Is the world ready for Global Citizens?

To all my paisanos, Mexicans living abroad: keep it up.

I think of myself as a global citizen. I have lived in five countries, worked in four, in America, Europe and the Middle East.

For all the expats- as they call us, who have decided to live abroad: I know that we all have different roles, different levels of engagement with society in the different countries and cities that we have been in. It may look like we are having an amazing time living in different places and travelling the world. And we are having it! We know this is a blessing and we embrace it and enjoy it day by day. We love posting photos of our latest discoveries and spreading out the word of how is that we have gotten to the places that we are.

To all my paisanos, Mexicans living abroad: I am very proud of you for your great effort and for representing Mexico to the world.

But what I am going to talk about today is something that none of us really posts/says out loud: it has been damn hard. Really. We need to prove our worth twice. We need to adapt to very different cultures and uses and customs.

Language

We are made fun of our accents – yes, no matter how many years I have been living abroad, I still mix up words from Spanish, French and Italian into some fine new English words that I come up with 😉 But I have witnesses that my speech is easier to understand than Northern Irish accent.

Having been educated in America and Europe, you may think that my written English is perfect. And it is. Most of the time… I had one of the toughest times of my life writing up my PhD thesis- 350 pages of content.  I was very lucky having the guidance that I had (an Emeritus Professor and authority in the country I was based in my academic area). But this was tough, and it was never enough. One of them had a very hard accent. It took me a couple of years to crack it! No, I wish I was kidding. I was a national writing winner and public speaker champion back home, and here I was, struggling to communicate with others. Things have changed over the years, I am a speaker and have presented and given talks in various countries, continents, for both industry and academia, but even now I still have second thoughts in certain interactions with people.

Discrimination

This is a tough one. I have witnessed and been target of discrimination many times. In the workplace, while I travel, etc. I have documented most of these cases. Once, one of my closest friends gave me what he thought was a compliment: oh, but you don’t look Mexican… I do!  Hanging out with my housemates back in my early PhD student days. I was the only non-European. We went dancing. One of them just stared at me and came close to tell me: If you keep dancing like that no (Insert nationality of the people I was with) girl will like you.

In the Europe that I have experienced, people may just underestimate your performance because you are not European. So we have to prove our worth once and again and again, and even witness others receiving opportunities that we know we have won and deserve. Promotions and exemptions come faster to others that may not necessarily be more qualified or have had a better performance. For example, in Ireland, foreigner’s previous professional experience doesn’t count, but a national’s work experience packing food at Tesco’s does. I have recently heard a colleague being assessed not on the basis of her performance, but her nationality.

And one may wonder, why do you guys leave your home countries? Because we dreamt of something better. I personally believe that I can change the world for the better and I have committed myself to education and the organizations that I lead and am part of to move forward to use technology and innovation for a better future. Don’t we all believe that bringing worldwide talent together will foster innovative thinking? But it is not as easy as that.

Border Wall Prototypes Are Unveiled (Source: New York Times 2017)

But not all is bad, and we always smile!

In fairness, we have been designed to thrive in the adversity. To be the centre of our social scene. We have incredible creativity and are so used to think outside the box that we come up with great projects, and are great add-ons for any place that we touch. I have seen my friends transforming industries in other countries, and we are all writing history from different areas. We work hard. And when we don’t want to work anymore… we work harder.

It seems like it is a resistance competition. It does not matter; we have been designed to thrive in adversity. Having Aztec or Mayan blood running through our veins, we will not claudicate. There will always be ways and we will find them.

To all my paisanos, Mexicans living abroad: Thanks for shining.

I woke up in Paris

I woke up in Paris.

It is a warm summer morning. I am exhausted after travelling. I couldn’t sleep again. There is a feeling of anxiety that has been unsettling me. I am not quite sure of what is it about.

I woke up in Charles de Gaulle Airport. for the 7th time this year.

Oh my dear Paris. You used to be my absolute love and now I feel that an endless halo of melancholy covers you.

So many memories. Good and bad.

I have not been not even once this year in La France, and to think how many times I used to devour you, every month, every season…

This morning, I decided to recreate you and your tastes. A petite pistachio macaroon from Laduree to effortlessly compliment my morning espresso… some things should never change. Routine, créatures d’ habitude et de routine, this is what we are.

