The Movie Argo and Leadership

Gotta love Twitter. After responding to the National Association of Hispanic Journalists South Florida‘s tweet, I received 2 free tickets to the pre-screening of Argo - released in theaters today – the Ben Affleck film about the six diplomats rescued during the Iranian hostage crisis (read here for a review).

The movie in one word: intense. Based on a true story (and mostly factually accurate), the tension was artfully crafted, from the opening scene in Tehran when the U.S. embassy was seized to the nail-biting end as the diplomats are disguised as a film crew and attempt to escape through Iran’s military security at the airport.

And, just in case you’re wondering, the title of this post is the most repeated one-liner of the movie. Just saying.

For your reading pleasure, here are the lessons I learned from this movie-going experience:

1. The “Canadian Caper” exemplified the importance of international collaborations.With their lives at risk during the Iranian riots and mounting paramilitary violence, it was the Canadian government, including its ambassador, who collaborated with the U.S. government and CIA in order to rescue the diplomats.

Collaboration with the Canadian government to rescue the diplomats led to an outpouring of support and gratefulness by Americans.

In short, we work better together when we are aligned with a common purpose. In Argo, each diplomat had a role to play in the cover of the fake movie in order to make it out alive – the scriptwriter, producer, director, production assistant. They were each responsible for knowing their role and together they pooled their talents to accomplish their shared purpose of getting out alive.

2. It took strong leadership to do the right thing. In the movie, Tony Mendez, a Latino CIA officer (played by Affleck) made several difficult choices, the most pointed one of which was to defy U.S. orders to call off the rescue by taking the diplomats through the airport.

Whether that really happened or not, the lesson is clear: good leaders have to make tough choices and we certainly don’t always know the outcome. Mendez made a tough choice when he was presented with the challenge of obeying orders and going home or standing up and fight.

He chose hope.

A little note on networking:

After the winners were announced, I tweeted to the group that I would love to meet them. The winners included reporters for The Miami Herald and Coral Gables TV (@VeroReport, @RoblesHerald, @CarolRosenberg). I was not going pass up the opportunity to connect with people in my field of interest!

I introduced myself and mentioned how cool it was to actually meet them in person. I said I was interested in journalism and would love to connect with them after the movie. Turned out that one of the reporters is a University of Miami alum (I currently work there and am in the process of applying to transfer).

Bingo!

Get out of your comfort zone (in my case, that meant my seat). You will surprise yourself.

What teams are you part of? What common purpose do you share? Have you made tough choices without knowing the outcome? 

Work AND School?! Yes, you can.

Where do you find the time to be involved, work full-time, study and excel in school, take care of things at home and have a life?

The short answer? It’s not easy and it does take sacrifice. But it’s not impossible.

When I started college after a 5-year hiatus, managing my time was awkward and uncomfortable. It didn’t get any easier either as I got involved on campus, on top of my full-time job and school.

But I did learn some things along the way.

Get your employer on board with your educational goals. I explained to my boss that school was a priority for me and that I’d appreciate his flexibility. In return, I’d consult with him when picking classes and would stay later on days I didn’t have school. When he agreed, I knew I had a boss who valued the importance of an education.

Don’t think your boss is going to go for it? Have a conversation with him or her about what you want to achieve from your education and how that ties to your career goals. Better yet: ask for his or her advice on what they would do if they were in your shoes. Chances are they will understand that it’s in your best interests.

This is a photo of my graduation ceremony. Visualize what that day will look like for you and keep your eyes on the prize.

One last thing: keep the lines open between you and your supervisor. Don’t be afraid to ask if it’s okay to cut out a little early on a slow day to study for a major exam or work on an important paper. They’ll appreciate your honesty.

When things get crazy, and they sometimes will, reassess what’s important – and what’s not. One semester, I was taking on more new projects than I could chew. Deadlines were piling up and I started to feel like I was drowning. I made the tough decision to drop my classes and put any non-work related activities on pause.

The world did not end, of course, but I didn’t have to let it go that far. I learned that it was far more important to focus on one project that aligns with my goals in life. Sometimes, that means saying “no” to good opportunities, in order to make room for the great ones.

You won’t always be a perfect student – and that’s okay. There will be times when you have a full plate and you cannot put 100% into a paper or presentation. It’s okay. Stop comparing yourself to other students who have the extra hours to put in at the library.

Instead, break down your assignments into manageable chunks and schedule time to work on them throughout the week. Cal Newport, a Dartmouth grad, nailed it in How to Become a Straight-A Student. While geared toward full-time students, the time management and study tips can apply to anyone trying to accomplish more with less time.

One of the proudest moments with my mom and dad.

Don’t go at it alone. My success in college was not possible without a community of friends, family, mentors, professors and administrators. Seek the support of your family by asking them for some quiet time to study, make friends in class and exchange ideas on projects together, communicate with your professors and administrators about your education and career goals. It really does take a village.

When all is said and done, managing work and school is really worth it. You are worth it. You’ll even surprise yourself with how much you’ve grown and what you’ve accomplished.

How have you managed work and school? Leave me a comment below. 

“All Mexicans are Immigrants and all Latinos are Mexicans”

If you read the title to this post, you’re probably wondering, “what the hell? Why would a Latina say something like that?” Well, I didn’t. But it does represent the sentiment a lot of ignorant people in this country have. No one had put it quite so clearly as Eliseo Medina, one of the “most successful labor organizers in the country.”

