Posts Tagged ‘networking’

Do Latinos Help Other Latinos as Much as They Could?

Sunday, September 4th, 2011

shut-up

A frequent complaint I hear from Latinos trying to break into power circles is that other Latinos who are already there don’t extend a helping hand. I’ve seen it myself. And if you wonder, like I do, why there aren’t more visible Latino leaders or why our share of power is nowhere near the percentage of the Latino population in this country, part of the answer might lie in the lack of a helping Latino hand.

As a media contributor at national and local levels, I have spent the last few years pursuing opportunities in English media, because I believe that in order to expand my message and influence, I need to move beyond talking to an audience which has a similar background to my own. Otherwise, I’m just preaching to the choir instead of raising awareness in a segment of the population that may not understand a Latino perspective.

Unfortunately, like most of you, I have often heard renowned Latinos give public speeches about the importance of pulling up those who follow in their footsteps—then seen them turn around and cut the rope when they are asked for help. A few days ago, I ran into one of those well positioned Latinos who I had personally heard saying that more diversity was needed in the newsroom. Only a few days earlier I had sent him an email asking for help introducing me to one of his producers and he had responded with a suggestion that was not particularly helpful. When we met, he said ‘hello’ from a distance of only five feet and then turned and walked away as I was opening my mouth to follow up on our email exchange. The introduction I was hoping for wasn’t going to happen.

I know the world doesn’t revolve around me and my agenda. That people are protective of their connections and their turf. That many are overworked, understaffed and underpaid. That most high ranking Latinos receive an overwhelming amount of requests that they cannot possibly fulfill, and that these requests often come from people who are not the right candidates for the help they are seeking.

But nobody builds a successful career alone. No matter how smart you are, all successful careers are built upon a large, strong network, and with the help of sponsors who at some point champion you as the right candidate for that awesome opportunity. So, why do people find it so hard to help others who are respected professionals in their fields when they reach the pinnacle of their careers, and it’s within their power to do so? Why is it so difficult to put in a good word on behalf of a fellow professional with an impeccable reputation?

I can’t help question people’s motives. Whenever any one of us resists opening a door, we are shrinking the pie instead of expanding it for all of us. You may do it because you are one of very few Latinos in your company and you don’t want others to perceive you as an activist. You may do it because you don’t want your bosses to think your personal network is mainly Hispanic. You may do it because you fear that if other Latinos walk in they may take something away from you. Whatever the reason, in the end you are hurting yourself, too.

The truth is that if you have to protect yourself in such a way, it probably means you’re not as indispensable as you think. Or you are the “token Latino” in the wrong company and eventually they will get rid of you, too. Whatever the reasons for your protectionism, they are likely to backfire. In practical terms, you are putting up a stumbling block for all Hispanics trying to move into circles of power, something that in the end affects all of us. Because as long as we continue to have such poor representation at executive levels in the private and public sectors of this country, the Hispanic community will continue to be discounted. We don’t need one leader. We need many leaders who can carry the very diverse voices of this community.

So, while you’re busy making sure nobody else climbs the ladder next to you, you are missing the chance of a lifetime: to become the power broker for every Latino and Latina of high caliber. To create a legacy of leadership beyond your own and be remembered as someone who helped set the stage for a new conversation in this wonderful country of ours.

An earlier version of this column appeared on Fox News Latino on July 27, 2011 under a different title.

Latinos: No Power Other than “Purchasing Power”?

Friday, August 5th, 2011

ublado-looking-at-books-reading
In my Op Ed about the lack of Latinas on the list of “50 Most Powerful Women in New York” published by Crain’s New York Business, I suggested the culprit for the blatant absence might simply be the homogenous network of the editors. Namely, not knowing people beyond their own circle of Anglo Saxon women from which to draw candidates. Some readers quickly suggested the creation of a list of the “50 Most Powerful Latinas,” something that in one form or another already exists thanks to the compilations put together by publications such as Latina Style, Hispanic Business, Working Mother Media, etc.

Besides, the whole point of my column was to suggest that we stop thinking of each other as belonging in one bucket or another and get us to start thinking of people who impact and influence society at large. The purpose of pointing out that there were no Latinas (and very little diverse talent) on the list that inspired the post wasn’t to segregate Latinos into a separate cluster but to integrate us into the group portrayed as powerful.

