22 posts categorized "Latina Issues"


5 Ways to Define Success on Your Own Terms


If you were to strip yourself of titles, job positions and education, what would there be?  Under all those layers of accomplishment would there still be a person considered to be successful?

Society has taken great pains to define success not just by a person’s riches, but by the many accolades an individual possesses. Very often this definition is one-dimensional and equates to material possessions, fancy titles and wads of money.  Think about all of those celebrities who have this and more, yet deep inside suffer from depression, engage in drug abuse and have legal problems.

So how exactly does one define success?  Who determines whether or not you are successful?  Whose validation do you need?  Success means many things to many people and should never be a form of validation by others, but more about how you feel about yourself.  Here are five tips for how best to embrace the meaning of success and help you move forward.

  1. Let Go of Pre-Conditioned Beliefs – Many Latinos have been conditioned either by their families or society (maybe even both) to believe that their heritage is a disadvantage.  What this has done is subconsciously prevented Latinos from dreaming and doing big.  Know that despite those “labels” and prior struggles, you have what it takes to be successful.  Challenge those beliefs.  Challenge yourself.  Find your inner strength and go out and do what it is you want.
  2. Define Success On Your Terms – What does success mean to you?  Answering this question may take some self-examination and deep digging.  Update any prior definition to mean what it should mean to YOU.  Don’t mimic that of someone else’s or let it be defined by others.  We often get caught up with believing that unless we have overcome some tremendous challenges, our success is not as fruitful as someone who has endured hardship.  Everyone has a unique story and when it comes to success we need not compare whose struggles were greater.
  3. Declare Your Success & Envision Yourself There – It is not enough to just “think” about how you want to succeed. Declare it!  Shout it out!  Write it down!  Think about what you have accomplished and what more you’re able to do.  Declaration allows you to see life from a broader perspective, see possibilities and help you understand what you need to change or improve upon.
  4. Break It Down, Set Goals and Create an Action Plan – In order to reach that next level in your life, you have to know what you’re working towards.  You have to set goals.  What are you hungry for?  What do you envision yourself becoming?  How are you going to make it happen?  Answer your questions by making an outline of where you see yourself and creating a timeline.  While you are encouraged to be as clear as possible with those goals, they don’t have to be perfect.  You can always tweak them, but at the very least it will give you a sense of direction.
  5. Fail – Some of the most successful people say that failure has contributed to their success.  The same can hold true for you.  Learn from your failures.  Avoid getting caught up in the all the reasons why you failed.  Analyze the situation, identify the lesson and move on.  The experience of failures makes us smarter, stronger and more than often mad enough to get up off our butts and make the impossible possible.

Our job is not to embrace success in a way that is limited by the conventional definitions spit out by society nor by accolades, but rather by the choice to do exactly what makes us happy.  When you are excited about your existence, challenges and all, success is easier to attain. Success also involves having a positive impact on others and leaving a legacy of leadership.  Whether that is your family, friends, colleagues or a segment of society, inspiring others is truly a testament of success.

I could not finish this piece without adding my perspective of what success means to me.  I first need to share that my goal in life was to emerge from the obscurity and poverty in which I  was born and rise to a state of affluence.  I then wanted to show and encourage others how to do the same.  I did this through education and by taking on some pretty tough jobs as I developed my career in Investment Banking.  To that extent, my definition of success is a mixture of failure, struggle, survival, change of gears, ultimate performance and blood, sweat and tears (literally) – experienced all at the same time.  At the core of my existence is a happy person who is excited about future possibilities.  I don’t compare my success to anyone else’s nor do I go by what someone else thinks.  Neither should you.  Success is a unique journey, not a destination.  It is your journey and therefore can only be formulated, executed and defined by the person whose opinion matters most:  Yours.



All Princesses are Equal and Unique

I was born and raised in a smedium town in Southwest Ohio. I was the only kid that ate arroz con pollo, but I didn’t think I was different. I believed everybody was unique and equal. Everybody’s grandma didn’t speak English. Everybody’s grandma made rice and beans. 

And that’s how I found out I was Latina. 

I immediately wanted to see other Latinos, but I couldn’t. I saw my cousins maybe once or twice a year. My hometown was too rural for Telemundo or Univision. Dora and Diego weren’t born yet. So I did the next best thing.

