Latinx In Power
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Latinx In Power

A Conversation About Career Development, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Based on an episode with Cynthia Orduña 🇲🇽

Welcome to Latinx in Power, a blog and podcast that shares stories of amazing Latinx leaders, hosted by Thaisa Fernandes.

Latinx in Power is a podcast where we talk about tech and our goal is to help to demystify tech, the way we do that is by interviewing Latinx leaders all over the world to hear their perspective and insights.

This time we talked with Cynthia Orduña. She is a career coach and talent development advisor. Cynthia has helped over 50 startups and coached over 300 people in all stages of their career from entry to senior levels.

In this episode we talked more about the perspective of someone with the background in recruiting, career development, diversity, equity, and inclusion.

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What does it mean to be a Latina for you?

I really thought about this one. I know within the Latinx community there are so many different types of cultures, but what I think is really universal are the values that you have as a Latinx. Growing up, for me, I was taught that family is everything, I still live with and take care of my grandparents, and I was also taught to be kind to everyone that I was meeting, or to be very generous.

You can never have someone in the house without feeding them, there’s always a ton of food for everyone. I would say my grandmother’s eyes it’s rude not to eat someone else’s food, and I’ve also been trying to become or have more vegetarian diet, and both my grandparents have been like, that’s the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard because our food has a lot of meat in it, you know, it’s just part of the culture.

To me, it’s about being very loving and taking care of people. My family has shown me time and time again, that they’re willing to make sacrifices in order for me to have a better life. So, that’s what it means for me to be as a Latina and I would say it’s the values that I hold really closely, it’s beautiful.

Tell us more about yourself and your story?

I am Mexican American, my family on both my mom and my dad’s side immigrated from Mexico. On my mom’s side, I think I’m second generation and on my dad’s side I’m third or fourth generation. I’m not so sure as to who was the first person that came here, but my passion for social justice started early on. Just as a woman of color, who also happens to look a lot younger, I’ve had a lot of instances of prejudice, discrimination, and microaggressions, both in and out of the workplace.

I began looking into systems of inequality, around six years ago when I started working in human resources, and what happened was after I filled out the EEOC report for the company, I realized I was the only Latina working in the organization in a non janitorial capacity, and that 80% of their employees were white.

From my experience in HR and tech recruiting, I started to realize more and more how there wasn’t a lot of representation, and there wasn’t anyone that I worked with that looked like me. These are one of the many reasons that I’ve dedicated my career to uplifting diverse voices in the workforce by coaching on career development and advocacy and ally-ship, and that’s really been my main focus for these past few years. I have been helping people from underrepresented communities grow in their careers, and also researching those inclusive work cultures.

I really want to help to desmisfy the career coach profession in our community, and I think it’ll be super cool if you can share more about what you do?

Right now I am one of those people that probably does too much. I work full time as a diversity, equity and inclusion consultant, and I have my career coaching practice on this side. I started my coaching business a year ago, right before the pandemic hit. I worked in tech recruiting and I have a background in HR, it was really easy for me to help people and advise them this way.

What really bugged me about career coaching and still bugs me is the fact that it’s extremely expensive. I can be anywhere from $100 to $300,a session, and that makes it inaccessible for people who may not have the money, but you also need multiple sessions, and that’s not always feasible. I started my practice from $30 to $50 a session in order to make it more equitable. What I do essentially is coach people on everything from interviews to resumes to networking to their personal branding to creating a portfolio, or even starting their own business. I specifically focus on tech career paths and creative career paths.

I think you can go to a career coach for anything, it can be anything from switching jobs to looking to go into a different industry. I would say, going to a career coach whenever you do have a question about your career is helpful. Ideally, I would say once you know, more or less what direction you want to go would be the better time to go to a career coach.

An example is let’s just say you do want to switch jobs and you want to switch industries. Well, you reach out to people in your network to start hopping on informational interviews, just to learn about what is the new industry that you want to go into, what is this new role that you want to learn and even get a sense of the direction that you want to take.

