Latinitas Conference - The Future is Chica!

With one of every six children in the U.S. identifying as Hispanic or Latino - the future is not just female in the U.S. - the future is chica.
— Laura Donnelly, Founder and CEO of Latinitas.
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This weekend I had the great honor of hosting the first ever Latinitas Future Chica Conference in Austin, Texas! On behalf of Latinitas and my fellow Committee Members, a huge thanks to everyone who attended and volunteered your efforts to make this year's event a success. Future Chica (futurechica.org) is a full-day conference for girls ages 9–18 designed to give girls the opportunity to explore their own innovative ideas through the latest 21st-century technologies including VR, 3D printing, drones, circuits, and more. A repost of my interview with Latinitas below - please reach out if you're interested in learning more or exploring volunteer opportunities together.

What got you interested in helping with the planning of Future Chica?

Growing up in South Texas, I had a few places where I could get experiential learning with media and technology in school. My hero was (and still is) my high school librarian who led the charge in digital literacy at our school and introduced me to academic research and grant work early on. It was only years later in graduate school that I realized how much her mentorship and this project had an impact on my young adult life. At the Future Chica Conference, I'm super excited to get girls engaged in 21st-century tech through hands-on demos, activities and design competitions! This is bound to be an experiential learning experience they will treasure for years to come.

What does "the future is chica" mean to you?

There is no doubt in my mind that the future is female. We're seeing record numbers of women graduating from college, marrying later in life, running for office (and winning), overachieving in almost every sector - I like to think that we're finally owning our power/agency. Yet, despite these monumental strides, only about 20% of tech jobs are held by women. Why is that? This is a multifaceted problem that needs to be tackled through various channels from partnering with employers to encouraging girls to major in STEM fields. I'm honored to partner with organizations like Latinitas that provide young Latina girls with the tools and mentorship to make the dream the reality. I know it can happen - just take a look at Katie Bouman's remarkable achievement at MIT producing the first-ever image of a black hole. The future is chica!

Why is it important to have diversity in innovation?

Diversity is a lot more than the color of your skin or gender - it's about coming together with unique strengths to find the best solution. To quote the formidable Dr. Mae Jemison - physician, engineer and the first black woman in space, “When people think about why it is important to have a diversity of talent in a field, they think of it as a nicety. No, it’s a necessity. We get better solutions.”

About the Future Chica Conference

This full-day conference took place at Oracle and participants spent the day exploring the latest technology through hands-on demos and activities while engaging with local tech professionals to inspire career exploration across technology, creative and design sectors. We invited the girls to showcase innovative product designs they have created with their newfound knowledge. Parents were invited to attend workshops in the morning and afternoon to learn how to support their daughters as they begin to develop an interest in STEM and college readiness. The event is sponsored by Rackspace, Silicon Labs, Applied Materials, Emerson, Dell, Atlassian, Cirrus Logic and Jacobs Group.

About Latinitas

For 16 years, Latinitas, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, has been empowering all girls to innovate through media and technology by providing direct digital media and technology training and esteem-boosting services to nearly 3,500 girls and teens across Texas annually. Founded by two journalism students fed up with the lack of representation of Latinas in media and technology industries, Latinitas presents enrichment programs at Texas schools, libraries, and community centers that use culture as a thread to teach web and graphic design, blogging, video and audio production, photography and of late: video game, app development, and coding.

http://latinitasmagazine.org/







Explore a career in Customer Success Management in Tech - Discussion with Nereyda Esparza, Customer Success Manager @Amazon

Repost from: https://www.learneducatediscover.com/customer-success-management

Nereyda Esparza, Customer Success Manager at Amazon (Amazon Business), shares her insights on what working as a Customer Success Manager is like. CSM is a relatively new but up and coming function, found in a lot of tech companies today.

Nereyda has a BA in Latin American Studies from Smith College, and M.Phil from University of Oxford.

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Check out the podcast below to listen to the complete discussion.