I claimed my favorite characters and people as Latinos. Polly Pocket Rodriguez. Superman Santos. Cheetara (Thundercats). Julia Roberts? She has Latina hair and my dad only has crushes on Latinas. (Sonia Sotomayor watch out!) 

You could imagine how excited I was when Disney announced that their next princess, Princess Sofia, is Latina.  I was pleasantly surprised that they did not just claim her as “Latina” but actually made reference to her heritage. Her mother, Queen Miranda, is from the kingdom of Galdiz, inspired by Spain.

However, I wasn’t surprised when Princess Sofia was criticized for not being a “Real Latina.” Because of Sofia’s light hair and light eyes, many said she looked “white” and didn’t look “Spanish.” They even compared her ethnicity to Mitt Romney. This brought back memories when I was trying to be a “Real Latina.”

When I was Princess Sofia’s age, the only Latinos I could see were in R-rated movies and violent dramas that came on way past my bedtime. I wanted to see other Latinos so bad, I would pretend that I fell asleep on the couch just to see someone like myself.  I immediately felt disconnected because I wasn’t like the Latinos on the screen. I presumed they were authentic Latinos and I was not.

I wanted to be a real Latina so desperately that I emulated their characteristics. I faked a bad accent. I called everybody “Mami” and “Papi.” I told my second grade teacher that I had 13 siblings because I believed only Latinos had large families. I even attempted to persuade my parents to move back to the hood because I thought only Latinos lived there. Until I found out I could never be a “Real Latina.”

A family member told me, because I was not born in Puerto Rico, I could not call myself Puerto Rican. Because my parents were born in America, I could only call myself American-Puerto Rican. So I told her I was just going to be Black.

I literally tried to be like Michael Jordan. I read everything I could about the Civil Rights movement. I played outside longer because I thought I could get black skin from tanning. I even convinced my dad to let me watch What’s Love Got to Do with It” because he accidentally let me watch Goodfellas when I was “sleeping” on the couch. But then I saw Tina Turner, played by Angela Bassett, and I realized two things:

 1) Tina Turner has Latina hair

 2) No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t change the fact that I, despite my differences, was always going to be Latina. 

Because of the criticism, Disney denied Sofia is Latina. Despite claiming the princess is of “mixed heritage,” it doesn’t change the fact her mother is from Galdiz. It’s like the Little Mermaid claiming she was never from “under the sea.” What would her father say? King Triton would beat her with his triton. The Disney classic would crossover to a Lifetime cartoon featuring the voices of Tina Turner and Chris Brown. (Please make this happen, Pixar.)

And just like mermaids with their tails, Princess Sofia can’t change the fact that she was born with light hair and light eyes. Despite what Disney says Princess Sofia is Latina because all Latinos look different. Cameron Diaz. Carmelo Anthony. Louis C.K. 75% of Major League Baseball.

All Latinos are unique and equal because our heritage and Shakira’s hips do not lie. Neither does Julia Roberts’ hair.



Why the Liberal American Woman is the problem

Carli eli

Weeks from a crucial presidential election there’s no question that the women’s vote will have a major impact in deciding who’s our next commander-in-chief. The preposterous, laughable and embarrassing dialogue about the war against women is an insult to the many women around the world who are constantly fighting for their rights or for their lives. At the Democrat National Convention, the obsession with birth control, abortion and the uterus were the staples of the convention’s platform that brought many viewers, including myself wondering who are these women and where are their values?  http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/dnc-2012-sandra-flukes-speech-at-the-democratic-national-convention-full-text/2012/09/05/891a642a-f7ac-11e1-8253-3f495ae70650_story.html There’s no doubt in my mind, that most of these women who care so much about their uteruses now, didn’t care so much when they philandered their way all throughout college and during their 30s too. Trust me, I remember those college days well and believe me when I tell you a lot of these “ladies” try their hardest to delete those memories from their past by trying to rebuild themselves in the present. Have you ever heard the phrase “a tiger can’t change his stripes?” For a lot of them, well this is true.

If the “uterus” is the common theme to alarm women to get out the vote or at least get them riled up, how about we focus on the numerous women who are victims of rape in South Africa, victims of the sex slave trade in Asia and victims of female genital mutilation in Egypt?  My friends, this is the real war against women and I hope to God these victims never read, hear or watch our ludicrous version of this “war” because its offensive and disrespectful to their trials and tribulations.

