Wearing Red for Success: Marielah Dabbah

By: Yadira Y. Caro

Marielah Dabbah has many people excited about wearing red shoes. This is not a fashion statement, it is a movement she developed to create awareness about gender equality in the workplace. Through her book Find your Inner Red Shoes, Step into your Own Success and her numerous speaking engagements throughout Latin America and US, she has been giving her message of helping women find success and tap into their strengths.

Helping others find success has been a constant in Mariela’s books. These include bilingual titles such as The Latino Advantage in the Workplace and Help your Children Succeed High School and Go to College. I asked Marielah about her current initiatives, what drives her work choices and some advice for women to succeed in the workplace.

What is the Red Shoe Movement about?

The Red Shoe Movement (RSM) is a leadership development company powered by a global community of women (and men who support them) who support each other for career success. Our mission is to accelerate the representation of women at the highest levels of decision-making. We achieve this with a two- pronged approach. On the one hand we provide leadership training to female talent within organizations to help them move to the next level in their careers. On the other, we conduct cultural awareness and marketing communications initiatives that aim at a global leap of consciousness. A tipping point on the gender equality issue.

Our best known initiative is #RedShoeTuesday, the day when we all wear red shoes and ties to work to support women’s career advancement. It’s an invitation to keep alive the conversation about how we can do to change our culture together in order to level the playing field for 100% of the talent.

“It’s important to know what you want so that you can align your attention with your intention.” – Marielah Dabbah

What are some activities you have had?

Every year we have the RSM Signature Event in NYC, which is an experiential leadership event unlike any other. This year’s takes place November 16 at MetLife. We’ll welcome close to 200 mid to high level executives from Fortune 500 companies. As we offer all our programs and our website in English and Spanish, we work a lot in Latin America. So for the last several years we’ve been working with our clients’ female talent in the U.S and across the Latin American region.

In the last couple of years we have organically grown into a communications partner for our clients. We rolled out the “Ring the Bell on the 7 Seas” with Celebrity Cruises, a Red Shoe Movement Gender Equality global initiative to echo the UN’s “Ring the Bell for Gender Equality”. We created a ceremony that was held on the entire Celebrity Cruises fleet and at Royal Caribbean’s offices around the world.

Sodexo, Chile

The last time we spoke  you had written a book about helping Latinos find work. Today you are supporting career success for women. What drives your projects and initiatives? How do you decide? 

They are usually a natural evolution that comes from working with different people and learning about their needs. It suddenly becomes apparent what my next focus should be. It happens when I feel I’ve done enough in a particular space and it’s time to take on a new challenge. And if I feel passionately about it, then I explore the topic. So far my initiatives have been kicked off by a book that I wrote on the subject. This may change in the future.

Can you share one essential piece of advice you give women to succeed in their career?

It’s important to know what you want so that you can align your attention with your intention. When you’re not sure what intrigues you, what fulfills you, what moves you, it’s easy to be swayed by others decisions for what you should or shouldn’t do. Once you know what you want, find ways to express it so others understand and direct the right opportunities to you.

Can you share a challenge or failure and what did you learn from it?

It’s hard to point out one mistake as I’ve made many and continue to make many along the way. When you make decisions every day and take on challenging projects, you learn as you go, so failing is an integral part of growing. I don’t even label these occasions “failures.” They are always a point of departure for something new, or to do things in a different way. Making friends with failure is the best you can do to grow faster. So you fail, learn, move on, and at some point you succeed. And you just continue to repeat the process.

Can you recommend 3 resources (book, podcast, etc.) you use to help you become better at what you are doing?

I read a lot both fiction and non-fiction as I find they inspire completely different ideas. And the books I pick are not necessarily only about talent development, gender equality or leadership. I’m finishing now The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life by David Quammen. And I recently read Delicacy by David Foenkinos, a great French author. My point is, your mind needs stimulation. And that comes from the most diverse sources. And I’m addicted to podcasts! Revisionist History, Radio Lab, Hidden Brain and Freakonomics are some of my favorites.

Do you have questions, feedback or suggestions of people to interview? Contact me! 

Covering the Military Stories: Howard Altman

By: Yadira Y. Caro

Unless you read Army Times or other military publications, stories about the military members are not common in mainstream media. However, at The Tampa Bay Times in Florida, Senior Military Staff Writer Howard Altman has found his niche, building trust among this community and traveling across the world to cover their stories. These include conversations with generals in war zones, struggles of the veteran population or the toll of military life among family members.

His career as a journalist and editor spans over 30 years covering a variety of topics for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Newton-News Tribune, City Paper and The Tampa Tribune. I asked Howard about building relationships, and how he continues innovating in a challenging industry.

When you became a journalist, did you have an idea of what type of stories you wanted to cover?

I knew I wanted to shine a light on bigger issues, bigger problems. Just looking back at some of the coverage we did such as mayor race in Philly, or how the high rises where not required to have sprinklers and some firefighters died. We did a series of stories on that and it changed things. That kind of thing has always been important to me.

You cover a lot of stories about the military. Is there anything that has surprised you or anything interesting that you have found in your coverage?

It’s all fascinating. We have a military base (McDill Air Force Base) which has two Combatant Commands. It has component commands, it’s got two air force wings and mission partners. So there is a wide range of things to cover. I’ve traveled to Afghanistan, Iraq, Bahrain and other places. I’ve been embedded with special forces groups. This week I wrote a series of stories about World War I, World War II, current conflicts, and even the sickening of embassy workers. I cover the VA all the time. We have two of the busiest VA hospitals in the country and one of the busiest VA claim centers. There is so much stuff going on.

