How Latina Speakers Are Born – The Mariela Dabbah story

I frequently get asked how I became a speaker. There aren’t that many Latina speakers out there so I understand that regardless of the topic of my presentation, my audience is curious.

A Latina speaker is born

I came to the U.S. 25 years ago with two suitcases, a Master’s Degree in Philosophy and Literature and a new husband. The first job I landed, as secretary at a bilingual book distributor, sealed my future. It was such a small business that I got to do everything and develop a whole array of skills. Four years later, when the owner decided to retire, my now ex-husband and I bought the company in monthly installments.

Mariela Dabbah Latina speaker presents at high school in Texas

Mariela Dabbah, Latina speaker, presents at high school in Texas

As we distributed books to schools we quickly realized immigrant parents needed to be made aware of the importance of being involved in their kids’ education. We developed a series of workshops to teach parents a wide range of topics from how the education system worked to how to encourage their children to do homework. And everything in between.

Observing how easily parents shared their struggles with me, I discovered that I had a knack for connecting with my audience. And the best part: I enjoyed speaking in public. And that’s how I became one of the few Latina speakers in the country.

Mariela Dabbah’s path to become one of a few Latina speakers was full of twists and turns

I spent several years presenting parent workshops across the country. My most defining moment as a speaker was a training I did for the Yup-ik community in Alaska. I did a ton of research before I ventured across the continent to a little community called Napaskiak whose inhabitants still survive on fishing and hunting.

Latina speaker elicits reaction from audience at Tesoro Corporation | Audience reaction to keynote presentation at Tesoro Corporation, event organized by NSHMBA

Latina speaker elicits reaction from audience at Tesoro Corporation

Librarians and parents flew in from all over a school district the size of the state of Ohio. They came to hear me, a Hispanic speaker who didn’t have any children, speak about parent involvement. I spoke in English with a Spanish accent and we had interpreters translate everything into Yup-ik. It was during that trip that I fully grasped that I was able to reach any audience regardless of culture, language or background.

And for the first time I also realized that I wanted to have a career as a speaker.

Mariela Dabbah: From writing to public speaking

The reality is that it’s not easy to make a living as a public speaker. Much less so if you are one of few Latina speakers with a narrow focus. So I needed to expand the topics I covered and gain credibility in the space. I began teaching a course at a local college on how to get a job in the U.S. and soon realized that, much like with education, there was a need out there for immigrants to connect the dots. To understand how the system worked.

Mariela Dabbah Latina Speaker

Mariela Dabbah Latina Speaker

It was easy to see that writing a book on the subject would give me the credibility I needed. I developed the right connections until I was offered the chance to write such book: How to Get a Job in the U.S., Guide for Latinos.

As soon as the book was published I started doing workshops and presentations at community colleges and libraries, which helped me shape and refine my public speaking skills. Simultaneously, I began contributing media segments on CNN, Univision, Telemundo and other media to continue raising my profile as a speaker.

Shortly after, my publisher asked me to write a book to help parents understand the education system and I wrote: How to Help Your Children Succeed in School. After that came, Help Your Children Succeed in High School and Go to College and Latinos in College: Your Guide to Success.

Mariela Dabbah motivational speaker presents to parents with McDonald RMHC HACER scholarship

Mariela Dabbah motivational speaker presents to parents with McDonald RMHC HACER scholarship

By then, I was such a familiar face in Hispanic media that McDonald’s hired me as their spokesperson for their RMHC /HACER scholarships. I traveled the country doing parent outreach presentations in Spanish and English in front of hundreds of parents. That work helped me raise my profile as a Latina speaker to the next level.

Read about how motivational speakers make money

Hispanic speaker who speaks to anyone who will listen

Every one of my books opened up an entire new world of possibilities. Each one provided an additional layer of understanding and empathy towards yet another audience. From jobseekers to immigrant parents trying to help their kids, to students as young as third grade all the way up to graduate school, to Latinos who worked in large corporations (The Latino Advantage in the Workplace) to women looking to succeed in their careers (Find Your Inner Red Shoes.)