The era of the liberal American woman took shape in our country’s politics nearly fifty years ago and its negative repercussions of this movement still affects us today. Promiscuity has replaced decency, sassy has replaced classy and being liberal in every sense of the word is accepted, endorsed, promoted and celebrated because being a conservative will get you expelled from today’s society.  If our family values have diminished, if the divorce rate has escalated exponentially and if fidelity has become a rarity then look no further in putting most of the blame on the liberal, American woman.  It’s no surprise why American women are classified as “easy, selfish and mischievous” overseas.   http://www.examiner.com/article/stereotypes-the-easy-american-girl


When you have TV shows like Sex and the City, The Jersey Shore and The Real Housewives displaying and glorifying women’s behavior without compunction it sends a negative image about our society and sets the example for others to emulate. Just the other day as I was browsing for books at Target, I noticed the very liberal, unhappy, used and abused, alcoholic Chelsea Handler whose books on the shelf promoted her collection of one-night stands.  I immediately thought to myself, what message is she sending to other women or young girls? Do we ever have a liberal woman admitting and regretting her reckless past with the hopes of encouraging other women to not do the same? It’s safe to say the answer is “no” and what worries me the most is that this type of behavior is setting people up to expose themselves into a world of sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, unwanted abortions in addition to the damage against the woman’s body and spirit. Why aren’t we protecting that? Two weeks ago, I was verbally attacked by two liberal feminists wearing Code Pink t-shirts because I was distributing Romney bumper stickers at a street festival with my fellow volunteers and I wondered to myself why are they so angry and aggressive? I didn’t let them get to me in fact I told them “have a great day and God bless you!” and then I continued with my task for the remainder of the event. Growing up in a very liberal city like New York with a high population of liberal women is the main reason why I left New York three years ago.  At first, liberal women come across as independent, successful, intelligent, opinionated and self-reliant but once I started finding out who they really are I soon discovered a side of them that led me to question whether or not I wanted to have them as a friend, acquaintance or colleague.  Of course we all have different upbringings, cultures, languages, backgrounds but no matter how different everyone’s lives might be the one thing that usually doesn't falter are the person’s values and I was looking for people whose values closely matched mine. When I saw and heard liberal women expressing their disdain towards marriage, relationships, men and children I immediately begged to differ and for doing so I became a victim of their hurtful vitriol.

When I saw their obsession and worship towards their careers, corner offices, six-figure salaries, designer clothes and lofts instead of their parents, partners, spouses, friends and children that is when I decided to abandon ship. From personal experience, women whose values reflected the statements above were not the best wives or the best mothers because they lacked the patience, the compromise and most importantly the love that glued their family together. Their complaints and resentments as to why their children loved the nanny more or why their husbands gave them the cold shoulder when they arrived home late at night became the common rhetoric from the water cooler to the hallway.  For far too long our society has been taught to believe that being liberal is the ideal way of living one’s life but what they fail to recognize is that in the real world most conservatives live a happier, longer, prosperous, balanced life because our moral compass points due north most of the time.

Recently, a political ad supporting Obama was launched and Hollywood liberals like Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, Eva Longoria and Julianne Moore urged voters to support Obama because he supports women’s rights. http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-news/news/beyonce-jennifer-lopez-support-president-obama-in-new-campaign-video-2012210 Although I admire their passion for the president and their talent on the big screen, I do not take them or their message seriously. Why you may ask? In my opinion, a person with weak values and character in my book has minimum credibility and influence to convince me about any particular issue. When you have Jennifer Lopez who’s been engaged four times and then invites a boy toy into her home weeks after her divorce, when you have egocentric, materialistic, out-of touch with reality Eva Longoria, when you have Julianne Moore saying that a Republican in office will “set different opportunities and rights for her daughter” represents cynicism at its finest!  Instead of shopping at Rodeo Drive, dining at the Ivy or wearing couture that’s worth more than someone’s rent or mortgage in this country then perhaps they have earned the right to be listened to with veracity and empathy. At the end of the day whether a Republican or Democrat wins in November, these millionaire actresses will not be affected and they will carry on to their next script, concert, record or shopping spree. In our celebrity saturated star-struck society, it’s unfortunate that we look up to these icons for inspiration and enlightenment when we should be looking towards our communities and looking at ourselves in the mirror instead. We all have God-given talents and we all have a purpose to make a positive contribution to this world and as a conservative woman our contribution can be a lot greater when the human heart, body and spirit are connected and balanced simultaneously. If we want to see happier children, spouses, family and friends then it is our duty and obligation to prioritize our values and fulfill them through our words and actions. 

