When I woke up from a 3-day coma on life support in 2006, I was serenely open to either life or death. Having a “bonus” chapter in my life has changed how I spend my time both professionally and personally. My career has been interesting. Mentored by Chris Argyris from Harvard and Jerry Porras from Stanford. Teaching leadership at executive programs offered by Columbia and Stanford. Leading 1000-person technology enabled public policy forums on behalf of AmericaSpeaks. And the accomplishment I am most proud of: raising four wonderful young adults as a single parent and becoming a step-mother to three more. After I left my most recent corporate engagement in which I designed and led a global program for over 800 leaders of a $1.5B high tech company, a friend challenged me to “do something” for Latinos. I stopped to realize that in the three years doing that work, I only knew five Latinos: the janitor, the receptionist, the security guard, an exec admin, and the VP of Latin American Sales. I vowed to devote my professional energies to grooming Latinos for success in all areas of their lives. And being woman myself, Latinas are at the heart of what I do.
My personal journey took several unique turns in my life that are unexpected for the daughter of Mexican immigrants. I graduated with a PhD at age 26 and thought my life’s work would focus on an academic career. Even though there are only 1 million Hispanics with doctorates in the US, I hit the glass ceiling. That big thump in 1993 was one of the most frustrating moments of my life. I so I took one of the fundamental truths of my study of psychology to heart: mental health is about having options. I left a perfectly good job at a respected university and created a consulting business at the same time my son, Nicolas was born. My work became a portfolio of experiences working with major corporations, public entities, and major nonprofits in a wide range of human capital initiatives. I became a business woman without ever taking a single course in business but I leveraged the fundamental skill I garnered in my education—how to research and learn—to the best of my ability. Fifteen years later, I sold my business to a larger company and started a new chapter. I’m using that broad set of skills to work on community health initiatives that were at the start of my original career interests. After all that, I’m now eager to bring to other Latinas a sense of what works—and, yes, what doesn’t work—in blending career, family, and community.
After 20 years of experience as an internal consultant from within large technology and health care organizations I decided I had enough—enough experience—to share and resiliency to spare. I decided to “hire” myself. Fourteen years ago I started my consulting practice, SMCONSULTING and began to leverage my skills, experience and training as a psychologist to build teams, coach leaders and be a catalyst for change in organizations. Staying conscious of the shifting in and out of different cultural contexts has become a purposeful part of my career—a calling to do the work across the U.S. and Latin America. Most recently I gave voice to this experience in a chapter of the book, The Diversity Calling: Building Community One Story at a Time, published in 2011. In “Living Multiple Realities as a Latina in America” I share the roots of this experience growing up in New Jersey as part of a Puerto Rican community rich in traditions and values that made me strong. I lived two worlds: US and Puerto Rico all in the confines of one home and so it is only natural that I enjoy coaching across cultures, generations, sharing defining moments that reveal our patterns as a way to move beyond self or other imposed barriers to foster successful beginnings and transitions. I’ve come to recognize that successful Latinas find creative ways to open doors that might not already be open for them, and so I say –“look for the skylight and be ready to change.”