20 Questions With: Talia Fox
Editor’s Note: This is a transcription of Latinitas Magazine’s SoundCloud podcast “20 Questions With,” where we invite bold and creative individuals to discuss their experiences and background. Listen along by clicking the link!
Hola Chicas! Welcome to 20 Questions With, a podcast in conjunction with Latinitas Magazine. Latinitas Magazine is a strong voice for Latina and POC Youth, which is why the hosts of 20 Questions With are all young Latinas who are looking to gain experience in innovative and creative fields just like you!
In each episode, you’ll hear from striking individuals who are inspiring today’s youth with their passion, motivation, and grit.
Today, join Angelique Hechavarria as she sits down with leadership strategist and legacy builder Talia Fox.
Before we get started, here’s what you should know:
Talia is the CEO of KUSI Global, an organization that designs and delivers executive training for diverse industries. She has transformed thousands of executives over the last two decades in every sector including, health, high education, technology, and government agencies.
KUSI Global focuses on educating the public on pressing issues of equity, emotional intelligence, and cultural competence while strongly advocating for women & people of color. Nearly one-third of women say they feel discriminated against or are treated unfairly at least once a week based on their gender. The normalization of sexual objectification contributes to this harmful discrimination and often is disregarded in the entertainment world, workforce, and beyond.
Let’s get to know Talia and hear what she has to say!
ANGELIQUE: Thanks for joining us on this episode of 20 Questions With. I’m Angelique Hechavarria, and I’m here with our co-host, Elisa Garcia. And today’s guest, Talia Fox. Let’s get started with the questions!
ELISA: Elisa here, I’m going to go ahead and kick it off with the first half of the questions. Looking at, and researching you, and your LinkedIn and the KUSI Global website —I wanted to know if you could briefly tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to be in your current position.
TALIA: Wonderful. Well, thank you, Elisa and Angelique, what a great podcast, a chance to talk about how we can know better and do better and live these awesome lives. I am the CEO of KUSI Global. And what that means is I’m an executive leadership strategist. I work with some of the top leaders in our nation and around the world. I go into these organizations and these businesses and we talk about what we need to be focusing on on a regular basis and what actually matters. Now that’s what I do, but it doesn’t necessarily reflect who I am.
Let me tell you a little bit about who I am. I am a person who is obsessed and committed to both being successful and maximizing my potential and being happy. I spend a lot of my time in our company thinking not just about work, and not just about what we need to do to impact the world through business. But I think about what we need to do to be happy and to thrive and connect in more meaningful ways with each other. KUSI, our company, it’s an acronym for knowledge, understanding, strategy implementation, and it’s an acronym that I’ve been using in my life for maybe almost 20 years.
ELISA: Thank you so much for that answer. You kind of touched on KUSI already. That leads perfectly into my next question which is what is the goal of KUSI Global?
TALIA: The goal of KUSI Global is we want to change the world. It’s interesting, our values at KUSI, spell out relief. Relief is another acronym for respect and equity in the world. The L is for love and leadership, the I is for integrity. The second E is for excellence, and the F is for freedom. Again, our goal is to transform organizations to not only thrive and do better. But I also want to transform organizations to be able to see the value in people that look like you and me, and to understand how the future looks colorful, and bright and joyous. I want organizations to tap into the potential that exists all around the world that has sometimes in our history have gone ignored for just way too long.
ELISA: Thank you for that powerful answer, and I know that we’re going to get to some of those deeper questions later on in this interview. Thank you so much for already touching on that and thinking ahead. You mentioned the goal of KUSI Global, and I know you’re a leader at the top, and your day can look different a lot of the time, so the best way you can, can you describe your typical day for us?
TALIA: I’m going to give you a little bit of my personal typical day. And this will be helpful because I’m big on habits. Which by the way, I love the book “Atomic Habits” by James Clear, if any of you want to pick it up. Because our identity and success are the foundation of our habits. I start off early in the morning and I do about 30 minutes of meditation. And during that time, I let go of any doubt and any fear. My mantra every day is there is no room for doubt or fear that I’m going to be thorough and be focused and calm throughout the day. Then I get on my peloton. A shout out to Ally Love and the Peloton instructors. I love my Peloton. I do about 20-30 minutes or I lift weights so that I can strengthen my body. Then I have a nice cup of coffee, I eat a really healthy meal. And I start my day at KUSI.
