Did this create challenges for you growing up?
The experience of first-generation Americans is unique. My friends’ homes were very different; their parents spoke English, were very involved in the school system, and understood things like the SATs and college applications.
As a first-generation American, I had to figure out these things with the help of my teachers and my friends’ parents. My parents were financially supportive, but they couldn’t help me with things like proofreading my college essays. Navigating the path to higher education is a common obstacle for first-generation Americans.
What challenges did being a first-generation American present in your career?
I have a fear of being judged because of my name. At home I was Letizia, or Leti, and I always will be to my family. In the outside world, with work or even with my friends, I introduce myself as Latisha. That’s the name I received in school, presumably from teachers.
When you’re underrepresented like I am as a Latinx woman, you do everything you can to fit in with the people in charge in order to eliminate prejudices. I worry someone will assume I don’t speak English well. I worry a client will believe someone with a name that sounds more American is more qualified than I am—that happens to doctors all the time. As a woman, I dress differently, or in a room with men I may speak with a deeper voice. Because of my culture and my gender, I have to be more methodical about how I approach professional situations.
Recently at an Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA) convention, I was introduced as Letizia. I even introduced myself as Letizia, not Latisha. It was strange for me to be comfortable being Letizia in a professional setting for the first time.
I understand you are on the Inclusion & Diversity board at Moss Adams. What inspired you to get involved in the inclusion and diversity initiatives at the firm?
Earlier in my career, I was in chameleon mode because there was no safety net for me to be authentic. The LatinX BRG didn’t exist. There were no Latinx partners or senior managers close to me, so I felt like I was on an island. If I could have connected with other Latinx people in other offices or regions, that would’ve changed my perception about my path. That’s why I joined the I&D board and the LatinX BRG.
I’m also getting involved in local Latinx youth leadership programs. It would have made a difference for me when I was younger to have a mentor to guide me through the things I didn’t know as a first-generation student. That’s where my passion lies—helping Latinx youth with high potential that want to be helped.