You may think that I’m blowing the importance of these lists out of proportion – That they are frivolous and that “nobody really cares about them.” To me, however, they reflect who we consider influential in our culture and who determines who is influential.

And besides, for the people who make the cut, there’s a boatload of free publicity, and their visibility coefficient shoots up substantially bringing along a series of other subtle and perhaps subliminal side effects like credibility, employability and overall power.

Power brokers trade in circles with other power brokers. So, if you’re not featured on those lists and you think you are a leader, doesn’t your consistent absence imply that maybe you are not so powerful?

Now, there is something to be said in terms of our own responsibility as Latinos in all this. We, as a plural, multi-national community with various degrees of acculturation, need to step up to the plate.

If for years you’ve been hiding your background from your employers and colleagues so that you wouldn’t be pigeonholed, you need to reconsider the implications of staying in the shadows as a Latino. Now that U.S. Census figures are forcing everyone to understand Latinos as consumers and develop a more inclusive workforce, you might actually be missing out on leveraging your cultural insights and standing out as a leader.

On the other hand, if you spend most of your time attending Hispanic events and notice that you have few non-Latinos in your network, you may want to sign up for some general market conferences where you can mingle with people who navigate in different circles than you. This healthy interaction will eventually result in more Anglo-Americans becoming more aware of the kind of work you do and how relevant you are in your industry. As you forge these relationships, they will hopefully lead to invitations to attend powerful events, present at general market conferences, join VIP committees and volunteer in beloved charities.

The point is, if we stay in a silo it’s harder for others to find us. Regardless of your level of influence, the only way to make it known more broadly is to transcend your own circle, and for that you will have to get out of your comfort zone.*

*This column first appeared in AOL Noticias 11.7.11

No powerful Latinas in New York City. Seriously?

Sunday, July 3rd, 2011

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During the last few months I’ve been sending letters to the editors of general market publications such as Time magazine and Crain’s New York Business complaining of the fact that there are either too few or no Latinos at all in the lists they love to put together. Whether it Time’s Most Influential People or Crain’s “40 under 40″ or “50 Most Powerful Women”, there’s a worrisome absence of Latino leaders in these lists. Is this because there are no Latino leaders? No entrepreneurs under 40? No powerful women in New York? No. It’s likely because the committees that nominate and select the winners are not diverse enough. They make recommendations based on who they know and they ask their own network to suggest others that they know, perpetuating the nomination and selection of the same kind of people. If you look at this week’s 50 Most Influential Women list, you’ll see that it is a white girls club.

Why is this important? Because visibility breeds more visibility and opportunities. It also perpetuates the perception that there are no Latino and Latina leaders out there, nobody worth mentioning in a general market list. And what’s worse, no inspiration for our younger generation. If they don’t see diversity in the higher ranks, how are they expected to believe there’s a path for them?

I’m not saying that Latinos are not being honored in lists by Diversity Inc.magazine, Hispanic Business and Latina Style magazine amongst others. But Latinos and diverse talent in general should be featured alongside white talent if we are going to continue making inroads at the higher levels of society. So, here’s the letter that I sent to Crain’s New York Business. Feel free to use it as a template to create your own letters and send them to all the publications and media outlets that don’t realize that Latinos are more than just 50.4 million consumers of their advertisers’ products. We are powerful, we are leading companies and industries and contributing enormously to the growth of this country.

Letter to the Editor, Crain’s New York Business,

I was thrilled to see that you decided to publish again the “50 Most Powerful Women” list to highlight the great accomplishment of women in New York City. They are an inspiring, accomplished group of professionals who prove that women make great leaders.

As I went through the list though (just as when I go through all of your lists), I noticed that it really only features the “white girls club.” With the exception of one African American (Edith Cooper), one Chinese American (Andrea Jung) and one Indian born American (Indra Nooyi) there is little diversity in this list and there’s a blatant absence of Latinas.

