sure I understood why they chose to come to the US.
In turn, coming to work at OPIC in 2016 was a deliberate choice for me. OPIC has enabled me to take the skills that I have honed over the course of nearly 20 years with the US government, and apply them in support of an agency whose mission aims to improve the lives of families and tackling the world’s most critical development challenges in countries such as Haiti, El Salvador and throughout the world. In a very real way for me personally and professionally, working at OPIC connects all that I most value and is absolutely one of the most rewarding experiences.
Is there a woman who has inspired you?
Throughout every stage of my life, I have looked to other women for inspiration, for encouragement and for support, and it is on their shoulders on which I stand. I have learned the meaning of sacrifice from my grandmother, of purpose from my mother, and from Sofia, my 21 year old daughter, courage. It’s exciting to be in a place in time in which women from every corner of the globe are standing up, speaking out and demanding attention. It’s uplifting and humbling, and I’m so excited to be part of network of strong interconnected women who are paying tribute to those who have come before us, and are paving the way for those who will come after.
Will you share an interesting fact about yourself?
As a child, English, Spanish, French and Creole were all equally spoken in my household which led to really interesting discussion at the dinner table! It was not uncommon for my Spanish-speaking father to ask my Haitian grandmother a question in Creole, or for me to whine in English in response to a reprimand in French from my mother.