And what it really consists of is, I ask myself every day, ‘What is one thing I can do today to help someone feel uplifted or the same and not diminished in any way?’ I challenged myself to have important conversations with people not just about work, but about who they are. I have this reputation for when I talk to big leaders, usually, we get on a call and they want to get right into work. And I’ll say, ‘Wait a minute, let’s just stop for a minute. How are you?’ We’re going through a pandemic together, people have children, we have lives that we’re living. As human beings connecting, I encourage and I don’t have conversations if we can’t have a connection. And then after we have connected and we understand who each other is, then we move into work. In addition to that, I read a lot. I probably read over 200 books a year because my work consists of reading and then turning that knowledge into something that people can use.
ELISA: You mentioned something there that really touches me, which is talking to people as people first and then getting right to it. I think that’s one of the biggest things that I’ve noticed. Even though I’m a mentor with Angelique, I don’t view Angelique as like a mentee. We talk all the time about anything and everything. And she’s six years, seven years younger than me. I think it’s something that has definitely helped our relationship. Thank you for saying that. Another thing that I always like to ask innovative individuals and in these positions of leadership is what did you envision yourself when you were younger. I know I didn’t envision myself going into journalism at all. What did that look like for you when you were younger?
TALIA: I love that question. Because I actually do this exercise. I was a therapist, by the way, before I became an executive strategist. And I do this exercise where you write a letter to your eight-year-old self, right? And what were your dreams or your visions? For me, I wanted to be an actress and a singer. There’s actually a videotape of me or someone asking me what I want to be and I started talking about how I want to be on the stage. Interestingly enough, people don’t know this about me, but I’m actually an introvert, I get my energy from being alone. But, I love when I do connect with people, I show up in a very meaningful way. I’m very focused, but, I wanted to be an actress. I wanted to work with people. I always envisioned that maybe I would do some level of performance. My father’s a reggae artist, a Calypso artist from the Bahamas. I used to help him. How I got into entrepreneurship is I used to help him manage the singers in his band. And I found out later on in life, my father has a very thick accent, he also was illiterate. A big part of my entrepreneurship journey is at eight-years-old I had to read contracts for my father and I thought he was training me that he was using me for help translating and figuring out what these contracts were about. I feel like now I definitely do a lot of creative things. And there is a performance component. But it turned out even better than I could have imagined. Because in addition to the performance component, I feel like I’m able to support and help people, which to me, it’s a well-lived life if you can give it all away.
ELISA: Thank you for sharing that bit about your family, especially with you having to read the contracts with your father. You mentioned how you thought it was like training — my grandma has a similar story where my great-grandfather, who owned a little market, here in South Texas, and she will tell me when she was a little girl, he would put her up on the counter and he would have read the newspaper to him. And that’s one of the ways she learned English, her first language was Spanish. So it’s interesting how that’s something I hear a lot from many multicultural homes and generations.
TALIA: I can imagine that there’s a lot of synergies there. The Latinx community being able to get leadership training early on, really playing this very integral role in supporting parents and transitioning grandparents.
ELISA: Yeah, definitely. Now, you know, you’ve been doing this strategist role for a while now. So what is your favorite part about this part of your career?
TALIA: Well, I must say, I’m going to be very honest, I do enjoy making money.
That’s always fun. For those of you who are working hard during your career, we want to help people, we want to be supportive, but we also want to live lives and support our families. I’m a single mom, I have a 20-year-old and a 13-year-old and, what a gift it is for me to be able to support my family, my core family, and to be able to provide a lot of opportunities for school and college for my children. It’s something I never imagined that I would be able to do. My background, I come from very, very meager means. And so that is great.
The second part that I just love, in terms of the work, is I am never bored. We go into organizations and I get to analyze. I feel like I’m a part of a constant reality show. A more positive one that has better outcomes, but where I get to go in and see what’s really happening in organizations and troubleshoot as to what we can do to know better and do better. I love the thinking part. And this ability to figure it out as we go along. Some of my colleagues hate that about this work, the fact that it’s so unpredictable, but it really is my favorite part.