Once you’ve talked to people and gathered an idea of what your next step is, even if you don’t have all the answers, that’s when it makes the most sense I think to go to a career coach because you already know what your goal is, and that person can help you create the action plan to get to your goal. It’s not that you can’t go to a career coach ahead of time, I just think in terms of, again the investment that it is, it would probably make more sense to utilize it once you know what that goal is.

How do you feel about remote work?

I personally love the remote part of the pandemic, I do know that last year, it was very hard because unemployment rate was at an all time high specifically within the United States, and a lot of people were losing their jobs.

A lot of people didn’t know what they were going to do next, and it was harder to get a job because a lot of companies stopped hiring or they put a freeze on their hiring. Last year I worked with a lot of people to help them get jobs during the pandemic, and what I’ve found was that if you’re still on the job search right now, it is not impossible to get another job.

There are tons of companies that are hiring and there are tons of industries that actually wound, because of the pandemic so there are tons of jobs that are opening up. The second thing is the remote aspect of the pandemic also helped people because you’re now not limited to the location that you’re in, because you can apply to jobs that may be outside of Los Angeles, you can apply to jobs that are outside of New York, and a lot of people are also hiring globally. I think in that sense it actually opened up more opportunities for people versus limiting them.

I imagine there’s a lot of people looking for a job at the moment or thinking about switching jobs. What are the tips you’d like to share with our audience?

First thing is getting all of your career stuff together, your resume, update your resume with your most recent job, more often than not, people get a new job, they do all these amazing things but they don’t document it, whether you get laid off or you’re leaving the role, you didn’t add it to your resume. Adding that to your resume, adding that experience, adding that to your LinkedIn and also making sure that your LinkedIn is updated and that your LinkedIn says that you’re open to work, that you’re looking for a specific position so that people online can find you. Specifically recruiters who are looking for your position, and making sure that you get your list of referrals so who are the people that you’ve worked with, whether it’s management, a colleague that would be happy to give you a little phrase, the next time you’re interviewing for a job.

Also getting organized with the list of companies that you’re thinking about working for, for example, I want to get into this next position, maybe I’m a customer success manager so where are all the companies where I would love to be a CSM, and then, who are all the people that I would love to speak to in those companies. Is it someone that’s also in a CSM role so I can get a little bit more of an understanding, or is it a manager of the customer success department, or is it the recruiter that you want to reach out to make a list of a few people from each company that you want to speak to?

More likely than not, some people don’t end up responding and start networking right now, your network is the easiest way to land that first interview so start reaching out to those people hopping on informational interviews, learning more about the companies that you want to work for, learning more about the roles and getting all of that organized because once you have all of that if someone were to say what this position just popped up, send me a resume, I’m going to introduce you to the recruiter, you want to make sure that you have that ready and you’re not rushing it.

I’ve even had experiences with friends where they have given a referral, and the referral actually didn’t even end up being very beneficial to them and ended up causing them to not get the job. With the referrals, I would say, always keep people top of mind but at the same time, I would double check with someone to say hey, I would love to put you down as a referral as I’m looking for my next role, is that something that you would feel comfortable with and really have a conversation with them of how they may be portraying you. You don’t want to give a referral from someone you think may shine you in a good light, and end up having the opposite happen.

I also wanted to talk about rejections since this is a difficult part of the job search. What are the tools people can use to help them overcome rejections? How can they maintain a good mental state during this process?

I would say the hardest part of the job search process is to maintain a good mental state, I have heard so many people tell me how they become depressed from looking for a job. Do you know depending on how long it takes you to look for a job which on average takes a person around six months, but I’ve had so many people where it’s taken eight months or more.

When it comes to rejection, I think my first tip is always email them back and ask for feedback, you may not always get feedback but it is good to ask every time you haven’t made it to the next round or if you made it to the last round, and you weren’t chosen. A lot of times you may have been absolutely amazing, and it was a very small difference in why the other person got chosen.

When you have that insight, it’s easier to feel like it’s because there’s something wrong with you, and you’re not worth it. So, allowing yourself to actually see if there’s any feedback for you, is going to take your mind away from all the things that we can make up about ourselves because we don’t know the answer.

Another thing, because we’re talking about mental health is to make sure that you’re living your life holistically. Reward yourself with something small everyday for putting in the work to look for a new job because it is the most draining process, and you deserve to enjoy life right now. Making sure that that job search doesn’t take over your life, and treat it as if it were a job itself.

