Xochitl Flores on Her Path to Becoming a Public Service Leader
Born and raised in Chicago with family ties to La Barca, Jalisco in Mexico, Xochitl Flores is a purpose-driven leader with a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering from Northwestern University and over ten years as a public service executive.
The path to becoming a public service leader included education, supportive mentors, hard work, strong family values, ultimately, leading to Northwestern University. And at times, that path included a few late-night parental drives to Northwestern’s campus in Evanston, IL to support her during certain academic challenging periods.
After graduating from Northwestern University, Ms. Flores spent six years working in a consulting firm that delivered strategic technology planning and operational productivity performance improvements to clients in Fortune 500 companies and large public institutions. At the same time, those six years provided Ms. Flores the opportunity to reflect on her career path – both present and future. Ms. Flores understood that she wanted to do more by “looking at problems and finding solutions”, which would impact people dealing with difficult times. That realization led her to a career pivot into the government sector.
Ms. Flores’ government experience initially focused on providing service with the City of Chicago as an assistant commissioner with both the Department of Housing & Economic Development and Department of Planning & Development. While at the City, Ms. Flores oversaw the coordination and efforts to manage more than 120 delegate agencies and business chambers for Chicago’s 77 community areas.
For the last ten years, Ms. Flores has had a variety of leadership positions with the Cook County Government, all with increasing complexity, responsibilities, and opportunities for social impact. Responsibilities have included leading large, enterprise-wide projects, formulating concepts through design, plan, execution, and implementation, and creating public-private partnerships to solve complex problems with competing objectives.
According to Ms. Flores, "these last ten years have been the highlight of my career" especially during times of crisis where every component of the government sector needs to come together to find long-term, sustainable solutions in partnership with the private sector.
As a "times of crisis" example, Ms. Flores has led teams that have focused on creating and providing much-needed services to residents and businesses impacted by the COVID-19 economic challenges. One such effort led to working closely with partners such as The Chicago Community Trust and 40 business organizations within the Cook County network in a collaborative effort to increase food distribution capacity throughout the Cook County suburban communities.
Throughout her professional career, Ms. Flores has made the time to mentor young professionals starting their careers and, also, to members of her own teams. Some of her advice has included: "establish goals to increase professional growth" and "be fully engaged in all levels of responsibilities and initiatives."
A few years after a Cook County Board meeting, a young professional approached Ms. Flores requesting a meeting to discuss possible mentoring sessions. Several years later those mentoring sessions and professional relationships came in handy, as their areas were part of a countywide effort to increase community participation in the recent 2020 U.S. Census.
Finally, when asked for additional advice that has guided her throughout her professional development, Ms. Flores provided the following thoughts:
Stay grounded in your values, your spiritual life, and your family network;
Identify and live your life with purpose;
Give your fullest focus and engagement to everything you do. Be actively engaged in all you do. Remember that you selected your individual path;
Go and explore the world so that you can build a better version of yourself;
Be collaborative as collectively more can be done;
Do the work to create and build sustainable solutions to impact those that need assistance.