Some of the areas that Nereyda touches upon in this episode include:

1. Nereyda's background and career path
2. What is customer success management
3. Difference between customer success management and account management
4. How customer success is a relatively new role in tech
6. Example of a project Nereyda worked on as a CSM, and examples of activities Nereyda undertook on the project
7. Skills you need to do well in this function
8. Advice for interested candidates and recommended resources

Thank you for listening!! 

If you have any questions for Nereyda or for us, you can email us at  or tweet at us @led_curator or like us on Facebook at facebook.com/learneducatediscover

Power Tool #2: How to Set Your Own Terms and Redefine Success

In January I wrote about the power of knowing your story, this month I’d like to write about shaping your story using No Excuses power tool #2: defining your own terms—first, before anyone else does.  

Despite my best efforts, I sometimes find myself comparing my life to that of my peers and colleagues and wonder if I should be more affluent, successful, accomplished. I can’t help but feel like I’m losing some sort of race every time someone I know gets published in a ‘30 under 30’ list.  As a teenager I imagined that by now I’d have it all figured out -  I’d have the perfect job, home, partner and I’d be on a fast track to becoming the next Sheryl Sandberg.  But in the last six months change has been my constant companion.  I ended one job and accepted another, went through a painful breakup and moved apartments twice - which in New York City my friends, is no small feat.

I’ve wracked my brains the last few days thinking of how I got it into my head that life (at least for women) had an expiration date.  Letting someone or something else dictate the terms of our success limits us from shaping our own life story.  Equally important, it deforms our relationship with failure as opportunities for growth and learning.  

When we fail, we see events like losing a job, ending a relationship or risking a business, as setbacks but it is often these failures that lead us to the greatest milestones in life.  In his latest book Originals, Adam Grant explains how failure, and more importantly, willingness to fail -  does just the opposite.  Grant studied how some of the world’s greatest originals, from entrepreneurs to scientists, learned how to harvest creativity through failure to change the world:

“Throughout history, the great originals have been the ones who failed the most, because they were the ones who tried the most. Most of Thomas Edison’s 1,093 patents went nowhere; Picasso had to produce over 20,000 pieces of art to make a few masterpieces. We see the same trend with entrepreneurs. Before Uber, Travis Kalanick’s first startup declared bankruptcy. Oprah Winfrey was fired from her job as a reporter. Steve Jobs flopped with the Apple Lisa and got forced out of his own company before making his triumphant return — and even after the iPod succeeded, he made a bad bet on the Segway personal transporter. And with all of Richard Branson’s success in airlines, trains, music, and mobile, he has also presided over the failure of Virgin cola, cars, and wedding dresses.  So take it from this group of elite failures. If at first you don’t succeed, you’ll know you’re aiming high enough.”

Power tool #2 - defining your own terms -  gives us the power to set our own goals and track towards a success that makes sense for your story.  This includes room for failure and the ability to reach for a personal definition of success that includes more than just financial gain or status.  Arianna Huffington said it best in her  commencement speech at my alma mater: instead of embracing a traditional (and often patriarchal) definition success as  money and power, we can focus instead on the three W’s: wellbeing, wonder and wisdom.  The traditional notion of success as money and power, she reminds us, are “like a two-legged stool - you can balance on them for awhile but eventually you are going to topple over.”  

 

                                  Click here for full commencement speech

In 2007, sleep deprived and exhausted, Arianna fainted, hit her head on her desk, broke her cheekbone and got four stitches on her right eye.  Call it coincidence or just bad luck, Arianna decided from that point on she would work towards redefining success.  Her focus on wellbeing drove her to install nap rooms in the Huffpost  offices and become an international sleep advocate for workers everywhere.  One thing is for sure - there is no one recipe for success; whatever your path, be sure that it’s set on your terms.   I’m inspired every day by women who are breaking barriers and setting their own limits - from curvy model Ashley Graham for her daring body positive movement that is turning the modeling industry upside down, to Cecile Richards and Wendy Davis for publicly fighting back to protect reproductive rights.  