“Woman is the salvation or destruction of the family. She carries its destinies in the folds of her mantle”- HENRI-FREDERIC AMIEL, journal, Dec. 11, 1872


Balance Is A Myth!

Yesi Morillo-Gual

In my office is a tall figurine of my favorite super hero:  Wonder Woman.  My staff members gave it to me as a birthday gift.  When I received it, one of them said, "No one can see that cape you have on, but we truly admire how you balance it all".

Daily I manage my career, handle an intense workday, care for two children, and run a small business.  Then around 11 pm or so, I try and get in some work for my doctorate dissertation.

Like many women with similar loads, I get asked how I manage to "balance it all".  I too have asked the question of others, both men and women.  Every single person eludes that this demon called "balance" can actually be tamed.  

It can't.  Balance is a myth.  Bull.  A fallacy.

A perfect day at work means no drills, drama or interruptions, and I get to eat at a reasonable time in a relaxed setting. On the really good days, I may get to the gym.  Home is also easy.  We get through homework, dinner and everything else smoothly while still having time to relax and get to bed at a descent hour.

Ha!  There are no perfect days. Each day is unique in delivery and challenges. I hardly get to eat at a descent hour, sometimes not at all.  There's always some urgent matter, a fire drill, people behaving badly and many things beyond my control.

What stays constant however, is my approach:  I don't expect, nor do I strive, to be balanced. Instead I work on prioritizing, staying flexible and focused, and not sweating the small things.

We have all bought into the concept that we can only be successful if we learn to balance; yet in the process of attempting to balance we drive ourselves into insanity, overwhelming guilt and just plain exhaustion.  The more we force ourselves to be balanced, the more challenging it gets.

Here are a few things that may work, not for balance, but rather for building a strong sense of accomplishment and a life where you're productive and robustly active in all that you do.

  1. Schedule Your Day - Make a to do list but don't overload it without a thousand things.  Instead try to carve out what your day can look like, leaving room for those unexpected interruptions.  If you find that you're left with some time (probably rare), use it to prepare yourself for the next day.  Personally, I make a list of the top five things I wish to accomplish in the coming week so I can stay focused on what needs to be done.
  2. Schedule "Me" Time - This sounds almost ridiculous, but I have to put "Lunch" on my to do list, in order to mentally recognize that I need to eat.  Do the same for any activity that helps you destress and refocus.  From getting a manicure to working out, it’s important to disconnect from the hustle or you will soon crash.
  3. Prioritize and Delegate - We waste a lot of time doing things that are not important, because we simply get distracted or engaged with someone else's problems.  Before you jump on the unexpected make sure you know why you're doing it.  Don't be afraid to push back.  Take a closer look at your responsibilities.  Is there anything that can be outsourced or given to staff?  Women are not good with having others do things for them, and as such, take on more than they should.
  4. Get Rid of The Guilt - In the past, if I missed a day of work, or an event at school I would carry the burden of having disappointed someone for days.  Let it go!  It is never your intent to be absent, but sometimes the unexpected has to be addressed.  I may miss a game but I've never missed a championship, graduation or performance and when I am there, I am fully present.
  5. Say No and Set Boundaries - Others can be quick to dump on us, or we often raise our hands for projects we simply have no time for.  Every time you say yes to one more thing, you are saying no to your priorities.  Let people know what you're willing to do and what you're not.  Never allow anyone to make plans with your time, space or money.  People tend to assume that because you're capable they can commit you without permission.
  6. Talk To Your Family - My children and husband understand my job (well just a little), my business and why I am seeking a PhD.  They are always willing to chip in and help.  Whether it's letting me sleep a little longer or helping around the house, our motto is "We're doing this together because your success is OUR success".  I respect and do the same for what's important to them.
  7. Ask For Help - Women in general are nourishers and the first to raise their hands to save the world, yet, are too prideful to say they need help.  It's okay to ask.  Never see it as a sign of weakness or inability.  You don't have to do and be it all.   
  8. Embrace Reality - Don't think about how hard it is, but rather how accomplished you will be.  Anything worth accomplishing is worth working hard for.  Roll Up your sleeves.  Quit complaining.  Suck it up.  Get moving.
  9. Stay Positive - It's easy to feel beat up by the end of a tough day.  We can start again tomorrow.  If your day goes bad, have some wine, put on some comedy and destress.  Vent with a friend or find any other positive outlet.  Try your best to discuss and let it go.
  10. Set Goals - If you know what you're working towards, and how you're going to accomplish it, setting priorities and staying focused becomes easier.  Embrace your higher purpose.