Eliseo came to this country from Mexico when he was 10 years old. Born to migrant farm worker parents, Eliseo answered Cesar Chavez’s call to action at 19 when he joined the grape boycott in Delano, California. Eliseo described organizing farm workers and their families to picket and conduct sit-in strikes in grocery stores.

Eventually, almost four years later, the grocery stores stopped carrying the grapes and the workers made significant labor strides. It took consistent pressure. In Eliseo’s words, the strikes were “ripples that became tides,” and united people who had all experienced discrimination.

Eliseo worked alongside with Marshall Ganz in Delano. We can only hope to continue his legacy of advocating for the rights of others.

Eliseo also identified precisely what was the cause of this discrimination: the ignorant belief that all Mexicans are immigrants and all Latinos are Mexicans. I instantly remembered the discrimination I observed when I was 17, while living in a small town in Oklahoma. A Mexican friend of mine and I drove to the local park after a late night shift at a fast food restaurant. As we were leaving, we were pulled over by two cops. One cop tapped on the window, asked my friend for his license and registration, then said, “I smell pot.” He didn’t. I will never forget what happened next. 

That same cop asked us both to get out of the car. My friend, who “looked” a certain way, got the “bad cop,” while I, the light-skinned female, got the “good cop.” The cop threw my friend against the car, handcuffed him and yelled that he was going to bring out the dogs if my friend didn’t tell him where the drugs were. I was too shocked to react, too naive to know my rights. Eventually, the cops let us go. We drove away in silence until he dropped me off. I wanted to say I was sorry. But I didn’t.

When I speak to my friends, they all have similar (or worse) stories. How do we begin to break “cadenas?” I don’t have all the answers, but I believe it starts with standing up when you see an injustice.

There’s something wrong in Florida. Our governor, Rick Scott, wants to suppress votes by requiring voters to prove their citizenship. It is no secret that doing so directly affects minorities (“of those singled out…61% were Hispanic”). Timely, of course, in an election year, under the guise of having “fair, honest elections.”

It’s time we stood up for the 91-year-old WWII veteran in Broward who received a notice to prove his citizenship. Like Cesar and Eliseo, it’s time we made ripples in the ocean of voter disenfranchisement, because together, we can make tsunamis

Will you sign Change.org’s petition today and tell Rick Scott to stop taking away voter’s rights?

Reflections of a Graduate

Anna and I discuss our love for writing. She introduced me to Latinos in College and motivated me to start my own blog.

Hola, amigos y amigas! Hello, friends! I’m very happy to announce that I’ve written my very first guest blog post. Here’s what I learned:

It’s not who you know. It’s who knows you. I first heard this from our LLI program manager, Dario Collado. I didn’t realize the truth behind it until Anna Giraldo Kerr, who I met at the LLI, asked me to write a guest blog post. Anna and I connected at the LLI when I expressed to her my passion for writing, a value she shared (she’s a career coach and award-winning writer). Over the course of the last year, we’ve kept in touch through e-mail and social media. When she saw my graduation photos on Facebook, I got an email invitation to write, which I enthusiastically agreed to! The lesson: Connect with someone by sharing common values and you create a positive experience, opening the door of opportunity for more interactions. 

Drum roll please …. Tada! Click here to read the post on Latinos in College.

Cocina de Mama / Mom’s Kitchen

Video

If you’ve ever wondered how mom made that dish you absolutely love, I highly recommend doing a video of it! I am lucky enough to have a mom who lets me record her and share her cooking secrets with people she doesn’t know. I’m still trying to convince her that we should record her empanadas (she said, “no way! I can’t give away all my secrets!”).

So, what does cooking have to do with leadership and higher education? They all require perseverance, trying things and taking risks, even if you don’t have all the answers. Well, all I knew when I started recording was that I wanted to memorialize her cooking for my future children. I didn’t know how to edit videos or convert media files, but I just gave it a shot. It was a fun experience which also allowed me to spend time with the woman who sacrificed her dreams to make sure I got an education.

If nothing else, it’s a great excuse for a home-cooked meal!



Juan Escobar, Social Entrepreneur

Juan, a native to Silicon Valley, has always had the entrepreneurial itch. From being heavily involved in giving back to the Latino community to working at several innovative companies, Juan has always wanted to combine his passion for community with his deep interest in entrepreneurship.

Juan Escobar, is, in a word, visionary. I connected with him through a social network he created (yes, created) on LinkedIn and Facebook, called the Hispanic Students and Professionals Network (HSPN).

For example, Juan is currently developing Latinnect, a network dedicated to connecting Latin cultures & communities. “For the last couple of years I’ve noticed a huge need in the global Latin community for more awareness and collaboration among all the groups and resources in it that truly represent Latin cultures & communities,” says Juan. “Through Latinnect, I hope to provide a global solution to that need.” Follow Latinnect on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn and yes, even Google+.

If that’s not cool enough, Juan also has:

  • during college, interned at DreamWorks Animation, IDEO, Kellogg’s (think: L’Eggo my Eggo!) and Symantec Corp. (the largest maker of security software), and Intuit;
  • was a leader in the National Society of Hispanic MBAs as an executive vice president and vice president of education; and,
  • after college, worked for Google and LinkedIn.

Needless to say, Juan has had some successes. He agreed to share his college and career advice and surprised me with some insight into social entrepreneurship!

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