Mariela Dabbah, Hispanic Motivational Speaker, signs books at Harvard Business Club

Mariela Dabbah, Hispanic Motivational Speaker, signs books at Harvard Business Club

Learning about the experiences of different people is the most fascinating aspect of my work. On the one hand it forces me to be a lifelong learner and on the other it enables me to easily connect the dots. Because I’ve researched and worked with people at such a wide range of life-stages I can see the larger picture.

Since the launch of the Red Shoe Movement most of my work as a speaker is in corporations around women’s career advancement and success. The topics include networking, branding, women empowerment, career advancement, negotiation, executive presence and work-life integration. And of course, I continue to speak to college students, professional organizations and parents.

Public speaking at Vital Voices El Salvador

Public speaking at Vital Voices El Salvador

Being a Hispanic Motivational speaker

My goal is to inspire my audience to fulfill their dreams. I do it by provoking “aha” moments and by sharing subtle insights, concrete tools and resources. I’ve never called myself a Hispanic motivational speaker even though I get excited when people feel motivated by my presentations. I believe that if you call yourself a Hispanic motivational speaker you set up the expectation that you will only get people hyped up, a feeling that tends to be short-lived. I prefer to offer actionable tools to help people move to the next level of their lives and careers.

Reaching all audiences as a motivational speaker

Reaching all audiences as a motivational speaker

Are you looking to become a public speaker?

If you’re reading this because you’re considering a career as a public speaker — or to be one of the few Latina speakers to boot— I have a few suggestions for you:

  • Think of an area you’re passionate about, like health, finances, love, or beauty.
  • Identify a few topics within the area that really interest you. In health, for example, it could be exercise, or natural foods.
  • Learn as much as you can about your chosen topics.
  • Decide how you will raise your profile and gain credibility as an expert in the topic. It could be by offering a podcast, webinars, publishing a book, writing for highly reputable media, etc.
  • Join your local Toastmasters to develop your skills.
Mariela Dabbah Keynote speaker at Hispanic Retail 360

Mariela Dabbah Keynote speaker at Hispanic Retail 360

  • Start small and practice. As you gain confidence you can venture in front of larger and larger groups. The biggest mistake I ever made was to do my first parent workshop in front of a large audience. I was new to public speaking and freaked out because I didn’t know how to speak while holding a microphone. I spoke so fast, people couldn’t understand a word I was saying so they got up and left. The more people I lost, the faster I spoke until there were only three or four parents left. I was devastated.
  • Talk to colleagues to get an idea of how much you should charge every step of the way. Latina speakers particularly need to consult with white men because they command the highest fees. Develop a group of trusted colleagues with whom you can share this sensitive information.
 Here's an article about How to become a motivational speaker that you might enjoy.

Granted, public speaking is not for the faint of heart. But if you have a powerful message to share and love to be up there connecting with an audience, it’s an adrenaline rush like few others. Prepare for it and you’ll do great!


2 Insights to Be Happier at Work

Considering that only 13% of the world’s workforce feels engaged, chances are you could use a boost to be happier at work.

In 2013, a Gallup global survey revealed that with only 29% of engaged employees, North America was the region with the highest employee satisfaction. That means that over 70% of people spend at least 8 hours a day feeling unhappy! If you are one of them, wouldn’t you love to learn how to get excited about going to work?

Celebrating career success

Celebrating career success

Factors that contribute to a feeling of disengagement

According to the American Employee Study (and my own experience), there are several main reasons why you may not be happy at work:

  • Not feeling heard. You don’t have an opportunity to speak your mind or, when you do, no action is taken.
  • Having no sense of why you’re doing what you’re doing.
  • Sensing that your bosses don’t know your career goals.
  • Not receiving training for your role.
  • Unfair compensation.
  • Not being recognized for your accomplishments.

How to get excited about going to work

If you checked off a few of the bullet points above, you’re not alone. Here are two amazingly simple things you can do to feel more engaged at work almost immediately.

