Making a Career Change: the Story of Aymee Zubizarreta

Making a career change is never easy yet it can be a creative process and fill you with a joy you never experienced before. From corporate to entrepreneur and Web TV producer, Aymee Zubizarreta shares her story!

A desire to help give today’s Latina a voice in television puts Aymee Zubizarreta in the driver’s seat. Having spent most of her adult life working for Fortune 500 companies and national organizations as their “expert liaison” with the U.S. Hispanic market, Aymee, now in her early forties, has taken the keys to her future into her own hands by starting a company of her own.

If you’re among the millions of women who often feel as if the characters played on TV/online series, movies or soap operas don’t speak to or resonate with us, then you have to meet Aymee Zubizarreta— An award-winning, integrated marketing/communications professional who has spent most of her life helping large corporations successfully reach and touch the US Hispanic consumer.

Making a Career Change: the story

Just a few years ago, she decided to take a risk and become a female entrepreneur by launching the zubizarretA group, a full service PR, Marketing, Business Development and Social Media firm that specializes in helping brands meaningfully connect with the US Hispanic consumer. In doing so, she also became inspired to create and produce “Merrick Park” – America’s soon-to-be first English language, scripted series depicting modern-day Latinas for who they really are: smart, career-minded, family-oriented women who can be both caretakers and caregivers, all in the blink of an eye.

This upscale Latina web series is a far cry from the current collection of maid and overly sexy housewife roles that populate Spanish language media and barely sprinkle mainstream television shows.

Merrick Park, a web series dedicated to upscale, professional Latinas

Merrick Park, a web series dedicated to upscale, professional Latinas

Making a career change like Aymee did can be quite challenging. However, when you are in your twenties or thirties, you are more likely to be willing to do what it takes, and pay your dues. As one matures, it can become more difficult to break away from the brand you built for yourself, the network you created, the experience you acquired along the way or to do what every fresh start demands. Yet the advantage of a making a drastic career change later in life (as in Aymee’s case) is that you know who you are, what you want, and you hopefully have a financial cushion to carry you while you re-brand yourself.

What prompted you to making a career change?

I still vividly recall the day that the proverbial entrepreneurial bug began to leave its mark on my heart and mind. Just a few years ago, while attending a national Hispana Leadership Summit in Miami, Florida, I heard a fellow Latina entrepreneur recount how she had started a company in her very own kitchen and then turned it into a multi-million dollar success story. That got me thinking, “What if I…?”

When did you decide you needed a career change?

Making a career change gave Aymee Zubizarreta a new, creative outlet.

A career change gave Aymee Zubizarreta a new, creative outlet.

While working in corporate America, I made it a point to “pay it forward” by serving as a mentor for girls who had been identified by their school counselor as at-risk of dropping out of high school. It is through Women of Tomorrow, co-founded by Emmy Award winning Journalist Jennifer Valoppi and retired Telemundo Network President, Don Browne, that I found my new lease on life.

What provoked me to make this bold, “risking-it-all” career change was a burning desire to leave a legacy for the next generation of Latinas. I found myself challenging these young ladies to dream big and to accomplish anything that they set their hearts and minds to. As it turns out, the advice that I was giving them was also meant for me too.

At some point I realized that I needed to do a brand audit on myself. What did I learn, you ask? That the past 20 years of my corporate experience was in effect only preparing me for this new chapter in my career and for a drastic career change.

Is making a career change harder when you’re doing really well in your career than when you lose your job, for example?

Timing is one of the keys to success in just about everything we do in life. The decision to take a professional leap of faith needs to be done in a moment of clarity and coupled with a purpose, a passion, a vision and a well thought out plan.

Bottom line, get advice from those who know and love you. Then, think carefully, and strategically plan before you leap!

Making a career change can spark creativity

You are the creator, one of the writers and the executive producer for this series. Did making a career change elicit a sudden surge in creativity?

