Alumna Bertha González Nieves discusses tequila career, time at Northwestern


Source: Bertha González Nieves

Bertha González Nieves.

Allie Goulding, Assistant Campus Editor

Bertha González Nieves (Medill ’97) graduated from Northwestern with a master’s degree in Integrated Marketing Communications. Since then, she has co-founded the well-known tequila brand Casa Dragones, which Oprah calls her favorite tequila. González Nieves was the first woman to receive the title of maestra tequilera — or tequila expert — from the Academia Mexicana de Catadores de Tequila.

The Daily: How did you go from Northwestern to the tequila industry?
Bertha González Nieves: I was selected by the Japanese government to represent Mexico in a program in Japan in my early 20s. While I was in university in Mexico, and as part of my training, I had to go and learn all about Mexico’s economy and industries. I got invited to go to Tequila, Jalisco to learn all about tequila production as one of the industries that I should be able to eloquently talk about that have a role in our country. After being three days in Tequila, I called my parents and I said, “I know what I want to do. I want to go into the tequila industry.” I think my parents were a little bit worried. I’m the youngest of three, and the only woman, so they thought, “Oh my god, a woman in the tequila industry.” They thought I was going to forget because I was 22. Here we are — I didn’t forget. I had offers to do other things when I graduated from Northwestern, but my heart and my passion was set on tequila.

The Daily: As you said, your parents were obviously worried about you working in the tequila industry. What is it like working in an industry dominated by men?
González Nieves: I was so focused on getting into this industry that when I started in the industry, I turned around and looked around and I realized, “Oh, well, I don’t see a lot of women around here.” I decided early on that I was not going to make that an obstacle, and better focus on having a real strong point of view. With a strong point of view, people will be more focused on that whether you are a female in a man industry or vice versa a man in a female industry. I didn’t want to approach it from a minority point of view. I wanted to approach it from a professional point of view.

The Daily: How did it feel to be named the first maestra tequilera?
González Nieves: When they gave me my title, I didn’t know that I was the first woman. I was just very excited to get it. I had a couple of press interviews and one of them said, “So how many women are there?” and I said, “I don’t know, can you please check?” I called and I said, “How many women are there?” and they were like, “What are you talking about? You’re the first one.” And I didn’t know that. It came out later that I was the first woman. I just felt that I want to be someone that ignites change. If this is one of the grains of sands that is going to help motivate other women to come into the category, that’s great.

The Daily: Do you have any advice for students?
González Nieves: Opportunity is open for every human being. We should focus on the opportunity and put our focus and our passion and our dedication and our professionalism in the opportunities, and I think the doors tend to be wide open when you focus on that. Being a leader in your industry, that doesn’t mean you’re doing it as a woman or as a man. You’re doing it as a leader, as a professional. To have a position or a role in an industry, you do it first and foremost with intellectual capital and with a strong point of view.

The Daily: What did going to Northwestern do for you and your career?
González Nieves: I had to get a scholarship, and I got a loan. I really, really was determined to go to Northwestern. When I got to Northwestern, it was game-changing for me. I will forever be grateful for the opportunities and the support the university gave me. For me, my career as an international student and what that provided gave me the opportunity to build an international career.

This Q&A was edited and condensed for clarity.

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