ELISA: I can definitely relate to, especially with communications and journalism. There’s a lot of unpredictability, and I can totally understand why that’s not somebody’s favorite part. What challenges or obstacles have you faced to get to this point in your career? And how did you overcome them? I work for a woman empowerment organization, predominantly Latinx. There’s a lot of talk about imposter syndrome and just not feeling adequate. Did you go through similar things? Or maybe not, but how did you overcome any of those challenges?
TALIA: Absolutely. And thank you for saying maybe not. Sometimes we make assumptions. People go through things, but they don’t. But I think looking at me being young in my career, I can be ethnically ambiguous. But being Black in my career, and being a woman in my career, I have had a ton of challenges. I’ll tell you a quick story. When I went to do my leadership fellowship at Harvard, I did a big keynote speaking event. I was leading for tenure professors. It was one of the retreats, I was speaking for almost four hours at this big retreat, which is a huge deal at Harvard. I was coming out of the bathroom, and one of the professors started asking me all these questions about what I needed to do to clean the bathroom. He was directing me to where to get the toilet paper, and he was telling me all these different things. And then he even handed me some trash, and I was the keynote speaking person. Now, this is a really complicated thing for me, because I also don’t want to diminish how important that work is. I think it is really important work.
But as you all can imagine, it was an extreme unconscious bias. I also was dressed up in a suit,I had my pearls on. And so I was confused about, ‘Oh, did I look too casual, did I look like I was cleaning the bathrooms,’ so it was this thought. It turned into a great story. And the obstacle that I had to overcome is not to be resentful towards him. And after I did my talk, I had a conversation with this gentleman. And we became colleagues and friends to this day. And I’m very proud of it because I was angry, right? I was angry at first and a little bit resentful. And so not being resentful, and being helpful and forward moving is important.
Another experience that I’ve had is sometimes I’ll be at meetings, and I feel like I’m being ignored. I’ve been in meetings where literally, I’m the youngest, I’m the only minority in the room. And I’ve been in meetings where I have the triple threat, I’m also the only woman. There are times where I have tried to speak up, and I’m completely ignored. And so another strategy that I’ve had to use, and I teach about this, is that I will not be so offended to where you throw me off my game and lose my confidence. So I will keep trying until you let me speak. And at some point, I will literally say, ‘Excuse me, I have something to say, and I think it’s going to be valuable to your organization.’ And I brought up this fact in the group. I said, ‘You know, can you all coach me on the best way to be heard in this meeting? Because I’ve been trying to get my word. And I don’t want to deprive you of my value.’ I’m not wanting to be heard, because it’s an ego thing, I’m wanting to be heard, because it’s going to be supportive to you and what you’re focusing on. I have such a long list of so many microaggressions and biases which for those you don’t know what that is, it’s subtle insults that I could go on and on for days. But those are just a couple of examples of having to overcome the doubt and the fear and keep focused on the goal and prize.
ELISA: Thank you so much for sharing those stories with us. I know I was mentally taking notes of the things that you said in the case that ever happens. I saw that you have a background in English psychology and theatre. So how do you use those backgrounds to help you at KUSI Global?
TALIA: What’s critical about going to talk to people in STEM is what’s your ‘it’ factor? I feel like the universe supported me in figuring that out. Because of the spoken word in English, being able to speak and write effectively is critical in business —anytime you’re in business. Invest time in any communication strategy, I would say a good 30% of your time should be in communication skills, and 70% in your technical skills, particularly if you have high-level technical skills.
The second thing is my background in psychology, there is no waste of time. When you think about understanding human behavior and understanding what makes people tick —understanding how people connect and thrive together is critical. And then lastly, this investment in being a little bit entertaining. I told you, I wanted to be an actress, and I did go to acting school while I was in grad school, studying psychology, I went to acting school in New York. So fun. I think this is the same school that Danny DeVito went to, and Denzel Washington might have trained there as well. But it was wonderful because I learned confidence, how to be on stage, and I learned the art of authenticity. Really quick story, the very first day in acting school, the professor started clapping her hands, and we were confused. We’re like, ‘why is she clapping her hands, nobody’s performing.’ And she said, “all of you have been acting all of your lives, and now you’ve come to acting school to learn how to be authentic.” Just a little tidbit that it’s probably interesting for your listeners, is a good actor genuinely feels the emotion, a bad actor is one that tries so hard and tries to be somebody else. Essentially, my acting training was training and learning how to feel authentic emotions and how to be more authentic. Probably ironic, where people feel like acting is faking it. But to be a good actor, you can’t fake it.