  1. Align your career goals with your life purpose

Quite frequently, people have roles that don’t align with their life purpose, their interests or their passions. When this happens, it’s hard to stay engaged. Even when you receive a promotion, you don’t feel like putting in the effort for the higher position in an area of no interest to you. Say your passion is sales but you are in an administrative position. Even if they make you an executive administrator, you’re unlikely to feel more engaged.

You owe it to yourself to discover your interests and align them with your career goals

Look inside to figure out what interests you!

If you sense that this is the reason for your lack of engagement, take some time to find your passion, to figure out what your interests are, to discover what I call your inner red shoe/tie. That exploration may help you realize that you need a career track change, which may entail going back to school to get the right degree or certification.

Considering how much longer our productive life is, you can easily have several careers. Don’t let the lack of a degree stop you from feeling happier at work. There are tools out there, such as the Phoenix Career Guidance System, that can help you figure out what might be the perfect career track for you.

Once you have clarity around this, you’ll be better able to adjust your career path and, consequently, your daily work will be aligned with your interests.

  1. Take back control

There are times when you might feel you have very few options. For example, either you stay in a role that doesn’t fit your long-term goals, or you need to quit your job (something you can’t afford right now). This feeling of lack of control over your circumstances creates a lot of anxiety.

Not too long ago, a colleague of mine was about to resign from a job she loved after 10 wonderful years. She felt she had no other option. Why? A new boss had been hired to replace her admired retiring leader, and he wasn’t a good match for the position. He wasn’t interested in developing his team or in the initiatives they had been working on. He offered no recognition for a job well done.

Even when you think there are no options you can always make a decision to take back control

You can always make a different decision even when the options are limited.

Then my colleague decided that rather than accepting passively the new boss’s lack of leadership she would demonstrate her own leadership skills whenever she had the chance. She started organizing meetings with her team rather than expecting the boss to do so. She developed several new strategic partnerships for her company and became a mentor for a few junior colleagues. As a result, she re-engaged and was happy to go to work again.

So keep in mind that even in the face of limited options, you frequently have the ability to make a decision that enables you to take back control of your circumstances. As I mentioned above, that decision may involve furthering your education so that you are free to pursue a position where you are happier. It’s worth remembering that whenever you feel in control, you feel more engaged, and therefore more fulfilled at work.

You deserve to be happy. Explore your passions

There’s nothing like exploring what you love to be happier at work

Spending as much time as we do at work, we owe it to ourselves to be happy. Don’t let one more day go by without reviewing your situation and putting into practice these two suggestions. They will help you feel more engaged at work sooner than you think.


I’m compensated by University of Phoenix for this blog. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.




Going back to school – A Balancing Act!

If you’re an adult going back to school, achieving any sort of work-life integration may sound like an uphill battle. But trust me, any temporary adjustment is worth the expanded opportunities you will have.

Most women (and some men) have been conditioned to think that we should strive to find a perfect balance between our work and personal lives. Well, spoiler alert, that’s a myth! It’s time we admit that a perfect balance is an illusion. This is never truer than when you have a job, a family and are going back to school.

Going back to school as an adult is always a balancing act. But it's well worth it!

Going back to school as an adult is always a balancing act. But it’s well worth it!

The moment you give up hope of an unrealistically perfect work-life balance you can create opportunities to integrate the four key aspects of your life work, family, community, self with less stress. The first principle you must accept is that you can’t do everything at the same time. You need to set priorities and understand that they will change at the different stages of your life, throughout the year and even day to day. Your job is to start the day by looking at what is the most important thing that day and make it your priority, adjusting the other areas accordingly.

Going back to school as an adult: Work

Technology has made it easier to be on 24/7 and harder to not be tempted to answer emails during your child’s soccer game. Start by setting some boundaries for yourself. Turn off your electronics when you’re with the family or when you are studying, and establish specific times to check for urgent messages.

You're never too old to go back to school as an adult. Never forget that!

