The Great Translator

Proving multicultural communication is good business

Virginia Gamboa has simple advice for companies and organizations that want to reach America’s 41 million Spanish speakers: speak their language. And as a bilingual senior media relations specialist at Subject Matter, she’s the right person to help clients do that. She’s been a broadcast journalist in her hometown of Caracas, Venezuela, explored the world of nonprofit and international organizations, helped a U.S. bank build its Spanish-speaking customer base and collaborated with dozens of our clients to reach millions of Spanish speakers.

We sat down with Virginia to talk about her career path, her ongoing connection to Venezuela and the ways she lives out creative advocacy every day.

Subject Matter: You’ve worn a lot of hats throughout your career. What led you from one endeavor to another?

Virginia Gamboa: I love to take risks and I love storytelling. In every one of my jobs, I’ve pursued both of those aspects. I came to the U.S. to work as an intern for the Organization of American States and then parlayed that into a position in the marketing department of the Inter-American Development Bank. After doing marketing for the credit union arm of the IDB, I wanted to broaden my skills, so I pursued a position in corporate America at Capital One.

At Capital One, I managed the Hispanic banking program, and we were able to increase the number of Spanish-speaking account holders, mainly by incorporating more Spanish-speaking front-facing employees and by marketing to Hispanics. This shift proved the purchasing power and importance of Hispanic populations in the U.S. Today, I apply that knowledge to my work at Subject Matter.

SM: How do you use your skills to help clients?

Virginia: My background in radio broadcasting and production, as well being an immigrant who has lived in the U.S. for 17 years, gives me unique insights and the ability to help our clients tell stories that resonate with the largest minority group in the country. For Safer Internet Day 2018, we produced a satellite media tour that allowed our client to talk with audiences about internet safety and best practices. Our client was blown away by the high ratings on CNN, Univision and Telemundo, in markets with high numbers of Spanish speakers.

SM: Have you been able to stay connected with your friends and relatives back in Venezuela?

Virginia: My parents still live in a small town an hour from Caracas, the capital. The political crisis has been hard for my people. My generation was able to emigrate for reasons like jobs and education. Now, it’s almost like refugees fleeing. Outside of my job, I work with the Venezuelan-American community in Washington, D.C., to try to reignite democracy in Venezuela. We also collect medical supplies to send there because of the shortages. It’s all through Lucha Democrática and Programa de Ayuda Humanitaria para Venezuela. It’s important to increase awareness about what is happening in Venezuela. I love my home country as much as I love the U.S.

SM: How do you spend your free time?

Virginia: I love running and just completed my first half-marathon. And I didn’t die! Yoga and baseball are also very important to me. I’m a big Washington Nationals fan, and my friend Wilson Ramos, who is also from Venezuela, used to be their catcher. We want “the Buffalo” (Ramos’ nickname) back!