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Bilingual Digital Marketing Expert Fights Hispanic Stereotypes at Work

Bilingual digital marketing expert, with more than twenty-five years in the industry, shares how she has found that stereotypes are still running rampant in the twenty-first century, and how she must fight to not be pigeon-holed into only doing work for Hispanic markets.

What is your job title?
Digital Marketing Contractor

Would you describe what you do on a typical day?
I am involved in lots of meetings. I work on strategy, project updates, preparing presentations, reviewing metrics, and fielding any questions from others in and out of my department.

What is your ethnicity? How has it hurt or helped you?
Hispanic – it has helped because of the types of marketing activities I oversee.

If you’ve experienced discrimination, in what ways have you responded and what response worked best?
Fresh out of college, I was working late and one of the managing partners came over and asked me to empty out the trash cans from the offices before I left for the evening. I was shocked, but then I laughed at her. I just reminded her that I was part of her team. I don’t let these kinds of things get to me.

I have also faced lots of stereotypes from ad agencies that are not multicultural. I once had an agency share proposals for a TV spot, and they presented an ad containing paper mâché piñatas, ceramic figurines, and all the stereotypical souvenirs a tourist in Mexico would be interested in. This was only five years ago with a major ad agency, and even though we had a VERY long meeting with them about it, they never really understood what the problem was.

What languages do you speak? How has speaking another language helped you?
I speak Spanish and English. I have needed to use both languages throughout my career. Speaking Spanish is an asset when developing relationships with others who speak Spanish as their first language.

What did you learn the hard way in this job and how did that happen?
I have found that just because a company wants to enter the Hispanic market does not mean everyone within the company believes in it; this is true just about everywhere. You will find that middle management will push back even though top management is behind you 110%. You just need to keep pushing and do the best that you can do with what you have.

What don’t they teach in school that would’ve been helpful to you?
They did not stress the importance of networking, and that you can start building your network through your immediate family and their contacts. Sometimes the best leads are within your inner circle.

How did you get started in this line of work? If you could go back and do it differently, what would you change?
I was fortunate enough to get an internship during my last two summers of college. I worked at a small public relations firm that allowed me to do everything! Their motto was “We will never ask you to do something we wouldn’t do ourselves.” From copying to presenting to designing, we did it all. I would not change the path I took because it brought me to where I am now. I have been very fortunate to have fun jobs.

Can you give an example of something that really makes you feel good?
I feel especially good when my manager tells me that I am doing a great job and he is hearing this from other people both within and out of our department.

When nothing seems to go right, what kind of snafus do you handle and what do you dislike the most?
On a bad day, I hear everything from, “I need this report in fifteen minutes,” to “You need to stay late and make it happen,” to “Yes you can take the day off, but I expect this to be done when you get back.”

I greatly dislike poor management, but you just have to roll with it. In the end, it all works out.

How stressful is your job? Are you able to maintain a comfortable or healthy work-life balance?
My job is very stressful. I cut off work when I leave, and try not to get on the computer until Sunday night. I have to force myself to do this to enjoy my weekend. I must remind myself that the work will still be here on Mondays no matter what.

What’s a rough salary range for the position you hold? Are you paid enough considering your responsibilities?
As a bilingual digital marketing contractor, I get paid on an hourly basis – $64/hr. I am well paid, but I have no benefits. It has worked for me, but I am ready to get my career on track with full-time employment.

What’s the most rewarding moment you’ve experienced in this position? Of all the things you’ve done at work, what are you most proud of?
I am most proud of launching a bilingual micro site even though I was faced with a lot of resistance.

What’s the most challenging moment you’ve experienced? What would you prefer to forget?
The lack of support from my manager to push things through is very challenging. Although Hispanic marketing is a major initiative, I don’t have the support or spotlight needed. However, when there are questions about what we are doing, I work late preparing reports and detailed updates. If there was adequate involvement, we wouldn’t have to be rushing to complete work.

What education and skills do you need to get hired and succeed in this field?
To become a bilingual digital marketing contractor, I recommend both a college degree and internship experience to enter this field successfully. If possible, learn a second language; it does help.

What would you tell a friend considering your line of work?
You have to have a passion for it because although it is often fun, there are some rough days.

How much vacation do you take? Is it enough?
Unfortunately, I have not had the luxury of a vacation in the past two and a half years. There is just too much work. I have only taken a Friday off here and there.

Are there any common myths you want to correct about what you do?
Just because I’m Hispanic and bilingual doesn’t mean that I should be handling any and all things Spanish – including legal issues. Please don’t pigeon-hole me into only doing Hispanic work – I do have the knowledge and experience to also tackle general market work.