Having a creative outlet that helps you connect with your inner being is critical for your body of work. While some prefer to draw, paint, compose music, or play an instrument to express their creativity and talent, I began to gravitate back to where it all started for me, as a broadcast journalism graduate. When I write for the characters of Merrick Park, I am writing from within. I am able to project all those wonderful years of acquired wisdom and corporate experience onto each one of these characters.

Give us a taste of what Merrick Park is about.

In a city within a city, a group of very accomplished 30-something professional Latinas from diverse backgrounds and acculturation levels form a special sisterhood. Together they chase the same dream, celebrate conquests, and tackle similar challenges as many of today’s women living in the United States.

Today’s modern-day Latinas are well-educated, career driven, ambitious professionals who are capable of achieving their version of the American Dream.

What sets this English language web series apart from others in the mainstream media is that it finally showcases today’s Latinas for who we really are. Mothers. Wives. Small Business Owners. High Powered Executives. Doctors. Lawyers. US Congresswomen, Fashion Designers. Chefs. CEO’s of the Household and of our family’s destiny.

Successful career women are the protagonists of Merrick Park, a new web series

Successful career women are the protagonists of Merrick Park, a new web series

The three leading ladies of Merrick Park follow the guiding principle of the Red Shoe Movement. Through thick and thin each is supportive of one another, through their own personal and professional journey in life. And yes, each one of the lead characters has a true-life female role model that they can call upon for advice and support!

Bringing your skill set, experience and contacts when making a career change can make things substantially easier

For many years you specialized in creating major, national PR campaigns. What skills, knowledge, experiences from back then will you use in your new project?

The only difference between what I was doing back then and what I am doing now is that I am my own client.

All of the knowledge, experiences and skill sets that I have acquired during the past twenty years of my life are now bundled up in a beautiful, well-thought-out package, called Merrick Park.

How about the work you’ve done to help firms connect with the Latino consumer? Is any of that research going into the series?

My business partner, Maria O’Hollearn, and I have been providing consultative support to firms who desire to better align their US Hispanic PR and marketing objectives with their overall business plan. One of the most common reasons why clients typically seek our services is our team’s ability to help them better identify and then connect with what Nielsen has dubbed the “Upscale Latino.”

Even though Merrick Park was already being conceived prior to Nielsen’s findings, it only serves to strengthen the need for original content that speaks to the most important segment since the baby boomers, the upscale Latino.

Tips for making a career change

What would you tell someone ready to make a career change?

One of the main Merrick Park characters receives a gift: A pair of red shoes!

One of the main Merrick Park characters receives a gift: A pair of red shoes!

In order to be a good teacher, you have to be a great student. While others may call what I am doing a career change, I candidly view this a pivotal, evolutionary moment in my life.

Before you make a drastic career change, I highly recommend that you read Find Your Inner Red Shoes and then call a family meeting with your closest, most loyal friends and family. You’d be surprised. Sometimes, they know you better than you know yourself.

Be prepared to show them that you mean business and that you have exercised sound judgment in developing your exit plan as well as your new business strategy.

So far, what’s the most unexpected thing that came from having decided to take the plunge and go ahead with your career change regardless of the challenges you face?

One of my all-time favorite words in the English language is serendipity. For me, this word evokes so much magic, mystery and delight. I firmly believe that people and situations arise in our lives for a season, a reason and/or a lifetime. The trick is to figure out under what heading each life event or person falls under.

Once you have mastered that, it’s an epiphany – another favorite word of mine that you will hear plenty of times on Merrick Park TV.

You can connect with Aymee Zubizarreta and Merrick Park via: 



Merrick Park TV





Corporate Mentor, Career Sponsor: Distinctions Matter

An idiom and a corporate mentor are just a distinction away

When one of my Anglo friends uses an American idiom such as, “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear,” she asks me if I’m familiar with its meaning. If I say no, she usually says, “Wow, I can’t believe you’ve never heard it. It’s a very common saying in English,” and she goes on to explain what it means. I usually reply: “How common can it be if I’ve never heard it and I’ve been in this country for twenty five years!” Sometimes, I then share the Spanish equivalent, which in this case would be: “La mona aunque se vista de seda, mona queda.”