I will probably get asked time and time again, how I balance.  My response:  "I don't balance.  I live in the moment, with a higher purpose in mind, while prioritizing, staying flexible and doing the very best I can.

Your peace of mind comes not from attempting to balance, but rather from doing the very best you can.


Why Immigration Might be the Salvation for America

Carli eli

With the presidential election less than 70 days away it’s just a matter of time when the heavily contested topic of immigration will be debated by political parties to persuade potential constituents and voters. In the end, whether or not laws are reformed or introduced the action itself will significantly impact the people but more importantly the future of the United States. 

If you’re a world traveler like I am then you will immediately agree that the hardships in a 2nd or 3rd world country have taught many of their citizens to confront life with a keen sense of survival, work ethic and sacrifice. The old cliché “I came to America with zero dollars in my pocket” really isn’t a cliché after all, it’s actually the modus operandi for many immigrants that come to the United States.  Of course, there are exceptions to this rule and for those that come here to exploit the American taxpayer and mooch off I will not support you or your lifestyle.  What type of immigrant should America welcome and retain? Well, how about the talented and gifted A+ students who dream of becoming doctors, engineers and neonatal nurses? Unfortunately, for many of these overachievers their illegal status is getting in the way of their success. 


For example, not too long ago I was honored to attend the 2nd Annual Dream Scholarship Award Ceremony hosted by the Dream Project-VA and perhaps after you know more about its purpose your thoughts on immigration may change.  The Dream Project-VA http://www.dreamproject-va.com/ is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing scholarships for talented students who pursue a college degree or a higher education. In order to be considered for this award, each student must exemplify excellence in academic achievement, leadership and community service. Even though the fourteen Hispanic students had a very unique and inspirational story about overcoming their challenges the one thing they all had in common was their gratitude towards America and their desire to contribute to their community. Each individual’s bio on the event program, started with, “I was born in Buenos Aires/Bolivia/ Colombia and I came to the United States as a child because my parents thought I could have a better life and opportunity; however, my journey has been difficult because I am not a US citizen”. Financial hardships and limited opportunities usually accompany most immigrants whether they are legal or illegal. Interestingly enough the one thing they can relate to is their resiliency and perseverance for success or survival.  Ever wonder why some immigrants with limited English do a lot better than a 2nd, 3rd or 4th generation American? Perhaps their strong work ethic, living within their means ideology and their unyielding focus and determination are the secrets to their success. Instead of being on the victimization bandwagon, maybe it’s time Americans should take lessons and start applying it themselves. Our country is in a national state of a financial and an educational emergency and the moment  to take action is now.  With the national debt reaching 16 trillion dollars http://www.usdebtclock.org/  and where our educational ranking in math is 25th in the world, http://broadeducation.org/about/crisis_stats.html

this country needs to be run like a shop. I’m not an economist or a politician just a regular citizen who’s concerned with the direction my country is headed and what we should do to get it back on track. As a pragmatist, here’s my solution to the immigration issue and why I think every person citizen or non-citizen should be vetted for in America, yes I said vetted. First and foremost, we must remind ourselves that being an American is an honor, a blessing and a privilege because America is the only country on earth that stands for freedom, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and as Americans we should never take that for granted. 

If I had to define the “ideal” American for example someone I would want as my neighbor, my client, my teacher or leader, I suggest they match my code

1) pay your taxes,

2) don’t commit heinous crimes,

3) you are an entrepreneurial or productive individual who’s an asset not a burden to the economy/country and

4) respects our culture, history and learns the English language.