How do you identify a good story?

My phone rings pretty much 24/7. I like the human element, I like stories about technology. I wrote a story about the drones that can deliver blood. You know fascinating stuff. [Building relations] is really challenging. The military doesn’t always like to talk to reporters, especially a lot of the special forces. So I kind of always approach it like a Green Beret ODA [Operational Detachment Alpha]. When they are traveling outside the wire, they go out and sit down down with a key leader and find out what is going on. For me it’s similar minus the body armor, the MRAPs, the M4 and people shooting at me. You meet key leaders, you build networks, build trust over time, and trust is very difficult to build.

I think people know I have no particular agenda, I’m not anti-military or pro-military, I tell the stories as they are. That is where the trust is. Probably twice a year I talk with the SOF [Special Forces] at the Joint Special Operations University about the various issues that we face and how can we work better to tell their story; about what frustrates me and what frustrates them. I go to all kinds of events such as Operation Helping Hand dinner and people see me out in the community a lot. So I build trust and people come and tell me stories constantly.

What do you think makes a good journalist?

Somebody who is curious, who is skeptical, who is willing to work hard to dig up the facts. Someone that will challenge their own assumptions, challenge own thesis, not cut corners, not make stuff up, either people or quotes. Who makes sure that the documents they are getting are the provenance, that are real. You have to have a passion for this job because lets face it: it does not pay very much and everybody hates you.

How do you survive to all the changes in journalism? How do you adapt?

I was always an innovator. I worked in one of the first newspapers to go online. One of the editors, around 1993, said “one day, people will be able to see how many people look at each one of your stories and for how long.” That was crazy then. So I’ve always been atuned to where the audience is. That is one thing.

The other thing is, when I took over the Philadelphia City Paper, I thought it was very important to find vertical niches. Then identify which one would be popular and really own the politics, media coverage, urban design and those kinds of things. I continue to believe that in the terms of the military coverage.

The Tampa Bay Times did great covering Veterans issues but they were not able to crack the military. After they took out the Tampa Tribune, they brought me on board knowing that I had this audience. It’s a lot, and its conservative; people who would not necessarily read The Times otherwise. We cover their issues. I try to go vertical and try to own it.

Would you recommend anyone to become a journalist?

I always say run away (laughs).  For democracy to succeed we need good journalists, strong journalists, accurate journalists, unbiased journalists. Now more so than ever. I’ve done all kinds of things, I’ve met all kinds of people: cut up jokes with Mel Brooks, sat down with generals and presidents, met princesses, go to places people don’t go, see things people don’t see. Its fascinating and I highly recommend it.

Do you have questions, feedback or suggestions of people to interview? Contact me!

Spreading Disney’s Magic: Interview with Sarah Domenech

By: Yadira Y. Caro

Sarah Domenech works where you vacation. As the Public Relations Managers at Walt Disney World Resorts, she spends her days at the Orlando parks or traveling throughout the US and Latin America to ensure everyone knows about the latest Disney has to offer. She helps keep the magic alive.

Sarah started her career in her native Puerto Rico as a journalist in the area of music and entertainment. Later, she moved to Florida to continue her career in TV and newspaper journalism. In 2007 she started working at Disney managing projects and marketing strategies. Today, her focus is on the Hispanic markets in the US and the Americas. She is always quite busy but she is indeed having fun, judging from her social media posts or her posts for the Disney blog. Even with her hectic schedule, Sarah took some time to answer my questions about her job and current challenges.

How did you ended up working with Disney?

I’m a journalist and I was working as an entertainment and travel editor in Orlando and used to cover Disney World a lot. One day, they asked if I was interested in a PR role within the sales and travel organization. I interviewed and after 11 years, I’m still with the Company.

39284524_2186046325016712_4675222066637570048_n

Can you describe what it is like in a regular week at your job?

What I love about my job is that there are no regular weeks. We surely have standard meetings and things to do but we get media requests every day, celebrity visits and projects; no day is similar to the one before or the next. I talk to media on a daily basis, pitching stories about our theme parks and resorts, talk with celebrities and management to plan photo opportunities and now, our weeks are all about the opening of Toy Story Land. I am working with the media to cover the press event and opening of the new land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Can you describe 2 or 3 things key things you believe are necessary to succeed in this job?

Organization is very important since your day can be different from hour to hour and need to keep track of tasks for different projects – a lot multi-tasking happens here: relationship skills are key since you not only need to establish new relationships with media partners but maintain them and strengthen them. And last but not least, writing. There’s a lot of writing involved in this role. Oh and be on top of media trends, the landscape for media, specifically for Hispanics, is changing constantly and you need to keep up with what’s happening.

Do you have an example of a failure from which you learned from (at this job or elsewhere)?

Too many actually! Since English is not my first language, making grammar mistakes in press releases and even during presentations are my pet peeves since I have made so many. But with every mistake, I have learned and move forward and I haven’t made those mistakes again. I learn a new English word every day!

Any 3 books, podcast, websites, etc. you recommend to any professional?

Oh dear! I read a lot, well, I consume a lot of media. For example, in my line of business I go to online newspapers like El Nuevo Dia, People en Español, Parents Latina, and The New York Times. My favorite books are The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho– life transforming – and 100 años de Soledad (100 Years of Solitude) by Gabriel García Marquez. Anybody that is in communications and works with Hispanic and/or Latin American markets, should read those.

Do you have questions, feedback or suggestions of people to interview? Contact me!