Valerie is a “New kind of Republican” – a Mexican-American, first-generation college student, married to a first generation immigrant, raised in a single parent home, and lived paycheck to paycheck as a child.
Her views have been shaped by her diverse and humble upbringing and continue to evolve.
Valerie was born in Daly City, CA, on June 14, 1973 (Flag day) to a Slovenian mother and Mexican father. She moved when she was 1 to San Pablo, CA - a predominantly blue-collar, lower middle class, racially diverse town, 20 miles east of San Francisco where she lived for the next 16 years. Her parents divorced just after her first birthday as her mother escaped domestic violence from her husband Gus (Sr). Her mother was left to raise her young children by herself, with no financial or emotional support from their father. Valerie has one older brother, Gus, who is 18 months older and remains her best friend. Her family lived paycheck to paycheck her entire childhood, and no one in her family (or in her neighborhood) had ever attended college. But she also knows that the family you were born into, or the color of your skin, or your last name, or the city you grew up in – defines you.
She would go on to become a first-generation college student, first-generation graduate student, build a successful career in Government, Banking and Tech, and marry a first generation immigrant, and live in 6 states in the US and travel extensively across the US, Europe, and Asia.
Her mother, a high school graduate, worked for the Federal Government for 20+ years in Richmond, CA and her family settled in a nearby town San Pablo, CA. Both Richmond and San Pablo are ranked within the top 10 most dangerous cities in California.
Her mother did her best to shield Valerie and her brother Gus from the crime in the area and provide as normal a childhood as possible. They were latchkey kids who were responsible for getting themselves to and from school, feeding themselves as their mother left the house typically at 5 am and returned at 7 pm during the workweek.
Growing up, Valerie often worried she would be "stolen" from her home. Their house was burglarized when she was a child. Given there was nothing of value to steal in their house, the criminals instead took the families 2 dogs – both boxers – Bo and Tanya.
Valerie was raised by her mom, Renee, and her brother, Gus, who was just 18 months older but filled in as the father figure in our home. Valerie witnessed her mother get up and go to work every day, and the responsibility she felt to teach us how hard work, financial responsibility, living within your means, adapting to hard times, and she made us promise her we would create a better life for ourselves. She taught us that opportunity in this great country was abundant. You just had to earn it – work harder, work smarter, get up if you fall down, keep trying. This was the guiding principles that allowed Valerie and her brother Gus to overcome the many obstacles they faced as children.
Valerie never took the SAT and didn’t really plan on going to college. It was her older brother Gus that served as a role model that set the stage for Valerie’s future academic success.
She went on to attend her local community college, then transferred to UC Berkeley and has 2 Masters degrees from Ivy League schools. She self-funded her entire education at UC Berkeley, working 30 hours a week at Wells Fargo Bank while maintaining top grades and graduated with no undergrad debt.
She then attended Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs where she received a 1-year full tuition reimbursement while for serving as a Teaching Assistant (Statistics) in addition to winning several awards and scholarships. Following Columbia, she attended the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania where she earned her MBA in Finance.
She and her brother are both undergraduates of UC Berkeley and graduates of Wharton.
Despite Valerie's humble beginnings, the grit, perseverance, humility, and determination that she learned as a child helped her overcome any obstacle she faced. She built a 15+ career on Wall Street and Tech and earned financial independence at the age of 39, where she left the corporate world to start her family's financial business. She applies this same intensity to the non-profit boards she has joined and run, as well as in her hobbies where she took up tennis at the age of 40 earning Player of the Year at her club and representing Northern California in the National USTA 3.5 Womens’ tennis competition in Florida.
Valerie has been married to her husband, S. Brian Mukherjee for over 15 years and has two children. She has experienced first-hand the agony of a miscarriage and a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy as well as the joy of two live, healthy births. She met her husband, while working in the technology industry in San Francisco.
Brian is a first-generation immigrant from India and a technology executive and investor. He served as the CEO or division head of several US and International public and private companies, where he helped build, turn around and exit several companies in the internet, mobile and software sectors and subsequently helped launch a private equity fund. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in engineering and an MBA from the University of Chicago’s Booth School.
Brian was raised in a military family in India. Both his parents were born in Bangladesh and came to India as refugees during the partition. Through sheer grit and determination, his father self-funded his way through one of the most prestigious medical schools in India by tutoring kids in exchange for room and board, before joining and subsequently retiring as a (Brigadier) General in the Indian Army. His mother put herself through graduate school and subsequently became a college professor. His brother joined the merchant marine right out of high school and became one of the youngest captains of trans-continental oil and gas tankers in the company’s fleet.
Over the last 15 years, Valerie and her family have lived in 5 states - CA, WA, CT, NY and IL, relocating often for either her or her husband’s job. Her children have attended over 15 different schools across various states and types of learning, from gifted and talented, to private, to progressive and traditional. She has traveled extensively across the US and internationally in Europe and Asia.