From Part-Time File Clerk to VP of HR, Manny Luna's Inspiring Story

August 11th 2016

It’s been quite the year for Manny Luna, who recently welcomed his first child, Noah, and was promoted to Vice President of Human Resources at Essex.  

They say good things happen in threes, and when asked what’s next, Manny jokingly says, “Win the lottery!”

About 12 years ago, after having served eight years with the Marines, Manny was on the hunt for a job. He found one at BRE (BRE merged with Essex in 2014), as a part-time file clerk in the HR department.

“At the time, my goal, coming from the Marines, was to be the best file clerk ever,” shares Manny. “I would wear a tie and everyone would make fun of me.”  

12 years later, Manny is Vice President of Human Resources.

“When an opportunity is there and you are prepared, jump on it. There is absolutely no reason why you can’t do it,” advises Manny.

But how did Manny really land the job that would forever change his life? If you ask his wife, it was all her doing. “She always reminds me that she told the hiring manager to hire me [at the time, Manny’s wife worked in the HR department at BRE],” Manny says, laughing.

 “Towers and towers of papers!” is what Manny remembers from his first day at BRE. “I had just come from the Marines, where if your bed wasn’t perfectly made, boots under the bed, you had to start all over.” 

Looking back at his time with the Marines, Manny recounts several stories, including partnering with Toys for Tots at Warriors and Raiders games, getting to travel to distant corners of the world, and assuming a lot of responsibilities at a very young age; he credits many lifelong lessons to the 8 years he served in the military.

“I made friends, that to this day, if they’re in town, I’ll drop everything to go see them,” shares Manny. “It’s interesting; there are Marines that I wasn’t particularly too close with, but will forever be tied to because of just one experience we might have shared that left a lifelong impression.”

Camaraderie, leadership and “whatever you’re responsible for, do it to the best of your ability,” are some of the core values Manny picked up in the Marines.

It was Manny’s drive to be a file clerk to the best of his ability 12 years ago that would eventually land him a full-time position with BRE. From there, Manny would steadily climb the corporate ladder.

Fast-forward to 2014, then director of HR, Manny faced a tough challenge: BRE and Essex merged.

It was time to “adapt and overcome,” an old Marine saying Manny abides by, which he and his team did. 

“We operated differently, had different systems and processes, but there’s always an answer to the issue at hand. There isn’t a problem out there that can’t be resolved,” he notes.

Manny successfully led his team through the merger by listening to them.

“I encourage my team to always think outside of the box and to challenge why we do things a certain way, because that will allow them to be creative and possibly offer a new and better way to do things,” Manny explains.

During the interview, Manny almost never said “I” but “we.”

 “He always makes us feel appreciated,” says HRIS assistant Giving Israel after recounting a story where Manny ordered a Popsicle truck to come out for his team on a very hot day.

“His enthusiasm and ability to motivate has resulted in making the HR team a family. It is truly a pleasure to work in the HR department,” shares Liz Aguilar, HR assistant.

“Camaraderie is the glue. It’s the environment,” adds Manny.

A recovering Warriors fan, Manny came to the U.S. when he was 3 years old and is one of five kids. “Mom still has the same house. So when I go home, it feels like I’m actually going ’home,’” he says.

Manny hates to admit it, but he “secretly” loves to bake and is the owner of a “world famous” mac and cheese recipe. (If anyone has seen this recipe, please report it. Manny will not reveal it.) 

When asked what he does for fun, Manny responds, “I enjoy spending time with my newborn son, even if it’s at 2 a.m., I sometimes don’t even realize the time.” If you ask his HRIS Analyst, Randee Farlinger, she’ll say, “He’s a big tequila fan!”

Manny looks forward to being his son’s best friend and really give him a full perspective of the world: “Growing up, we weren’t exposed to a lot of things. My mom worked two or three jobs at times, and wasn’t able to give us a world perspective.”

If you see Manny in the halls, join us in congratulating him, and ask him if he’s won the lottery yet!

Thank you, Manny; we wish you continued success!