Silicon Valley success stories often focus on men. A new book by Maryles Casto is helping to change that narrative.
It’s a rare interview that the subject is just as prepared to question me as I am her, but that was clearly the case when I started talking to Maryles Casto, who thought to first ask me about my travel writing — and how it was I knew I wanted to be a writer in the first place. It’s the keen line of questioning I’d soon turn on her for the interview that follows as well as a clear window into an entrepreneur who always took the time to connect with people as she grew Casto Travel from a boutique Los Altos agency to a $200 million business with 15 locations across the country and that companies like Apple and Intel counted on. It’s quite a trajectory for any Silicon Valley CEO and nothing less of an exceptional one for Casto, whose career began as a flight attendant in her native Philippines.
After selling most of the agency in 2019, she remains founder and chairwoman of MVC Solutions, a Silicon Valley-based travel industry services firm, and Casto Travel Philippines, headquartered in Manila. She has used her “extra” time to pen a book about all she’s learned over nearly five decades in business. A Hole in the Clouds: From Flight Attendant to Silicon Valley CEO comes out this month and has garnered prepublication praise from, among others, Mary Huss, president and publisher of San Francisco Business Times and Silicon Valley Business Journal; Dr. Gloria C. Duffy, president and CEO of the Commonwealth Club; and Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak, who “used Casto exclusively for any important travel for a decade or two in my life,” he writes in his blurb for the book. “I struggle to find the personal attention I received from Casto Travel in every aspect of my life these days. A Hole in the Clouds explains how and why they treated me so well.”
Talking to the positive, encouraging Casto explains a bit of that, too.
You cofounded your company in the mid- 1970s. What were your first impressions of Silicon Valley?
The agency I started with my partner was in Los Altos, where we opened our first office. My focus was on the corporate travel business, which was mostly in the Mountain View, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara area, which became the global center for high technology and innovation companies now known as Silicon Valley. The high pace, tremendous growth, expansion of new companies getting funded, the constant recruitment of new hires both nationwide and global, kept everyone on their toes. Although the environment was competitive, there was also tremendous camaraderie — everyone knew each other and provided easy access to one another for connections. To be in the center of this world was very exhilarating.2
You have said that “we always hear about the men who built companies in Silicon Valley, but what about the women?” Was that the question that inspired you to write your book and tell your story?
My book was ready to be written. I felt the time was right for a woman in business with a voice like mine — someone who’d witnessed, lived and participated in the Valley — to tell her story against the backdrop of the Valley transitioning into the center of the tech world. Much has been written about Silicon Valley men and few of the pioneer women who paved the way and made their own mark.
Over the course of your nearly five-decade career, Casto Travel saw several evolutions in its industry. How do you lead a company when it needs to adapt and innovate?
Carefully. The travel industry is one of massive influx and change; it’s constantly being challenged with many conflicts. The introduction of the internet, financial recessions, the September 11 terror attacks, airline strikes and COVID-19 are a few examples. Headquartered in Silicon Valley, we had to be an innovative company using the latest technology, offering distinctive products and a distinctive company culture. We created a 24-hour service to handle client requests outside the 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. workday; a passport and visa acquisition program (that included going to the client’s office to take passport photos); and uniformed Casto personnel for airport services to handle our VIP clients. … We embraced change, making sure we remained relevant in our industry, as well as relevant to our clients and to the Casto team. Our success as a company depended on it. And through all the ups and downs, we continued to have fun.
You are originally from the Philippines, where you still run a business. As the world reopens, where are you most looking forward to traveling next?
Boston is a new destination for me — it’s where my son Marc and his family have moved. I’m looking at Mexico City for Christmas and Greece for 2022. There are so many wonderful places to experience. Travel is a classroom without walls. We all learn so much in the travels we have taken.
You have two young granddaughters. What piece of advice would you give to a woman founding a company here today?
Brava — I applaud you. May your journey into business bring you as much joy as I have in mine. Whatever decision you make is the right one. Enjoy. NHG