Eric Zuniga, Metro Kia

IB’s Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet Dane County’s professionals. This week features Eric Zuniga, marketing and Spanish manager, Metro Kia.

What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job and why?

One major part of my job that is both challenging and rewarding is working with the Latino Chamber of Commerce to work alongside Dane County business owners, as well as my clients at my own business. When you are meeting with local businesses, it’s important to have background knowledge on current events in Dane County, and since there are currently 320 Latino businesses in the Chamber plus my own clients, my schedule can get fairly hectic. However, it is a highly rewarding feeling to be able to have a direct role in helping local businesses grow and prosper, which ultimately makes the challenge worth the effort.

Who do you look up to or admire in business and why?

I’ve had many wonderful mentors over my career so far. Jessica Cavazos, the CEO at the Latino Chamber of Commerce, has been an incredible influence on my career and overall direction in life. I also greatly admire Elvis Cordova, who was former deputy under the secretary of agriculture, as well as Juan Jose Lopez at the Department of Workforce Development. I admire them very much for their compassion and dedication to helping others, and I hope to someday live up to the example they have set for Latino leaders across the board.

What has been the high point of your career so far?

I would say that the most rewarding points of my career so far were the times I was invited to speak at several schools in the Madison area, including speaking at Madison West High School as an alumnus, as well as Verona High School and Nuestro Mundo Community School. Children have a much higher capacity for learning new information than adults do, and I believe it’s never too early to start investing in our youth.

Thinking back on your career, what advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

I would tell myself that it’s never too early to start giving back to your community. When you’re first starting your career, some of the early work that’s available to you might not be the most glamorous or enjoyable, but the most important thing for your personal growth is that you’re helping others. If you stick to your goals and stay involved, new opportunities will open up and you will be able to help even more people over time. Opportunities don’t always come to those who wait, but they do come to those who show up and stay focused on the ultimate goal. It’s never too early to get involved.

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What would you say are the best things about living and working in Dane County?

I love a lot of things about Madison and Dane County, especially the large variety of people of different ethnicities here. Downtown Madison is essentially a melting pot of different types of multicultural businesses, and as a foodie I really appreciate how it’s possible to find restaurants from a huge variety of different countries around here.

Do you have any secret talents or abilities that people would be surprised to discover?

I used to be fairly good at soccer and boxing, but ever since I started my professional career I’ve had a lot less time to practice those sports. However, I do still enjoy playing the occasional pick-up game of soccer at local Madison parks, especially during the summer. No matter how busy you are, it’s always important to find ways to stay active!

What are your guilty pleasures?

As far as guilty pleasures go, food is definitely my greatest weakness. Some of the best ones may be high in calories, but I’ve always had a great love for a variety of multicultural foods. Whenever I get a break from my work responsibilities, I can often be found sampling different dishes at local restaurants. Some of my favorite restaurants I’ve discovered in Madison serve Cuban food, Dominican food, Hmong food, Vietnamese food, and many more. Being Mexican, I especially love the food offered by local Mexican restaurants like Blue Agave and La Rosita.

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