As for my own terms - I’m still working on perfecting those and I’m in no rush.  Along the way I’ve figured out a few: I know that the only timeline that matters is my own.   I’ve also learned that I’m much happier when I focus on long-term meaning, what Aristotle called eudaemonia or striving with purpose: starting my own business one day, focusing on family, or finding the right partner - rather than short-term satisfaction like a trip to the beach or buying new shoes (although, I do love to shop).  I plan to measure my success by the impact I have on the people whose lives I touch.  I plan to measure my success by the strength of my pioneering spirit to be bold, take risks and learn from failures.  Because  after all, failure is a natural and necessary part of leadership.  My story of success won’t be a straight shot  but a long and curvy road full of ups and downs.

How about you? How will you set your own terms and redefine success using power tool #2?

General Assembly: Enterprise New Product Lead Analysis

 

Enterprise New Product Lead Analysis 

Objectives: General Assembly  is looking to fill their Enterprise New Product Lead (NPL) position to help scale their enterprise business.  The purpose of this analysis is to provide the team with an overview of how I would approach this role and product strategy. 

Scope: For the purposes of this exercise, I will focus primarily on the US market with a note that this process could be easily applied to global markets outside of North America, especially Europe and Asia. 

Impact: The NPL  holds primary responsibility for the discovery, validation and ongoing assessment of online and offline products and services for Fortune 500 and 1000 clients. 

Overview of Market Opportunity

Around the world, governments and businesses face a conundrum: high levels of youth unemployment and a shortage of job seekers with critical skills.  

In 2014 the OECD documented that over 200 million people are unemployed, of which 75 million are youth.  At the same time half of employees say they are not sure their postsecondary education has improved their chances of finding a job and 40% of employers globally say they are not getting the skills they need leaving jobs unfulfilled.  It is estimated that by the year 2020 there will be 55 million job openings in the economy: 24 million from newly created jobs and 31 million due to baby boom retirements.  

How can General Assembly (GA) play a key role in helping move young people and career starters from education to employment? What are the problems in upskilling the current workforce? Which interventions work? How can we scale these solutions to potentially reach millions of learners worldwide?

In this analysis I will provide a high-level outline that addresses the market opportunity and top trends in the professional education market space.  In these early stages, I recommend that GA support enterprises by delivering learning through a broader ecosystem that touches on several competencies in employability  (technology, skills development and progression).  This will require the development of new managed services and products that will connect learners directly to the top needs of their industries and equip them with effective and measurable work experiences via formal training programs, mentoring, experiential learning (in person or virtual), alternative credentials and learning & development opportunities in the professional job market.

I will focus primarily on the opportunities in the United States where 30% of US companies had positions open for more than 6 months they could not fill and 92% of executives surveyed say there is a job skills gap in technical and soft skills.

Trends in Professional/Enterprise Education

Bersin by Deloitte research shows that the Professional Education market is evolving, driven my technology, skillset gaps and emerging efficacy standards.

  • Technology is enabling significant changes in the way education content is delivered and how people learn  (e.g. 37% of the global workforce is expected to be mobile by the end of 2015)
  • The looming skills gap is real and requires substantial effort to address; employers and learners want tangible results (92% of US executives surveyed identify job skills gap in technical and soft skills) 
  • As professional learners evolve, companies are recognizing significant L&D capability gaps and investing to fill those gaps (corporate budgets grew by 15% year-over-year in 2014).

The addressable North American Professional Education market represented approximately $40B in corporate and individual spend in 2014 and has grown 9% over the last three years.

  • Major areas of spend include: pre-hire assessment ($1.2B) corporate spend on outside providers ($16B, 15% growth), corporate spend on tuition reimbursement ($18B, -2%), industry certifications ($1.3B, 0%), government funded jobs and programs ($1.8B, -3%) and skills bootcamps ($0.05B, 138% growth).

Interestingly, corporations' spend on soft skills training grew at an 18% compound annual growth rate over the last three years to $690M in 2014; it is a fragmented market in which there is no dominant player, with few regulatory or industry standards. 

