Yai Vargas: Founder, The Latinista

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My Native Admission Statement: My name is Yai Vargas, also known as “The LinkedIn Ninja”. I’m a community builder. I carry out my mission day-in and day-out by helping individuals understand how to brand themselves and articulate their values when it comes to their career and leadership development. 

With The Latinista, I host monthly events where Latinas and women of color invest in learning new skill-based and habit changing strategies for career mobility. I have chapters in NYC, Miami, Chicago and LA where I travel almost weekly to meet with community leaders, executives, organizations, and individuals to bridge the gap between diverse talent and organizations. I am also a national public speaker on women’s empowerment, LinkedIn branding, and female entrepreneurship.

Any emerging industry trends?

When I graduated college, my career counselor said, “Yai, you now have the same degree (Integrated Marketing Communications) as everyone else in this class. What’s going to make you stand out to any employer looking to hire talent? What’s unique about you?” I thought long and hard and decided that my language (Spanish) was something that differentiated me from most of the people in my class. I decided to lean in with that, using it to land each job I’ve had. I focused all my energy on becoming the subject matter expert in the Latino consumer experience. I worked in multicultural markets which evolved into a more strategic Diversity & Inclusion career. 

The topics of diversity & inclusion are ever evolving. Current trends point to recognizing that companies may be preaching to the choir when it comes to internal affinity and employee resource groups. A successful diversity & inclusion strategy is one that is built on the foundation of allies. For example, engaging more people who don’t identify as LGBT but who want to support and help move the progress forward for others who are. If we’re only speaking to those in the LGBT community whose experiences are the same, then we aren't allowing for those allies that can help us and want to learn how to be allies. Therefore, the trends have us moving into a more inclusive culture where we don’t segregate a group, but more proactively engage allies and thought leadership groups. 

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

A huge opportunity for my organization is the simple use of streaming content and online learning, as both make education accessible across borders. I am looking to embrace this technology to be able to connect women who are lacking the access to content like mine in their own home towns. 

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

I was inspired to build this network given the absolute need for women of color -- particularly Latinas -- who would otherwise lack the resources, contacts, and conversations to upwardly mobilize their careers. My vision is to bring my services to large companies that are lacking the understanding and framework to support women of color for professional success. 

What's next for the Business in the near future?

In 2020, I am going on a tour to help communities of women of color in cities and towns that aren’t usually thought of when developing diverse talent, such as Salt Lake City, Boise, Wichita, Omaha, and Little Rock where representation is important, but often lacking, and giving such talent access to tools is imperative.

Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?

I have developed strategic partnerships with other organizations and communities invested in women of color to help elevate our profile and add to the incredible programming and content we deliver for upskilling. Together we collaborate on topics such a marketing and finance to make a positive impact on the communities we serve.

Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?

The daily challenge of having to run two businesses is a constant struggle. From having to manage team members to staying on top of accounting while delivering on my promises to clients every single day is completely overwhelming. I have learned to outsource a lot of my most tedious tasks, realizing I can’t do it all myself. There was a point at which I couldn’t stay on top of clients who hadn’t paid me for work done months ago. Once I sat down and saw that I had over $20k in outstanding invoices, I knew I had to immediately invest and prioritize this part of my business. I now have someone managing all of my bookkeeping and she makes sure my clients pay on time! 

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

When I start working with a new client, the first thing I ask is: “why now?” It’s important for me to understand why they are deciding to invest in their career and leadership development at this moment. For the most part, the career women I work with don’t have the time or the money to go back to school, so they are looking for an alternative that not only focuses on what’s currently relevant in the workforce, but also for someone who can help them connect to a community of women going through the same challenges. Once we understand the reason why they are ready to invest in their career, we then get clear on their goals. These are the most popular goals: land a new opportunity, get a promotion or raise, and learn something new (upskilling). The ideal member approaches the network with an open mind and is ready to be honest and vulnerable about the areas of opportunities they are facing. We then develop a strategy around what they are looking to accomplish. We set a timeline and discuss the upcoming programming that would help them in this goal. We set up accountability partners that have a similar goal and proactively work towards changing habits and keeping track of milestones met.

How do you motivate others?

I honestly believe that motivation fills those who are positive, open minded, and have found purpose. The most important thing about motivating anyone is understanding what moves and inspires them. You can’t expect for someone to have the same passion that you have for your business. It’s important to know what motivates them to do better and be better. Once I understand what gets them out of bed and their WHY, I am able to tie that to my company’s mission. It’s also important to know what their specific strengths are. Tying each person's strengths to their role and how it supports the organization's bottom line is everything. When someone is able to directly connect their strengths to the work they do daily, there’s a sense of purpose and belonging and which makes for a more productive team member. Always ask: “Are you happy doing this?” If the answer is no, let’s recalibrate. 

Career advice to those in your industry?

The Diversity & Inclusion industry is always evolving. The most important piece of advice I received about the work I do is to develop relationships with other consultants so that we can collaborate and leverage our unique services to win larger contracts. Playing as an individual contractor and contributor won’t get me nearly as far, so there’s an absolute need for like-minded professionals to band together and work as a team while learning new parts of the business. 

What do I do best?

I am the BEST at connecting people to opportunities and organizations. I LOVE helping people find roles and have curated an incredible network of HR professionals and fellow networkers that can help me connect them to the right job.  

What makes me the best version of myself?

Authenticity and being completely unapologetic about who I am and what I’m about represents the best version of myself. I have always had self-confidence in myself and my work. It’s easy for me to connect with almost anyone and build a relationship. I especially enjoy meeting up with former colleagues I’ve built relationships with since my very first corporate job 15 years ago. I still regularly invest time on these relationships -- in addition to current business partners and clients -- on a consistent basis. 

What are my aspirations?

Personally, I would love to continue spreading important messages like closing the gender equality gap to women and inspiring them to speak up. Professionally, I would love to see my business grow and build a team across the U.S.

My Biggest Success?

Hands down, my biggest success was believing in myself when I left a very comfortable position in Corporate America to launch my own business.

My Most Challenging Moment? 

My most challenging professional moment was years ago when I had to have a very difficult conversation about my career with a disrespectful manager when I was not fully prepared and without a mentor. 

My Motto?

Favorite proverb: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. 

My Favorite Places/Destinations?

I am from the Dominican Republic, and it’s wonderful to go back home. I also love Thailand and Tanzania! 

My Favorite Products/Objects?

Productivity tool: Trello - it helps me keep all my business projects organized.

My Current Passions?

Working with the City of New York and helping other female small business owners with strategy and social media!

My Daily Thoughts: Today is going to be a great day!

Goal of the Day: Answer every client-facing email by 10am.

Thought of the Day: I need to start preparing social media content for September’s Hispanic Heritage Month.

Action of the Day: I will do at least 30 minutes of walking.

Deed of the Day: I will be speaking to incoming freshmen at Rutgers Business School.

Tip of the Day: Wake up early and prioritize your most difficult tasks and get them done before noon.

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