Once my coffee is as it should be, I start writing in my red moleskine – a present. I cannot reach flow otherwise.

The sun is rising and shines over my face. I smile. I am hiding under my red cap. I am happy reflecting on my own observations as if I were to discover the secrets of this life. I think of you. The memories of what should be and it is not saddens me… what should have been and will never be…

I woke up in Paris.

Givers setting boundaries: how to stop narcissistic colleagues from stealing your credits at the workplace

I am a disciplined professional. I am both, an ideas person and a doer. I engage in a higher-level, sense of meaning dimension. I have worked in three main areas, since I started working at the age of 14. In government and politics, as an advisor to ministries and heads of state, designing and implementing strategies which affected public institutions and transform lives. In talent development, working as a university lecturer in Europe and the Middle East, designing professional programas too for community development and for companies. In the private sector, as an advisor to entrepreneurs and business men esigning and implementing strategies to be aligned with govermental mandates.

There was a life-changing event (another story to tell) that made me change my first career path, and with that, I also craved to stay out of the public eye. In fact, that was the reason why I wanted to live abroad. Anonymity was a bliss.

When I moved the fourth time, to the Middle East, I started to stand out for the quality of my work ( I am a workaholic – aren’t we all when things we work on really interest us?). But in not wanting to be quite in the spotlight something went wrong. With time, this behaviour degenerated in people thinking that I was a ‘doer’ whose work could be taken advantage of.

I used to invest plenty of time, years, helping others to i) learn how to do their job, ii) correcting their work, iii) giving them emotional support, iv) etc. And while this is all good and I enjoy educating people, there was something that was not quite alright, especially in a work environment, where people are paid for deliverables and have completion deadlines. Unfortunately, there are a lot of “agreeable takers” out there (Watch this 13:28 min TED Talk by Adam Grant to understand the givers and takers concept).

So, it is ok to be a giver, I think it is a personality trait, but you should also consider the following.

Giver rules

1. It is ok to be acknowledged. No, you are not being selfish by saying what you actually did. No, you do not need to share credit with the printing machine. It is ok to be acknowledged for your work. I have been asked to nominate people for some awards, even knowing that they haven’t done anything. Yes… thtey have been considering doing it…

Printer machine
Special thanks go to the printer, the retailer and the manufacturer. They all have a share in my new venture.

2. Market your work. No, you are not being an attention seeker. You are simply branding yourself, setting yourself apart and impeding “takers” from trying to impersonate you. I was recently exposed to a situation where someone (from now on X) was ok leading people into thinking that the work was being performed by her, that she was the one ‘in charge’. Whether this was done on purpose or not does not really matter. These people exist, so, market your own work. Brand it. Do not tempt Xs out there.

3. Understand cultural differences. I spent enough years living in a country (my third) where you could not really say ‘yes, I did that’ -at least, not in the environment I was in. Where you could be ‘too blinky’, ‘too much’, ‘standing out’ ‘too latin’ ‘too happy’ and people around would feel uncomfortable and say it -unintentionally transferring that discomfort to you! This reminds me of The Snake and the Firefly tale for some reason. In any case, in every culture, there is an acceptable way of gaining recognition for the work that you perform and the business that you bring to the company.

The snake and the firefly
Firefly: “So, why do you want to eat me?”  Serpent, “because I can’t stand to see your shining light.” Source:http://humanityhealing.net

But then, what if even with that you are being disregarded?

Well, I will tell you what Brian, relationships coach, told me this evening, and while his post talks about relationships, I can see plenty of similarities.

Set boundaries

Be clear about your role in the organisation. If someone is been paid to perform a certain activity, it is ok that they cope with learning how to actually do it. And If they can’t, they should look for a solution, not you. To you, ideas come easily. To others, they may not. In any case, mind your own business. This can seem quite evident, but it is actually hard. We develop defensive routines (Argyris 2002) to cope with life. In doing so, we adopt certain behavioural patterns and give the people we interact with a certain role. Meaning, you are allowing this behaviour. So, stop being nice! 

