Posts Tagged ‘entrepreneur’

Obstacles Welcome

Thursday, February 11th, 2010
    ralph-de-la-vega

More often than not, the difference between leaders and less successful people resides in their interpretation of one word: “obstacle.” Whether you interpret the word to mean a barrier to achieving whatever it is you wish to achieve or as an opportunity to create an alternative solution to attain your goal, you act accordingly. In the first case, you tend to give up your goals and in the second case you find a way to turn that obstacle into fuel for your new approach, strategy, point of view, and so on.

Ralph de la Vega, President and CEO of AT&T Mobility, is a firm believer in turning obstacles into opportunities. He started early — when he was 10 years old and his parents decided at the airport, about to board a plane in Cuba for the US, that Ralph would be the only one in the family to travel while everyone else would stay behind to resolve some documentation issue. Thinking his parents would join him in a few days, Ralph left for his new adventure. The only problem was that he didn’t see his family again for the next four years. Since then, Ralph has had an incredibly successful career in this country and is now one of the highest ranking Hispanics in Corporate America.

I recently interviewed Ralph about his new book, Obstacles Welcome.

Mariela– What makes your personal story unique and, at the same time, an example that others can follow?

Ralph– My story is unique because although I got here as a 10-year-old without my parents, without money and without knowing the language, I’ve been able to reach the top of corporate America. Also, what makes my story relevant to others are the lessons I learned along the way, which I share in my book, Obstacles Welcome, as a guide for them to overcome their own obstacles and achieve their goals.

Mariela–How did you turn the concept of obstacle into “opportunity”?

Ralph– Once I succeeded in overcoming the obstacles I encountered during my first years as an immigrant I realized that these difficulties led to bigger and better opportunities. That was a huge lesson for me and one that I’ve applied ever since in business and in life.

Mariela– What suggestions do you have for people who are frustrated by the bad economy and the long time it is taking them to find a job? How can they turn this big obstacle into an opportunity?

Ralph– We are living in one of those turbulent times I describe in my book where the old status quo is no more but also where opportunity is being created. My suggestion any time you are faced with adversity is to turn it into opportunity. Right now, even as some fields are being shrunk, others are being created: green jobs, smart grids, digital healthcare records, hybrid cars, and many others. I tell people to look for those opportunities and to develop new skills so that they can compete successfully. This is a great time to put into practice the four pillars that are described in detail in my book.

1. Develop a plan for success. Hope is not a strategy.
2. Take calculated risks
3. Recognize opportunities
4. Overcome obstacles

In times like this it’s easy to let a word like “obstacle” run our lives, to use it as a justification or an excuse for not moving forward. If you think of it as just a word, however, you can create your own interpretation. And who knows, you may chose to define is a your next great opportunity!

Diversity best practice: networking and recruiting

Friday, December 18th, 2009
    Soledad O'Brien and Mariela Dabbah at NAHJ gala '08

    Soledad O'Brien and Mariela Dabbah at NAHJ gala '08

How many networking events have you attended lately? If you are anything like me, the answer is akin to: “I don’t remember anymore!” In my case, networking is not just something I do to grow my career but one of the themes I weave into most of my presentations, regardless of the particular topic.

In the last two years, conferences and industry shows where I often present have become the favorite place for job hunters to get a chance at connecting with prospective employers. The trouble has been that even at “job fairs,” participating companies have not been actively recruiting; and the ratio between candidates and job openings has been stacked against the candidates.

Enter CNN’s networking event series conceptualized by their Diversity Council with the goal of developing strong relationships that lead to increased hiring from a diverse pool of candidates. Because they reached out to many of the diverse journalistic associations, I had the good fortune of receiving an invitation from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), to which I belong.

I made my way up to the rooftop of the Empire Hotel in NY, a beautiful room overlooking the Lincoln Center area, and was welcomed by a smiling woman who checked off my name on a list and stamped my hand. Right away, I felt part of a select group of guests that had been hand picked to attend. This was a great first sign which, combined with the top quality hors d’ouvres, the open bar and the attentive waitresses, all contributed to making it a first class experience.

As I walked around meeting people, the multicultural feel of the room was amazing and although this is not unusual in New York, it is less frequent in newsrooms and networks across the country.

What caught my attention was that, unlike many events where the candidates have nametags and the recruiters hide their positions so you can’t bother them, the CNN hosts were clearly identified. But that wasn’t all. The recruiters made sure guests were meeting the right people, and they officiated many an introduction with key contacts.

