Latinx heritage month takes place from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. In celebration of the contributions and accomplishments of Latin Americans, and to educate students about Latin American culture, Pasadena City College is hosting panels and talks online.
On Sept. 25, Robert G. Freeman Center hosted a panel entitled “Trabajo con Corazón!” over Zoom. The college invited a group of Latinx professionals to share their experiences, and to explain how they advanced in their career.
The event was hosted by Isabel Ochoa, the intern advisor of Freeman center. It was joined by Leslie Catalán, Human Resources Records Specialist at County of Orange; Yared Oliveros, Diversity & Inclusion Business Partner at Tesla; Alex Avila, Application Support Engineer at Allvue Systems; and Jorge Ibarra González, Mechanical Designer at IMEG Corp.
Considered one of the biggest events of this year, more than 70 people registered to attend the panel. The panelists first introduced themselves, both in Spanish and English, and spoke about their background, education, and current occupation. They also shared their experiences with passing obstacles as a Latinx individual in America, at school and in the workplace. The panelists also gave students advice for job interviews and tips to deal with racial microaggression in the workplace.
“I graduated working full time and going to school full time, it was hard and challenging. I am sure a bunch of us are in the same boat,” said panelist Leslie Catalán.
According to Catalán, in one of her job interviews the interviewee questioned her ability to manage to be a full-time employee and student. She explained that this made her feel like being trapped in a “bubble of denial”. But, as she emphasized in her talk, the spirit of never giving up is the quality Catalán wanted Latinx students to have.
“If someone tells you you can’t do something, you prove them wrong!” Catalán said.
Another point the panelists wanted students to be aware of is company culture. According to the panelists, it is crucial for employees and companies to share the same values and goals, or else, the work experience won’t be pleasant or long term. The recruiter for Tesla, Yared Oliveros, acknowledged that many people don’t know the importance of company culture. The attitude one has in an interview is important, Oliveros explained.
“When I interview the Hispanic population, I have noticed none of them talked about company culture. They don’t ask about it, or even are intimidated sometimes,” said Oliveros. “If you don’t come prepared, with great questions, an attitude of wanting to persevere and to be here, I cannot convince the recruiting manager if you can’t even convince me,” she added.
In the workspace, microaggression is unavoidable. However, Oliveros also noted that her understanding of microaggression is that it is not only coming from others, but also from oneself.
“I see microaggression in our own Hispanic people, where we are the one often putting ourselves down or being sarcastic about what we do,” said Oliveros, “I remembered I was at the new hired orientation and sitting next to a Latino, I was very excited and asked him about his occupation. But that person was like, ‘you are never going to see me, I am going to be in the factory’.”
Because of that particular encounter, Oliveros decided to work on encouraging Latinx workers to be supervisors instead of factory workers.
The lesson panelist Jorge Ibarra González wanted students to learn is using the resources provided by schools and organizations. González explained that when he was exploring his career path, he didn’t have much guidance. Now that he has the ability to help others, he wanted students to reach out to him.
“I went through all that, I had to go through many stepstones to get to where I am now. Although I am an engineer, I want to extend the hand to the next people who need help,” González said.
In all, the meeting lasted for about an hour. During the conversations between the host and the panelists, words like courage, determination, resilience, and self-development were emphasized for students to keep in mind.
“The key to success with anything in life is to embrace one’s and other backgrounds, hold on to every opportunity, and be confident of decisions,” Ochchoa concluded the meeting.
During the following weeks, the Association of Latino Employees will host more events via Zoom featuring Latinx Heritage, and the Freeman Center will continue hosting workshops based on career development and goal setting.
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