ELISA: Yes. And I feel like I’ve read so many stories of actors and their method acting, and I’m just like, ‘OK, this all makes this is all making sense now.’ And another question that I wanted to ask is, in your opinion, because I know this answer can vary depending on who I’m asking, in your own words, and your own thoughts, what makes a good leader, especially one and those who aim to empower girls and women?
TALIA: Absolutely. Well, I hope that all leaders will aim to empower their people that they lead, including diversifying, which would be girls and women. For those who are specifically focused on girls and women, I think what makes a good leader, is a leader that understands what the big picture is in their main deal. What’s important about leadership is leadership is not in the weeds. And what I mean by that is, it’s not about all the little stuff. It’s not about managing people. It’s not about managing projects. It’s about understanding what motivates people, what develops people, and studying strategies in order to do that more effectively.
Another thing that makes a good leader, and I’ll have to invite some of your listeners to one of our trainings, but I call it Systems Thinking. Systems Thinking is the study of a system and feedback loops. What that means is that you take a look at what’s going on in your life, and you study which parts have the biggest impact on your success. As a leader, you take a look at the big picture, and you study which part has the biggest impact on success. I struggle with my weight my entire life, it’s been just an up and down, I got to a point where I’ve lost over 100 pounds over the years where it’s the spin up and down. I use leadership skills in order to impact my health, I finally met all my health goals. I exercise regularly, I eat healthily. But I realized that there was one part of the system that was very, very critical in my success. And that is my level of stress and how much sleep I get. Now, the novice person, they focus on eating and working out. And you just spend your time trying to figure out how to do that, how to make yourself do that. But there’s probably something else in the system. It’s really impacting your ability to be successful around what matters. Leaders figure out what matters were the problems and what is the part of the system that makes the biggest difference.
ELISA: Thank you for that. And congratulations on meeting all of your health goals. That’s amazing. Looking at something as essential and every day as, sleep and stress. Sometimes that’s what it really comes down to. My next question is, and this might be something that you do at KUSI Global when you’re giving classes, but what advice would you give to women who are facing gender inequity or inequality in their personal or professional lives?
TALIA: Great question. And I’m glad I introduced Systems Thinking because this is going to be the advice. Here’s the skinny on inequality, on racism on inequities. It is important to look at the complexity of it. If we’re in a situation and you observe, you feel like you’re not being treated fairly, there’s a lot of different parts of that it’s not just one global thing. What a lot of people do is they notice they’re not being treated fairly and they have two things that they do they either get mad or they shut down. What do you do with that? The question that you have for yourself is what do I need to do to develop to make sure that I’m doing everything that is in my control and power to be most effective and to be on the top of my game, right? A lot of people say, ‘Well, we shouldn’t have to be on the top of their game.’ I said, ‘I’m sorry, that’s just the way it is right now I’m working on it for you to make it to this uneven playing field. But for now, we all have to strive to be our best.’ And it’s just the way it is. And you won’t regret striving to be your best ever.
But then the other thing is, what parts of this are related to me being discriminated against? Let’s just say you’re going after funding for your business, right? And you keep getting no, is it inequality? Because inequality happens if you don’t have access to the same mentors, to the same quality of a pitch deck or the same quality of work. And so access to the A-game is a part of the inequality. The question is, don’t focus on the person that is discriminating against you, focus on the access to the A-game, right? And so again, as you’re experiencing this in your life, or your work, as you observe these realities that are happening, and I won’t diminish it in any way, just challenge yourself on what do I have control over? And what can I do and who can help me overcome these pieces. I have worked with people that I could almost safely say they were on the borderline of being bias and they discriminated against minorities in organizations. I created a power plan, I figured out who’s their boss and what’s important to them. I’ve actually worked with people where I put them in a situation where they had no choice but to yield to the power. We have to be strategic. We have to hold ourselves accountable for the things that we have control over and keep doing our best as the world begins to evolve and change. Because I have seen in the last couple of months, a lot of positive changes within organizations.
