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Veronica Juarez

Year of Graduation: 
2000
Exeter alum Veronica Juarez

"It’s through the experience that I had at the Harkness table that … I know that my voice matters."

Need a lift? That’s a simple question that Veronica Juarez ’00 takes very seriously. As the vice president of social enterprise at the ride-sharing company Lyft, her job is, quite literally, to figure out how to get the most vulnerable among us from Point A to Point B. “When you don’t have access to transportation, you don’t have access to jobs or health care or after-school programs,” Juarez says. “My team is committed to providing access to rides that really change lives.”

Juarez started her career in politics, working for a decade with Houston’s Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs and for a Texas state senator. As a high-level political aide, she learned to collaborate with elected officials, community leaders and business representatives to overcome bureaucratic red tape and advance common goals. 

Those experiences and her training at the Academy proved critical, she says, when she began leading negotiations with federal, state and municipal government officials to bring Lyft to cities across the country. “It’s through the experience that I had at the Harkness table that I always have the confidence to speak up in a room and to know that my voice matters,” she says. “And that can be daunting when you’re often-times the only woman or maybe the only person of color.” 

In the fast lane

Juarez joined Lyft in 2013 as one of its first 60 employees. Under her leadership, Lyft services were adopted in 50 new markets. In June 2015, just two years into her position, the tech exec was recognized by Fast Company magazine as one of the Most Creative People in Business. 

But Juarez has accomplished much deeper goals. Not only has she expanded Lyft’s geographic reach, she has bolstered its inclusivity efforts by forging new partnerships with nonprofits. Lyft currently works with over 50 organizations, for example, to provide free or discounted transportation for immigrants and refugees to get to health appointments, legal hearings or job trainings. 

Juarez credits Exeter with her deep-seated desire to connect communities and give back. “The motto of non sibi, the commitment [Exonians] have to serve others ... I knew it was important,” Juarez says. “But I didn’t realize at the time what a big part of my life and my career that those values would become. It’s how I spend all of my professional time now, in service to others.” 

Starting point

Growing up in Houston as the daughter of a hardworking plumber, Juarez says, taught her to be a straightforward go-getter. “I remember I saw a video of snow and people rowing and the Harkness table,” she says of a recruiting movie she watched in middle school. “It was so different than anything I had seen before that I applied [to Exeter] without telling my parents. ... I knew, coming from where I came from, that if I was able to take full advantage of this opportunity, it would change the course of my life. What I didn’t appreciate then is that it actually gave me the ability to change the course of my entire family and the future generations that come after me.” 

Juarez, a fifth-generation Mexican-American, was the first in her family to attend boarding school and college. She graduated with honors from Stanford University, earning a degree in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity. In 2018, she attended the Leadership Consortium as part of Harvard Business School’s Executive Education program and she sits on the board of Silicon Valley’s Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana, an inclusive contemporary arts space informed by the Chicano/Latino experience. Juarez also advises a venture capital fund, Vamos Ventures, that is committed to supporting Latinx entrepreneurs. 

As a business leader, Juarez continues to build connections the same way she learned to around the Harkness table: “Every person’s voice matters, and if you leave the space for somebody to participate, they will know and they’ll contribute. It’s so important to me that my team and the work that we do, that we don’t just have results, but we really enjoy the process.”

Editor's note: This article first appeared in the spring 2020 issue of The Exeter Bulletin.