The father-daughter duo of Carlos and Alexia Echalar each saw themselves pursuing careers in the govcon arena — Carlos because he wanted to have an impact on others while working in a collaborative environment, and Alexia following an internship she had with a local government contracting company.
WashingtonExec spoke with Carlos, Workforce Advisory Group‘s Chief Human Resources Officer, and Alexia, a compensation analyst at CACI International, on the professional advice they’ve received from their parents, their first jobs and whether or not they see themselves working together down the road.
WashingtonExec: What was your dream job when you were growing up? What is your dream job now?
Alexia Echalar: My dream job growing up was to be a veterinarian. I loved animals, especially bulldogs. I would spend as much time outside playing with someone’s dog than being inside for a kid’s birthday party. At the moment I do not have a dream job, I am only a few years out of college and still trying to figure out the path I want to take. I am still so new in my career (that) I would like to try other functions before I pick the path I want to work in for the rest of my life.
Carlos Echalar: I did not have a dream job, but I knew I wanted to work in a business leadership role which made a difference to the organization I worked for and the team I worked with. I had worked early in my teen years and learned to appreciate the importance of making a difference and working collaboratively with others to impact business and personal success. I have been very fortunate to have worked with great people and organizations.
My father’s name opens doors and connections, but only I am the one who can make the difference whether or not I am worthy of a role. — Alexia Echalar
WashingtonExec: Did your parent give you any professional advice while you were growing up that sticks out in your mind?
Alexia Echalar: Work your hardest and trust yourself to make the right decision. Only I can make a difference in my life professionally. Also most importantly, dress for the job you want. A lot of companies are moving towards the more casual route, but I’ve always dressed my best, especially when I grew up in a Human Resources household. Dress code was key.
Carlos Echalar: I learned from both of my parents that you need to be a constant learner through formal education and by being more aware of global cultures and customs. I learned that by appreciating Bolivian and American heritages allowed me to apply my experiences to others and learn about their backgrounds.
WashingtonExec: Did you foresee while growing up that you and your parent’s career paths would intersect? What drew you to the industry?
Alexia Echalar: Growing up I did not see myself in my father’s career path at all. It wasn’t until my sophomore year at East Carolina University that I decided to go the business route. After my first internship with a local government contracting company, I decided that path was for me. Everything seemed to click, and I was happy working with people. The work I was doing as an intern was procurement, and I enjoyed it immensely. I grew up in the D.C. area so I always knew I would be connected to government contracting somehow. I work well with other people, so the interaction and mentoring I got from fellow employees, even when they didn’t know they were mentoring me, is what drew me in.
WashingtonExec: Describe your professional background. What was your first job? What do you do in your current role?
Alexia Echalar: Throughout college, I interned for a couple different companies — ManTech International and Hilton Worldwide. Both were in the procurement and supply chain realm and both completely different jobs. It was nice to see a change in the government versus hospitality world. My first job out of college and currently my position is a Compensation Analyst for CACI International. I perform numerous amounts of tasks in my role, but I think my favorite is being able to work with high level managers and directors on how certain positions can fit into their contracts. I get to speak with anyone and everyone in my company (and it) does not matter how big or small that employee is.
Carlos Echalar: Post college, my first position was as a technical recruiter; however, I have been a career business leader (from) a very early time in my career. I had worked in several leadership roles including being a Vice President in a Fortune 200 company in my early 30s. Most recently, I have served as a Chief Human Resources Officer for Oracle MICROS a leader in Retail and Hospitality technology and solutions. I have worked as a business executive and CHRO for several global technology and professional services companies.
WashingtonExec: Do people know you’re your parent’s child? What’s it like bearing that moniker?
Alexia Echalar: People do know I’m my father’s child. We are both in the HR industry, and it’s quite a “small world.” We also have a distinct last name, so I can’t go very far when introducing myself without the person asking if I am related to Carlos Echalar. At this point, I am quite used to people recognizing me as my father’s child, it makes me proud, but I also learned growing up that because my father is so well known in the GovCon industry, I have to work twice as hard to get people to recognize my name. I work with a countless number of people who happen to know my father personally or know of my father, so I’ve had both ends of the spectrum where people expect me to do great things or people expect quite little of me because I am the boss’ daughter. All I care about is how well I do and the name I make for myself. My father’s name opens doors and connections, but only I am the one who can make the difference whether or not I am worthy of a role.
Carlos Echalar: My father was a career diplomat in the Washington, D.C. area. My mother served as a career educator in Arlington County where she was highly respected and a contributor to many under-privileged students and parents. Both were very well known and respected in those communities.
WashingtonExec: Where do you see yourself in 15 years? Do you think you’ll ever work with your parent?
Alexia Echalar: In 15 years, I hope to see myself still working, but maybe in a different industry. There are a lot of startups and commercial businesses coming in the D.C. area, so it would be nice to have a change of pace and a different kind of stress to work on. I don’t think I will ever work with my parent because currently we are in the same function, and there are rules in government contracting about working with family. By working in different companies, I find that it is easier to come out with a solution for a problem than it is if we were both working for the same company. Everyone needs an outside perspective, and I have the best from my father who has worked in the industry for so long.
Carlos Echalar: In 15 years, I hope to see myself still working in a leadership role that makes a difference to the community in which I work and live.
WashingtonExec: What do you do in your free time?
Alexia Echalar: In my free time I enjoy being with my friends, family, reading, traveling and working out. Work takes up most of my time, but I like to make time for me and the people I get along with the best. I am very outdoorsy so I like to go hiking with my friends or go to the beach and swim. My family grew up going to the Delaware beaches so we try to go and visit as much as we can.
Carlos Echalar: In my free time, I spend it with my family doing things that we all enjoy. We have been very fortunate to travel across the world, and we plan to do more of that when possible. In addition, I am a big believer in personal wellness. I enjoy cycling, teaching indoor cycling (i.e. spinning) and working out.