ELISA: Thank you. Can you go a little bit more in-depth, but in what ways have you noticed women reclaiming their, their voices? And how does one start to do this?
TALIA: Yeah, I like the conversation, reclaiming your voice because I say this very harshly to a lot of people that I coach where they’ll say ‘I want to say something’ and I’ll say, ‘Why? What is the purpose behind what you want to say?’ Reclaiming your voice is getting smart enough, which means doing your research, silently observing, so that you can craft language that supports and aligns with what you want and what your goals are. Sometimes this is what I’ve learned in this space, with a lot of us, is that we want to be passionate about something. But we don’t really have a goal, right? We are just speaking up and sharing things. And that’s OK in certain areas. But when it comes to business, where’s the value at? What is your goal, and what is your communication strategy?
Reclaiming your voice. When it comes to being who you are, and reclaiming things that are important to you that also can be communicated in a way that aligns with who you really are. Sometimes people are so passionate about things that they actually become, this is going to sound a little complicated, they actually become inauthentic. And I’ll tell you what I mean. When that guy handed me the toilet paper, let’s say I would have gotten really upset at him. And I don’t know, even said something rude. The reason that’s inauthentic is because that’s not who I am. I am kind and connected. And so by behaving that way, I allowed that situation to tap into not my authenticity, but it’s happened to my in-authenticity. I’m kind, connected and strategic. So, understand who you are, figure out what you want to say —does what you want to say reflect who you are? Does it align with what you want in life? Really important. And only you can decide that. Don’t let anyone impose those answers upon you.
ELISA: Thank you. I swear I’m taking mental notes of all of this. Thank you so much. And that was all of my 10 questions. So I’m going to go ahead and kick it off to Angelique for the last half of our interview.
ANGELIQUE: Yes, thank you so much, Elisa. So, Angelique, taking over now. I was wondering, what advice would you give on how to avoid falling into the traps of different systems that justify rationales when it comes to gender and race?
TALIA: That’s a complex question to unpack. I think that when it comes to gender, race and racism, that there are two different lenses. There are lots of lenses, but there are two different lenses for us to take a look at. One lens is we see everything that happens in the world through gender and race that can have its own track. Because what you’re looking for —you will find. If you’re constantly looking for the impact of race and gender in every single thing, you’ll probably find it. The other extreme of that is that you don’t see the world as it is and you don’t see the impact of your gender and your race on things that you do. You feel oblivious to the realities of the world.
Back to this concept that I talked about with Systems Thinking, in that there’s something called a Mental Model. A Mental Model is basically how we see the world and how we define our vision of the world —what’s your perspective? And there is a reality. Some people say there’s not a reality, there are just perspectives. There is a reality. When you start looking at data racism exists, sexism exists. We see it, we know it exists. And there’s a reason it exists because we are living in a world with a history of it. And we’re still healing from all of these systems that have been designed with the intent of oppressing both women and minorities. It definitely is baked into the system. At the same time with that Mental Model, we need to step back and observe reality and the feedback loops before coming to conclusions. You try a couple of things. And you see, is this a part of a racial and gender issue? And if so, who can I get support from? What will I say? How will I reclaim my voice? Or is it this area where I need to develop and hold myself accountable for, again, tapping into my strategy and tapping into my A-game?
There’s no easy answer to it. But this is why we sit back and we watch to see what’s actually happening. We’re in a world where we’re so quick to judge, we’re so quick to assume, and it doesn’t do anyone any good because sometimes we’re right, sometimes we’re wrong. But we have to let the reality and the outcomes guide our wisdom around what to do with racism and equities and to sexism and bigotry and all the other ‘isms’ and issues that we are facing as people, particularly as women and as girls.
ANGELIQUE: Yes, thank you for that. And when you mentioned healing, I definitely feel that we’re at that point in time of healing. And that goes in relation to my next question, which is, what are the first steps you would recommend women to take in order to heal from past experiences with gender discrimination?