 

Areas of Growth & Top Industries - USA

Every quarter, Wanted Analytics* puts out a Global Hiring Demand report that outlines the following:

• In-demand skills and jobs in the world’s five largest economies
• Influence of customers
• Industry-specific analysis, including Retail, Tech, Financial Services, and others

Here's a quick snapshot of the top global skills demanded by employers and top in-demand occupations:

In the U.S., technical and programming skills are in the highest demand, represented in three out of the top five most in-demand skills. However, the occupations facing the most demand have broader skill set needs. 

As demonstrated in the above chart, US industries faced with filling the largest number of positions show a need for process and quality: quality assurance and customer relationship management skills are among the most commonly required skills across these occupational categories.  The top occupational industries for these skills are: 1) Sales, 2) Office and Admin Support, 3) Computer and Mathematical Science, 4) Management and 5) Healthcare. 

Another important data point to capture when assessing the market opportunity is industries with the greatest need for skills training.  The top industries affected by lack of qualified candidates are the manufacturing industry, followed closely by technology and professional service sectors. 

I will plan to monitor both data points closelyto compile a target list of companies and desired products and work closely with the enterprise team to compile additional data on historical trends and feedback from current clients. 

 

*WANTED Analytics’ competitive and job market intelligence data compiled from 1 billion unique job postings across 22 countries. Data presented in this report was compiled from 1 July to 30 September, 2015 and compared to the previous quarter, 1 April to 30 June 2015.

 

Trends in Skills & Programs

 In order to analyze GA's current product portfolio in terms of:

  • Product Performance
  • Educator Performance
  • Trends in Demand 

I will compare  revenue targets in tandem with high standards of quality and efficacy. A useful framework to do this is Pearson's global employability framework.  This framework  defines four clear competency categories that all learners require to make progress in their lives professionally:

 

  • Core academic competencies - numeracy, literacy, ICT capability, critical thinking, and English. Relevant for both College and Career success.

  • Occupational competencies - occupation-specific competencies

  • Personal and social capabilities - interpersonal skills and personal qualities that enable individuals to manage themselves and interact effectively with clients, co-workers, and supervisors.

  • Careers knowledge and transition skills - understanding of career options and development pathways, transition skills (e.g. networking and interviewing) needed to progress to and within work.

A successful product will have ideally impacted the learner on each of the four categories and help them progress through the learner journey, albeit - not all stages at the same time.  

It will be important to conduct quick but efficient high-quality case studies of both employers and employees where we can demonstrate progress or demonstrated ability.  In cases with existing long-term clients like GE, longitudinal studies and surveys might be appropriate and an excellent marketing tool to show the efficiency of the course. 

Below are sample value propositions of learner and employer journeys.

Employee/Learner Journey (please click to expand) 

  1. Pre-hire assessment
  2. Career Advice & Planning
  3. Diagnostic Skills Gap Analysis
  4. Choose Program of Study/Work
  5.  Learning and Training
  6. Experiential /Work-based Learning
  7. Job Search, Networking, Exploring
  8. Outcome: Qualification, Job offer, Promotion

Employer Value Chain (please click to expand) 

  1. Business Strategy
  2. Diagnostic Skills Gap Analysis
  3. Choosing Candidates
  4. Learning, Training, Coaching
  5. Employer Led Learning
  6. Certification/Qualification/Badging 
  7. Job Placement

 

Preliminary Recommendations

Taking into account the data and frameworks outlined above, I have conducted an early organization of strategic growth areas General Assembly and the NPL may want to further validate in 2016. 

Strategic Fit vs. Market Attractiveness (please click to expand) 

Prioritize 

  • Soft skills training: Personal and social capabilities training including, critical thinking, communication, collaboration and teamwork, leadership, self management & initiative, ethics and personal/social responsibility, mindset, career transition skills.
    • Current "hot topics" in this space include: emotional intelligence, gender intelligence, health and wellness, diversity and inclusion, millennial training and business acumen (working in teams, presentation skills). 
  • Assessment services: pre-hire assessments and efficacy studies. 
  • Digital Skills/IT
  • Skills Bootcamps

Exploit

  • Government programs: Apprenticeships/work-based learning
  • Industry certifications & badging: Acclaim badging, micro degrees 