If there are immigrants from any part of the globe either legal or illegal who meet these tenets I think this country should do whatever they can to facilitate the paperwork for them to stay here. With that being said we also need to vet every American citizen, US born and naturalized. There’s no sense in having US citizens living here if they are unpatriotic, been on welfare for decades, commit heinous crimes or don’t pay taxes. For those who commit multiple infractions, we should install a system of reversal citizenship. Yes, reversal like your citizenship status will be demoted from a citizen, to a green-card status, to a worker’s permit to eventually an outright self-deportation via a one-way first-class ticket to your country of choice. Millions of people would risk all their savings and even their lives to have a shot at the brass ring in America. These Hispanic students are no exception and for those who may be in a similar predicament they should be considered to stay here as well.  Our country needs all the talent we can get in order to catch up with the rest of the world and perhaps this is a starting point to get our domestic human resources up to par. Here’s to our future and may the bright and talented take us there. 

"Remember, the saddest thing in life is wasted talent. You could have all the talent in the world but if you don't do the right thing, then nothing happens. But when you do right, guess what? Good things happen." Memorable quotes for A Bronx Tale



Five Ways to Make Your Mark in the Workplace: Show Them What You’ve Got!

2012-KASHAPOV-0134I never thought I would have missed it, but on my first day at my new job, the beauty of wood-trimmed cubicle walls, the luminous fluorescent lights hanging overhead, and the feel of high pile carpet underneath my high heels was a sight for sore eyes. As I strolled down the hallway towards my new office, lyrics to a song bounced in my head, It’s a new dawn, it’s new a day, it’s new life for me, and I’m feeling good.

Yet, at the same time I carried an air of confidence, it also felt a lot like the first day of elementary school -- the same excitement and nervousness rolled into one but with an adult twist.  The first few weeks were a blur, so many new faces, so many departments, so many systems and passwords, and so many products and initiatives. I thought to myself (in a slight panic) how am I ever going to keep up? And more importantly how am I going to contribute in a significant way? After all, this is the big leagues, and I am the new kid on the block. I am going to have to show them what I've got.

That’s right. Just because you landed a secure job and feel a sense of accomplishment from all those late nights of emailing resumes and attending networking events and figuring out your LinkedIn strategy, it's no time to rest on your laurels. ¡Ay Dios mío! Can’t I just take it easy now, you might ask yourself? Quite the opposite, my dear. Once the new job smell wears off a bit, it’s time to really dig in. It’s a fresh start, an opportunity to reinvent yourself and learn from your past foibles and stumbles.

As you know, networking is complicated but "netweaving" – as a colleague of mine puts it – is about timing and continuous exposure. So while you are assimilating into the new corporate culture, you’ll want to make sure to mingle with colleagues in other departments as well as your own. This will help people get to know who you are, while at the same time give you perspective about the company’s products, initiatives, and business objectives.

You will have to keep your eyes open in order to find new opportunities, wherever they may lie. Use your innate passions to help guide you. For example, because I have worked so many years in the nonprofit world I naturally gravitated towards volunteering for my company’s local grants committee. Additionally, I joined the company’s Latino Business Resource Group and soon after, became involved in the planning of an internal conference. In a short amount of time, I have leveraged my passion to begin making my mark. However, in reality it’s been more of a combination of both deliberate action and organic evolution. It seems that once you begin to
take on new challenges in your role or give of your free time for good causes, more opportunities present themselves. Case in point, I just accepted the role as President of the Center for Hispanic Leadership's inaugural chapter in Atlanta. Always remember that opportunities like these are yours for the taking.

Here are the top five things to keep sight of once you are in sitting in your new office and ready to seize the day:

  1. Netweaving: As you attend meetings and events, remember to always introduce yourself, get business cards (yes, even within the same company – remember, it’s netweaving) and follow up with LinkedIn invitations. After a while, you will also notice that you’ll find ways to connect people and projects with each other for the benefit of all involved.
  2. Volunteer: If your company is involved in the community, seek out the volunteer opportunities from donating books to digging holes for a community garden to building homes. Remember, you are fortunate to be where you are, so give back as much as
    you can.
  3. Ongoing Education/Training: Often, companies will offer online or in-person leadership development workshops and courses as well as host internal and external speakers’ series. Take advantage of these early on since they will help you meet a cross-section of individuals as well as aid you in your professional development. Keep yourself motivated to continually augment your repository of skills to become more well-rounded. This is your life, your career. It’s important to continue to deliver your brand with conviction and dogged determination.
  4. Business Resource Groups/Corporate Affinity Groups:  If your company has BRGs, then join them. Remember to be an active participant and even help support the other BRGs by attending their events as well. No BRGs, you say? Then start one from the ground up.  You will need to think about what the business case is for creating a BRG. This way your leadership will know that you are equally passionate about your heritage and culture as you are about being a professional and in growing the company’s business.
  5. Size Doesn’t Matter: Whether you are in a small company with less than 50 employees
    or in one with over 200,000, there are still a myriad of opportunities for you to step up to the plate, contribute, and be noticed for taking the lead. It could be something such as organizing an employee task force to help boost morale with a scheduled employee appreciation event every quarter or asking your colleagues to bring in their hotel shampoo bottles and soaps to donate to a local women’s shelter or at your weekly staff meetings raising your hand to take on a project that’s been sitting on the backburner. It is these moments in time that will begin to define who you as a person and as a professional. Follow your passion, let your light shine, and you will become a trailblazer who leads by helping to bring out the best in others.

Remember that every day is a new day to work towards your goals, to be bold, to ask questions, to become engaged, and to do what may have not been done before. Sure, it’s scary. Don’t think for a moment that I don’t sometimes also have qualms or misgivings about my abilities, but I know from experience that the risks are always worth taking. Cue the music, crank up the sound, hear the lyrics, It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me, and I’m feeling good. Now, show them what you’ve got.


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



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.


Are you a Latina Expert?

On Naming and Claiming our Latina Expertise


Expert =  adj  thoroughly skilled; knowledgeable through training or experience. Noun a person with special skills or training in any art or science.  (Webster’s New Century Dictionary, 2001)

When we first considered what to name this website, we considered a wide range of choices before arriving at LATINA EXPERT.  It seems important at this point to be explicit about what our intention is in choosing this name and also about our vision of how this site can be used by all Latinas to further grow our sense of ourselves individually and collectively. 

In my work with Latina professionals in organizations, I am constantly amazed at the wide range of talents and depth of experience these women have developed.  I am sometimes also amazed at how unaware or unassuming they can be of their capacities and how remarkable they are.  There are many people in organizations with much less going for them who are more than willing to “toot their own horns” and make grandiose claims about their abilities.  I wonder about how we as Latinas can best acknowledge and utilize our gifts in ways that feel right to us and yet allow others to see more clearly all that we have to offer to our organizations.

Let me start with a story.

I and another colleague were presenting our research at a national conference.  As part of the program, we listed our titles, which for me included the Ph.D. after my name.  Unlike others in the program, the question was raised about why I chose to list my degree as part of my identifying information.  Others went so far as to suggest that I was elevating myself over the participants by listing this credential.  When the conversation came up, an African-American gentleman disagreed with the previous comment by stating his view that it was helpful to know my training and background because it gave him a better sense of what I could offer and what competencies could be assumed by knowing someone had received a doctorate at an accredited university.  What I find interesting and troubling is how my white male colleagues are not challenged when they certify themselves as “experts” but when I or other women credential ourselves, we are seen in a less positive light.  This is not the first time nor do I expect it to be the last that this issue comes up as I move about in my career.  One of the reasons I think it is important that I include my title has to do with serving as a role model for young Latinas who may be wondering if they can reach for their dreams or if they have what it takes to succeed in competitive, male dominated fields or environments.  I have often been told by young women how much it means to them to see my accomplishments and how they are inspired to pursue their own dreams as a result.  Other Latinas have mentioned the difficulty they sometimes have with standing out for their accomplishments and letting themselves be seen in their full competence.

To understand these dynamics and to be able to modify them, I think it is important to recognize their origins – how we came to be this way.  Of course our early experiences in our families and communities shaped us significantly.  We learned from watching others that elevating yourself over others was sometimes frowned upon and that working to support the well-being of the collective was necessary for survival and harmony.  We saw role models in our mothers, tias and vecinas who sometimes sacrificed their own needs to insure that others had enough.  Doing for others without expecting to be acknowledged or praised was accepted as the norm.  Humility was valued in our communities while boasting or pridefulness was frowned upon especially for women. 

Now we find ourselves in organizations where self-promotion and branding ourselves as distinctive are expected and encouraged.  How do we navigate through these seemingly contradictory worldviews?  How do we remain consistent with our values and cultural styles while also succeeding in large, competitive organizational cultures?