TALIA: Can we just take a moment? I just want to take a moment and just send out a lot of love and light to you and to me, and to all of us who have experienced discrimination. It is hard, we are human beings who want to do our best we want to be respected, we want to be liked, we want to feel included. We’re humans —the psychology of human behavior. Many of us have experienced situations where we have felt alone, and we have felt isolated. And we have felt like you don’t have a fair shot. And that’s just no fun, right? It’s hard to have it in the back of your mind that no matter how hard you work, no matter what you do, you’re not going to be able to get to the heights and maximize your potential. Just want to take a moment to just breathe that in.
How does healing happen? How do we actually let go? My first step would be to accept and acknowledge what you’re feeling and what has happened to you. Whether it be ‘I’m angry,’ follow it all the way to the end, allow yourself to be as angry and as frustrated as you want. Sit down, allow it to be, notice it and observe it. And then, if you could take a moment once you’ve gotten to the end. You’re sitting down, can you take a deep breath and say, ‘I’m done, it’s a new day, it is time for me to stand up to reclaim my voice and to reclaim my confidence. The past does not control my present, the past does not control my future. And I am expecting amazing things to happen to me, as I move forward in this world.’
There are a lot of people in this world who are doing things intentionally and unintentionally to oppress others. There also are a lot of people in this world doing amazing things to help you. I am going to send all of you this message to take today, which is I want you to imagine that every day when you wake up that every single person is conspiring for your greatest good, everybody is out to help you and to see you soar. And this actual magazine is a part of that group. Focus singularly focused on all of those people that are lifting you up, and supporting you. Don’t allow the presence of all of those people who are not because they do not have a right to occupy any rent or any space in your mind or your heart.
ANGELIQUE: Thank you so much for that. That was so lovely. Do you have a meditation podcast?
TALIA: I don’t, I don’t, I might have to tell just about that.
ANGELIQUE: Would you be able to talk about the unconscious bias towards women and marginalized groups?
TALIA: I love to talk about unconscious bias. The reason I love to talk about it is because I feel when people are more aware of it, it decreases once the awareness happens. Let’s just quickly define unconscious bias. Unconscious bias is something that every single one of us has. It is our brain’s natural sort of habit to put people into categories. What’s interesting about that is that we can’t get rid of that. Back in the day, it was a way that we protected ourselves, as our brains are very efficient. We don’t have time to gather all of the information about everything that we see, we need to go ahead and quickly make some choices. For example, if you were out seeing a tiger there’s no time to figure out if that’s a really kind and loving kitty. It’s best to assume danger and get out of there. Right? And so this is how our brains are designed.
For those of us, which are all of us, who have unconscious bias. It’s important that there’s not necessarily, no shame in that. However, because we are these evolved beings, once we see something, we notice that we’re putting people in categories, right there is this next level where we have an opportunity to behave in a particular way. And it’s with that action, the actions that we take is our opportunity for change. Unconscious bias happens in organizations in the hiring process. Unconscious bias happens in promotion, when you get into an organization, some people are left out of really important conversations. Which is why when you get to a meeting you have no idea what people are talking about, right? Unconscious bias also exists in the kinds of work that people get.
If you get to people to a particular level, where they’re about to be promoted, or the organization, there are some people, particularly women of color, marginalized groups that literally did not have the same access to information. They literally are behind, and sometimes they are less qualified, but nobody is talking about what the factors were that created that. When you’re excluded from the conversations and from the team, and from the information flow, how will you get more information? What we need to do, as women and girls, is make sure that you are tracking and that you have information with a little more effort to know what’s going on so that we can be prepared to thrive and add more value to organizations. I’ll stop right there. Because I could go on and on about unconscious bias.
ANGELIQUE: No, that was wonderful. And I think that’s a very relevant topic because I feel like my community has dealt with not having direct access to certain things and struggling because of it. That’s very important. Thank you for that. And I was wondering, what are your thoughts on today’s progress towards diversity and inclusion?
TALIA: Well, I think that there’s a report that came out called Diversity Wins by McKinsey & Company; and I’ll talk about it from a corporate standpoint, and I’ll talk about it a little bit personally.
But there has been some progress. They looked at 15 countries, about 1,000 different companies, and they found about a third of them are making progress toward increased representation, particularly in leadership. And here’s what they found. This is really cool. Organizations that are leaders in diversity and inclusion outperform their peers by, from 2014 to 2019, in some cases, depending on if it’s gender, or cultural and ethnic diversity, 48%. So that means and when I say outperform, I’m not just talking about getting clients, I’m having outperformed financially. So the data really, really supports the fact that diversity, equity and inclusion are critical pieces to organizations thriving.