Maybe you haven’t heard of Mónica Lozano, CEO of Impremedia (just named by Adweek Magazine one of the 10 Most Influential Executives in U.S. Hispanic Media), Jacqueline Hernández, Chief Operating Officer Telemundo; Ruth Gaviria, Senior Vice President Marketing Univision; Lucía Ballas-Traynor, recently named co-founder of Cafemom’s Hispanic site and former publisher of People en Español; Lisa Quiroz, Senior Vice President- Corporate Responsibility Time Warner; Galina Espinoza, co-President Latina Media Ventures (which publishes Latina Magazine), Ana Duarte McCarthy, Chief Diversity Officer Citigroup, Jessica K. Asencio, Chief Administrative Officer Investment Bank JPMorgan Chase; Enedina Vega, Publisher Multicultural Ventures Meredith, and many, many others.

As you must know, according to the U.S. Census there are now 50.4 million Hispanics in this country and this group was responsible for 50% of the population growth during the past decade. As a loyal reader of Crain’s New York Business, I can’t help but wonder why your magazine so seldom covers positive stories about this community and seldom (if ever) features Hispanic entrepreneurs and executives.

With one out of every four people under 18 in the U.S. being Hispanic, this population is not only where consumer growth is today but also the workforce of the future. Something both your magazine and your readers need to start giving serious consideration.

Cordially,

Mariela Dabbah
Author Latinos in College: Your Guide to Success, co-author The Latino Advantage in the Workplace and several other books on success for Latinos.

The mean girls club

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011
Panel of executive & non executive women at a P&G Latina conference

Panel of executive & non executive women at a P&G Latina conference

I had lunch with a girlfriend the other day and was surprised to hear yet another Latina executive talk about the “mean girls club.” I was starting to wonder if this was an actual club with locker rooms, a swimming pool and a lounge where all these wicked women got together to plot against their gender-mates. As if the space for women in the top ranks were limited and all the seats taken.

In the two previous weeks I had heard similar stories from other girlfriends and female colleagues, all of them executives, who were having a hard time aligning their management style with the corporate culture of their respective companies. In many situations, the people making things hard for these women were other women.

The truth is that it continues to be a struggle for diverse women to succeed at the highest levels of a corporation — most likely the result of a conservative corporate culture that has a hard time embracing different styles and values combined with the need to further coach and mentor these women.

One of my smartest friends found an outstanding executive coach who not only helps her understand the unwritten rules of the game but also plays the unofficial role of therapist lending an empathetic ear at the end of a migraine-inducing discussion with one of the mean girls. Another one, sadly, decided to quit her high paying job.

So, when it comes to doing what it takes to get your posh office and the corporate credit card, how much is too much? It obviously depends on your goals and your resilience levels. On your priorities and willingness not to take things too personally. On your ability to find allies and mentors, sponsors and advocates within and outside of the organization that can be part of the support network that keeps you focused and learning. And on your commitment to conducting an ongoing introspection.

Let me explain. As you move up in your career, there’s no question that you will constantly have to engage in a profound soul searching to identify what you have learned and what you’re still missing, what cultural traits impact your ability to connect with others and communicate in a productive way. What in your upbringing or in your life experience makes you overreact when someone tries to control you, keep you in a corner, or treat you like you don’t know what you’re talking about in public.

When you commit to this kind of ongoing reflection alone or with the help of a coach, you can identify the areas where you need assistance and seek it. Sometimes the problem stems from the fact that you haven’t identified the source of the conflict because no matter how much you try not to take it personally, every time the mean girl (or the mean boy) says that you are a failure, your gut turns inside out and you become paralyzed. But the moment you realize, for example, that that person makes you feel the way your father made you feel when you were a kid, when nothing you did was ever good enough for him, you can give new meaning to the overreaction and slowly modify your behavior. Because now you know that the paralysis you experience in that situation is a reaction to something else that happened long ago. That you are no longer a vulnerable little girl. That you have lots of tools at your disposal to fight off mean people.

For instance, in this scenario, you could find out about this woman’s life and realize she’s had an abusive childhood and as a result needs to be overly controlling of her environment. Developing some empathy for her may be the first step to developing a better relationship with the witch.

So don’t quit just yet. Lots of women in the workforce need you as a role model who will prove that it’s possible to make it in corporate America. And, bit by bit, we will fashion together a workplace that’s more embracing of our collective cultures. These women need you there to help them fight the dragons.

Using social networking for career development

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010
    lic-screen-shot

Social networking is no longer an option. It’s part of how we live our lives. And it’s not just an intrinsic part of how we organize our weekends and how we get parties going but of how we research information, market our products and services and find out about a future recruit.