You’re never too old to go back to school as an adult. Never forget that!

Practice bartering with your boss, colleagues and family. If you need to leave right at 5:00 every evening, offer to connect after your kids are asleep so you can be part of an important project. If you need your husband to cook every night for a week in order to finish a paper, offer to prepare the snacks for the team he coaches on weekends. And so on. Show flexibility and creativity and you’ll think of many potential bartering opportunities.

Going Back to School As an Adult: Family

As you learn to prioritize and re-prioritize constantly, you will also learn to commit time and energy to what’s most important at any given moment. Being present, and always valuing quality over quantity, is the best recipe to get rid of the guilt many parents feel.

Practice my version of “crowdsourcing” by leveraging the power of several people in a similar situation to make an unaffordable convenience, affordable. For example: Agree with four moms of your kids’ schoolmates that each of you will pay a babysitter for all five kids once a week. You’ll all take turns hosting the group at home after school. That way, you’ll not only pay a fifth of the cost for babysitting, but you’ll only have to get home early once a week. You can do the same with tutors!

Going Back to School As an Adult: Community

We feel better when we contribute to something larger than ourselves. However, when your time is constrained by work, family and going back to school, this is an area that you may want to consider putting on the back burner for a while. Unless you can be part of a community effort undertaken by your employer, it may be wise to step aside until you finish your studies.

Forget trying to reach the perfect work-life balance. It doesn't exist! And much less when you go back to school as an adult. Read this article to discover more about it!

Forget trying to reach the perfect work-life balance. It doesn’t exist! And much less when you go back to school as an adult.

Going Back to School As an Adult: Self

As an adult, one of the best things you can do to honor yourself and your dreams is to pursue a higher education degree. So if that’s what you’re doing, you may have to temporarily forgo the Friday happy hour with your co-workers in order to spend that quality time with your family. But don’t forget that you still need to take time to nurture yourself: Take a walk, have a cup of coffee with a good friend, listen to your favorite music, anything that enables you to decompress regularly.

Going Back to School As an Adult: As you learn to prioritize you learn to invest time and energy in what's important at this moment

Learning to prioritize everyday helps with work-life integration during this challenging time!

These four aspects of your life are all part of who you are. It’s unrealistic to think a perfect balance is possible. But you can easily integrate them and live a happy life if you are willing to review your priorities every day and put your energy where it belongs.

Lastly, keep in mind that one of the best ways to achieve work-life integration is to learn to say no to things that are not your number one priority in the short and long term.


I’m compensated by University of Phoenix for this post. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

7 Ways to Find Your Passion

The idea that finding your passion is the best way to advance in your career is finally catching on. Here are 7 ways to find your passion that will bring home this often-elusive concept.

Maybe you’re just starting your professional career and keen on finding your passion and purpose. Maybe you are in your 40s or 50s and increasingly interested in finding your next passion because you know it’s the way to heightened engagement in your job. Regardless of how you arrived to this blog post, you’re obviously looking to add meaning to your life.

The only way to do great work is to do what you love - Steve Jobs Quote | Don't miss on the 7 Ways to Find Your Passion

Finding your passion and purpose is the only way to feel engaged at work

How do you find your passion and make it work?

This is a question I hear repeatedly during my conferences, webinars and coaching sessions. You will have to do some serious work to figure out what your passion is. There is no way around it. The good news is that there are fun ways to assist you in the process.

7 Ways to Find Your Passion With the Help of 7 Easy Questions

1. What did you like to do when you were 8-12 years old?

Wherever you are, be all there- Quote by Jim Elliot | Check out the 7 Ways to Find Your Passion

Being present is a big part of feeling fulfilled in life

Chances are that you still enjoy the same kinds of activities that you did when you were a kid. You have likely forgotten about them or you stopped practicing them because life got in the way.

I recently met a senior executive who is a scientist and a professional juggler. Yes, you read it correctly. I was thrilled to see a video of her and her husband at a juggling festival, enjoying themselves like little kids. So, ask yourself, what would you be doing if you had kept up some of your childhood interests?

