2. How old are you?
3. What is your job title?
I’m an MBA student at Yale School of Management. Starting this fall, I will be a Senior Consultant with Deloitte’s Human Capital Practice in Los Angeles.
4. How has the transition been from backpack to briefcase (college to adulthood)?
A jungle gym, with lots of unexpected and wonderful surprises, and definitely some challenges too. I’ve never been the type of person to have a multi-year plan, because I believed it would close me off to opportunities. I always try to live in the present and see where life takes me. This iterative process has led me to the next step, and at each step I realize more about the world and myself. The first of these surprises happened on graduation day from Stanford in 2011. I sat down at my department ceremony and was alphabetically placed next to my now fiancé. We each had jobs lined up in different cities, but on the first day of dating decided to drop everything to be together. The second unexpected surprise was the opportunity to help start a new office at Stanford. I got to build on a lot of the work to improve student life that I was involved with as a student. After two years and learning a ton from an amazing team and boss, I was ready for more growth and challenge. Stanford had become a family to me, and I knew if I didn’t branch out I’d probably never want to leave. During those first years after graduation, I served on the Board of Directors for The Center for Relationship Abuse Awareness, a non-profit that works to end gender violence. Through that work and advocacy that I had done both as a student and a young professional at Stanford, I came to the realization that I want to commit my life to improving and expanding the opportunities and experiences of women and girls. It was this goal that led me to work in People Operations at a large tech firm, where I hired the best candidates for teams across the company. Well over half of these individuals were females going into technical roles. This work inspired me to want to do more. I craved impact at a higher level. I also wanted to position myself to be the type of leader that could inspire those who come from similar backgrounds to realize that anything is possible. This is what led me to pursue my MBA, and I am so happy that I did.
5. When you were in school, did you imagine your life the way that it is?
Part of it yes, but for the most part no, because I was the first in my family to do some of the things I was doing, so the path was new for all of us. For a long time I wanted to go to law school because I love government. As I started to get to know myself more I learned that I love blank slates and coloring outside of the lines. For me, an MBA would be a valuable complement to my liberal arts undergrad education, and would also provide me with more legitimacy and confidence in any future workplace. The one part that I could have surely predicted was having a dog. I am the biggest animal lover, and dreamt about the day that I could have my own pup. I have a 4-year-old French Bulldog named Franklin Delano Cardona (FDR) who is one of the biggest joys and loves of my life. I love being a dog mom, and it makes me really excited to have human children one day too.
6. What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced during these transitional years?
There are two key challenges that I’ve face that have been transformational for me, and that I don’t speak publicly about enough. The first was an intense stalking experience that happened to me during the summer before my senior year of college. A fellow student, who had reached out to me due to my recent election as Student Body President, asked to meet to discuss a new idea he had for the campus. Meetings like this were quite common. However, quickly into our meeting he made me feel uneasy, and I found a reason to gracefully leave. For the weeks and months after that he continued to send many unwelcomed emails, texts, and messages that put my sense of safety into peril. Without going into the dark details, I’ll summarize and say that he threatened me physically and sexually. I filed for a restraining order, which was granted. He broke it the next day and was sent to jail. I was lucky to have an extremely supportive family and school administrators who helped me through some very tough and scary days. However, I hear of far too many cases where cases have been mishandled, and this must change. The perpetrator was banned from campus while I was there, but there were a few times that he was spotted on campus and the pain of the situation would stab at me all over again. In the years to follow, I went through stages of emotions and healing. One of the most frustrating aspects was how it changed my patterns and behaviors. I became more cautious and guarded, and more careful especially when meeting new men. Now, 5 years later, I am empowered to share this experience with others. I’ve converted the hatred and the pain into energy and
motivation to make the world a safer place for women and girls. Gender violence is unacceptable. The second experience was the unexpected academic struggle I had during the start of business school. The first year, especially the first semester, of business school is notoriously heavy in quantitative courses. Much of the content was brand new to me, and the pace, combined with the workload, and many life changes, were a recipe for failure. I received several “pass” grades and the worst and (at the time) most embarrassing of all, I failed one of my core classes. I had to meet with an academic committee about what happened and come up with a plan for remediation. Part of this included a requirement to retake the course I had failed. I was terrified that I would accumulate too many passes (after a certain amount, you are automatically dismissed from school). I was also anxious to retake a course with the next year’s first year class because this would mean others would find out about my secret failure. However, this year I realized that being vulnerable with others about what I experienced opened up the space for those who were currently struggling to seek help earlier, and potentially change their trajectory. I credit making it through my first year to my roommates, family, and close friends at school who helped me and cheered me on through the darkest days. The silver lining I’ve found in is that now I get to be here for others who are going through the same thing, and perhaps with my support they will have a better chance of making it through too.
