We had the good fortune of connecting with Ana Larrea-Albert and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ana, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
I believe the ideal of balancing is flawed. When you put work and life on each side of the scale, one side will invariably have more weight during different times of your life, and the other side will “loose”. They are being understood as opposites, as a zero sum game where one will unfailingly suffer. Aiming for a perfect balance sets us up for disillusionment. I have lived in severe imbalance at several times in my life and all it did was make me feel inadequate on every front. However, when we strive to integrate or bring our different pursuits, passions and responsibilities together, then we have a more realistic chance at finding peace and have kinder expectations for ourselves. If we picture our life as a very fluid, permeable Venn diagram where we incorporate all the parts of our life and identity, then it’s easier to see how the parts intersect and to aim at making the parts share more space. The goal is to try to get the middle intersection, the “sweet spot”, to become as large as possible. For instance, I have brought in my husband, son and puppy to spend the day with me during Earth Day events showcasing my “ZeeZee Can Save the Planet | ZeeZee Puede Salvar el Planeta” children’s books. I have brought along my teenage son to public speaking engagements, like the one I did at NASA, where we took a couple of days off to visit the Kennedy Space Center and get an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the premises. The more we can be in each other’s lives, the more we appreciate and support each other’s work and passions. Another example is when my son was younger and I had to travel, he would send me off with his favorite toys (stuffed animals or action figures) and I would take pictures with the toys wherever I was. Then, I would send them to his teacher (this is when he didn’t have a phone) so she could show the photos to him in the morning before class began and he could start off his day knowing that his mama was thinking about him. This helped us stay in touch and he knew he was always on my mind. I think the key way to avoid feeling overwhelmed is having the right mentality: feeling privileged and grateful that I “get to” (not “have to”) work on my interviews with incredible women, I “get to” connect and guide students and professionals on their leadership journeys, or I “get to” spend time with children in disadvantaged schools reading my ZeeZee book to them.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I was born and raised in Quito, Ecuador, and by 6th grade I wanted to be the president of the country. It didn’t cross my mind that I was a girl aiming for a then boys-only dream; I just had the ambition to do something bigger than me that would serve others. I studied International Relations in Ecuador and although I received my undergraduate in Marketing at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) when I moved to Florida over 20 years ago, I still kept that international interest in everything I did. I had studied in 3 different countries and spoke 3 languages, and used that to build an international career. I have sold globally; I have lead marketing campaigns in different regions in the world; I trained teams in Finland, France, Italy and the US on a customer experience program I developed from the ground up; I managed people in the Americas, Europe and Asia; and have even presented my academic research in the UN’s Maritime University in Sweden. This exposure has allowed me to develop a true global cultural fluency that transcends ethnicities, geographical boundaries or language. As exhilarating as it was to be an executive in an multinational European company, as the youngest, only Latina, only person born in the Americas, and one of only two women in the executive management team, equipped with a bachelor’s in Marketing and an MBA in International Business, last year I felt a pull for something greater. After many years of volunteering and spending my time outside office hours as the Founder & President of the Latina Leadership Collective, mentoring, speaking, coaching and leading workshops, I decided to pivot my career and lean into a life of service. I am currently pursuing a Master in Public Administration at Harvard University with the aim of bringing new levels of representation of Latina leadership into corporate America and government. Through coaching and mentoring I can start affecting young professionals and students, equipping them with the necessary skills to step into their leadership. I partnered with FAU’s The Mentoring Project to create the Future Latina Leaders mentorship program where Latina students, many of whom are first generation, learned about leadership, personal branding, and strategic networking. As I was working towards helping professionals and students, I also realized I needed to reach our youngest, our Latinitas, and decided to write a bilingual children’s book that would encourage them to dream big. The “ZeeZee Can | ZeeZee Puede” series was born and “ZeeZee Can Save the Planet | ZeeZee Puede Salvar el Planeta”, my first book, is available at www.zeezeeworld.com. The book is about young ZeeZee who wants to do something big (save the planet) and meets an amazing Latina who has done great things in that space. Yolanda Kakabadse, a former minister of environment for Ecuador and past president of the International World Wildlife Fund (www.wwf.org), helps ZeeZee learn about her story and gives her actionable steps to create impact in her own little world. As a proponent of women empowerment, I made sure all trades in this book were held by women/Latinas: owner of the publishing house, designer, editor, illustrator and featured expert in the book. There is still so much to do in my work and I feel more determined than ever to make a dent in this world. It is especially rewarding when groups like Hispanic Lifestyle names me Latina of Influence, or the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Palm Beach County nominates me for the Everyday Hero Awards.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Although things look and feel different now, our favorite hotel is still The Edition, where my husband and I have our staycations, so that’s where everyone should stay. A couple of days would be dedicated to vegging out at the hotel’s beach, the rest for walking around in Wynwood, the Design Distric, the Viscaya museum and gardens, Coconut Grove. For dinner, Pao at Faena is a favorite, but Matador at The Edition, Gianni’s at the former Versace mansion, and Barton G for some Marie Antoinette’s cotton candy head are also a hit.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I love this question! Thank you for asking it. I am blessed to have a wonderfully supportive family, with my parents backing every crazy dream I’ve had since I was a little girl, my hubby lovingly by my side for 20 years and my son making me the proudest mom for being an amazing human being. I have learned so much from both professors and classmates in the schools where I’ve studied in Ecuador, France and the US, and from my colleagues at each level in my career, but I must give credit to my mom for being my everything.