Since I was 9 years old I created books from scratch. Cut the pages, stitched them together, designed the cover… Writing remains one of my biggest passions.

2. What are you doing when time seems to fly?

Whenever I’m writing, time flies. Two hours seem like ten minutes. What are you doing when this happens to you? The more specific you are when answering this question (what are you doing, where, with whom, and so on,) the easier it will be to find your passion.

3. If you could create an award that recognizes YOU, what would it be for?

Passion quote Martha Beck | 7 Ways to Find Your Passion

Through yourself all in. To find your passion you need to overcome your own objections.

Through yourself all in. To find your passion you need to overcome your own objections.

This will help you visualize what’s important to you. Every time I ask this question as part of a Red Shoe Movement event, the specificity of the answers blow my mind. I could publish an inspiring book about people’s passions just by compiling those statements. Write down what you’d like to be recognized for and see what comes up.

4. What topics do you gravitate towards?

What kinds of books do you love reading? What articles catch your attention? What topics have you set up on Google alerts? What movies can’t you miss?

Sometimes finding your next passion means you have to review your Pinterest board to realize that you’ve been collecting fashion-related pictures for years. When you dig a bit deeper, it becomes evident that you’ve had a passion for fashion since you sewed clothes for your Barbie dolls. You may have had a successful career in Advertising and are now ready for a 180 degree change to honor your newly re-discovered passion.

5. What is your tennis ball?

This question comes from a terrific blog on the topic of innovation. The author refers to a commencement speech given by Drew Houston, founder of Dropbox. He said: “The most successful people are obsessed with solving an important problem, something that matters to them. They remind me of a dog chasing a tennis ball.” Houston suggested that you must “find your tennis ball — the thing that pulls you.”

You may be obsessed with teaching people how to reduce their environmental footprint. Or with correcting everyone’s grammar. Or with finding the perfect vacation for all your friends. These are all obsessions worth exploring as potential passions that can be turned into a career.

You may enjoy this post too: Finding your passion: the true door to success.

6. What if time or money were not a problem?

"What you know is this, if you do work that you love and the work fulfills you, the rest will come" Oprah Winfrey Quote. Discover the 7 Ways to Find Your Passion!

Yup! Focus on doing what you really love!

Time and money are two of the most common obstacles that get in the way of finding your passion and purpose. People who complain that they are unhappy at work and who even get sick as a result, are quick to say: “I can’t afford quitting my job.” Or “I don’t have the time to figure out my passion right now.”

So let’s take money and time off the table. Consider for a moment that they are not a problem. (After all, whenever you really, really want to buy something you find the money to do it, right? And when you really, really want to go some place, see someone, do something, you find the time to do that too.) What would you be doing if time and money weren’t a concern?

7. What would the three people who know you best identify as your passion?

Sometimes it can be hard to see in yourself what others see clearly. So why not ask them the question. Your siblings, your childhood friends, and the soul mates you met along the way are all great candidates to provide feedback. Make it an open-ended question with no right or wrong answers so they feel comfortable to say the most outrageous or unexpected things. If nothing else, they’ll get you thinking.

The obvious question after you find your passion is how to turn it into a career. Well, that’s the subject of a future article for this blog, my friend. But you have some work to do first. In the meantime, get some inspiration from this amazing woman who is the perfect example of how finding your passion changes everything!

Young Managers of Older Employees – 4 Secrets to Success!

Are you among the group of young managers whose reports are much older than you? Then, these 4 secrets will make you wildly successful (and popular!)

Two things often happen when millennial managers are in charge of older employees. One, young managers feel they are not taken seriously. Two, they feel like they have to pretend to know things they don’t. The truth is that when you are a young employee and you have little life and work experience, the idea that you have to fully fit in your managerial role from day one can be daunting. It can make you behave in ways that are completely unproductive and that will likely achieve the opposite results than what you seek. (Like constantly questioning your judgement, for instance.)