Set up your schedule as if you’re going to work. What time do you want to start? What time was lunch? What time is your day and utilize the time off to do things that make you happy and enjoy your weekends. Anything that makes you feel good that takes away from your job search, because if rejection and the job search starts to take over your life, then that’s going to get to your head, and when you’re making time to do other things and make yourself happy, you remember that you are more than a job. You are more than rejections and you are a unique and amazing human being so rejections don’t define you, if you don’t let them.

I would say that two things are to gain as much information as you can, and also make sure that you’re not allowing it to completely take over every day. The fun part is you can make your own schedule this time so if you decide you don’t want to wake up until 10 o’clock. You don’t have to wake up until 10 o’clock and you can create an entirely different schedule. If you want to take a three hour lunch. I think it’s really emphasizing what schedule works for you, what can you do to also enjoy this time, because a lot of times when we’re working full time our schedules are very rigid, and we have an opportunity here where we are stressed out and we are looking for this new role, but we can also utilize that time for ourselves too.

You created a video about how men can support women in tech. Can you talk more about it?

I created a video a few months ago about giving tips to men on how they can support women in tech, and I created this video, because when I was working in tech, I remember, not really knowing how bad the lack of representation was until I went to a sales networking event where I was one of two women in a room of 30 plus men. That experience was extremely uncomfortable for me, I wanted to leave the minute that I arrived there, but it started to get me thinking deeper into what happens with women.

Normally, women are told how they should act in order to fit in with men or to grow into a leadership position especially in tech, and as an industry, tech tries to make women mold themselves into something they’re not. That’s not what true inclusion or belonging is, I had this message of the idea of stopping forcing people to change, and working harder just to be noticed. Instead look within ourselves to see everyone equally and embrace different styles and personalities. That’s why I made a video specifically to give men tips on how to support women since I feel the opposite happens a lot in the industry.

A lot of people talk about this culture and typically that speaks to company culture, I think especially coming from a Mexican background, it also means your actual culture and your actual heritage, because everyone has something unique to bring to the table. It’s hard because I will say, normally companies do expect you to change and they have a preference on how you would like to be, but instead, the work that I try to do is, okay, well let me challenge, your culture.

We’re only as diverse or representative of the people creating the products, and I mean similar to, I think Twitter like you can only be as inclusive as the amount of different types of people that you have. I think it’s always good to push against the status quo, but I will say that right now I’m in a privileged position to be able to challenge, and I do understand that not everybody has the opportunity to do that right now so I just tried to do my part in advocacy for the moment.

There’s a few things, one of them is noticing microaggressions that may happen in the workplace. An example of microaggressions that men may do is the only woman in the conference room to take notes during a meeting, regardless of her position, even if it is a very high one. Another one could be when men interrupt and speak over women in meetings, or a similar one is when you say something and then you notice a couple minutes later, a man does the exact same thing that you just said and gets credit for it. One is acknowledging that this is a problem and that it’s there, because you can’t fix something if you don’t know what it is.

The second thing is taking additional steps to empower women’s voices in the workplace. Something that men can do, if we speak to the meeting example is someone cutting off another woman, I’ll just call her Sarah for now, and they cut off Sarah, you can either do two things you can cut off the guy and you say “Hey Jim, I don’t mean to cut you off but I don’t think that Sarah was done with her thoughts, Sarah can you keep going”? Or if you want to not cut off the person that just cut off someone else. You could also wait until they’re done and say, “Hey Jim, thanks for your you know contribution, Sarah, I believe you didn’t get to share your thoughts, and you continue telling us what you were going to say”. That’s just a public way to give people a voice and show people that you’re paying attention.

In a meeting, if someone says the exact same thing as a woman, five minutes later, you could say, “thank you Jim for emphasizing Sarah’s point, Sarah, I think that that was a great idea and we should start with implementation”. I would say it’s about publicly acknowledging these things in the workplace, when you see them happen because you’ve already acknowledged that they are there and helping to advocate for people publicly, and really give them the recognition that they deserve.

