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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How to get a Raise Being a Woman

More and more women are taking on careers that were once considered “only for men.” Women are killing it out there! However, in many of these male-dominated careers, women are underpaid.

It can be overwhelming to be a woman in a male-dominated field. You may feel that you deserve a raise, but you don’t know how to go about getting it.

Here are some tips that could help you to get that raise or to help you get that job in the male-dominated field that you want.

 

1. Know your worth and show it. Confidence goes a long way here. You have a lot to offer, but if you don’t express your self-worth, how are others supposed to see your worth? Show that you are confident by meeting others eyes when speaking, standing tall, speaking clearly, and by speaking up.

 

2. Show you can play with the boys. Some workplaces still act on gender bias and think that women cannot handle as much work as men can. Show that you can take on more work and put in the extra hours. Speak to your boss about wanting to take on more work to make more of an impact with your company. Showing that you currently have no problem tackling your amount of work and that you are eager to take on more could significantly impact your chances of getting a raise. However, don’t take on more than you can chew!

 

3. Show you can be one of the boys. To do this, you must communicate effectively. In most career fields, having good communication skills goes a long way here—whether you are a man or a woman. If you’re the only woman at your workplace, the guys may not open up to you as easily. You may feel intimidated. You may just need to push yourself to enhance your communication skills.

What can you do to better your conversation skills?

  • Say hello to coworkers in the workplace—even the ones you don’t work with at all. A simple “Hello,” and “My name is…,” and “What is your name?” can go a long way. Make sure to smile! 😊
  • Remember your coworkers names—write them down if you have to. Remembering someone’s name is crucial and can make a lasting impression.
  • Be an active listener, and let your coworkers do more of the talking. How? By asking your coworkers questions about themselves! Do less talking, and do more listening. More people will like you, and this could spread the positive word about you around the workplace.
  • What kinds of questions should you ask your coworkers? Well, you can ask about their family, where they grew up, what got them into such field, where did they go to college, what did they study, how long have they had such position, what is their favorite part of working at such place, et cetera—feed off of their answers, and ask more questions to keep the conversation going.

 

4. Be genuinely interested in your job and in others. Show interest towards your job and for the others you work with! Why should someone who complains get a raise? This goes a long with smiling, saying hello on a consistent basis, asking others questions, and putting in the work to get to know others.

 

5. Build trust—do what you say you will, help others, and if someone confides in you, do not tell anyone else what he/she has told you.

 

6. Don’t be a gossiper—no one will trust you or want to be around you—except maybe the other gossipers. These people often don’t accomplish very much.

 

7. Don’t apologize. More women than men will apologize too much and apologize too often for unnecessary situations. Unless you make a mistake or hurt someone, do not apologize—especially do not apologize for asking for a raise!

 

8. Help where you can. Have you heard the expression, “You get what you give”? If you want a raise, you need to help others.

 

9. Put in the hours. This goes with number 3. If you want a raise, stay later. Show your boss how committed you are. This will show that you can take on more responsibility, that you work hard, and that you deserve that raise!

 

10. Document your accomplishments and the times you put in that extra work. When it comes time for your review, you can highlight all these things that you have brought to the table.

 

11. Find out what your boss considers to be excellent performance. Maybe you do not know what would be considered “above and beyond” at your workplace. It doesn’t hurt to ask. In fact, just asking this question shows you truly care about your job. This alone could help your chances in getting a raise.

 

12. Ask your boss to meet with you—and express your desire to move up in the company. Express how much you care about this position and how you want to contribute more to it.

 

13. Seek recommendations. After a long period of connection-making and helping others, you should be on “good graces” with others. Now is when you can ask them for help—if they are a co-worker (and not a boss) ask them to mention a favor or how you’ve helped them to your boss. If you’ve truly helped them, chances are, they will be happy to return the favor.

 

14. Keep track of your timeline. How long have you been with the company? A few weeks, a month, a year? At most jobs, you need to put in a good amount of time to earn that raise. Typically, 6 months to a year is what is considered fair. Mention this when you meet with your boss. Do you have to be there a year to ask? No. Maybe you have recently been taking on a lot more work, and your role has significantly changed. This constitutes asking for a raise, even if the timing isn’t there.

 

15. Be patient. Once you plant the seed of wanting a raise (to your boss), your boss may need time to think about it. Chances are, your boss will think about how valuable you are to the company and may worry about losing you. It may not be a good time for your boss to give you a raise under certain workplace circumstances. So, be patient, give them some time, and keep killing it at your job!

 

If you show that you care about your job and that you care about your co-workers, put in the extra time, build trust, and show you want to be at the company for the long haul, you may get a raise sooner than you think!

We hope these tips help!

Thank you for reading!

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