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4 posts from July 2012


Puma moms- The Latin version of the Tiger Mom

Carli eliIn my field of work where I am exposed to working with the community all the time,I get excited every time I see Latina moms establishing their authority between themselves and their children. It takes me back to when I was a child and it was crystal clear who was boss in our household. In the Latino culture, we practice old-school values of respecting our elders and to never question, negotiate or demand in an aggressive, vulgar or disrespectful tone at risk of getting a “chanclaso”. According to urbandictionary.com, a “chanclaso” is an Hispanic term used when a flip-flop is tossed on your head as a form of disciplinary action the minute you crossed the line. http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=chanclaso Ask any Latino what that is and they will start off with a personal story of their own. Nowadays with so many regulations, laws and political correctness in our communities, “spanking” or being strict with your kids has been eradicated as an instrumental form of parenting. Unfortunately, this leaves many parents frustrated in child rearing because they fear that 1) the police may get involved or 2) fear of being ostracized in public by other adults or parents because disciplining your kids is “uncool” in our laissez-faire hip and modern society.

What are parents to do when their child is an unruly one? Is “time out” really effective for a child with a rebellious and difficult personality?http://www.parenting.org/article/time-out-guidelines-parents  Now let me be clear that I’m not in favor or support of abuse of anyone much less of a child but I do support and believe that parents have the absolute right to practice corporal punishment against their children in their homes. With so many kids who are taught in school to call 911 should their parents lay a hand on them, many parents refrain from doing so and the power ultimately lies within the child. Perhaps if corporal punishment was brought back into the home and in the school we wouldn’t see so many kids engage in unruly and abusive behavior against their peers and against their elders. In my opinion, all people need discipline and children are no exception and when done correctly the outcomes of a happy, healthy, structured, self-controlled child is often the result. Discipline, setting expectations and challenging children is the ideal model to raise stable, confident, dignified citizens of the world. Recently, I finished reading Amy Chua’s book called Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother in which she reveals the secrets to her daughters’ success credited to her tough Chinese style of parenting and as a Latina I wholly applaud, endorse and promote her leadership as a woman and mother. http://amychua.com/  I remember when her book was released, many American moms criticized Amy for her tough stance and dismissed the practice of being a “Tiger Mother”, and I asked myself why the criticism if Amy’s daughters were highly successful? The establishment of rigorous, academic and extracurricular standards followed by high expectations allowed her daughters Sophia and Lulu to be accepted to play at Carnegie Hall and to study at Harvard and Yale. After reading this book, I asked my own mother “why weren’t you stricter with me as a child”?

Don’t get me wrong, 13 years in a Catholic school with already strict, conservative parents was enough to handle but at the end of the day I was an Honor roll student and a decent athlete; however, looking back I wish I could of done more! Had my parents demanded more of me perhaps I could have had an opportunity to play at Carnegie Hall or something similar with significant achievement or value. As a daughter, I am blessed to have had two amazing parents who have done everything in their power to raise me as a solid human being and professional.Values such as respect, character and dignity followed by love and a great education has allowed me to be the woman I am today. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for many of our young Hispanics whose futures are bleak due to the alarming ropout high school rate. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 15% of Hispanic students are dropping out compared to 4% of Asian-American students. http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=16 Could this be attributed because Tiger mothers in Asian households are more stringent and exigent with their cubs? I think so and imagine what Latino moms can accomplish if they take a few notes and put this philosophy into practice? As Latinas, we should channel our love, our resiliency and our determination to strive towards excellence for ourselves as well as for our children. Because we value hard work and family so much, I think our time is now to be the new feline of the pack known as the “Puma mom”. I’m not an expert, not yet a mother but one thing is certain when that day finally comes, you’re looking at one!

A mother is not a person to lean on, but a person to make leaning unnecessary. -Dorothy Canfield Fisher



Is Corporate America For Me?

Growing up, Corporate America was something that primarily existed on television or in the movies.  It was a world Latinos did not enter.  Neither at home, nor in school, was there any aspiration, or expectation that one day I would.  That didn’t stop me from trying anyway. 

Yet when I entered, I was oblivious to the disparities and the challenges.  Having entered to “make it like everyone else”, I never considered how much gender and race mattered, and how they both affected my advancement.  Additionally there were way too many unwritten rules and more diplomacy than one can take in a lifetime.  Was Corporate America for me?  There were just so many obstacles designed to discourage, break and push you right out the door.