Inevitably, a few days later I start hearing and reading that expression everywhere. How could this be? Did it just become popular? No. What happened is that before my friend made the distinction for me, that phrase was just a string of words that I didn’t register as a unit.

Want to promote Latinos up the ladder? Share distinctions between corporate mentors, sponsors, advisors and advocates

Want to promote Latinos up the ladder? Share distinctions between corporate mentors, career sponsors, advisors and advocates

This is important because the lack of distinctions in any area renders us unable to act in that area. In my example, when I don’t understand a particular saying, I miss a reference that almost everyone else gets.  In more important situations, not understanding a specific distinction can keep you from advancing in your career.

Key Distinctions: Corporate mentor, sponsor, advocate, and advisor. Learn how to leverage your career growth by learning what these are and how they can help you. By Mariela Dabbah

Key distinctions that impact career growth:  corporate mentor, career sponsor, advocate, and advisor

Distinctions are not just definitions of words but tools that enable you to see things and to act on them in ways you couldn’t before you understood the distinction. One important distinction that Latinos who may be the first in their families to work in corporate America, frequently lack is the difference between a corporate mentor, a career sponsor, an advocate, an advisor, and a coach. As a result, they may fail to incorporate these critical people into their networks (or think that a corporate mentor is all they need;) and, consequently, they tend to remain stuck at lower levels in their careers, something they could overcome with the right support.

Definitions of corporate mentor, career sponsor, advocate and advisor

Recently, a mid career Latina I was coaching said to me, “Until two months ago, I never knew there was a difference between a corporate mentor and a career sponsor.” Naturally, she didn’t have both corporate mentors and sponsors because, not understanding the distinction, she didn’t realize the need for them.

Therein lies the importance of making these distinctions explicit to diverse employees:

  • A corporate mentor is someone you admire and respect in their area of expertise, who can guide you through the unwritten rules of the organization, provide feedback on your appearance and behavior, and help you figure out your goals.
  • A career sponsor is usually a very high-ranking executive, often someone within your organization who values your potential and goes to bat for you. The career sponsor is the person who opens up great opportunities and risks his/her reputation in the process.
  • A career advocate is anyone who sings your praises. They are your cheerleaders and can be at any level of the organization.
  • career advisor is someone you trust outside of your company and even your industry that provides feedback, guidance and objectivity you may not find within your organization.
  • A career coach is someone you (or your company) pay to work with you in specific areas where you need help or that you wish to develop such as presentation skills, communication, or leadership styles.
Making explicit the difference between corporate mentor, sponsor, advocate and advisor to promote talent up the ladder by Mariela Dabbah

The lack of distinctions in one area limits employees’ ability to grow in that area

Each of these individuals has a clear role to play in everyone’s career.  But for Latinos and individuals from a non-Anglo heritage, their importance is heightened given their more recent entry into corporate America and the challenges they still face breaking into the senior ranks. By not being aware of the specific role of each one of these people Latinos might fail to diversify their networks or might remain confident that all they need is a corporate mentor which studies show is really not enough to help you move beyond middle management.

Distinctions like these are needed in many areas of career management: from understanding the unwritten rules of an organization to being aware of how your communication style impacts your leadership opportunities to recognizing how your cultural background influences your attitudes and behavior.

Making explicit what people familiar with corporate culture know implicitly will help fast track many more Latinos  in corporate America.

Discrimination in the Workplace: Deliberate or unintended?

How does discrimination in the workplace manifest itself and what can you do to change any subconscious discrimination that may be at play?

Revealing new research from Catalyst and insightful analysis by our very own, Mariela Dabbah.

By Mariela Dabbah

Discrimination in the Workplace: Deliberate or unintended? Revealing new research from Catalyst and insightful analysis by our very own, Mariela Dabbah.

Discrimination in the Workplace: Deliberate or unintended?

The latest flurry of women being named to high positions is welcome news.