Monitor

  • Learning technology platforms
  • Quality assurance training 

Explore

  • Tuition reimbursement 
  • Formal pre-hire assessments: case studies, challenges, diagnostics, team and peer-learning exercises 

 

Next Steps   

  • Socialize findings with key stakeholders at General Assembly and industry SMEs
  • Conduct competitive market research of key competitors including but not limited to: Udacity, Udemy, LinkedIn (Lynda), Coursera, Edx, CFA, Fullbridge, Pearson, et al. 
  • Compile a list of top hirers and industries and work closely with Enterprise Account Managers to cross-reference the list of current clients 
  • Secure green light to design go-to-market strategy (content, customer, growth pathways: who, what, why, how).  Execute in partnership with Enterprise Director, GA instructional designers, corporate training designers and sales team to implement timeline and budgets 
  • Grow partnerships with companies like Pearson Education and nonprofits like College for America partners to scale solutions and sell directly B2B 

Conclusion

In summary, at these early stages I suggest that GA can further develop and perfect the enterprise business  by delivering a more cohesive approach to skills development that is competency based and connects learners directly to the top needs of their employers.  These new programs can come in the form of formal training programs, mentoring, experiential learning (in person or virtual), alternative credentials and learning & development opportunities in the professional job market.

Now is the time to feel optimistic about the future.  Last Friday morning the Department of Labor released the January jobs report and reported that the US economy added 151,000 jobs and that the unemployment rate is at 4.9 percent - and if there is ever an opportunity to grow exponentially - it's now. 

General Assembly's  competitive advantage lies in a combination of brand, quality and community.  By offering a holistic approach to corporate training and development using the frameworks and data outlined above, I have no doubt that we can achieve the goals of growing the enterprise business to $50M in 2016.

 

- Nereyda Esparza   

*Please note that I am not affiliated with General Assembly.

 

Power To > Power Over: Nine Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power

Welcome to 2016 and my first blog post of the year! They say that you should write about what you know and love and to me, there’s nothing more exciting than to understand how women can grow and embrace their power.

Last year at a workshop in Chicago I had the great pleasure of meeting the legendary Gloria Feldt, former CEO and President of Planned Parenthood and founder of Take the Lead, an organization that develops women to take equal share of leadership positions across all sectors by 2025.  She introduced me to nine power tools effective leaders use to embrace their power and I left inspired to start this project.   Over the next couple of months I will write short essays on each of these tools in an effort to inspire women, especially young millennial women to better understand power-to, what it is, and why we should have it.  

The nine power tools are:

  1. Know your history and you can create the future of your choice.
  2. Define your own terms first, before anyone else does.
  3. Use What You’ve Got. What you need is almost always there, in your hands or within reach, if you can only see it and have the courage to use it.
  4. Embrace Controversy. It gives you a platform. It nudges you to clarity. It is a teacher, a source of strength, and your friend, especially if you are trying to make change.
  5. Carpe the Chaos. Change creates chaos.
  6. Wear the shirt. Your gut-level commitment to what you decide to do with your one “wild and precious life” is a potent power tool.
  7. Take Action; Create a Movement. Things don’t just happen; people make them happen in a systematic way. “Don’t agonize, organize!” as labor movement leaders often say.
  8. Employ every medium. Use personal, social, and traditional media every step of the way.
  9. Tell your story. Your story is your truth and your truth is your power. Others need and want to hear it as you want and need to hear theirs.

The following short essay is the first of nine to follow illustrating how women can embrace own power using Gloria Feldt’s tools.  My plan is to use this space to profile incredible women and their journeys in hopes that I can inspire more people to do what they love and love what they do.  I hope you subscribe and stay tuned!