Set ground rules

Set your own goals and expectations. What can you tolerate and what you cannot. If what you consider should be done is not been fulfilled, then probably you are not a good fit in there.

Keep shining

Don’t you dare to put to head down, or to go ‘invisible’ to please the insecure narcissist. I have been ‘banned’ from guest lists not to make a taker uncomforable with my [too shiny?] presence. And you know what, it is ok. Learn to surround yourself by the right people in the right environment. Yes, you will feel their envious looks but, I bet that you are used to by now.

What if none of this work?

When feeling taken advantage of, givers stop giving. If you feel you are been disregarded by the people in your team or your organisation, then, it might be time to move on. Life is cyclical. So, probably this situation is here to show you that it is time to move on and have a fresh start in a healthy environment. Take care of yourself, observe your own feelings, reactions, and behaviours, and stay present.

The 6-year-old who decided to become a top student

Do not take me wrong. I love learning. It is just that I started my learning journey because I somehow had to. Because there was no choice. I needed to be independent and be strong on my own.

I was born in a small city in the south of Mexico and grew up surrounded by plenty of drama. Life exposed me too early to things that children should never be exposed to. I became a quiet child, introspective, always observing. Very early in life, I figured out that if I was a good student, I could get a little scholarship in my public school, which would help me to help my mami. So, I started studying.

I was 6 years old when I won my first school contest and participated in my first municipal academic competition. The first of many more to come. I was the youngest of my generation, as I started school a year before the average age in Mexico (5). No, it wasn’t smooth. Sometimes I wanted to hang out with the others, but if mum knew I was one mark less than perfect, I would be grounded during days! She quit her job because of me. She used to spend hours helping me to understand my homework, and forcing me to keep studying. I did have free time, and used it in English, poetry writing or piano lessons or baking cheesecakes to go on the streets to sell them, or simply selling my sweets to make some extra money (yet, another little story to tell). When I received my first scholarship, I remember I took my entire family for pizza (yaaay!), and it felt great! By the age of 10, I was in charge of correcting my teacher’s grammar and maths. Was I bullied? Of course I was! I was the chubby girl with her glasses writing poetry or studying or wondering about my place in the world while the others where running. The time came when I was in 6th grade, and my life changed.

There is a very famous competition in the entire country, and every single 6th-grade student takes part in it. It is the Sixth Grade National Academic Olympics (each year, more than 2 million students participate from all around the country). My school hadn’t won the municipal contest in about 6 years. Once I was nominated as my school’s academic representative for the competition, my teacher, Lilia, decided that I needed to study harder (yaaay… #not).

Every day after school, I used to go home, eat, and get ready to head to my teacher’s house. She tutored me after school every day in advanced grammar, history, geography, biology, civism, science, and maths. She was doing the best she could. It wasn’t all that great! While my friends were playing in the park in front of my house in San Isidro, I was leaving with my books and my glasses to study! While there were troubles in paradise, I still had to put myself together and go to study. I needed to push hard, so I did.

My teacher had a young girl too (older than me alright), Donahi. She was so lucky. I remember sneaking out to play with her in her dolls’ house when my teacher was not looking… Children (sight). My teacher Lilia (I still call her this way when I see her) bought so many books, which I read. I trained with plenty of mock tests once and again and again. Timing it. Moving fast between subjects. Solving my questions. No joking, I learned everything that I needed to know in maths up to a high school level.

I still remember visiting Mama Esther in Acapulco during the Easter break. Her house was every child’s dream. One can get lost in there playing bike, running to collect some mangos, playing water wars, having fun with my cousins. But not that time. While all of the kids were playing, I was in my bedroom at her house learning by heart the rivers and capitals of the world… I tried to learn them by singing the “Animaniacs” song (yes, I am that old!), which I was not really allowed to watch. Mum thought I had to spend my time in useful duties.

Finally, the D-day arrived. I was there with my mum (yes, she was always there!), and my teacher Lilia. The school hosting it was the champion for the last 6 years. I was a bit intimidated. I remember we were around 20 kids coming from all the schools in the Municipality. I sat. I prepared my pencil and my eraser and waited for the exam to start. I do not remember anymore whether it was hard. My memory has completely deleted that. I just remember when the judges were announcing the results. I had won.