Unless you know exactly why you’re there.

Despite the challenges, I knew I was definitely there to succeed and so I had to learn how to navigate around them.  I started by carefully outlining my career goals, putting together a strict, yet flexible timeline for what I wanted to accomplish.  I then took personal stock, focusing on what I did not know and how I could learn more.  This was my opportunity.  I had to own it.  It was a chance to excel at life across so many spectrums – personally, professionally and financially.

It also gave me a chance to show Corporate America that Latinas are not a token, but rather a talent.

In order to make these aspirations possible I did, and continue to do, several things, which gave me the opportunity to go from Administrative Assistant to Senior Vice President.  These include:

  1. Learn How to Navigate the Landscape – Know who people are, what they do and where they rank on the power ladder.  This provides an opportunity to understand the business and the people that run it.  It also makes you resourceful, knowledgeable and more importantly gives you talking points when you meet senior leaders.
  2. Exercise Diplomacy and Understand the Politics – From stroking egos to not stepping on toes, understand the unwritten rules.  They dictate how business is run more than any employee manual.  You learn these rules through mentoring, networking and via observation.
  3. Know That It Is Not Personal – When you make it all about you, you lose sight of the business objectives and your goals.  Constantly taking things personal makes you bitter and unproductive.
  4. Be Authentic, Yet Flexible – I am 100% Latina, never deny and don’t have to hide.  You do not have to change who you are to succeed, however, you have to understand the business.  There are many times where the language and rules of business have nothing to do with our ethnicity and we cannot make it so.
  5. Don’t Dwell on Your Ethnicity or Play Victim – If you take every subtle occurrence as a direct hit on your gender/ethnicity, you’ll feel like you’re living under personal attack.  I often hear “If I were White, they wouldn’t treat me like that”.  That may be the case, but don’t get so caught up in that you lose focus.
  6. Set Goals and Be Real About Expectations – If you want to be an SVP, Director or have a c-Suite role, understand what it takes to get there and the impact it will have on your family and personal life.  The role may go beyond nine to five, may involve working the weekends, traveling, working from home, non-stop deliverables and much more.
  7. Be An Eternal Student – Never stop learning, developing or looking for fresh opportunities to be a better you.  We often reach milestones and get lax.  If you want to reach the next level always work towards it by developing yourself.
  8. Raise Your Hand and Gain Visibility – Keeping your head down and plugging away is not the only thing you need to do to move ahead.  It makes little sense to be exceptional and no one knows it.  Take the assignments that no one wants to do and blow them out the water.  Seek opportunities to engage with senior executives.  These lead not just to great relationships and mentors, but to sponsorships, were the key to advancement is.
  9. Pay It Forward and Lead – Each one teach one and pull one.  Make sure to stop along the way and identify individuals with potential.  Serve as a mentor, an advocate, and if possible, a Sponsor.  Our next generation needs us to not trail blaze but help them become future leaders.
  10. Mind Your Health – If you’re not right, nothing around you will be.  Life gets hectic so give a lot of focus to at least eating exceptionally well, as it affects everything about you.  Take time to exercise and stay physically fit; again it affects how you operate.  Lastly, find an outlet.  Whether its exercise, yoga, meditation or taking brisk walks, don’t allow stress to fester.  It will break you.
  11. Don’t Get Caught Up in Dogma – People make these superficial phrases for the barriers: glass ceiling, bamboo ceiling, concrete ceiling, unleveled playing field, pecking order, and dozens more.  I’m not saying they don’t exist.  However, with tenacity we can run thru, over and around those barriers.

In every aspect of life you need to personally understand your purpose and create goals around that purpose.  Putting it simple:  You can either create your goals, or be a part of someone else’s.  I have no intention of working hard solely for the benefit of someone else and neither should you. This is why goals are so important.  They set your direction, allow you to focus when things aren’t working out and bring you back from the craziness.

Perhaps Corporate America wasn’t designed for me, but I am certainly designed for Corporate America, and any other America in which I choose to succeed. 


E-mail and Modern Manners

LourdesI think it’s safe to say that most of us in the business world rely heavily on e-mail communication – and tons of it.  For some, it’s a primary source of communication and interaction with employees, clients, and other business associates.

As a communications professional who is constantly communicating with people throughout several time zones, e-mail is critical to my business.  Like many of you, I personally write and respond to more e-mails a day than make phone calls or meet people in person.  According to The Radicati Group, Inc Marketing Research Firm, the average number of emails sent and received per day is 192 (for the record, today I received 317 e-mails and probably responded to about 60% of those). It’s a job on its own.