Latinas are finding ways to do this creatively in many fields and industries.  For example, realizing that claiming our expertise is a service to others in our communities and organizations.  Letting others know what we have to offer allows them to access our talents and utilize our skills in a wider range of venues.  Making ourselves small or invisible serves no one.  Identifying and expressing our vitality and competence makes a huge contribution wherever we are.  Speaking confidently about ourselves as “experts” is necessary and supports the advancement of our teams, furthers the organizations mission and allows our own careers to blossom and grow.  Actions that are consistent with our words makes us powerful contributors.  When people see that we deliver on our promises in unique and creative ways, we gain respect and are given greater opportunities to lead.

We are each “experts” in our own arenas.  It is crucial that we gain clarity about our own particular contributions, be able to name those talents confidently and seek out opportunities to demonstrate them consistently.  This is the best way to marry our expertise with what the world desperately needs from us.  How are you a Latina Expert and what can you do today to further expand your expertise to make the world a better place where you live?


Take the Lead On Your Career

More than often, Latinas leave the responsibility of advancement in the hands of their immediate manager, or hope it will happen by chance or solely because of hard work.  If only it were that easy. So what exactly are you responsible for? What do you need to do to advance, secure that promotion, or move up the career ladder? The answer lies in taking the lead on your career and committing more energy to it than anyone else.  Below are a few pointers to help you gain some perspective.

Start With A Self Inventory

Be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses.  Identify the things you are exceptional in and those in need of improvement. Solicit formal and informal feedback from trusted individuals that can help you identify those areas.  Leveraging your strengths and working on your weaknesses will make you a well-rounded professional and better prepare you for advancement.

Set Goals and Envision Yourself Where You Want To Be

What are you working towards?  What heights do you want to reach?  Identify your goals and get a realistic perspective of what you are aiming for. Review your goals regularly to ensure they are in line with what’s really happening and adjust them if necessary as things change.  Don’t forget to use the performance review process as an opportunity to further identify goals recommended by your manager.

Focus On Performance

Skills are doubtlessly important, as they are your first line of defense in proving yourself and your abilities. Understand your job responsibilities and be prepared to consistently deliver results.  Don’t assume you’re doing an outstanding job.  Ask your manager, even if informally, as well as your colleagues.  Outstanding performance and strong skills gain you respect and opens up new opportunities.  A job well done is a job remembered.

Hone Your Skills

Look for consistent ways to improve your skills or obtain new ones.  For instance, if public speaking is not your forte, look to improve it.  This will help your confidence and speaking abilities when in front of senior leaders. Many organizations offer training and development courses, as do most local colleges.  If you’re gearing for a new role, figure out what that new role requires and get the training necessary to excel in it.  Ignoring chances for self-improvement means you’re holding yourself back from accelerating.

Raise Your Hand and Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

Staying in your seat with your head down pushing out work will not get you noticed.  Step out of your comfort zone by raising your hand for stretch assignments that will challenge your skills and get you recognized by senior leaders. You can do the best job possible and have excellent skills, but if they are not being put to use or you are not being noticed, your chances for advancement remain low.

Build A Board Of Directors

Seek out professionals to ask for their guidance, learn from their experiences and benefit from their wisdom.  It is important to build a support system comprised of trusted individuals that advice, counsel and champion for you.  The very best relationships are informal so don't get caught up with formality.  Also, keep in mind that mentorship relationships don’t necessarily have to be with senior leaders.  Creating a networking comprised of lateral relationships is extremely helpful, as are relationships outside of your immediate division and/or organization.

Gain From Networking

You need to meet as many people as possible in your department, in the company and outside of it.  Never pass up on opportunity to meet other influential leaders and colleges.  Get your name out, learn what people do and allow people to learn what you do. When opportunities open up, they are going to have you in mind.

Build Your Brand

When people think of you, you want to make sure they do so in a positive light and in terms of your capabilities.  Build a reputation that is associated with top potential.  You want people, especially those in upper management, to know about your skills, leadership abilities and any competencies that are associated with executive leadership.

Career management is one of the least thought of, yet most important aspects of advancement.  Indiviudals look for a path to follow but oftentimes there is no set path.  Instead your advancement is dependent upon the path you establish by stepping up to create the career and opportunities you so desire.  Failing to focus on this dimension of your life is simply a waste of your talent and potential.


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