The event was so impeccably run that at times it felt surreal. From a relationship-building point of view, a big part of the success of the event was the level of CNN’s staff that was present and actively engaged. From CNN USA’s president Jon Klein to Soledad O’Brien to senior HR executives who flew from Atlanta for the occasion, everything spelled: “We are interested in you and we are committed to diversity.” This is not always the message that well intentioned companies send when they host diversity activities. Most commonly the Executive Sponsor of the diverse group says a few words at the beginning of the event and then leaves.

“We are what we air. We air what we are,” says Johnita P. Due, CNN’s Assistant General Counsel and Diversity Council Chair, sharing the council’s mission statement. “We have a recruiting booth at many diversity journalistic conferences but this is a different touch. It allows senior management to meet people. And the truth is that unless you have the opportunity to meet someone in person, it’s hard to make an impression through paper.”

In the words he shared with the audience, Klein said that the network is interested in expanding its coverage of stories about African Americans, Latinos and other diverse populations above and beyond the once a year documentaries. Increasing diverse hires is certainly a wonderful step towards that goal. Creating real opportunities that show respect for prospective employees is most definitely a positive sign in an economic environment in which this diverse community of journalists, reporters and producers has suffered more than their fair share of pain.

So, if you are a member of a Diversity Council or an Employee Resource Group and you are working with your company’s recruitment team, think of the impact that this type of best practice can have on your business. Your input can help change the way things are done.

Don’t go it alone

Sunday, July 12th, 2009
    group-working-on-desciphering-drawing4

If you’re trying to find a job or would like to leave yours but are afraid that you won’t find another one in this economy, what about connecting with a few talented individuals and coming up with project that you can promote/sell as a team?

Assembling a team for a particular project is how movies are made. You have a director and producers who get together, look for actors, hire designers, assistants and all types of professionals with the goal of producing one movie. Once the movie is finished, the group is dismantled, so to speak.

What stops you from doing the same, connecting with individuals with different interests and abilities? Pull your collective resources including money, contacts, specialties and create your own job instead of lining up for an interview along with hundreds of others who are trying to get the same position?

I believe this is going to be very much the way of the future and the sooner you start figuring out how to make it work the better. I’ve been doing this in my practice for a while and the key is in finding the right people. Not just the right talent for your project but people who you trust will do their part to make the project successful. It may take several tries before you identify the colleagues you work with best, but it’s worth the effort. I currently have four of those teams.

Contrary to what you might think, this is a great time to explore this idea because there are lots of extremely capable and talented people out there looking for their next opportunity. Why not leverage all that energy for your next career move?

Reinvent yourself

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

With the economy getting even worse, what is one to do to find a job? Well, it really depends on your skill set and the industry where you work.

Many of my friends who work in the media business and in the financial markets have lost the jobs. Unfortunately, these are jobs that are unlikely to return. At least, they won’t be exactly the same and I’m sure there will be less of them than before the crisis. So in some cases, it makes sense for you to re-think about how smart it really is for you to try to get another job in that industry.

If you’re a journalist and have both English and Spanish skills, you can branch out into other areas, such as writing consumer market research reports for companies such as Mintel www.mintel.com or Nielsen www.nielsen.com.

Or you can work at the public relations or communications department of a large company that is currently doing well such as Walmart http://jobs-walmart.icims.com/jobs/intro

Or McDonald’s http://sh.webhire.com/Public/491.

You can also try to start your own business, something that Latinos are naturally prepared to do. As immigrants and children of immigrants we still have that great entrepreneurial gene that makes us great entrepreneurs. Look beyond what you were doing before you got laid off and come up with a business plan to make it happen. It may be the fastest way to getting back on your feet and you may be much happier than you were before.

There is no lack of great opportunities out there that you can take advantage of: from repairing household appliances (people will be less inclined to throw them out and buy new ones!), to buying and selling brand name-used clothing, to providing financial advice to families sending their kids to college or who need to refinance their homes, to coaching people on how to improve their resumes, to tutoring adults on using the Internet to improve their skills. The list is endless. Just take a deep look at your skills and experience, match it with one of the opportunities available in the market right now, and you will be on your way to a new career path.

There are plenty of online universities where you can acquire additional skills to help you in the new field of your choice such as Kaplan http://www.kaplan.edu or University of Phoenix http://www.phoenix.edu and you can also check your local community college.

Don’t let the general gloom and doom environment get you down. There are always diamonds hidden regardless of how tough the economy gets!