I remember when I found “The Latinista”. I followed many groups on Meetup (of which I never participated in any), and among the recommended groups was one that was for professional Latina women, a group by Yai Vargas.
It wasn’t until years later, when I had already freed myself from my desk and my full-time job, that I started my adventure as an entrepreneur and attended an event at Google. There, as if we had known each other all our lives, Yai and I de-virtualized and the rest is history.
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I greatly admire the work that my friend Yai does with “The Latinista”. As Latina women, professionals and entrepreneurs, there are endless challenges (especially in the current social and political climate in the United States) in this obstacle course that some call a career and others a business, and the only way to navigate and overcome them is with support and preparation.
Support and preparation is just what I have received from Yai both personally and professionally through her events and workshops. That’s why, after a long pause, today I proudly share with you the story and advice of Yai Vargas, a true ambassador of professional Latina woman.
Latinas in Media – Who is Yai?
Yai Vargas – I’m a networking Ninja. I love meeting people – all day long. Online and offline. I love figuring out how I can help people connect with others that will help in their career journey or beyond. I love being a champion for diversity. I studied marketing and communications and enjoy traveling to destinations where I don’t speak the language. I am a diversity strategy consultant and I help organizations engage their diverse employees. You may know me from The Latinista, which is the network I created specifically to help women elevate their careers via workshops and events.
LM – When did you decide to become an entrepreneur and create your own brand?
YV – It happened gradually actually. About 6 years ago I created a meetup group focused around Latinas and helping them achieve their career goals. I had a natural market of professionals around me that wanted to learn new skills and get ahead in their careers.
LM – What challenges do you think the Latina woman faces as a professional and as an entrepreneur?
YV – Some Latina professionals have shared with me that they sometimes feel it’s their duty to act as the servant and go above and beyond. Their culture has taught them to offer their time and energy more so than the rest of her colleagues. As an entrepreneur, the numbers say it all – we’re the lowest representation among the women receiving investing dollars from VCs. That problem stems from not having (or asking) for help from mentors or champions who have been there before.
YV – What’s the purpose behind The Latinista?
YV – It all started when I noticed that the women I was surrounding myself with all had a few things in common. They needed guidance in their careers – from champions (when someone is your champion they refer you for promotions internally). They also needed a foot in the door when making career moves – they sometimes don’t see networking and building a community as an added benefit. It’s also not just who you know, but who knows YOU and wants to see you succeed. Eventually, we went from being a casual networking meetup to a strategic network of monthly workshops and talent hub.
LM – How does social media complement your work with The Latinista?
YV – It’s everything – I love and hate it all at the same time. On one hand, I understand it allows me to promote my workshops to different audiences and I’ve got to cover all grounds. On the other hand, there are SO many platforms to update. Every time I post an event, I have to post to 2 websites, Facebook, Eventbrite, Meetup, Instagram and Twitter, Linktree and the list goes on… If I need to edit the event for some reason, I have to log into every site and update them. It’s exhausting but necessary.
LM – What tools do you consider essential when it comes to entrepreneurship and managing your own brand?
YV – Since I’m the LinkedIn ninja, I appreciate having the ability to use a tool that lets me create and showcase my personal and professional brand. Knowing that you have centers of influence at your fingertips is crucial to building one. I also am very good at planning out my months – Planning out every single meeting and color coding on my calendar when I have proposals due and setting aside time to actually create the proposals is key.
LM – What advice would you give to a female entrepreneur who wants to quit her job and go full-time with her project?
YV – Save enough money to last you for at least one year. Yes, the goal is to make money while you’re working your new goals, but money doesn’t come that easily and that often. You don’t want to feel pressured to have to go back to your job or take on a client you usually wouldn’t just because of the money pressures. Be financially prepared to make a lot of sacrifices!
LM – How can we use traditional and digital media (including social networks) as a voice for the Latina woman?
YV – It’s all about collaboration – we need to band together and make sure that we’re taking up space everywhere. In everything we do, we need to make sure Latinas are represented. In the ads you’re creating, in the reports, in the panel discussions, in the conferences, on your programs and in every industry.
LM – How can I join “The Latinista” and participate in your events?
YV – Visit TheLatinista.com and click on workshops.
More about Yai!
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A book: Who Moved my Cheese by Spencer Johnson
A blog: The Broadsheet by Forbes
One “Latina in Media”: Ana Villafane (Plays Gloria Estefan from “On Your Feet”)
One Social Network: LinkedIn
One app: Google Drive – I keep all my files with me everywhere I go!
One YouTube Channel: The Latinista!
One brand: Descalza
One quote: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”