The last few years have been quite a journey, marked by a divorce, a car accident that took the life of my mother, losing my job and starting my own business. Through it all, I was helped by my NEW family, the friends and connections I made in 10 years I’ve been a NEW member and regional volunteer.
Six years ago, I divorced and faced the economic reality of that. A month after my divorce, my mother, my 16-year-old daughter and I were in a car accident. We were on our way celebrating my daughter getting her driver’s license when we were T-boned by a semi. We were all were severely injured, and my mother passed.
At the same time, the retailer I worked for was going through a transition and my team of five in supplier diversity was reduced to a team of one, me. Some of the new leadership didn’t value diversity and inclusion as a priority and, as a Latina, I didn’t always feel I could bring my whole self to work.
There were unwritten rules of the corporate culture and a hierarchy of who could talk to who. I didn’t feel listened to or valued. Because I have grown up in this business, working in grocery since I was 16, and because I can’t change who I am, I bristled at those rules.
Through it all, my NEW family was a pillar of strength, helping me through my grief and turmoil happening at work, supporting me through my physical rehabilitation, visiting me at the hospital and at home.
I had an a-ha moment at a NEW event when I asked the speaker what inspired him to do what he was doing. He said, ‘I wanted ownership of my future.’ And I thought, ‘Yes, I want to take control of my own destiny.’ NEW brought me that.
I knew I wanted to focus on my passion for supplier diversity, and again, my NEW family helped me. A small group of us in NEW Twin Cities piloted a program for small businesses that focused on supplier diversity, and that work was so valuable to me.
Early last year, I lost my job. Six months later, I launched my own company, helping companies build supplier diversity programs. By working with many companies, I’m spreading the diversity and inclusion message to a wider audience than I did in the past.
Looking back, I see the turbulent times were a blessing in disguise, because they helped me focus on what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. During these kinds of pivot points, you can feel, ‘I’m stuck because…’ or personally attacked for what you are thinking or feeling. NEW has been a safe haven, where I can improve my leadership skills and ask senior leaders who are unbiased about the challenges I am facing personally or professionally — like my mentor, who I met through NEW — for their honest perspective and advice.