Woman Wednesday: Leilani

*Note: Woman Wednesday is a part of our blog. Each Woman Wednesday post will feature a woman who would like to share information in the hopes of inspiring and motivating other women. Comments are welcome below. 


 

Q and A with Leilani Romero, Fairfax County, Virginia

Website: www.leilaniromero.com

WATCH LEILANI HERE VIA A SHORT VIDEO CLIP.

Author/illustrator of The Little Things: A Collection of Happy Things

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“Since I was a little girl, I loved all things artistic. I would draw people for fun since I could remember and gift them the drawings just to make them smile. I would create cities out of art supplies and colored cardboard…creating my own little world. I would spend hours on Microsoft Paint drawing pretty things simply because I enjoyed it, and little did I know that this was called design.”

 

Q:What are you passionate about? 

A: I’m a graphic designer, international portrait and wedding photographer, an illustrator, and most importantly an entrepreneur. I graduated from the school of art and visual technology at George Mason University with a concentration in graphic design and a minor in art history. Although this might sound very cut and dry, my college career was far from it. I changed my major three times, and for a while I thought I’d be an architect…It took a little soul searching to find my passion, but in the end I chose happiness over all.

Since I was a little girl, I loved all things artistic. I would draw people for fun since I could remember and gift them the drawings just to make them smile. I would create cities out of art supplies and colored cardboard…creating my own little world. I would spend hours on Microsoft paint drawing pretty things simply because I enjoyed it, and little did I know that this was called design.

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In high school, I began to explore photography and in college a friend gave me my very first canon camera because I was really good at photography. I later learned dark room film photography and continued to take portraits of the people I loved because I didn’t want to forget a thing about this beautiful life. As I took more and more photos, I began to receive requests, and friends and family pushed me to launch a Facebook page. Next thing I knew, I was starting an official creative business: Leilani Romero Co. and taking portraits and shooting weddings professionally! It’s been five years since and I wouldn’t have it any other way. After that, I began to expand the design side of my business and launched The Flower Shop, a place for handmade prints. Pretty soon I published my very first book, an illustrated work— The Little Things: A Collection of Happy Things.

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While running a business became my passion, in order to support it, I worked in the professional world for five years in the non profit, corporate, and consulting spaces. As a consultant, I was able to learn about marketing strategy, communications, and social media marketing. It was through these many corporate career opportunities that I became a digital marketing subject matter expert. Although I’m only 23, I’m proud to say that I have worked professionally in this space for five years, and it was well worth it.

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Q:What things have you learned that have been valuable to you?

A: One of the most valuable lessons I learned is to always be clear and open with others. In business it’s very important to always be professional, learn as much business knowledge as you can, and always educate yourself. Business law is crucial, and drafting the appropriate contracts can really be the best decision in the long run.

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Q: What do you want others to learn from your story?

I want others to learn to never stop working on their dreams, and always follow them with all their hearts, because it is so worth it.

The grass is always greener where you water it. Fairytales and daydreams are possible as long as you work hard for them. Nothing comes easy, even if it seems that way, but if you believe in yourself, good things will come. Always be passionate, true to yourself, and constantly search for motivation.

The biggest takeaway is to focus on what will make you happy, and live life to the fullest. If you have a dream, you need to listen to it, and chase it with passion!

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Woman Wednesday: Kidron

*Note: Woman Wednesday is a part of our blog. Each Woman Wednesday post will feature a woman who would like to share information in the hopes of inspiring and motivating other women. Comments are welcome below.


 

 

Q and A with Kidron, Baltimore County, Maryland

WATCH KIDRON HERE VIA A SHORT VIDEO CLIP.

 

 “I was born in a very modest household, the daughter of a Financial Planner and a Phlebotomist (chemistry nerd). In many ways, I reflect characteristics of my parents, but I am very much like my father. I have always been told that I am “very bright,” but it wasn’t until I entered the world of finance that I felt I had finally found my place. I worked long hours…for less-than-ideal pay, applied myself to learn as much as I could, and over the years, I finally began to progress up the corporate ladder.

 

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Q: Tell us about your younger years.

A: I grew up in a small town in Pikesville, Maryland. I was scrawny, spunky, had a knack for making up bad jokes (that I thought were great), and I was good with my hands. According to  my mom, I spent a good deal of time “taking things apart” when I was younger, but also often putting them back together. The kids in the neighborhood also considered me a sort of “connoisseur” of the monkey bars, and a master of broken bicycle chains. My mom interpreted these inclinations as signs of a future “Mechanical Engineer.”

 

 

Q: What was high school like for you?

