top of page

Leading Ladies Spotlight: Veronica Alvidrez

This month, we highlight yet another amazing female professional in the community. We are excited to introduce Ms. Veronica Alvidrez of Startland Education and a Founder and CEO at ParaMi. Ms. Alvidrez has been an important mentor throughout GirlsLead's journey as a nonprofit, and we hope her words are as impactful to you all as they were to us.


Interview


Kripa Gauba:

As we get started, can you explain your career path up until now?


Veronica Alvidrez:

Sure. So, my career path up until today has been people development. I started with the elementary school students, moved into middle school, high school and then now I work with young people and young adults and I've also worked with older adults.


KG:

Can you talk about your role in Startland?


VA:

My title is Director of Youth and Community Programs and my task is to figure out how design thinking can serve different communities. We formulate programs for the youth so that they can use design thinking as a way to develop an entrepreneurial mindset and so that they can build on skills and build up the skills that they will need in the workplace, whether they're in it now or in it later. Then, the other side of that title with "Community Programs" is to seek out sectors in the marketplace. So, not for profits or corporations, really anyone who could use design thinking. So think of your non for profit. They're maybe doing a program for 15 years and they've had great success. But then after 15 years or at the last of the 15 years, they start having less income or less graduation or less numbers of participation. So, we can come in and help them use design thinking as a way of, "How do we adapt this program and update it so that people continue to come or so that we kind of reinvigorate the system?".


KG:

Yeah, that's really important. What do you think drew you to that and this industry as a whole?


VA:

Honestly, I think I accidentally showed up here. I wanted to help small businesses. I always knew I wanted to help the "little man" get better or improve. So, I knew I wanted to work with communities that were not served the way they should be. How I ended up in this path really was through word of mouth. People heard of my work, heard of what I could do, and one opportunity became the next and now, I love what I do. I don't know where I'll go from here. Because again, my path's kind of just been drawn for me. I ended up here because I've been in education all along. I was a paraprofessional for some years. Then, I worked for the migrant education program for a few years. I also helped start a new charter school for girls. I was a recruitment officer. My task was to find students for a brand new school. Throughout my whole life, it's just kind of been drawn out for me and that's why this feels more like a mission that I'm on. It is, if you a lot at all believe in faith, it feels like almost like a God-given path. My passion is part of me. But it feels like my work belongs in also helping young people and development and I just feel like I have to do both. It's part of what I'm supposed to do, if that makes sense.


KG:

Yeah, that's a perfect transition as we shift gears a little bit. Can you tell me a little bit about ParaMi, the mission, and what led you to help create this company?


VA:

To me, it really came out of frustration of norms that were gender based in our culture. I am Latina, and raised with limitations of how I should see myself as a woman, and how I should see myself as a professional. What I contribute to the world was a vision really limited for me. And I realized that there were many limited visions for other Latina women. We created this company to our women to dare to see themselves beyond the roles that people see for them, right? We live in a culture that very much likes to assign what women can and cannot do and we want to offset that voice and say, "Hey, you can own your future and you can do whatever it is that you desire. Your identity is not limited to what you do for others."


KG:

That's amazing. I really respect that. Thank you. In what ways do you think your leadership style has evolved over time and how have your experiences in both companies, both Startland and ParaMi contributed to this growth?


VA:

My leadership style has definitely changed over time. I've learned to be a lot more graceful with people, but that's a secondary effect of learning to have a lot more grace with myself. I realized as a leader, a lot of it starts with yourself. How you treat yourself is the way you'll treat others, how you judge yourself is the way you'll judge others. I try to keep in mind that we're all human and that you're growing as you're making errors. You wouldn't be growing if you weren't making errors or if you weren't making mistakes. I thought my task was to bring all the answers to my team. I'd think, "I want to be the knowledgeable one, because I'm guiding and I'm leading, right?". What I realize now in leadership is that I don't have to have all the answers and I don't have to know it all. I just have to know how to plug in people's time and skill sets, and also be self-aware enough to know where my talents and skills sets don't meet expectations or match to the needs of the project. Overall, my leadership style has really become a lot more humanized and flexible. I've really seen a shift of people that I lead from feeling like they're responding to me to feeling like they're responding to themselves. There's this sense of ownership, the moment you step away as a leader and really give the resources and opportunities to the other person while championing them.

And I kind of build safeguards for the people that I led, where now I'm OK with letting those safeguards down and letting people fail because I know that the learning occurs then.


KG:

Balancing multiple responsibilities can be demanding. How do you maintain your passion and motivation as a leader while ensuring that both companies are thriving under your guidance?


VA:

That's a tough question. I think I'm learning as I go, and my execution styles have really changed. I used to need a long time to do a few things. Or now I need a little bit of time to do a lot. And, I have mentors that are entrepreneurs and they would tell me things like, "The more you organize your time, the more freedom you have." And I thought that was a silly quote. I'm thought, "How is that? If I'm overly organized or if I'm too structured, then there is no freedom." But the truth is that as you learn to structure your workflow or understand how you execute, then you really can do 45 minutes on one task, 45 minutes on another task and then walk away. I've really learned that time is what you make it. I used to think, "Oh, I'm gonna save five hours to do this one task and then I'm gonna hyper focus." What I realized about myself is actually I can only hyper focus for a little bit at a time. And then what I really like to do is share what works for me with my team because what I've found is everybody's always managing multiple things at once where we have these identities in these

spaces that we existed. And what I found most powerful is sharing my own challenges and sharing my own strategies has created a place of vulnerability for the people that I lead where they can share their challenges and they can also get to share what works for them. And many times I'm learning from the people I lead because they're also having these internal conversations of how do I perform better.