So a third though, is kind of bleak, right? There’s a third making progress really leading, and they are actually enjoying the fruits of those efforts. Two-thirds, though, are lagging behind. Two-thirds, in some cases only a 1% increase in gender representation in high leadership positions across the globe, there’s been about a 2% increase in gender representation and leadership in other countries. It’s really slow. We’re talking from 2014 to 2019. A five-year 1% increase, right? That’s kind of bleak. There is a show of progress, as we all know, with recent events, as we had protests with the murder of George Floyd and all these other things, as many organizations and many people are starting to take a stand. And not just marginalized groups and people of color, but what it’s going to take to get progress for everybody involved, right?
Everybody has to take ownership of what’s happening in our world, in our businesses, in our country. The more people get involved, the more progress we are going to make, as long as we think that it’s about just individual people and their experiences or you think it’s about hurting people’s feelings or those kinds of things. This is not a philanthropic situation. This is a world crisis that we have to all be a part of, and it’s affecting the outcomes that we have across the board.
ANGELIQUE: Yes, and what’s one important thing you have learned throughout your professional career?
TALIA: I run a learning organization. I’ve learned so many important things that if I had to pick one, I’m going to say that I like to bask in the wisdom of uncertainty. Many people get scared in life because they don’t know what’s happening next. And your greatest goal, or our greatest goal, is to figure out what’s happening next. When I’m feeling a little scared or anticipating what the future is like, I remind myself that uncertainty is beautiful, not knowing what’s coming next. Because anytime you don’t know what’s coming next, you are in this space of unlimited possibilities. And so if you’re ever afraid of the future, afraid of where your career is going, afraid of what’s going to happen, and just allow yourself to think about what you’d like to happen and all the possibilities that have yet to unfold.
ANGELIQUE: I love that. Is there someone or something that inspires you?
TALIA: Well, you all inspire me. When I see you giving your time and energy to helping others and elevating the mind and inspiring the heart of women and girls —I’m inspired by that. We all have our own personal lives that we’re living. We have our own issues. I went through a breakup right before COVID and it was heart-wrenching in terms of relationship like we’re all just dealing with life, right? I know people who’ve had loss and grief. And so for those like you that despite everything going on in life that you wake up in the morning, and we think how we can serve is just inspiring. And I don’t judge those that cannot because life is hard sometimes. Life is rough for those that muster up the courage and the energy to hold people along. And to help those in need. I am forever inspired by the will and the courage and energy to serve others.
ANGELIQUE: Thank you so much for that. And I’ll definitely say along with that, to also be easy on yourself and that the pressure can sometimes get to you. I know for myself, being a senior in high school, it’s been getting to me lately, but talking to you and talking to the people in this magazine has been so uplifting. And I wanted to ask you a more lighthearted question, what do you like to do in your free time?
TALIA: Angelique, I have started something that’s really hard, but I love it. And I have started bachata dancing. And I love it so much. I love it to the point where words can’t express how much I love it. And I’m starting with sensual bachata dancing, just this idea of being one with my body and being able to move and freestyle. I absolutely love it. So that’s what I’ve been doing a lot more in my free time. And then I’m also trying to read more fiction novels. I like to think about love and romance and those kinds of things. So that’s always fun. I’m trying to kind of get my groove back of just being flirty and sexy and authentically me. So I’m kind of trying to reconnect with my soul, if you will. So I’m starting with bachata.
ANGELIQUE: I love that. I grew up, my father is Cuban. When I was growing up, he would teach me all these dances: bachata, salsa, merengue, cumbia. I grew up going to these parties and dancing bachata. Oh my gosh. And that’s always so much fun. I love that. And where do you see yourself in the next five years?
TALIA: Well, I see myself with I don’t know, some sexy man doing dancing bachata on a beach. But that’s a whole another podcast that we could do. But in the next five years. Which by the way back to bachata really quickly, I started off with my sneakers and I’m in heels now doing the bachata.
