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How to Stop Holding Yourself Back in Corporate Spaces

Janice G.
Principal, Diversity Equity Inclusion
Riverwoods, IL
Pronouns: She/Her

Holy Week Alfombras
As a child, I visited my mom’s home country, Guatemala, every year. My favorite tradition was celebrating Semana Santa, or Holy Week. Holy Week is a big celebration in Guatemala and many other Latin American countries. My cousins and I would grab bags of colorful sand and go out to create “alfombras” (carpets made from the sand) on the neighborhood streets. I loved that it was such a community-driven event. The neighbors and kids would come together and work on creating these beautiful colorful sand rugs in the streets in preparation for the week’s processions.

Growing Up with Immigrant Parents
Over time, I came to value my multicultural upbringing (while my mom is Guatemalan, my dad is Bulgarian-Brazilian). Growing up with immigrant parents became a big part of my identity and instilled in me a love of learning about other cultures. As a child I loved dancing and imagined I’d grow up to be a flamenco dancer. 

When I studied abroad in China and Europe in college, I pictured myself working at a multinational company or in international relations– something that would allow me to embrace my love of travel, different cultures and people. Eventually, I fell into HR and Diversity and Inclusion, and I haven’t turned back in 10 years— it’s my proudest achievement.

Breaking Learned Habits
Being first generation in a corporate environment has granted me many learning moments. My parents raised me to be a hard worker, to keep my head down, not to make waves, speak out of turn or share too much. As a result, I grappled with imposter syndrome, held back my authentic self and silenced my ideas. 

Over time, I realized I was holding myself back from being able to fully contribute in a corporate setting. Once I started to speak up during meetings and share more about myself, I found it easier to connect with others and build meaningful relationships. I had to learn to embrace and honor my upbringing while also breaking away from what didn’t serve me.

Embracing a Multi-Dimensional Identity
Advice I live by is don’t be one-dimensional. Every day I commit to keep learning and growing. I’m a first gen, Latina, globetrotter (28+ countries and counting!), still a dancer (salsa and the periodic all-out kitchen performance). I always try to say yes to new opportunities and experiences.

When deciding where to go to college, I had the choice to go to a smaller, private college near my family or to a bigger university a few hours away. I decided to move far away. I gained so much more from the network I created there, and the international travel I had the opportunity to do.

Recreating Myself
A hard truth I’ve learned is that you must create and re-create yourself. It’s so important to be able to adapt. I’ve had moments where I thought I’d had mastered something – whether it was work, technology, or that macaron recipe I’ve made several times – just to realize that I still had more to learn.

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