We are highlighting a previous episode of the ¿Quién Tú Eres? podcast, where we explore the conflict we often face between "professionalism" & being our authentic selves.
Yai Vargas is a career & diversity strategist that helps organizations develop engaging programming focused on career and leadership development. With a background in multicultural marketing and communications, Yai is a natural born community leader.
In this conversation, Yai Vargas takes us on a journey through her experience between professionalism and authenticity.
These are some of the episode highlights:
Yai Vargas shares with us what it means to be authentic. For her, that means being really comfortable sharing so many different aspects of your identity. Being able to share that, “I immigrated to this country from DR, the fact that I speak Spanish, that I'm always going to challenge the status quo and that I am always going to speak my mind. I’m fortunate now because I’m an entrepreneur and I don’t necessarily feel I have to assimilate to an organization and their status quo.”
Like Yai, many immigrants or children of immigrants, usually have to hide who they are in order to fit in and/or be accepted. It can feel daunting to be proud and vocal about our Latinx backgrounds. However, when we come in contact with individuals like Yai, it makes it a lot easier to step into one’s power knowing that others are paving the way for the rest of us.
It is not unusual to hear stories of immigrants who have degrees and positions of high honor in their respective countries, to then have that stripped away upon stepping on American soil. It’s almost like we are forced to resort to menial or undignified positions once here because America refuses to acknowledge the power and honor we earned in our native countries.
Yai explains, “My mom and Dad graduated college but it was in DR, but when they immigrated here, all that experience went out the window. Unfortunately, those degrees weren’t recognized here. Then it was my opportunity to get to and through college. My parents didn't know the system here so I was extremely privileged in the fact that my counselor was guiding me through those conversations.”
Similarly to Yai, many of us have to rely on our guidance counselors, teachers, or older friends to navigate the college application system. Our parents don’t speak the language or worse yet, may not have even made it past elementary school to guide us in any shape or form. Therefore, if we aren’t assisted by others we don’t stand a chance at making it to or through college.
“When I was at that job I started noticing that I was losing my culture. While there, I started to build the case for me running or having some stake in the multicultural aspect or for the spanish speaking buyers of these cars. And I wanted to work towards being in the diversity space…I realized I loved being there but I needed to go because I needed to keep my culture and my language somehow because I knew that was important.” - Yai Vargas
Keeping our culture and language alive is how we stay connected with our immediate families in this country but also our loved ones back home. However, it’s a challenging feat when first and second generation children are losing their native language because this country insists on erasing what makes us, us.
“I love people, I love networking, I love connecting with others. I get my energy from being around others and inspiring them. I was so lucky to be able to attend conferences around the world and what I asked myself was how come there’s not many Latina’s or women of color here? When I asked why- all the Latina’s I asked said they didn’t know about it or that the company wouldn’t spend that money to send them.” - Yai Vargas
As Latinos, it is in our nature to want to help others in any way we can, especially if it's in our power to do so. Like Yai mentions, “being humble is something that we as Latinas and immigrants have unfortunately taken a lot of part of.” We are so grateful to be accepted or even tolerated that we rather not speak up in fear of losing whatever it is that we are being offered. We have a difficult time advocating for our needs. Therefore, it is important that leaders like Yai continue to educate and empower us so we may have the opportunity to continue paying it forward.
Yai is inspiring to change the narrative around professionalism.
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