With so much of our daily communication dependent on the magic of e-mail, I started thinking about what makes a good e-mail and why some e-mails just don’t receive the intended responses and reactions. After all, I see e-mails that run the gamut from short, sweet, brief, very specific, disorganized, unclear, exciting, disheartening, happy, “winky” and sometime downright rude.  Could a little e-mail etiquette be in order?  

Here are some general guidelines to keep in mind from a person who certainly sends and receives plenty of e-mails on a daily basis.

To start off, I think it’s okay to splash an email with a little personality.  After all, if I’m reading about 300 of these a day, I want at least some of them to entertain me or make me smile. But you do have use your judgment and decide whether it’s the appropriate time and audience. If you are not sure, err on the side of caution and keep it on the straight and narrow.

Before you get started, ask yourself why you're sending this email. What's the purpose? What’s the intended response from the recipient? Sounds simple enough, but if you really think about it this way, it should help you organize your thoughts.

At minimum, all e-mails should always have:

  • A subject line that is relevant to what you are addressing in the e-mail
    • Make it easy for the person you are emailing to be able to reference this e-mail
      later. Chances are the message will get lost if you combine a separate request into
      another topic’s email chain.
  • A greeting
    • Consider the formality of the greeting based on who you are communicating with. For those who also work with international clients, keep in mind which country this person is from. Avoid any slang or informal greetings to maintain a professional tone.
    • A simple “hello”, “hi”, or “hola” will help set a positive tone
  • A purpose and full description of why you are writing

    • If you are forwarding a document or email, don’t make the recipient work to figure
      out what you are trying to say or request.
    • Be nice.  Use “please” and “thank you” and avoid any negative innuendos or accusations.If you have a gripe with someone, take it offline. Chances are that if
      you send an email with a negative tone, you will receive negative response, and
      things can escalate from there.
  • A gracious response for any information that may have been sent to you

    • Even if you did not receive exactly what you wanted, always be sure to be
      appreciative of that person’s time and efforts. And, yes, go ahead and ask
      again for what you really want (but nicely).
    • When asking someone for something, you should also always include a due date (specify time zones, if necessary) and include as much information as possible about what you are requesting so that it is easier for that person to the complete the task in the quickest and most efficient way possible.
  • A courteous sign off

    • If there is something to be thankful about, make sure to include a “thanks!” Some of my personal favorite sign offs include “Best” and “Regards.”

Just remember that the majority of the people who you make contact with on a daily basis will respond to you in either a positive or negative way based on a written piece of electronic communication, so be nice, be clear about what you need, say thank you, give a deadline, and of course always spell check.

Now, hit SEND!

I’d love to hear about your best and worst e-mails.  Please comment below or Tweet me


The Enigmatic “It” Factor: We All Got It, So Sell It

2012-KASHAPOV-0134In my professional career, I have always been the type of person who worked diligently, produced good work, and excelled in my roles. I always assumed that by doing a great job I would automatically be rewarded, promoted, and given that coveted pat on the back. After all, weren’t we always taught – especially women – that good things come to those who wait? So why was it that individuals in the workplace, who were inept and inefficient at their jobs, somehow move up the corporate ladder and succeed time and time again? Believe me, I have experienced my share of this and have always had the same question pinging in my head. Does the leadership not see what seems so clear to me?

As the years have passed, it finally dawned on me that these individuals were actually quite astute and strategic. Whatever skills and abilities they lacked they made up for in presentation, in the ultimate sale. They had the “it factor.” Suffice it to say, it rarely mattered that they could not really execute nor deliver because they usually found someone on their teams who could.  With these experiences in mind, I decided that instead of focusing on the inequality of these situations that I should turn my attention inward. What could I change about how I presented myself to my colleagues, my boss, and potential employers? After all, this was an important variable I could control.  What was my “it factor”?  What was my brand?

Now, these weren’t questions that were easy to answer especially because I am a woman and a Latina at that. Self promotion is not something your Mami or your Abuela teaches you.  So when I lost my job in March of this year, with a mortgage, two kids under five, daycare/preschool expenses, and a family member with significant health issues, I couldn’t afford to think that I was anything less than a superstar.  At a moment in time, where I might have been squashed, I had to instead lift myself up literally and figuratively. I had to rise. It’s this frame of mind that propelled me forward as I walked through the Department of Labor’s glass doors to file my paperwork along with the other 12.5 million who applied for unemployment benefits this past April.

