Alicia GalarzaCurrently working as a professional mortgage specialist in Toronto, Canada, Alicia Galarza holds a degree in Business Management and a Specialization in Marketing. Parallel to her expertise in the Financial Industry, she has developed a successful marketing career working for some of the most influential multicultural newspapers.

In addition, Alicia is an active member of the Hispanic Community of Toronto and an advocate for social change. She is the current President of “Cono-Ser” – a scholarship program for students of Hispanic origin based at York University – and of the Parent-Child Tutoring Program “Teach to Learn”.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am the current president of CONO-SER, a Scholarship fund created to provide financial assistance to first year Hispanic students at York University. One of our goals is to help decrease the drop out rate of Hispanics, we recognize a scholarship alone cannot do this and have incorporated other groups to help empower our youth. This scholarship fund also works with Teach2Learn, a tutoring program for Hispanic students that not only tutors students but also help them and their parents become more familiar with the Canadian education system. Recently, the “Encontrarte” youth collective project has joined under our umbrella. This enthusiastic group of youth will be providing dance lessons in a high-risk neighborhood.

In the past four years I have also volunteered promoting C.C.I.E Festival of Images and Words, which helps showcase the richness of the literary and artistic abilities of Hispanic-Canadians. In 2009 I was the Press Director of A.E.O (Ecuadorian Association of Ontario) during this time my goal was to promote Ecuadorian tourism, culture and art within Ontario. It was an honor to be nominated in 2009 along with 34 others by the Hispanic Business Association as one of the The 10 Most Influential Hispanics.

I take great pride and joy in working for my community and I am glad that the projects I have embarked on have tangible results. Colleagues have told me that my balanced mixture of inspiration and hands on strategies have contributed to the success of my undertakings. I firmly believe that my integration into Canadian society has been a smooth one because of my involvement in community work as it helps me better appreciate the diversity and multiculturalism within Canadian society.

What are some of the biggest challenges you face as a woman entrepreneur and in a Canadian company?

One of the biggest challenges I have faced since moving to Canada has been integrating into the Canadian work force. I understand that many women in Canada do experience discrimination based on their gender, but I can say that in my situation the difficulties I experienced originated from a lack of knowledge of how the industry works. Once I became more familiar with Canadian labor practices I was no longer afraid to ask for advice, look for help and network. That experience cost me money, but has made me the person I am today, I am no longer afraid to speak up, ask questions, negotiate, invest or take risks.

What advice do you have for other women who have unusual (or challenging) career goals?

The advice I would give any woman is to be persistent and always stay true to her goals and herself. Make sure you always have a strong work ethic and are disciplined; most importantly I would say network, network, network! Networking is not only a great way to find new opportunities, it is great to socialize, and also helps to inspire and keep you on track with your goals. Be serious, passionate and very organized, make sure you are always planning ahead and setting realistic goals, be down to earth and do not be afraid to fall or take risks.

Give us an example of how you’re currently helping other women advance professionally or fulfill their career goals.

I am always encouraging women to fulfill their career goals; I have been able to guide some of my female colleagues by encouraging them to take risks and by giving them advice from my own experiences when they require it. I believe it is important to lead by example, and do so for my daughter who is completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto. I support her involvement in various activities. I believe balance is the key to success, therefore, I encourage her to study, work, volunteer, play sports and enjoy time with her friends. All these activities are key in becoming a fulfilled professional and human being.

Could you mention one or more women who have helped you get to where you are now?

I have three women who have inspired me throughout my life. The first is my grandmother, her values, knowledge and love helped shape me as an individual. I am very grateful for the wisdom she imparted and her advice to not fear making sacrifices or taking risks because as long as I did those I would be in control of my success. The second woman who has served as a great source of inspiration is my friend Margarita Feliciano, as a University Professor she is a great example of how hard work and persistence pay off. She is a great leader and has inspired me to continue studying, and learning and has allowed me to view the world with a new perspective. From her I have learned that sacrifice is a source of happiness, the greater the struggle and sacrifice, the greater the happiness that will follow. The third woman who has inspired me is Mississauga Major Hazel McCallion who is one of the longest serving elected politicians in history. At 91 years old she still works to serve her community and continues to work with passion, she is great proof of the success that comes when one is persistent.

You can get in touch with Alicia Galarza clicking here.

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