So, the question is, how are you using it to build your professional image? Are you creating a relevant presence online? Are you contributing to conversations around your profession or industry? Or are you only posting your profile and letting it sit unattended?

The people who use social networking platforms most successfully are actively engaged with the communities that they join. They post interesting comments and links, they contribute content and forward other people’s content. They participate in discussions and answer questions. They share personal experiences without being too self-absorbed. They are careful with the material they post because they know that it’s hard to get rid of it once it’s online.

Some examples of positive engagement are:

1) On Linkedin, try to answer questions related to your expertise. The more active you are in answering questions posted by others, the more visible you become. This in turn, allows recruiters and people who might be looking for your talent to contact you.

2) On Facebook, “Like” groups that connect with your interest and post smart, sensible comments frequently. Again, the community will notice you and you will soon make friends and professional acquaintances.

3) On Twitter, Re-Tweet those tweets that relate to your area of expertise, engage with people who follow you and explore their profiles to find out more about them. Comment on their tweets and establish a direct conversation with them.

Of course the idea is to take your online relationships to the next level and make them real through one on one chats, phone conversations, text messages or even a meeting face to face. At Latinos in College, for instance, we have hired most of our interns and Ambassadors through our Facebook page. It’s a great way to get to know people (we get to see what they write, how they write, and what they are passionate about) even before they know that we are screening them!

Right now, there are tons of recruiters out there doing the same thing with you!

Are you about to commit honesticide?

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Mafalda, a character created by Argentine cartoonist Quino, known to be brutally honest

Mafalda, a character created by Argentine cartoonist Quino, known to be brutally honest


At a recent panel during the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) conference in Denver, a participating journalist asked what suggestions we had regarding how to talk about yourself when you first meet someone who could be a source or a prospective boss. “Should I just say whatever comes to mind? Should I just be me? Because I don’t want to pretend I’m someone I’m not…”

This is a question we all struggle with on an ongoing basis. When we meet someone new at a personal level, when we are interviewing for a job, and even in a well-established relationship with a partner, a friend, a work colleague or a boss. How much do you say about what you think at any given moment? How much do you filter?

Contrary to the most common advice that people give, namely that you should be yourself and say what you think, I believe we’ve been gifted with rationality and the ability to edit ourselves for a reason. In the context of building relationships, if the goal is to develop trust with someone, you don’t want to commit honesticide. That is, suicide by honesty. There’s little value in revealing details about yourself, your thoughts or your feelings if you know – or suspect—it will either hurt the other person or at the very least not go over well with them. There are things that, once said aloud, cannot be taken back no matter how much you apologize. Case in point, General Stanley McChrystal.
(And please understand that I’m not talking about standing up for what you believe even if it’s in disagreement with other team members.)

What happened to General McChrystal (losing his job following comments he made about the Obama administration to Rolling Stone magazine,) happens to ordinary citizens every day in a less splashy way. Think about it: Did you close the door during a job interview when you talked poorly about your former boss? Did you alienate a girlfriend when you told her that you couldn’t figure out what her hot boyfriend sees in her? Did you miss a promotion because you friended your boss on Facebook and kept posting your personal comments (“being yourself”) as if he/she weren’t there?

In any given situation, it is critical to trust your gut to tell you what information you need to convey and what is actually TMI. Sometimes not saying something will get you in trouble, and at other times the opposite is true. I’m not suggesting that you lie about who you are or pretend to be someone you’re not. Believe me, your identity will not suffer if you forgo telling your new acquaintance that you are wearing pink underwear for good luck.

In a world where we’ve all become voyeurs and where we share way too much through our social networks, the risk of committing honesticide is ever present. Just keep in mind that being completely honest all of the time is not only impossible (as an observer of the world you only have part of the truth) but more importantly it is also overrated.

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.

Latino employees make a difference

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009
    AMEX_Hispanic_Card_8_27

Years ago, when Employee Resource Groups (ERGs, also known as Affinity Groups and Employee Networks) made their appearance in corporate America, the goal was to provide a space for diverse groups of employees to be heard and to offer support and networking opportunities which would result in an increased level of employee engagement.