It turns out that I was more fortunate than I had first realized. Because in my last job (the one I lost) I was tasked with building relationships with organizations, businesses, and individuals, I had learned rather quickly how to make friends and most importantly how to connect the dots. As you well know, networking is key component in your job search. I think the stat is that 80% of the jobs are unadvertised. You might be thinking how will I find these contacts? Find these secret jobs? Well, I am here to tell you that networking alone will not get you where you want to be. That being said, it’s really the art of networking and how to extrapolate it to other situations that can really aid you in landing a great job.

If you take this idea and marry it with the understanding that you are a brand and can control how you are marketed, then you can start promoting yourself through different channels. We live in an amazing time in which we can access a plethora of information and connect to individuals all over the world in seconds through the Internet.  One of my great career resources has been LinkedIn (love this site! I visit it more than Facebook). I used this to research individuals in different companies, join groups in my field, and most importantly position my brand. Sell Marisa. In addition to my LinkedIn profile, I capitalized on creating my own website where I could showcase my accomplishments, projects, awards, etc.  You can easily do the same with an affordable yet incredibly professional template you can purchase online.

Let’s recap. If you are on the job hunt, you need to figure out what your “it factor” is. Network with your contacts not just about job leads but instead candidly tell them about your dreams, your skills, and your passions. It’s this process that will help you understand who you are as professional. Further, capitalize on online tools such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to broadcast the superstar that you are and sell your brand.

Here are my top recommendations to using LinkedIn as your online calling card.

1)      Contacts: Build up your network and connections by seeking out individuals who are in similar fields, contacts you have met at business functions, etc. You want to strive to get the “500+” designation.

2)      Profile: SEO the heck out of your LinkedIn profile. What I mean by this is, look at other profiles of individuals in your field. See how they describe themselves in the summary, key skills, and experience sections. Select specific key words related to your industry and pepper your profile with them so that it’s easier for recruiters to find you.

3)      Summary: This means simple. No more than two paragraphs summarizing who you are as a professional.

4)      Headline:  Make sure it’s an attention grabber and not just your current or past job title. Make it descriptive to highlight your abilities.

5)      Recommendations. Reach out to past and current colleagues and supervisors who would be willing to endorse your work. Request that they be specific to projects and programs you worked on and your successes. Again, the more descriptive the better. Aim for about 10 recommendations and make sure to spread them out over time so you don’t have five recommendations posted in one day. (If you are currently employed it might arouse suspicion).

6)      Groups: This is a great tool on LinkedIn to meet other people in your field or other professions you would like to explore. Think of it as “cyber networking.” Seek out those groups that have at least 1,000 or more members. Surprisingly there are many VPs and C-level executives in these groups. It’s a great opportunity to connect with them through the group and try to get your foot in the door. Remember to actively participate in group conversations and contribute interesting information.

7)      Companies: If you have applied online for a job at a company, the honest truth is that your resume – even if you are highly qualified – may be overlooked by HR departments and the automated screening process. Your approach should be two pronged. Apply online and then conduct a search on LinkedIn for the company and titles of individuals you might report to (the hiring manager). Once you find it (there may be several), then do an Internet search for their company and email address. Send them a direct email and express your interest in the open position you saw posted. Trust me, this works more often than not. Don’t be afraid to seem “too aggressive.” As a woman and a Latina, this was probably my biggest challenge.

8)      Languages: If you can speak more than one language, even if it’s only to order in a restaurant, ask where the bathrooms are, or provide a cab driver with directions, put it down on your profile. It helps showcase that you understand other cultures , have traveled, and can work in an international environment.

9)      Profile photo: Yes, it may seem more appropriate for Match.com; however, people are social beings. They want to see what you look like. (You'll notice I have included my photo in this blog at the top.) Many companies and recruiters will skip your profile if you don’t have one.

10)   Awards/Volunteer Boards/Causes/Professional Affiliations: This is a great opportunity to include information that you may not ordinarily include on your resume. It will help give individuals a more complete picture of who you are as a professional and as a person. Hiring managers hire people they like. 

In the end, losing my job was the best thing that ever happened to me. I wouldn’t change a thing. It forced me to realize that you are your best marketer, and it’s not enough just to be good at what you do. You have to be great at selling you.

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