We recently interviewed Mariela Dabbah, author of the upcoming book “Poder de Mujer”. Ms. Dabbah offered insight into what it takes to find your identity, overcoming fears and challenges, and more in our New Latina one-on-one interview!
What has motivated you to write “Poder de Mujer? For the past several years I have been focusing more and more on women and I felt there were some issues that were best addressed in a book dedicated to them. I thought it was important to help women figure out ways in which they could fulfill their professional dreams at a time when even though women constitute about 50% of the workforce, they only represent around 15% of executive officers at Fortune 500 corporations. Latinas represent a fraction of that number.
As a professional Latina, what has helped you overcome challenges on the road to success? Figuring out what I want and defining success for myself as that which gives me the most satisfaction at any given point in time. One of the ideas that the book explores is that success is a journey, not than a destination. So, the first step is to understand what makes you happy so that you can plan your journey. And that which makes you happy today will probably change along the way, so it’s important to stay in tune with yourself.
Do you have any advice for women who are still trying to find their identity and passion in life? It’s good to take some time off to be by yourself. To find some quiet time when you can connect with those points in your life you were the happiest. What were you doing? Who were you with? For example, when I realized that I felt great satisfaction when presenting in public, I decided to pursue my public speaking career. The key is that once you figure out what it is that you derived the most satisfaction from, you must take a realistic look at where you are now in relation to where you want to be. Then you have to align your knowledge, preparation, contacts, education, etc. This might require you to plan several years into the future. When I decided to pursue my public speaking career, I got a speech coach, I began developing contacts within the corporate world who could hire me, etc. It didn’t happen overnight.
What advice do you have for Latinas who are trapped by fears of success, failure or inadequacy? When you understand “success” as a destination, you have no option but to pair it up with it’s opposite: “failure.” But when you understand that the word “failure” originally comes from the Latin word “fallere” which means “to cause to fall” (in Spanish “fracaso” comes from the Latin word “fracassare” which means to shatter, to break), you can understand the concept of failure as only the beginning. Only after you fail can you start something new, or different. This original failure, or “ruptura” is the initial separation from our parents, from the very early determinations they made for us. It has to do with you becoming a subject, someone with his or her own identity.
Success means “to come after” and in Spanish, it has the same root as the English word “exit”, salida This means that success is your own salida, your own way of doing what brings you the most satisfaction while respecting your particular style. So, to those Latinas who are trapped in fears of failure and inadequacy, I would say that the book will help them figure out ways in which they can let old messages go and it will offer ways to create new messages that are better adjusted to their current needs.
What are some ways we can improve our own branding? It all comes from knowing ourselves. Who we are, what we are passionate about, what others perceive in us. Once you figure these things out (and I included a few exercises and even a couple of forms in the book) you can build a brand that makes sense. It’s impossible to force something that doesn’t come naturally, but there are lots of things you can do to improve your brand. For example: being impeccable with your word, taking deadlines seriously, taking care of your appearance and the appearance of everything that has your name on it, be it your website, Facebook page or your business cards.
How important is negotiating in all aspects of life? Not just the workplace. Negotiating is critical in all aspects of life. We negotiate 24/7 but most of the time we don’t call it a negotiation: When I let another car cross the intersection in front of me, when someone allows me to go in front of them at the supermarket line because I only have one item, when your husband takes a day off work to take the kids to the doctor because you took a day last month, and when you tell your teenager that he can stay on the computer one more hour only if he finished his assignments. What often happens is that women don’t feel comfortable negotiating in the workplace and as a result, they leave money on the table and they don’t get as many challenging projects as they would if they asked for them. So, there’s a whole chapter on negotiation in the book that I hope will help a lot of women feel more at ease with this important strategy.
You can read more Ms. Dabbah’s advice on personal and professional development in her new book “Poder de Mujer” available March 6th! You can find the book on www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com and everywhere Spanish books are sold including Walmart and Target stores.
Meet Mariela Dabbah in person in cities throughout country this spring!
March 16th– McNally Jackson Bookstore, New York, NY – http://mcnallyjackson.com/
March 31st & April 1st – Chicago Latino Book & Family Fai, Chicago, IL – http://www.lbff.us/chicago-lbff—march-31-april-1-2012.html
May 11th – May 13th – LeaLA, Los Angeles, CA – http://www.lea-la.com/
*Photography by Steven Kuhn