So to help you avoid falling into a trap, here are:

Young Managers of Older Employees – 4 Secrets to Succeed from day one

Young Managers of Older Employees - 4 Secrets to Success! Read on! | Featured here, Jenny Gracia a young manager, and a RSM Ambassador at a Red Shoe Movement event.

Featured here, Jenny Gracia a young manager, and a RSM Ambassador at a Red Shoe Movement event.

  • Accept that you’ve got what it takes. If you were given a managerial position, it’s because your boss saw something in you besides a degree that qualifies you for the job. You’ve probably had enough volunteer experience with the Peace Corps or helping Habitat for Humanity build homes in Guatemala. Or you led enough student councils, schools newspapers, and debate clubs. Or you might have created your own small business, led a fundraising effort for a school in Africa, or simply impressed your boss with your passion for your community. Bottom line, as a young manager, you bring to the table specific skills, common sense, problem solving, and very possibly, an ability to inspire others. That’s why you were chosen. Embrace it. Remind yourself of your value daily. Create a mantra around it so you can repeat it in times of self-doubt. And believe me, you’ll have a few of those along the way. (I.e.: “I’m a young manager and I’ve got what it takes to succeed.”)
  • Get to know each individual. Leave any preconceived notions at the door. Establish individual relationships with your older reports so that you learn as much as possible about each one of them. Approach the relationship without preconceived notions of how flexible or rigid, outdated, or in need of training this person is. The reality is that people will often surprise you. Show your true self, be transparent in your purpose and you’ll get the best out of every one. And while you’re at it, check with each person the preferred method of communication (email, text, phone, in person, etc.) to be as effective as possible when communicating with your older reports. Successful young managers are known for their flexibility and this includes, using a variety of communication vehicles to deliver their messages.
  • Be humble and assertive at the same time. If you master this fine line you’ll have your job cut out for you. Be humble in asking for the input of your older employees. They are knowledgeable about the job, the company and the industry. Consulting with them will save you headaches, time, and money. The more you make them feel included in the decision-making process, the better they’ll respond when you make a decision. Be assertive in making decisions after weighting pros and cons. Managers can have a democratic style but in the end a decision needs to be made and the responsibility of the outcome will fall on your shoulders. So make a decision behind which you can stand.

    The 4 Secrets to Success for Young Managers of Older Employees | Mindalia de Jesus, a RSM Ambassador and young manager, featured at a RSM Event.

    Mindalia de Jesus, a RSM Ambassador and young manager, featured at a RSM Event.

  • Be the young manager everyone wishes their kids were. I’m always thrilled to meet amazingly bright young managers who are wise and mature beyond their years. They project a sense of calm and collectedness that mark them as clear leaders of their organizations. They inspire others to do their best, to give their all. They make everyone wish they had been that well-put-together at that young age, they make everyone wish their own kids were this smart. Be that person. How? By following the previous three secrets. And by:
  • Asking lots of questions
  • Encouraging curiosity, exploration, risk-taking
  • Acknowledging that you don’t know everything and you’re always learning
  • Readily admitting mistakes
  • Honestly praising the work of your team
  • Offering recognition for older employees who do a great job, and
  • Making people feel significant about their contributions and their role in your team.

Introduce a mentorship program: Whether its the older employee’s mentoring younger ones or interns. You can even partner with organizations and schools, if the employees are willing. Not only is their experience being put to good use, but the company would also build some good karma. – American Express Open Forum

Young Managers of Older Employees 4 Secrets to Success: If you are a young manager, you were chosen for a reason.  Own the gifts you bring to the table!

Own the gifts you bring to the table!

If you love learning and you love a challenge being a millennial manager of older employees can be an extremely rewarding experience. If you take it seriously, it will propel your career forward at amazing speed.

Share your own advice here. What works and what doesn’t work for you? What suggestions do you have for your colleagues?

Inspirational Quote | Young Managers of Older Employees - 4 Secrets to Succeed from day one

Inspirational Quote | Young Managers of Older Employees – 4 Secrets to Succeed from day one