Cesar Avila’s journey from Mexico to ESFM USA Division Vice President

October 08, 2022

Rising the Ranks, a Hispanic Heritage Month Feature

Cesar Avila has a remarkable career story over the past 30-plus years since arriving in the US from Mexico. At 19, Avila knew little English, but what he did have was a competitive spirit and drive to succeed, fueled by a solid foundation of ethics and hard work instilled by his mother.

Over time, Avila steadily worked up the ranks in the realm of hospitality and facility management. Starting as a bellhop for a well-known hotel chain in a prestigious conference center, Avila later became a front desk manager and eventually Director of Operations for a large hotel.

Avila’s hard work, eager dedication and honesty were recognized repeatedly. He was formally recognized by the Clinton White House administration as well as by Sgt. Michael Escalante, former chief of security during the governorship of George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States.

Since joining ESFM in 2012, Avila has been in a class of his own, delivering exceptional top- and bottom-line growth as well as developing several people over the years to reach their potential. He began as a unit manager, rising to become a regional vice president and, recently, promoted to division vice president.

“As he has grown within ESFM, his dedication and loyalty to our organization and his people has never wavered,” said ESFM Senior Vice President Oliver Sach. “It is stories like Cesar’s that reflect on our culture as an organization, which I hope serves as an inspiration to every ESFM employee. It’s so important to provide opportunity for our people to fulfill their personal goals.”

Watch the video to hear Cesar share his story in his own words and read the full Q and A below.


Q: Please briefly describe your career journey, where you started to where you are today.

A: I first came to the US in 1989 at 19-years-old and barely knew any English other than the English grammar I learned in a private academy in Mexico. 

When I arrived in New York, there were very few Hispanic people in the community where I lived and even fewer in the management workforce. 

I looked for any job opportunities that would provide for my basic needs and the needs of my young family. I worked at various positions and was fortunate to find a position as a bellhop for a well-known hotel chain in a prestigious conference center.   

I steadily worked my way up the ranks to become a front desk manager and eventually a director of operations for a large hotel. 

I was repeatedly recognized as a hard worker, honest and eager, including a formal recognition by the Clinton White House administration and another from Sgt. Michael Escalante a former chief of security during the governorship of George W. Bush and later 43rd President of the United States. These were game changers.

Continuing my education and learning English became a priority because I realized there were still many people who were hesitant and biased toward recognizing talents of hard-working minorities. 

I was determined to learn everything I could to make a career for myself and so I enrolled in school. Ultimately, I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree. But that degree was only a title in many positions. I still faced adversity. Even as I joined multimillion-dollar public companies, Hispanic males and minorities, in general, were passed on for promotions. This was a very disheartening realization that no matter what I accomplished and achieved, I would never be the same as some of my counterparts.

Until I joined Compass Group, I don’t know if I was ever fully accepted. I can honestly say that I have been welcomed, promoted on numerous occasions, and recognized for my hard work. 

Compass Group does not focus on race. It focuses on the person and their attributes. Nothing more. It’s such a pleasure to know that I am considered equal to everyone else, and I don’t know of any other company that truly appreciates diversity in this way. 

I would not have been able to accomplish as much as I have thus far without the support of my managers and leadership.

What was it like starting a career in a new country and what was it that drove you forward?

I have been a driven and competitive individual for as long as I can remember. My mother instilled the hard-work equals reward mentality and ethical principles that I hold with the highest regard to this day.

The biggest challenge (for me) was looking for a job at 19-years-old with no experience and not speaking the language. However, I accepted any position I came across and performed it gracefully. 

From the beginning, I only saw opportunities everywhere and tried to figure out how to get noticed. I was fortunate that I had studied English as a second language in Mexico, and I understood and managed to communicate enough to get better jobs.

What have been some of the contributing factors to your success?

The support from loved ones, education, and learning the language.

It was also my internal motivation to demonstrate that I could make a difference. When I set foot in this country, I realized that to win, I needed to learn the language and I needed to work hard. I enrolled as a part-time student in a community college and eventually transferred and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with Honors. Education and continuous learning have been game changers — learning something new daily and being willing to listen to guidance from others. 

What advice would you like to give to others who are aspiring to grow in their careers?

  • Get an education, no matter your age, or attend vocational school.
  • Learn the language.
  • Embrace change.
  • Respect others.
  • Assimilate with the American culture; you are part of it.
  • Stay true to your values.
  • Create opportunities for others.
  • Help other people less fortunate than you.
  • Learn something new.
  • Mentor others.
  • It’s OK to be scared; that makes you human.
  • Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable to others; it creates trust.
  • Be grateful.

What have been some of the most rewarding aspects about your career in FM?

La parte más gratificante de mi trabajo es poder influir en las personas. En los muchos trabajos que tuve en los últimos treinta años de gerente, he utilizado mis posiciones para crear oportunidades para otros. Creo firmemente que las acciones intencionales producen resultados significativos y, por consecuencia, una vida mejor para todos. Si puedes ayudar a una persona, influirá e impactará a muchos, por lo que mi propósito es usar mi posición para que todos triunfemos.

Translation: The most rewarding part of my job is being able to influence people. In the many roles I had in the past 30 years in management, I have used my positions to create opportunities for others. I firmly believe that intentional actions will produce meaningful results and, consequently, a better life for everyone. If you can help one person, it will influence and impact many, so my purpose is to use my position to win for myself and others.