I had to prepare harder to go to the regional contest fase 1, competing against the best public schools from the capital of the state. I won again. Then the regional contest fase II. Then the state’s level public school contests. All the finalist from all the regions in the state coming. From the rich urban cities, such as Taxco, Zihuatanejo and Acapulco, from the non-so wealthy and from the rural ones. We were all there. Yes, I was very intimidated. I won again. Then had to participate in the final test, the State contest including everybody, public and private schools. Anyway.

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Winners in the Sixth Grade National Academic Olympics with the Governor of the State of Guerrero (1994)

As winners, we – the 20 top students from the state- were invited to meet the Governor and the ministries at Guerrero’s Mansion House. The funny thing is that I never realised how that contest would change my life at so many levels (see also How was I ranked one of the top public speakers in my state’s history by the age 25). I was appointed as a recipient of the State Medal ‘Francisco Figueroa Mata’, which acknowledges outstanding childhood academic trajectory, in the state of Guerrero, Mexico. We were sent to Mexico City to represent our state and join the national talents hanging out with the smartest kids in the country for a week and meeting the President of Mexico and State Ministries.

We also travelled around the country in the “Route of Independence” learning about the history of our country and what makes us the Mexico we are now. Because we were coming from different backgrounds, the government gave us uniforms, sports clothes, formal suits for the official events, shoes, and a camera (my first camera ever!). I also received my first computer and printer. I remember that my Mama Rosi escorted me every day to Conchita’s as my dad decided that I needed to have only suits for my trip (#suitup #yaaay #not).

WhatsApp Image 2017-05-04 at 06.40.02
On behalf of the Guerrero Delegation, in Mexico City

I was lucky enough that two teachers were invited to come and join us- and sort of look after us. My teacher Lilia was there with me :). On that trip, I met one of my lifetime friends, Dr Marvin Antonio Soriano, who is making history in health sciences.

ganadores de la Olimpiada del Conocimiento Infantil Guerrero 1994
Winners in the Sixth Grade National Academic Olympics, representing Guerrero, with the President of Mexico (1994)

The rest is history. I went back to Tixtla and was received by my elementary school as a little local hero. Then I moved into secondary school. There were also academic competitions. I was a municipal, regional and state winner again during the three years to come.

En Tixtla
With my “Tia Julita” and Ernesto Ortiz Diego acknowledged for Excellence in Secondary School by a group of notables

While in the CBTis 134, my technical high school, I used to go to school in the evenings as I was working in the mornings and training public speaking in the afternoons. When I won the internal competition in Grammar and Writing, I met my teacher Haydee Colmenares, who was assigned as my mentor to get me ready for the state championship. She was also very good to me. She guided me for a year and together we won the state competitions two consecutive years. I was a winner in the nationals too. Coming from a state like Guerrero, ranked as the 3rd worse in educational quality in Mexico, this is not easy! We are also, as of today, the most dangerous state in Mexico. Poverty, ignorance and crime surround us.

So it happened, at 17 years old I had won over 30 academic achievements at a state and national level and was distinguished with the Prize for the Youth Guerrero and the Medal and the State Civil Merit Medal ‘Jose Azueta’, acknowledged for outstanding youth life trajectory.

I left my state to study college. I graduated as a Magna Cum Laude in Puebla. With time, I had the opportunity of studying in Boston and in Dublin. My masters and my PhD respectively. My expertise has been earned from my transition from politics to government to education to management in America, Europe, and the Middle East over 20 years. I am a regular keynote speaker for industry and academia, and a judge and mentor in hackathons and innovation challenges all around the world. In Mexico, she has addressed over 70 000 youths, women and business people as a keynote speaker across the country (curious about my full bio? click here).

In any case, my 6 years old self was right, being a good student changed my history. When I am writing and finding it hard to focus, I close my eyes and I can see the little Temis (my childhood nickname), looking at me with her pink glasses (my mum’s favourite colour, not mine!) moving her head in disapproval and going back to her readings in one of her encyclopedias, her hobby (she is strange, I am telling you!).

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