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Hidden Gems: Meet Victoria Banuelos of First-Gen, NextGen (Book)

Today we’d like to introduce you to Victoria Banuelos.

Hi Victoria, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?

I spent several years volunteering with Latinx students throughout my early twenties, talking to them about their college and workplace concerns and curiosities. I started to notice patterns and common themes in their challenges, questions, and internal dialogues. Through talking to these students, something clicked- not only were these many of the same questions I had prior to entering the workforce, but also that many of the lessons I’d learned in my professional career up to that point were unique to the first-generation upbringing and experience, and not often talked about. I gave them the best responses I could, but it just never felt like enough. I wished that there was a guide I could use to validate these students’ feelings and offer some sort of advice on how to jumpstart the professional chapter of their lives. With that, the beginning of my book, First-Gen, NextGen: A Guide to Thriving as a First-Generation Latinx in the Next Generation of the American Workforce came to be.

I felt that one way to put together such a guide for young Latinx individuals preparing to enter the workforce would be to curate advice, knowledge, and insight from successful Latinx professionals in various fields and industries. I began to conduct outreach to Latinx business leaders and started to storyboard First-Gen, NextGen on Post-It notes to keep track of my different conversations and interactions. This became the framework for the book. It took a total of seven years to make it happen. During that time, I had the privilege of conducting personal and secondary interviews with first-generation Latinx corporate directors, entrepreneurs, culinary artists, iconic leaders, politicians, and media personalities. Through these conversations, I was able to curate a list of career accelerants from these top performers and turn that into the basis of my book.

Seeing the final book published last year was SO gratifying! After ten years as a marketing professional, I finally had the opportunity to speak about the issues I’d witnessed time and time again in the corporate sphere.

My goal with this book is to support other first-gens in their entry into the workforce (and beyond). Since publishing, I’ve had the opportunity to open my own consultancy called PUESTO Agency LLC. We’re a full-service content marketing agency for inclusive brands driven by empathy, fueled by social research, and motivated by curiosity. I’ve also had a few speaking opportunities, most recently at Meta, and I hope to continue to partner with companies that are truly committed to diversity and representation.

It’s been a wild ride, and I couldn’t be more grateful to the community of people and orgs who have supported me each step of the way.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?

The road is rarely smooth! I spent about ten months really dedicating myself to the book manuscript — the pandemic was going on, I was working full-time, and it was just tough to find the motivation to keep the project going. Luckily, I had my editors gently helping with the commitment to deadlines and ensuring I stayed on track. Emotionally, though, I felt quite a bit of imposter syndrome. Not just as a writer but as a part of the Latinx community. The writing process really had me looking at what it meant to be “ni de aqui ni de alla” (not from here nor there) as Mexican-American. I’d always felt like I had a strong sense of identity but hadn’t really stopped to think about what that identity was comprised of. I think I spent many years underplaying the influence my upbringing had on me. It wasn’t until I started genuinely connecting with other first-gens that I had the (many) “aha” moments of reliability.

Regarding the topic of underrepresented individuals in corporate America, what baffles me is that — ethics and morality aside — there is a clear correlation between workplace diversity and overall corporate financial performance. One McKinsey study found that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 33 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. And that’s just the “business case” for diversity. We’re not even talking about the benefits for organizational culture.

We still have a long, long way to go before achieving equity in the workplace. It hasn’t been a smooth road for most underrepresented individuals, but I’m hoping first-gens can pave the way for the next generation — and make that road a little smoother.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about First-Gen, NextGen (Book)?

First-Gen, NextGen is a book that explores the first-generation Latinx experience in the American workplace, focusing on the first five years of a young professional’s career. I’m proud to say it debuted as an Amazon Top New Release in its first 48 hours.

In reading this book, I hope that readers will see how Latinx business leaders have navigated the already complex work environment with resilience and integrity. Ultimately, I see this book as a tool to help first-generation students accelerate their leadership potential in the first five years of their career and a way to help corporate America understand how first-gen colleagues, employees, and peers perceive the workplace. Readers will enjoy this book if they are all about supporting a diverse environment in the workplace and changing the nature of work culture for the better.
The book is written in three parts.

Part 1 covers How We Got Here — We introduce the meaning of Latinx (instead of Latino/a), as defined by various first-generation voices, and explore how our upbringing and cultural perspectives shape the way we approach work. Then, we dive into the echale ganas fallacy and why ‘hard work’ is often not enough for first-gens to accelerate their leadership potential, especially in the first five years of their career. This section also features a foreword by Frank Carbajal, founder of the Silicon Valley Latino Leadership Summit and consulting firm, Es Tiempo.

Part 2 is about Principles of Accelerants — Here, we dig into specific examples of the accelerant principles and what this mindset looks like through a variety of stories from Latinx business leaders, such as the CEO of Casanova//McCann, the Executive Director of a global non-profit, a Global Head at Microsoft, a Goldman Sachs alum, culinary author, Hollywood actress, and more. We also look at the strategies used by Latinx employees in tech, advertising, finance, healthcare, and historically underrepresented industries. From code-switching at work to building social capital, we explore how relatable the workplace challenges are for many first-generation folks and how to leverage proven strategies to engage with work successfully.

And finally, Part 3 outlines How to Use Your Accelerants — In the final section, we reveal how first-generation Latinx students and young professionals can develop their personal accelerants by breaking through mental hurdles and identifying the systemic ones. We’ll see how Latinx wellness and therapy professionals have supported their Latinx patients with strategies to balance their authentic identity within corporate America’s existing structure. Additionally, we’ll look at how employers can support, enable, and empower their teams and organizations to create a more inclusive environment – not just for Latinx employees but for their entire workforce at large.

Before we let you go, we’ve got to ask if you have any advice for those who are just starting out?

Your work matters, your voice matters, and who you are matters. Be honest about who you are and never be afraid to show people.

When I started writing this book, I became caught up in the “what ifs” — what if someone says I’m not Latina enough to be writing this? What if none of this content makes sense? What if there are typos? What if I invest all this time into writing this book, and no one reads it? What if I’m not good enough or important enough to be writing about this topic?

And those are all what-ifs that I had little to no control over.

So many of us are hesitant to start our projects or make our next move for fear of these what-ifs coming true. But in the end, your creative work is yours to love or hate or cherish — and yours alone. And if you do choose to share it with the world, you never know the influence it may have on someone else. I remember feeling so lonely and isolated in those first few years of my career. Even if I help one entry-level, underrepresented first-gen feel less alone in their early career, that’s more than enough for me!

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