A: To put things eloquently, I struggled like everyone else. I was pretty awkward, didn’t fit in any particular social circles, and didn’t seem to have a natural gift for any of my classes. With the exception of two subjects: honors pre-calculus and a technology glass, I was pretty status- quo. I would not really characterize myself as a “math-kid” either. I loved algebra, and other studies, to which I could attribute logical flow akin to building Legos. Otherwise, high school was a time I would never assign as “pleasant”.

 

 

Q: What was the next step for you after high school?

A: My first “Big-Girl” job was working at as a Digital Life Sales specialist at age 17 for a big-name electronics store (shout out to my mom for encouraging me to apply for that job). Believe it or not, I’ve always had a “knack”, or natural proclivity, towards computer technology—as long as I can remember.

 

As shy as I was, I actually ended up being quite the strong salesperson. I knew hardware, software, operating systems, and cell phones like the back of my hand. I knew the products, I was charming, and I recommended practical solutions without over-selling. I was willing to teach the customers to help them make an educated decision about their purchase. I began to thrive, and before long I was promoted to “team lead,” in a full-time employment capacity.

 

This was also the time in my life when I was supposed to be in college. I graduated high school (barely) on time, and enrolled at a private liberal arts school, with the intention of becoming an Interior designer. I thought I could make a decent living on interior decoration, and I had enough demonstrable math skills to comply with the calculation-aspects of the job.

 

However, once I got to school, it wasn’t long before I started to realize I wasn’t that great at being an artist; and that making a comfortable living would probably require an advanced degree, and years before the salary was commiserate with my experience. I also started to advance more and more in my baby-career as a salesperson. I enjoyed it, seemed to have grasped some form of popularity never previously experienced, and I did well for a kid out of high school.

 

It wasn’t long before I was promoted at work, and the allure of obtaining that Bachelor’s Degree in Arts faded away; during the same time, footing the tuition bill for that full-time private education became something my parents couldn’t afford. I became disinterested enough to drop out.

 

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Q: Do you believe dropping out of college was the best decision for you?

A: I would not necessarily say that I “regret” dropping out of school then, but returning to continue my education further on in life certainly has not been any easier than when I was a relatively careless 19-year old. Thankfully, the skillsets that I had acquired and developed working as a salesperson had universal application in the finance world. In the fall, I was recruited to start my first professional position, working an accounts receivable role for a company in the Baltimore area. I still didn’t have a degree, but I was good with numbers, excellent with spreadsheets, and learned financial concepts easily. Working for this company helped me develop critical thinking and analysis skills, that were unsatisfied by the collections-oriented position. I spent about 18 months with that company before I moved on to other opportunities.

 

I knew that tenure and consistency is important for advancement in the world of finance. I sacrificed for these positions. I worked long hours… for less-than-ideal pay, applied myself to learn as much as I could, and over the years, I finally began to progress up the corporate ladder.

 

There is an invisible line between the “associate” and “analyst” experience leveled position (which generally required a Bachelor’s Degree of some sort) that was rapidly approaching, and I it knew would be challenging to cross. In order to move beyond billing and collections, I had to be able to prove I had the skills required to be an analyst. I knew that would be difficult without a 4-year degree, but I also learned that sometimes, those 3-day long training sessions for Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint skills carried weight in the eyes of managers and employers—because experience is also valuable. I signed up for company-sponsored, industry-approved classes, I did IT hardware and software certifications through our employer’s online training center as often as I could; and I kept a running list of everything I did. I also amassed a number of training hours that qualified for “Continuing Professional Education” credits, which is a huge plus. No matter how long I worked at any contact position, I made sure I had some form of evidence to show what skills I learned and what I achieved. I also learned on the job, sitting behind computer monitors. I learned to identify, explain, and resolve account variances. I read lengthy sales agreements, servicing agreements, tax publications, and experience in multiple aspects of the finance industry. I learned how to implement short term and long-term solutions through the use of process automation.

 

I also taught myself how to program, predominantly in Visual Basic for Application. It’s a scripting language that’s often used to display data or calculate data and automate processes or routine tasks. That was one of the skills I learned over the years, and programming was an effective tool I could use to gain a deeper understanding of the finance world. It was also a fun way to build things.

Eventually, I went back to school. I decided to change routes a little from my original Arts-direction, to pursuing an Accounting Major.

School is still an ongoing struggle for me, but I am happy to say that I am finally about to obtain my first Degree in Business Accounting (Certificate), have surpassed the Analyst experience level, and have become an intermediate-level Developer/Programmer/Financial Modeler in the finance industry. I am also enrolled in another University to resume my path to my Bachelor’s Degree, with a Master’s Certificate in Data Analysis on the side.

 

I landed my dream job as an “Engineer” like my mom thought I would be, except I build financial models for structured finance deals on a digital platform.

 

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Q: What do you want others to take from your story?