As with most things, ERGs have evolved through the years and at a time when businesses need to leverage any advantage they have to earn market share, using the power of employees to reach an increasingly diverse population is key. In the words of Kerrie Peraino, Chief Diversity Officer at American Express: “We don’t want to loose the educational, informational and celebratory mandates of ERGs but we also want them to help with recruiting, orienting, training and retaining of talent and to share and develop business ideas that bring direct benefits to the bottom line.”

As a matter of fact, the AHORA network at American Express (their Latino ERG) helped develop the idea and the design for Amex’s new ¡Felicidades! gift card that went on sale recently and which will be available until January to account for the Hispanic community’s habit of buying gifts for Three Kings Day. ERG members voted online for one of the three designs that the company’s ad agency came up with after hearing AHORA’s input.

Ms.Peraino is not alone in her thinking. Recently, I moderated a panel called “Optimizing ERGs business effectiveness” at a Diversity Best Practices’s conference in Washington, DC. While discussing the different models ERGs are using to impact a company’s bottom line, one of the presenters on the panel, Claudia Mastrapasqua, Managing Director Client Executive Practice at Marsh, shared the innovative approach of her company’s Women’s network (WEBB.)

For the last few years WEBB has been hosting an event where Marsh clients and Marsh employees get together for some strong networking around a keynote speaker at a great venue. These events have helped the company develop new relationships with prospective clients and strengthen existing relationships. Most recently, I was the speaker at their event at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York, where about 140 women got together at around 6 PM on a Thursday night.

Everyone networked until 6:30 when the 1/2 hour program started. First, Joseph McSweeney, president of Marsh’s US/Canada Division, said a few words and then I made a twenty minute presentation. That was it. The group went back to their networking, their shopping and having their hands massaged for free. No doubt that the wonderful hors d’oeuvres, the Holiday Martinis, the 15% discount coupon and the personal shoppers assigned to help the women shop privately (the store closed its doors to the public at 7 PM) helped make the evening a wild success.

But what I want to point out to you is this: through their involvement with their ERGs the members of AHORA and WEBB have found great opportunities to connect with senior management and gain visibility within their companies, which is often hard to do. By taking an active role in developing programs and products that affect your company’s bottom line you become part of a selective group of individuals who get recognized for their contributions. AHORA and WEBB have received lots of internal praise as well as external press and their members are preparing for wonderful year-end reviews.

So the question is: In this economic climate, what are you doing to stand out in your company?

Everything impacts your image

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009
    restaurant-en-palermo-soho-2-med1

Sometimes it’s hard to control every detail of your professional life: how you dress and communicate, your work ethic, your friends, the way you execute a project… Because the truth is that everything you do and even what you don’t do has an impact on your image.

Take for example a conference I attended this week. (I’m not going to say its name, hoping the organizers learn from the feedback and, either substantially improve the event next year or forget about the conference altogether.)

I signed up (and paid) mainly because of the keynote speaker. Yet, when I arrived (first at the wrong destination because the publicity materials were not clear) I was informed that the speaker had been canceled. “He wasn’t well known by the Latinos who were attending and he charged a lot of money so we decided to use the money to attract more people to come to the conference,” I was told by the organizer. I was furious and disappointed. It had been a very difficult morning for me and I had made the effort to attend because I wanted to hear the now-canceled-keynote speaker.

The conference was supposed to start at 9:00 but it didn’t get started until 10:00 and then they kept changing the workshops that were being offered and the rooms where they would take place. Even the host didn’t seem to have a script for the conference to flow smoothly.

In addition, the luncheon speaker was a Latino comedian. He was funny, sure, and I love a good belly laugh, but the truth is that this was an all day professional conference for which all of the attendees had sacrificed time at work and many had traveled from across the country. Instead of perpetuating the stereotype that Latinos are only about having fun, providing some solid content would’ve been a much better idea.

So, even though the topic of the conference was very relevant, the poor execution impacted the image of the organizers. It not only said something about their lack of professionalism but it also said something about how they viewed the audience. It told participants that, at some level, the organizers believed that because the audience was mainly Latino, they would be patient with the fact that the program was running an hour late, or with the various changes, or with the level of informality or with a canceled keynote speaker.

Making these kinds of assumptions can really hurt your image and your relationship with others. So here’s my advice: whatever you do, do it professionally or don’t do it. And keep in mind that informality is a trait many Latinos share but that it will get in the way of your career development in the American market. In addition, treating people with respect should always be a top priority.