In the last few months we’ve seen Janet Yellen become chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, Mary Barra take the helm as the first female CEO of GM, and Melissa Mark-Viverito step in as Speaker of the New York City Council. Unfortunately, this great news has a seldom-discussed downside. It creates the illusion that there’s no longer need for companies and organizations to make an effort to address discrimination in the workplace. That opportunities to rise to the top jobs are available to everyone regardless of gender or background. That you only need to want the job badly enough to get it.

Is discrimination in the workplace unavoidable?

What can you do to change any subconscious discrimination in the workplace that may be at play? Revealing new research from Catalyst and insightful analysis by our very own, Mariela Dabbah.

What can you do to change any subconscious discrimination in the workplace that may be at play?

A recent study by Catalyst confirmed that feeling like the “other” at work eventually impacts an individual’s behavior. It begins with a real lack of access for people who feel racially/ethnically different. For example, people who feel different than others at work are assigned less senior-level mentors than those who don’t feel different. (58% of women who felt racially/ethnically different had mentors who were CEO’s or senior executives, as compared to 71% of women and 77% of men who didn’t feel different.) Chances to get plum assignments diminish when someone lacks senior-level mentors who can offer opportunities, and the likelihood of career advancement decreases as well.  Over time, people who feel different than their work colleagues start downsizing their career aspirations. In general, women are more likely than men to downsize their aspirations (35% compared to 21%), but this difference is even larger for women who feel racially/ethnically different (46%) and even more pronounced for those with multiple dimensions of “otherness,” (for example, a Hispanic woman.) In addition, being a mother resulted in the downsizing of career aspirations being even more pronounced.

Is discrimination in the workplace unavoidable? Read all about it!! Revealing new research from Catalyst and insightful analysis by our very own, Mariela Dabbah.

Is discrimination in the workplace unavoidable?

So what might be interpreted as self-discrimination in the workplace due to a lack of knowledge of what’s needed to move ahead (seek senior-level mentors who can become sponsors, for example) is in reality something different. Catalyst’s report concludes that fewer opportunities for those with multiple dimensions of “otherness” may be what’s harming their aspirations. In other words, an organization’s lack of mechanisms and strategies to guarantee that every high potential has equal access to a successful career track is what’s failing, not the lack of employees’ aspirations.

Not surprisingly, the report showed that women who felt racially/ethnically different were least likely to be at senior executive or CEO level in their organizations (10%, compared with 16% of women who didn’t feel different.)

What can you do to change any subconscious discrimination in the workplace that may be at play?

As someone looking for change, whether an HR practitioner or a professional woman feeling the impact of this reality, there are several things you can do.

1. Start by asking questions:

How are mentors matched with high potentials?

How can your company ensure access to high-level sponsors for all high potentials?

Are your ERGs leveling the playing field for people who feel as “others” or are they unknowingly  perpetuating discrimination in the workplace?

Are there effective metrics in place to track the progress of all high potentials, including those with multiple dimensions of diversity?

2. Print Catalyst’s report and bring it to work. Compare your numbers with those in the study. Organize rounds of candid conversations with all stakeholders to review and change any policies that negatively impact the career opportunities of your talent.

What might be interpreted as self-discrimination in the workplace due to a lack of knowledge of what’s needed to move ahead is in reality something different. Don't miss out. Revealing new research from Catalyst and insightful analysis by our very own, Mariela Dabbah.

What might be interpreted as self-discrimination in the workplace due to a lack of knowledge of what’s needed to move ahead is in reality something different.

3. Implement an experiential program where those in the majority get to feel “other” for a little while. Nothing like a personal experience to change people. For example, if you’re in a white male dominant company, send groups of two or three men to different multicultural women’s conferences. Or if the majority speaks English only, sit them in front of a Spanish comedy for an hour surrounded by Spanish speakers without the chance to change the channel.

These findings are not new. We’ve been discussing for decades the fact that people with diverse backgrounds (women more than men) have a harder time moving up the career ladder than their Anglo Saxon counterparts. This report gives us all reason to do our part to shake things up right now. Let’s not stay on the sidelines. Let’s take center stage and get it done.