A: I’ve realized that in my life, for me to overcome what holds me back, and to be happy, I have to let some things rest in the shadows. If they don’t contribute to the betterment of myself and/ or humanity, they probably aren’t worth holding onto. I decided I had to push forward for what I wanted (and deserved) if I had to be the Little Engineer who Coded.

Work hard and persevere.

 

 

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Woman Wednesday: Laura

*Note: Woman Wednesday is a new part of our blog. Each Woman Wednesday post will feature a woman who would like to share information in the hopes of inspiring and motivating other women. Comments are welcome below.


 

Q and A with Laura, Morris County, New Jersey

Watch Laura HERE via a short video clip.

“I try to challenge myself daily, to develop different parts of who I am and who I want to be. I’m a work in progress. We’re all works in progress, and I think that’s a really beautiful thing.”

 

One of my father’s hobbies was photography when I was younger, and I couldn’t help but want to try it out myself. In my preteens, I taught myself how to use a digital camera and shortly after, got into film photography. This jump-started my passion for photography. When I won a photography competition against a bunch of older women, at the age of 13, I became hooked. That photo is actually one of my favorite non-portraits to this day—a bumble bee on top of a flower in a Vermont garden. Now, I primarily like taking portraits. There’s nothing like helping someone realize their beauty and potential through a camera lens. Capturing pure happiness is my favorite.


 

Q: What advice would you give to women?

A: Being yourself is a powerful thing.

 

Q: What does feminism mean to you?

A: Feminism to me points to the big picture of equality and the ability to express who you are confidently without judgments or negative forces upon you.

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Q: Why should more women be in business or male-dominated fields?

A: Businesses thrive when different views and perspectives are brought to the table. Many types of people, including women, are needed to contribute diverse valuable ideas and opinions. This is especially the case when women are the target market. Women know women best.

 

Q: What are you passionate about?

A: I knew I wanted to make a positive impact in others’ lives for a career, so I decided that studying psychology would be one way to start on that path. I got my BS in psychology and a minor in photography at a fairly small liberal arts school in central PA. I was lucky enough to study abroad due to my school requiring its students to have a cross-cultural experience as part of their core curriculum. I took the opportunity to go to the place I dreamed of going to since I was a little girl—Sydney, Australia! The beaches, lifestyle, and wildlife enticed me and it surely didn’t disappoint! It was an incredibly exciting and rewarding experience that I’ll never forget. I grew immensely during those 4.5 months by pushing myself out of my comfort zone as much as possible.

When I chose to study psychology in college, I knew that I would have the most job opportunities if I went to graduate school afterwards, so that’s exactly what I did! I ended up getting my Masters in Social Work, with a clinical concentration, from a large public institution the following academic year. During my master’s program, I was lucky enough to have two amazing field placements. First, I worked with high school students doing one-on-one therapy addressing various issues including anxiety, depression, family concerns, relationship issues, and whatever else the students brought to their session. I also co-facilitated a bereavement group with another counselor, which focused on all types of losses the students were experiencing.

After my first field placement, I became fascinated with the idea of working with college students and sought out opportunities to do so. I landed at a small liberal arts college near my hometown and their counseling center is where I fell in love with working with the young adult population.

What’s even more exciting is that this position eventually led to my current position as a learning support specialist. I now work with college students with disabilities that impact learning, primarily doing academic coaching. I meet with about 25 students for an hour per week to address any concerns they have that could impact their academic success. During these meetings, we go through all of their classes, review their grades, go over upcoming assignments, discuss learning strategies and skills that may be helpful, and sometimes do some work together. Another part of my job is co-facilitating an interpersonal skills group with the same population. The students decide what they want to talk about during that weekly group, but topics often include friendship or roommate issues, relationship concerns, academic concerns, family issues, and stress. It’s a space for students to discuss whatever is on their minds that week.

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Q: How did your younger years impact who you are today?

A: At 5’6” by the time I was ~10 years old, I was a bit physically awkward and wasn’t particularly comfortable with myself on the inside either. This was the case for all of elementary school and most of middle school. I considered myself a misfit who was trying way too hard to“fit in,” and I was compensating who I was in order to try to do so.

That all changed towards the end of 7th grade. I had had enough trying to be something I wasn’t—it was so clearly not paying off. A switch kind of went off in me that I needed to start doing things that were best for me, rather than what was going to make me “fit in.” This was when I started to find happiness in who I was and in my social life. I encourage all young girls to embrace who they truly are—there’s happiness in that.

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Q: What is something you want others to take away from your story?

A: The takeaway from my story is that doing what is best for you is the right path for you because you’re the expert on yourself. And when you work on yourself and you’re the best for yourself, you’re also the best for others. A perk of this is that people are attracted to others that are confident in themselves.

 

 

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