Nely Galán is a quintessential maker: She is a Latina media mogul, an entrepreneur, a teacher, a speaker, an Emmy Award winning producer, and an advocate for gender parity. Above all, she is SELF MADE. Dubbed the “Tropical Tycoon” by The New York Times Magazine, Galán is one of the entertainment industry’s savviest influencers. Galán, a Cuban immigrant, worked her way up to become the first female president of a U.S. television network (Telemundo Entertainment). Throughout her career Galán produced over 700 episodes of television in English and Spanish. Galán was also the first Latina ever to appear on “Celebrity Apprentice with Donald Trump” on NBC—showing on national television that a multi-cultural woman’s place is in the boardroom. After becoming self- made on her own terms, Galán has made it her mission to teach women—regardless of age or background—how they too can become entrepreneurs.
Galán is also the founder of the nonprofit The Adelante Movement (“Move it forward!” in Spanish), which kicked off in 2012 and seeks to train and empower Latinas to become entrepreneurs. Soon, not just Latinas, but women of all backgrounds began showing up to her events, a clear signal to Galán that all women, and particularly multicultural women, were leading a new economic women’s movement. The revolution around financial self-reliance had already begun. The SELF MADE book is the culmination of nearly four years on the road meeting and training women, who have collectively become the largest growth engine in the country.
What do you do best?
I take pride in the fact that I am someone who unapologetically completes things. I have to see everything I do through to its end, no matter it is. I’m not afraid of hard work, long hours or tedium. Whatever the endeavor calls for, I’m up for the tast. So what I do best is: GET THINGS DONE.
What makes you the best?
I like to think one of thing the thing that makes me the best—at least when it comes to working with diverse markets and communities—is that I’m a really good balance of both toughness and vulnerability. When I talk to multicultural women, teaching them about the importance of financial self-reliance, I am at once firm and sensitive in my approach. I give them the cold hard truth about the actions they must take to move forward; I force them to dig deep—but I also share deeply personal aspects of my own life and experience to illustrate the points I am trying to make.
What are your aspirations?
I’m happy to say that on a business level I have hit many of my aspirational goals. Over the years I ran television stations; I was the first Latina president of a huge network; I created and distributed programming (over 700 shows in both English and Spanish!) for my community; and after all that, I earned a degree in clinical psychology. All of which is great, because now I can really focus on my personal goals: to empower as many women as possible to understand the power and significance of financial self-reliance, so that they can, like me, actualize their own dreams and goals.
Maybe I’m saying this because it just happened, but my greatest accomplishment is having written a New York Times best-selling book that aims to inspire and teach women how to become empowered, self-reliant and rich in every way. The book also hit #1 on Amazon and Barnes & Noble lists!
Most Challenging Moment?
One morning, three years into a job I adored as manager of a TV station, I came to work to find the company’s attorney sitting in front of my office. I instantly wondered what I had done wrong. He greeted me and escorted me into my office, closed the door, and happily announced, “We sold the station to an insurance company. A very big deal. Isn’t that great?”
I was speechless, thinking, “Great for me? How?” I rushed to the bathroom and threw up. I was filled with anxiety. All I could think was, “What will happen to me? I’m going to lose my job!” My fear quickly turned into anger. How could my boss have sold the company without even telling me? I was part of the team! I WAS the company!
I stomped out of the building, got into my car, and, crying the whole way, drove over the George Washington Bridge into Manhattan, to the Park Avenue headquarters, to confront my boss. I took the elevator up fourteen floors, pushed past his assistant, and stormed into his office. I found my boss on the phone, joyfully regaling the person on the other end about the sale. I blurted out, “How could you do this to me? Why didn’t you tell me?” And then I got choked up and started to cry. Bad move. He raised his hand, palm toward my face—a stop sign—to silence me. “Young lady,” he said, “those are our chips. You want to play? Go get your own chips.”
I was devastated. In that moment, I hated him. “What a jerk,” I thought as I walked out, feeling humiliated, like a stupid little girl. “Go get your own chips”? I sacrificed three years of my life for this job, no dates, no movie nights...I was a glorified twenty-four-hour-a-day worker bee.
Once I calmed down, I realized that this guy had just done me a huge favor. He had taught me the most crucial lesson of my life: until that moment, I had been tied to the idea that I had to be somebody’s employee. But in a split second, a light was turned on, and I realized that I had to think bigger. I needed to think like an owner.
For three years, I had been perfectly content to slave away and run this business for my boss. In my wildest imagination, I had never thought that my dream job could suddenly disappear or that my boss wouldn’t take care of me. I decided that I never wanted to have something I’d worked so hard for taken away from me again. I would never let anything like this happen to me again. I decided then and there to be my own boss and start my own business. “Go get your own chips!” would become my rallying cry.
I have many mottos, all of which appear in my book, SELF MADE. But one of my favorite ones is “kill Prince Charming.” What I mean by this is that many of us often tend to rely on external forces, such as a partner, a job or a company for our financial stability, now and future. However, we have to remember that partners, jobs and corporations can come and go, for all kinds of reasons. As such, you have to be poised to take care of yourself and to actualize your own dreams. The truth is that you have to be your own Prince Charming.
Favorite People/Role Models?
In the business category:
This is another question for which I have so many answers, as there are many women who inspire me every day. Here are two:
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor: She’s the first Hispanic and third woman appointed to the United States Supreme Court. When Sonia was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes she understood that her survival solely depended on herself. She learned to give herself insulin shots and began to strategize her path in life. She became determined to become a lawyer, a goal that kept her on course, from valedictorian of her high school class to the highest honors at Princeton, Yale Law School, the New York County District Attorney’s office, private practice, and appointment to the Federal District Court before the age of forty. Sonia is in the category of what I call “the women of my life,” a heroine of the highest order who inspires me daily on my own path toward achievement.
Maria Contreras-Sweet: Maria Contreras-Sweet is the 24th Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and as a member of President Obama’s cabinet. The SBA is charged with supporting America’s 28 million small businesses, which create a majority of U.S. jobs and employ half of our nation’s private-sector workforce. As a business leader, California state cabinet official and entrepreneur, her amazing achievements in bringing efficiencies and modernization to large scale organizations have earned her international acclaim. Her drive to bring SBA into the digital age, and expand into broader domestic and global markets, has yielded record results in lending and contracting for small businesses. She started three businesses, including a community bank in downtown Los Angeles, focused on small and mid-size businesses where she served as its executive chairwoman for seven years.
Miami: This is my happy place, where my parents live, and where I have a vacation home. I go there to decompress and rejuvenate.
New Mexico: I have a home in New Mexico, where I go when I am looking for a bit of quiet and calm.
Cuba: This is where I was born, where my whole story began.
Cambodia: When I went on my trip around the world, I was blown away by how kind and gentle the people of Cambodia were.
Israel: I love the grit of the Israeli people and way of life.
My sneakers. My glasses. My iPhone. My library.
These days I am really into the idea of uncluttering. Simplification. I recently read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing—a huge bestseller—by Marie Kondo. Kondo describes the spiritual practice of clearing out all the useless stuff and clutter of your life in order to open yourself energetically to the new you, inside and out. I like to think this act makes space for everything that is to come.