Power Tool #1: KNOW YOUR HISTORY AND HOW YOU CAN CREATE A FUTURE OF YOUR CHOICE

“Well-behaved women seldom make history.”- Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

I disagree.  It’s not so much that only rebels, warriors or activists make it into history books but that women who accomplish great feats are also ones who ‘shake things up’ by breaking barriers, showing unyielding grit, and pioneering bravely into the unknown to accomplish their goals.  I am still stunned or rather perplexed, by how little we know about the many incredible achievements women have contributed to society.  Sure, we all recognize Madame Marie Curie but how about Ada Lovelace - the first computer programmer? Or how about Dr. Shirley Jackson first black woman to obtain a PhD from MIT an inventor all things fiber optics? There are countless other examples of incredible role models and it is imperative that we learn their histories in order to better understand where we came from and where we are going.

It is also important to remember that no matter our age or background, we are all making history everyday! I am going to combine power tools #1 and #9 and profile my own history as well as some lessons I learned along the way about embracing who you are to propel you forward.  I hope this will inspire you to do the same or go out there and ask someone you admire to tell you their story.   

Where to start?  My name is  Nereyda -   a name I had difficulty loving until I learned its etymology.  It comes from the  the Greek Nereids - in Greek mythology, the Nereids are sea nymphs, daughters of Nereus, and can be friendly and helpful to sailors fighting perilous storms.  You might recognize one famous Nereid, Thetis, mother of Achilles, who famously held her son by the ankle as she dipped him into the river Styx.  Well, we all know how that ended up so I asked my mother why she had chosen such a funny name for me.  She told me that she wanted me to stand out from the crowd, to be unique and to be bold.  This taught me my first lesson in knowing your history - know your name and why it was given to you!

baby nerey

Brave sea nymph Nereyda circa 1991

I was born and raised in South Texas where I lived, studied, and traveled frequently between the US and México.  My parents are Mexican immigrants and made sure to keep me close to my roots, I learned how to read and write in Spanish before I did so in English.  We attended family celebrations on both sides of the border and I grew up transcending two very different cultures from an early age. Growing up in this community helped me unlock a passion for learning and a strong belief that education is the greatest enabler in life.  It also fostered my love for history, politics, economics and the Latin American region as a whole.

mexico nerey

Top of the Great Pyramid of Cholula, Puebla, México

Instead of attending my local high school, I decided to challenge myself and enroll in a free magnet science and math school outside of my school district.  It was there where I met my school librarian, friend and lifelong mentor, Lucy Hansen.  Lucy is a Fulbright Scholar and former German professor with a fiery spirit who taught me how to love learning and encouraged me to dream andexecute higher than ever before. It was Lucy who ultimately convinced me to choose Smith College, a women’s college in New England, and begin a journey that would change the course of my life forever.  

At Smith I learned more than ever about the power of women’s leadership and our scope and influence in the world.  I rejoiced in the idea of living and studying in the same halls that heroes like Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Julia Child, Sylvia Plath, Shelly Lazarus and many others did before me.  Smith’s curriculum is tailored to write women back into history and in every class I took from constitutional law to developmental economics, I learned about the many ways women had contributed to these areas and domains. It was the most heady, nervy, intellectually exciting time in my life.

Smith was also the place where I met some of the greatest friends, my ‘sister-network’, who I love dearly and who I know I can call for support through any adversity.  That’s the beauty of attending a women’s college; not only do you make friends for life you also have a network thousands strong who have taken the path before you and will help you in your journey.  I called on my sister-network when I was looking for a job, moving countries, separated from a partner and equally important - to celebrate life’s success both large and small.  Second lesson - Do you have a group of women in your life who love and support you? If you don’t, go out and create one! Court your friendships like you court your lovers.  Invest time in finding the people in your life who will nurture and support you at your best and at your worst.  Network with purpose and be sure to follow up with a genuine interest in learning about someone’s life and career.

 

nerey smith college

Smith College Ivy Day 2009 pictured here with
Massiell Tercero-Parker and Caitlin Flynn

In college I also seized every opportunity to live and work abroad. I traveled to Argentina to study the recovered factory movement, spent a summer in Brazil with a professor from Amherst College studying Afro-Brazilian culture, and spent my junior year abroad at the University of Manchester navigating the English tutorial system and sharpening my critical thinking skills.  Travel invigorated my soul and gave me just the right amount of courage to apply and be accepted at the University of Oxford to continue my education.  In the fall of 2009, I graduated from college and headed to Oxford feeling naively optimistic about my future.  I had made it this far and nothing could stop me now!