For the next five years, we have big goals at KUSI Global, we are expanding. We just hired a major executive leader that’s running our organization. I also am trying to finish my book called, “The Power of Leaders Love.” Love is to listen, observe, value, engage, I’m finishing that. I just want to be able to make sure that I’m using my time, very concentrated in the areas where I can have the most impact. I’m still in this world where I do a lot of things that probably aren’t the best things for me to spend my time but it’s part of the course. Each year I’m working on what can I take off my plate that takes me away from my real purpose and my real focus. That’s where I am in my life and in my career.
ANGELIQUE: Yes, thank you for that. And I hope that you complete everything, all your aspirations to the fullest. And I was also wondering what resources or advice would you give to young girls who aspire to become a CEO?
TALIA: Fabulous. Well, thank you. And right back at you, Angelique and Elisa, right back at you.
We’re all lifting each other up and supporting each other.
Well, how do you boss up? Moving towards a CEO, first of all, congratulate yourself if you have it on your list right now and of aspirations of being a CEO. Because, I coached a lot of people and I asked them, ‘Why not be the CEO?’ And they said, ‘Oh, no, I don’t want to be that at the top.’ If you are a person that is aspiring to be a CEO, you have already completed 90% of the battle. Let’s talk about the 10%.
So the 10%, there are three skills to focus on one I already shared with you, which was your Systems Thinking. This way, you have to think about how you think, are you thinking like a CEO? Are you thinking like a person that’s riddled with doubt and fear? Bossing up means that you are decisive, that you are focused and you are also willing to learn and observe what’s real.
The second thing is to invest in communication skills. Can you clearly communicate your thoughts, your vision, and can you inspire people? And then lastly, probably the most important skill to master on this journey to a CEO, is a concept called emotional intelligence. And many of you have probably already heard of it. But my emotional intelligence is a greater predictor of success than just IQ or technical savvy or smart. And what that means is this ability to be self-aware and to manage yourself, the ability to understand other people and to manage other people. Being able to manage your emotions and have the patience along the journey is going to divide the winners. We’re never the opposite of a winner, but for those taking a little longer to get to the top.
ANGELIQUE: Yes, and thank you for that. I can’t wait to tell my friends about it because we’re always talking about becoming a CEO and managing the company and business. To our last question, if you can meet anyone from the past or present, who would it be and why?
TALIA: I already had a chance to meet Oprah. Usually, I would have said that, it was cool. She’s very inspiring, of course, and continues to be an inspiration to so many people. I don’t know, probably from the past. I’d like to meet some great leaders, like maybe Mother Teresa, and ask her some questions. I love to have coffee one day with Nelson Mandela from the past, like those kinds of things.
If I were able to just meet people, of course, the Obamas would be great. I have a list where I imagine these past people if I could go back and they were still alive. I would love to meet with them. There are these people who are present that it would seem it would be nice to have them over for dinner and just chat, right? They would be so much fun. Interesting people who have done things, and I’d like to know what their fears are and what they still think about once they’ve arrived and achieved so much success.
ANGELIQUE: Yes, thank you again for taking the time to chat with us today. It was such a pleasure having you.
TALIA: Thank you both so much. Thank you for all that you’re doing for the community.
If you’re interested in pursuing a career in media, make sure to visit us at latinitasmagazine.org for more information. Thank you guys so much for tuning in to this episode of 20 Questions With. We’ll see you next time.
About the hosts:
Elisa Garcia is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor’s in journalism and is now the Magazine Editor of Latinitas Magazine. She has experience in social media, reporting and videography. Garcia enjoys covering pop culture trends, arts and life community events and feature profiles on women empowerment. Her works have been published in The Pan-American Newspaper, ORANGE Magazine, San Antonio Weddings and Latinitas Magazine. You can read her work at elisaruthgarcia.com! When she’s not writing you can catch her with her cat, Opal.
Angelique Hechavarria resides in Massachusetts, where she is a senior in high school. She is interested in all areas of STEM, biology in particular. Growing up in a Cuban and Colombian household, she loves learning about the history and culture of Latin America. With this, she also loves learning about and conserving artisanal craftsmanship from all over the world. Through her AP Literature and Composition course, she was fascinated by the art of literature, in which she participated in the poetry out loud competition where she made it to regionals. Through her new position in Latinitas, she hopes to highlight these interests and more to the Latinx community.
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