Next time and hopefully, slowly we start to change things, and it only takes one person to say something to actually have someone else be acknowledged and empowered, and oftentimes what really sucks is that if you decide to speak up for yourself sometimes you’re just seeing someone who is just taking it too personally. As a woman would say “hey, I just said that”, and that happened to me in a meeting once where I was speaking someone else had the exact same thing and I couldn’t hold it in and I was like “I just said that” and the entire room got silent, even the CEO did not know what to do.

Oftentimes, it’s just moving past and someone else stepping in to say something, and support can make a big difference in the way in which that dynamic is going to play out. It goes back to what people think about ally-ship. What we’re talking about is so simple and it can be baby steps that really make a large difference. You don’t have to know to create this giant presentation, and do all of the things. It’s really just about taking those small steps to become an ally to educate yourself, and to advocate in those moments, but it doesn’t take a giant parade or something extravagant for you to become an ally.

What’s your superpower?

I’ve always said that my superpower, and sometimes my downfall is empathy. I am the type of person, I will start crying if you start crying, or if someone hurts you I will get angry at that person for you. I really absorb the energy of people around me, sometimes it feels a little overwhelming when someone close to me is going through a hard time.

What I really think is beautiful about empathy is that it allows me to view different perspectives and connect with people, no matter their background or their life experience. When I’m coaching, I’m able to get to know and connect with the person on the other side and not only do we get to connect but a lot of times people don’t realize how amazing they are.

I coach them on how to advocate for themselves and see their worth because there’s so much that everyone brings to the table based on their culture or their career or their life experiences, and we work together on how to tell your story in a way that gets other people to see that too.

Which resource helped you in your journey?

I’m going to be honest, I’m energized by constantly learning and doing new things so there is never a time when I’m not doing a million things at once. I can’t say that there’s one specific resource that has changed my life, but I’ve gone to coaches for everything from career to manifestation to business to my finances, and I’ve bought books and listened to podcasts about everything from yoga to nutrition to social justice to history to confidence to art.

I think my biggest tip for people is to explore your passions, even outside of your career, and learn about yourself and your life holistically and not to limit yourself to just one thing, but to really be free and let yourself go and dive deep into topics you have absolutely no knowledge on because I’ve found that a lot of times, the random stuff that has nothing to do with what I’m working on, transfers into so many different aspects of my life.

When it comes to resources, I would encourage people to explore and learn to enjoy going out of their comfort zone, whether it’s working with coaches and advisors, mentors or, diving into books and podcasts that may have your interest. You don’t think it’s something that you should be putting your time towards. I haven’t tried ceramics, I do want to try it once, we can actually go to a class, but a way maybe in which ceramics can also transfer is is ceramics getting you out of your comfort zone, is it helping your hands get a break from the typing that you do all day, or is there a specific way in which they teach ceramics? Whether it’s about thinking about what you’re going to create that can help you think about a business problem next time you brought something up at work.

There are so many different aspects of something that sounds like it has nothing to do with your life, when art often transfers over into every aspect of business and it’s just a different way of thinking about things. Even that I would say could help you and support you in other areas, I delidding courage, just in this year I’ve probably tried out at least 15 things so that’s why I say nothing comes. There’s no one thing that really comes to mind and sometimes maybe it’s not even weekly, sometimes maybe it only takes your attention for one day, but that’s okay too. You don’t have to stick to everything you know, just allow yourself to explore 100 times for that.

Finalizing the episode with a quote Cynthia has in her LinkedIn and we thought it was beautiful: The purpose of life is to discover your gift. The work of life is to develop it. The meaning of life is to give it away — David Viscott.

I hope you enjoyed the podcast. We will have more interviews with amazing Latinx leaders the first Tuesday of every month. Check out our website Latinx In Power to hear more. Don’t forget to share comments and feedback, always with kindness. See you soon.

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Insights and exposure to Latinxs leaders around the globe. In each episode we feature insightful conversations about their journey, stories behind their trajectory, plenty of laughs and learnings.

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Thaisa Fernandes

Thaisa Fernandes

Problem solver and perfectionist in recovery willing to stretch myself and risk making mistakes to achieve innovative solutions and validate my learnings

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