Boy was I wrong.  Imagine going from a radical feminist college to being thrown into the depths of the most traditional institution in the world.  If Smith helped nurture me, Oxford helped push my boundaries and widen my horizons.  They expected more from me and when I struggled, I had to dig deeper in order to deliver.  I still remember the feeling of defeat after my first tutorial session with Dr. Timothy Power.  (Yes, his name really was Dr. Power!)  Thinking back I’m so so grateful for his time and his feedback - he made me not only a stronger scholar, but a more resilient person.  I knew that in order to succeed at Oxford I had to work smarter and choose a topic for my thesis that I both loved and believed in.  I conducted my research on the effect conditional cash transfer programs have on indigenous women in Latin America.  I spent my research summer with the women in the communities of Zinacantán and San Juan Chamula in the mountains of Chiapas.  I received top marks for my work and was commended at my viva (Oxford speak for terrifying oral defense). Lesson three - do you see setbacks as opportunities for post-traumatic growthAll the positive psychology research in the world shows that our mindset is a powerful tool to help us overcome adversity. 

zinacantan.jpg

Pictured here with women of Zinacantán in Chiapas, México, 2010

In 2012 I graduated from Oxford and experienced one of the proudest moments of my life - seeing my mother and sister sitting in the top rows of the Sheldonian Theatre to watch me accept my degree.  My mother grew up very poor on a little ranch in Tamaulipas, México  with five other siblings.  Her education interrupted at an early age, she went to night school and graduated from high school after having her second child.  My mother spent most of her young adult life working as many immigrant women do, in people’s homes as a domestic worker. In profiling her own history, I asked her what her greatest aspiration in life was and she told me it was for her children to go out and  live lives of their own volition and to do all the things she never had the power to do.  On that bright cold day in December 2012, my mother from a little ranch in Tamaulipas, sat in the Sheldonian and watched as her youngest daughter was sworn into Oxford’s prestigious alumni community.  As I took my degree from the Vice Chancellor, I only had one person on my mind.  I think that’s the day when my relationship with power fundamentally changed - instead of power-over (a patriarchal concept) I know had the power-to lead the life I wanted to live.

oxford grad

Oxford graduation ceremony, pictured here with my mother and sister

I am incredibly grateful for my time spent at University.  It was here I met women like  Shaharzad Akbar, passionate activist and first Afghan woman to attend Oxford (and fellow Smithie!),  Diana Ples a maths and philosophy double major who reworked all my existing knowledge, Mele-Ane Havea, MBA and Skoll Oxford Scholar and incredible men like Kanishka Narayan, Adviser to the UK Secretary of State, and Will Sentance, CTO of Codesmith - some of the most intelligent and passionate people I have ever had the pleasure to meet.   Which brings me to my  fourth and final lesson learnt - find ambitious people who excite you, motivate you, bring out the best in you and  never let them go.  In addition to creating lasting friendships, foster genuine connections with the people who you will continue to learn from the rest of your life.  You will be all the richer for it, I know I have.

Today I live in New York City and currently work for Pearson Education where I was selected out of 685 qualified applicants to participate in Pearson’s competitive (2% acceptance rate), two-year rotational leadership development program (PLDP).   After completing the program I joined the Global Employability and Career Success Team as the Associate Director for Employer Solutions where I operationalize Pearson’s strategy to expand our presence in the professional education marketplace.  My path wasn’t always easy, and it is certainly far from over! Needless to say I’m excited about what is to come in 2016 and the many more adventures that I am waiting for with open arms.

 

pldp

Pictured center left with the PLDP.
(See if you can spot John Fallon, Pearson CEO, hidden in the group!)

To recap, know your name and where you come from; build a community of women and men that you can count on no matter what; see your setbacks not as obstacles but as opportunities for post-traumatic growth and finally, surround yourself by bright, intelligent, ambitious people who will bring out the best in you.  So what are you waiting for? Go out and make history!

Nereyda