7. What is the best advice you have received from a mentor about adulthood and/or careers?
One of my close friends and mentors, Jonathan Jourdane, gave a speech during my freshman year student orientation that I still think about nearly every day of my life. The point he made to us on that sunny Palo Alto afternoon was: we don’t have to, we get to. I continue to live by these words in all that I do.
8. What advice would you give a young professional?
Live presently. Put your iPhone away and don’t live behind a screen. Don’t get me wrong, I like to post my share of photos, updates, instas, and tweets, but I try to keep myself in check about living my life for me and not missing out on the real moments. We don’t always realize how precious and limited the time is that we will get with our parents, friends who don’t live near us, and other loved one, so it’s crucial that we make the most of the time that we do have an not get hung up on the things that don’t matter. Also, love wildly in relationships, in work, in friendships, in everything. Love until you think you can’t love anymore, and then love more. Don’t hesitate, don’t let past experiences or inner voices stop you from putting it all out there, life is too damn short. When your heart feels like it wants to hate, choose love instead. Hug people a little longer. Make that call even if it’s been months or years. Send random letters, texts, or emails of love for no reason. Just spread love everywhere you go and in everything you do.
9. What is next for you and the next 12 months? Do you have any goals you would like to accomplish? How are you going to accomplish them?
My focus right now is on a new initiative that I’m starting at Yale: the Young Women’s Leadership Launch. The conference has identified and invited 125 stellar high school women leaders from New Haven to come to campus for a day at the end of February. Our goals are to expose and inspire these young women to aspire to the highest levels of leadership positions in the most underrepresented fields: elected office, business, and engineering. In addition to my family, mentors, and community, it was largely due to experiences like this growing up that encouraged me to be ambitious and to believe in myself. I’ll graduate in May, and will spend my summer planning our wedding, spending time with my fiancé, family, and friends, and traveling the world. In September, I’ll start my new career in human capital consulting. As was proven during my summer internship with Deloitte, I’m joining a company that supports and encourages all of my interests, and I hope to continue fusing my passion for the public sector, and diversity and inclusion in my work at the firm. My goals for this time are simple: love more. Be a better partner, sister, daughter, friend, and community member. Call the people I care about more. Execute on ideas and dreams, don’t wait for the right moment, but instead do small iterations more often and fail early, then build from that. Exercise my voice more. Keep exploring my faith and expanding and deepening my relationship with God.
10. What makes you special?
I always see the best in people, things, and situations; I have so much love to give. And for some reason I have always, even from a very early age, had a deep gratitude and appreciation for life and the opportunity I get to live mine. I come from humble beginnings. My parents grew up in low-income households. My dad’s mother worked in the Levi’s factory in San Francisco. My mom’s mom cleaned motel rooms. My parents worked hard to create circumstances that would allow their kids to dream as big as we wanted to. And they did. I watched my mom work full time and go to night classes for 7 years to get her degree from the University of Nevada so she could fulfill her dream of becoming an elementary school teacher. My dad has never missed a day of work in his over 32 years as a store manager at his company. And whenever a crazy dream—like going to Stanford, running for Student Body President, working at Google, or going to Yale—has come up they told me I can and will do anything I set my mind to. I feel an immense sense of pride about where I come from, I feel privileged for where I’ve learned, worked, and lived, and I feel an honor to live a life in service to others. I want to change the world in both small and big ways. The small – smiling at strangers, being vulnerable, infusing positivity into others, saying thank you whenever possible, being forgiving, always telling those I love how I feel and showing that through my actions. The big –by working for gender parity in elected positions at the local, state, and federal levels, working to have more women on Boards of Directors, in the C-suites, and working to ensure the policies, legislation, and culture that exist in those spaces are ones that respect, understand, and empower us all.