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FHB-GB Businesswoman of the Year Scholarship Packet

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July - August 2014 Issue

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On his way

Though Cedric Cruz does not speak any other languages fluently, "I know some impolite phrases in various languages," he jokes. He has been a project architect with Taniguchi Ruth Makio Architects for two years, but has 10 years experience in the industry. Currently, he is president of the Guam and Micronesia Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

"Architecture along with engineering, land surveying and construction, turns dreams into reality," the 33-year-old says. "My industry creates the built environment in which we live.

"The first thought about architecture was planted in my mind by a Guam Community College recruiting presentation during my junior year in high school. At that time, I was sure about going to college, but I didn't have a clear idea of what profession to pursue. The presentation identified some of an architect's typical work skills and they coincided with my interests — science, math and sketching. A bachelor's degree in architecture cannot be attained on Guam, so I went to school off-island and learned more about the profession and committed to it. Now, I hope to guide and support Guam's next crop of architects," he says. Cruz graduated from the University of Southern California in 2002.

When not in his office, Cruz often spends time in the kitchen. "My newest hobby is assisting my wife with her cake designs. She's done impressive cakes and cupcakes for family and friends, and surprisingly some of my architect skills come in handy when I help her. I've discovered that there's something therapeutic about rolling out homemade fondant, coloring it, sculpting it, putting it on a cake and then eating it," he says.

Baking, though, is only one of Cruz's numeroun interests. "Music is a hobby I've had since I was a kid. In elementary school, my brothers and I took our sister's tape recorder and made a tape of a song we wrote. We had no instruments so I tried my best to sound like a keyboard, while one brother sang and the other tried to sound like a guitar. Then I played the snare drum in middle school, moved on to a drum set in high school and have continued playing since, but with no real formal training past middle school. If architecture didn't work out, I had the music industry as alternative career choice. Architecture worked out," he says.

"I've been fortunate enough to drum in a couple of bands made up of some of Guam's best musicians. I'm immediately drawn to whatever music is playing around me. I find myself conceptualizing songs and music — I'll jot down ideas here and there, however I just haven't had the opportunity to take them to the next level and complete them," says Cruz.

"I'm really interested in watching the performing arts," he says. "I enjoy being impressed by a musician's skill, a dancer's movement and a singer's voice. When you watch a group of performers, the feeling is magnified. Watching actors in a play or show, and being taken away into another world is something that I enjoy very much."

Cruz's list of interests also includes sports. "NCAA Football on PS3 is another one of my hobbies, although my wife doesn't like this very much," he says. "Lunchtime basketball is also something that I enjoy."

Three words Cruz lives by are patience, understanding and commitment. He is just getting started when it comes to his goals. "I'm interested in learning more and broadening my perspective on the business world. Getting another university degree is one of my next goals to accomplish in addition to attaining other professional credentials."  

Cruz takes advantage of living on Guam. "I really enjoy swimming and look forward to every opportunity to get to the pool or the beach," he says. "Home is where my heart is, and I was fortunate enough to have a good job opportunity here on Guam. It is one of the best decisions that I've ever made."

"I've visited Manila, Cairns, Tokyo and cities throughout the United States. New York City is probably my favorite place to visit. I plan to visit Europe at some point."

Cruz says if he had more time in a day, "I'd volunteer more, learn several languages, do artwork or invent something."

When he retires, Cruz plans on "enjoying myself and any rewards that result from the decisions and commitments I've made in life."

 


There are no limits, only plateaus

Whether it's trying to abide by the legal principle "innocent until proven guilty" or fighting a lawsuit, attorney Vincent Joseph Seman is armed and ready to go into battle in the courtroom. Living by the quote of the famous actor and martial artist Bruce Lee, "There are no limits, only plateaus," Seman has come a long way from his humble beginnings. Born in a tin house on Saipan with six siblings, Seman was groomed to work hard and taught to remain focused from the beginning. "I used to help out with my father's bakery, MITA Travel and his construction company; at one point we also provided manpower nurses to the former Commonwealth Health Center," he says.
After high school, Seman received his bachelor's at Bentley University in Waltham, Mass. and returned to Saipan where he worked at the Office of Personnel Management as the drug testing coordinator, running the drug testing program for the entire government when his interest was sparked. "When I was in business for the private and government sector I realized that law is something you can't escape; businesses have to play by the rules," says Seman.
Motivated by this thought, he overcame any self-doubt and trudged back to the classroom to work on a law degree. "[I was] 10 years out of school before I went back into a classroom," says Seman. "When I was in law school I was thinking that I was just there to get a degree. But it turned out that I was actually excelling."
Finding that he had an unexpected aptitude and enjoyment of the course work, Seman completed the law school program in just two and half years. He also clerked with former federal Judge Alex R. Munson. Seman graduated in the top 15 of his class with awards and honors in 2006. "I surprised myself; surprised everyone who knew me," he says.
After graduation, Seman was offered a position at the prestigious Carlsmith Ball firm in Hawaii. Seman was admitted to the bar in Hawaii in Nov. 2007. "When I was hired at Carlsmith Ball the main purpose was for me to work at the Saipan office but they allowed me to work at the Honolulu headquarters for a year first, to get better training on more complex issues. I had the chance to work on multi-million dollar development projects on Oahu and Maui," he says.
In July 2007 Seman was granted an associate attorney's position where he handled various types of legal matters, including employment law, real estate transactions, insurance defense work and also work for some of the island's banks. The employment law work included defending clients from EEOC complaints.
"I drafted various commercial lease agreements," he says. "Insurance defense is similar to what I do now, which is representing insured businesses and individuals from personal injury, property damage and workers compensation claims."
He started a new chapter in his career at Century Insurance on Aug. 1, 2011 as the in-house legal counsel dealing mainly with providing legal defense to its insurers. Last December, Seman co-counseled with Tan Holdings' chief attorney, Steve Pixley, in a very high profile case. "We represented the Grand Hotel in an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission case. It was the first EEOC case brought to trial here in the NMI, and we were very fortunate to prevail," he says.К
He says the best thing about his job is the exposure to all the different legal topics. "I enjoy facing different challenges every day. In the morning I could be dealing with litigation with a certain personal injury case; in the afternoon I'm shifting my focus to Saipan Air. There is never a dull moment and sometimes it does get overwhelming," he says.
Seman is also the vice president of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce. "The significance of the Chamber is to help foster a business friendly environment," he says. "A lot of times that entails just providing a level playing field and making it easier for businesses. Unfortunately sometimes the legislature will pass laws that are very restrictive. What we try to do in the Chamber is to ease these restrictions in a responsible manner."
When not in the office, Seman enjoys mountain biking around the jungle areas of Saipan. "I love mountain biking," he says.

 
 
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