KG:

In terms of you as a female leader, do you think is stopping aspiring female leaders from pursuing what it is they're passionate about or getting involved in these fields generally?


VA:

I think what limits a lot of women in pursuing leadership is representation, whether we directly acknowledge that or not. The roles we see around us really impact us from a personal experience. I had strong women as mentors very early in age and that made a huge impact on me. Seeing ourselves in that representation plays a very large role.

The other thing that keeps us from getting into leadership is that women tend to be raised to play it safe. I remember even when I was young, I wanted to play soccer and my dad told me I couldn't play, and his answer was, "You won't be safe, you're gonna get hurt, and we don't need any of that." I think from that, we tend to make selections or decisions that equate safety. That limits us greatly. As a 36 year old woman, when I think back to my teenage years, I wish I would have taken more risks. I didn't, and it was because all of those things sounded like a huge risk to fail. You either fell on stage or you fell out in the court at the basketball court or you fell in front of people performing. But I also know that naturally I am a risk taker, but I'm also an immigrant - first generation - and there was this layer of expectation to succeed and I always thought "I can't shake the waters too much because there's so much expected of me to succeed."


KG:

Absolutely. I'm the daughter of immigrant parents as well and I can definitely attest to that extra layer of added pressure. Do you think that there's been any pivotal moments in your career where you realized that you are making a difference? You do a lot of amazing work. What's the most rewarding part of that?


VA:

The most rewarding part of my job is to see someone who, coming in, doesn't think they can do certain things, and then seeing them later, what they can do and what they believe of themselves and how we can shift that. That is the biggest win for me when they hear, when they speak upon it themselves. But I think that's the biggest win is to really see people convert how they see themselves, how they see what they're capable of. It just makes me wish that I had had more of that in my own childhood, and in general that more people around me were building each other up. Yeah, that's the most rewarding thing- when I actually get to see the manifestation of the work in someone else.


KG:

Yeah. I mean, you've definitely inspired me and a lot of other people, not just through Startland, but I mean, when I open Instagram and I see something ParaMi posted. I'm just in awe. So, you talked earlier about having a risk-taking mindset and how important that is to leaders. What do you think is the greatest risk that you've taken throughout your professional career?


VA:

Until now, my biggest professional risk was leaving the school district after 11 years. And then I also pulled out my retirement funds to go back to school. But, I just knew the traditional education route was not for me. And not only did I not want to teach in a classroom, but I did not want a teacher's pay. I'm a single parent and then there was just no way I was gonna make it. My biggest risk was choosing to leave my career of 11 years,

and saying, "You know what? I don't know what's next, but I know I need to go to school full time." After four years of going to school part time, I pulled out my retirement fund and I went to school full time for the last two years to finish my Bachelor's. But, I really learned how resilient and resourceful I could be when I need to be.


KG:

That's really cool. You also talked about mentors and just having women supporting you. GirlsLead really wants to not only introduce girls to these skills but also introduce girls to each other to forge relationships early in their careers. What do you think are some other ways that women can just support women in leadership?


VA:

I mean, I think that checking in on women who are in leadership is important. I have some customers for ParaMi that are also just followers of my social media and they champion me all the time. They celebrate me when I'm feeling great, they encourage me when I'm feeling low. And I just think as women in spaces where we're defying the status quo, we need more support than people realize. We need people telling us we're doing a good job, and we need people telling us they're behind us, because so many times in leadership, it can feel very alone. Especially when we talk about a culture that tends to put women against each other. If you have your internal backend support network, that is so important. I can't tell you how many times I go through a imposter syndrome, but if it wasn't for the other three women working on this company with me, I wouldn't have done it. The one thing we can do more of is lift other women and celebrate them and realize that celebrating one woman doesn't take away from you at all. If anything, it elevates us all. Another thing is shifting our spending, shifting our dollars to really impact women leaders where it matters whether that's paying for their services or paying for their products. Not only really word encouragement, right, but monetary encouragement, we need that.


KG:

Yeah, all great things and very helpful to women leaders. So to kind of close things out, you've given a lot of great advice today. But do you think that there's one piece of advice or just one thing that young women who are starting their leadership journeys should take away?


VA:

Yeah, and I'll tell you this one because it's actually been one that I've used more than once lately: You are not finite, you are evergreen and you are ever growing. Don't limit yourself to the "can" and "can't" statements, especially at such a young age because you don't know what you're capable of yet. You're so young. I'm 36 and I still don't know what I'm capable of. I know what I can do, but my potential is huge, if I continue to push it. Yes, there's an essence as to who you are, but you evolve. And if you think about yourself as constantly evolving, then I think by default, we get more comfortable with trying and testing new things versus a mindset that is extremely limiting to not us, not only now but us 10 years from now.


KG:

Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for speaking with me today. Your work in Startland and ParaMi is really amazing and I'm so excited for what the future brings.


VA:

You're so welcome. Thanks for having me.


Closing

Leadership knows no boundaries. We encourage each of you to embrace your unique qualities and strengths, knowing that you, too, have the power to shape your community and create a lasting impact. GirlsLead looks forward to bringing you more inspiring stories and conversations that will continue to empower our leadership abilities.



 

About Veronica


Veronica Alvidrez is the Founder & CEO of ParaMi and the Director of Youth and Community Programs at Startland Education. She works to incorporate an entrepreneurial mindset to create new learning experiences for the youth and to support their local programming.

14 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

댓글


bottom of page