Christa Santos grew up in Vero Beach, and came to Orlando to study marketing and journalism at the University of Central Florida.
“I loved Orlando and wanted stay here after college,” she explains. “Vero is a small town, and there wasn’t a lot of opportunity in my field. I got a job at Disney, and learned about event management and planning. I also did a lot of volunteer work, as well – anything to polish my skills.”
After working with several health-related non-profit organizations, Christa got an opportunity to work for a technology incubator that was started at UCF, the Central Florida Innovation Corporation, which was funded by Lockheed Martin and other companies.
“We were working with new tech companies and inventors, helping them development their plans and become more attractive to outside investors,” she says. “I was there for seven years. One day, while I was on maternity leave, I got an email asking me to come into the office for an urgent meeting. We were all told that the office would shut down in a few months. That was hard. We’d become a family.”
So after working with entrepreneurs, Christa became one herself. She started her own marketing company, with the university as her anchor client. She talks often with aspiring business owners about balancing the many elements of her life.
“Life has a lot of ups and downs. The biggest up for me has been having my two children. They keep me on my toes! It gets crazy at times, juggling a career with parenting. But as I tell people, it’s the best job you’ll ever have.”
Christa Santos’ role with UCF will expand soon. So will her horizons.
“I have a new opportunity, to direct the marketing for the UCF Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation. I see myself doing that and eventually transitioning to teach, maybe pursuing a PhD.”
In addition to combining her career path with family, Christa has Larsen syndrome. It’s a genetic disorder that causes problems with joints and bones, making movement and physical activity much more difficult. But it’s another challenge that Christa has met, for her entire life, in fact.
“You don’t really think about it. I can get most things done, even if I do them a little differently than other people might. If I had trouble getting up in the morning or walking, that might be different. But for the most part, I’m able to accomplish things.”
And while working with health research non-profits, her own condition gave Christa more insight. “By having a disability. I know that I was more empathetic. I understand what it’s like when it’s difficult to do things that most people take for granted.”
If asked for advice on following her career path, Christa knows what she’d answer. “I would say, never give up. If you believe in yourself, you can really do anything.”