Born and raised in Peru, Anna immigrated to the U.S. 30 years ago. After getting her college education and working in New York City she moved to Boston in the mid 1990’s. She has a Master’s in Business Administration from Babson College and a Master’s in Education from Harvard. Over the years she has worn many hats in the corporate world from support staff to managerial to consulting roles. Eleven years ago she started a coaching and consulting business, Shades of Success, Inc. that focuses on developing leadership skills in the 21st century. She’s one of the most knowledgeable and trustworthy professionals in the consulting business.
You’ve worked for many years in corporate America. What are some of the major changes you’ve seen in the last twenty years around opportunities for women advancement?
I have worked in corporate America for about 20 years across several industries—banking, finance, publishing, technology and health care. In the past the women’s advancement was the elephant in the room. Now every organization is looking to develop or is already implementing a talent strategy that includes the advancement of women. The so-so news is that the motivation behind this effort comes from a reactive rather than a proactive stance driven by compliance concerns. Regardless, I remain optimistic and believe that current efforts are the first step in the right direction.
As an entrepreneur, what are some of the biggest challenges you face? Are there any of these challenges gender specific?
One of the biggest challenges I face as an entrepreneur is managing perceptions and expectations that prospects may have because of their unconscious biases about people who look like me.
What do you find the most satisfying part of your work?
There are two things that give me the most satisfaction about the work I do. One is the ability to make my own decisions and determine what is priority. That freedom allows me to provide the most creative and effective learning experiences to my clients.
What advice do you have for other women who have unusual (or challenging) career goals?
I would tell them to first and foremost become very clear about their own strengths and the reason they want to pursue those goals. It is imperative for them to be the main source of inner strength in order to dismiss naysayers that will come along the way. Second, I would encourage them to do an inventory of their friends and decide who is really in their corner. Lastly, I would ask them to find others who have walked a similar, unusual path. They don’t need to be in the same line of work, but have experienced the kind of upstream swimming because of their career goals. The bottom line is that you have to believe in yourself, find and hang out with others who believe in you and will support you no matter what and learn from others who have blazed professional and career trails.
Give us an example of how you are currently helping other women advance professionally or fulfill their career goals?
Currently a good portion of my time is spent facilitating the process of self-discovery for talented and bright women who have achievable professional goals but tend to sabotage their own efforts. Why? Because they believe the negative self-talk they have heard growing up, from the media or jealous peers. It is not enough to say ‘stop believing in negative words.’ There is a complex—yet doable– process that becomes a very personal experience requiring the courage and tenacity to uproot the source of self-sabotage.
Could you mention one or more women who have helped you get to where you are now?
I have been blessed with having an army of supporters, advocates and cheerleaders. One of my mentors early in my career was Dora Estevez, my first supervisor. She taught me the first lesson in advancement: Sometimes the only way to go up is to go outside the company. Another person who played a pivotal role in my transitioning out of corporate America is Professor Elaine Landry. She believed in my ability to go back to graduate school even when I didn’t fully believe in myself. I came to her with doubts and a faint dream of what it could be. Because of her guidance and encouragement I ended up applying and graduating with a second Master’s degree. This time from Harvard University.
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