I also get all sorts of crazy requests. For example, what is the URL for the Spanish version of this English web page? All one needed to do was click on the “Espanol” link. Also, I get questions such as, “should we translate our company name into Spanish?”

If you could write your own ticket, what would you like to be doing in five years?
I would either be doing marketing for a nonprofit organization or working as a counselor for college students who are trying to find their way into a career.

LatPro Admin


10 comments

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  • I believe that the first and most important thing that should be teach is the hispanic is a culture – language and not a race.
    There is a great confussion about latino – hispanics in the USA.

  • I enjoyed very much the insights of the Digital Marketing Contractor in this article, sadly she shows the lack of understanding of the big ad agencies have for their target markets. Like in the case where they presented an ad containing paper mâché piñatas, …….and even though we had a VERY long meeting with them about it, they never really understood what the problem was.
    No wonder TV and traditional media have such a poor return, now imagine what is going to happen to the dynosours now that very quantitative information is used to allocate the marketing budgets. Can they survive?

  • My last job had me pigeon holed into doing only Hispanic projects. Also people started getting bold and bypassing me completely because they felt that they being white, African-American or whatever could do the Hispanic marketing themselves because they thought it was all about translating only. Makes me feel sick inside. I wish more people would write about the pigeon hole aspect and the latter one as well. How do you break free of it without looking like a fool for asking to participate in other non Latino work or also to be respected for knowing Latino culture for the projects you should be called upon?

  • Hi, I hate being pigeon-holed too. I did a seasonal stint at an office earlier this year, and my bilingual skills were definitely put into use. My manager definitely counted on me to help him out (he’s not Hispanic nor bilingual) when speaking to clients who preferred to conduct transactions in Spanish. The downside though is that I felt that sometimes my overall suggestions in re: to how to improve performance, volume, etc.. were brushed off, while my non-Hispanic colleagues, who piped up their own thoughts, would get an audience from upper management. This frankly annoyed me. My own manager, to my relief, did say that he noticed I was able to communicate well not with just Spanish speaking clients but Americans as well (aka English speaking). I don’t have a problem at all in talking to non-Hispanics in English, especially since I grew up in a surburban, predominately non-Latino area, where one better know how to converse in English. I wonder though, because my surname is Hispanic and I definitely possess an ethnic look (dark straight hair and tan), I am not going to be taken seriously as a professional in the future, which I then see as subtle discrimination and prejudice in corporate offices. That’s not right, especially in 2011.

  • when there are questions about what we are doing, I work late preparing reports and detailed updates. If there was adequate involvement, we wouldn’t have to be rushing to complete work.

  • I too an a latina and speak both english and spanish and gfind my self being pigeon holed all the time. I have learned how to speak up however and let others know that I do not like being taken advantage of or being held responsible for specific reports or clients because i speak spanish or because one assumes they can relate better. There are many latinos that speak english fluently and are willing to work with people regardless or thier nationality

  • Growing up in El Paso, Texas I’ve heard all the stories about discrimination against hispanics and Mexican Americans. El Paso has a predominantly hispanic population as it is located right on the border. My parents and grandparents have told me countless stories of how it was difficult living and getting good work, as little as thirty years ago, as a hispanic. Here in El Paso I’ve never seen any discrimination against me because of the color of my skin, however, visiting places farther north and east where the hispanic population is minimal I find myself being looked down upon. I do believe that now, as shown in this article, more opportunities are opening up specifically for hispanics. I am still in college, but I hope that when I am searching for a job that my ethnicity as a hispanic will be neither a disadvantage or an advantage.

  • Hello- I was born in Bolivia, hence, my first language was Spanish but I quickly learned English once I moved to the U.S. at a very young age. My parents raised me to be proud of my heritage and stressed the importance of being bilingual. I worked diligently to keep my Spanish grammar at the same level as my English by taking Spanish courses in high school, reading books in Spanish, and minored in Spanish in college. I was frequently asked why I was taking Spanish classes since I could carry a conversation in Spanish quite well. I would answer by saying “Why do you take English courses throughout your entire education? It’s the same thing, I want to be able to read and write in Spanish at the same level as my English.”

    I knew that I wanted to use my English and Spanish within my career. I graduated with a major in Marketing, emphasis in International Business, and minor in Spanish. My first internship was at a Hispanic Advertising Agency; the next six years of my career was focused on U.S. Hispanic Marketing (USH), which came very naturally to me. I knew what it was like growing up within two cultures, recognized the cultural differences and appreciated them, and was able to adapt to either environment. I loved working within USH but I found myself asking could I move beyond USH into mainstream. I started by expressing my interest to move to general market but was faced with resistance because of my niche expertise. I found myself pigeon-holed by own background and skillset I had worked so hard to establish.

    After about a year of persistence and networking, I finally made headway into the general market and have been working within this segment for the past four years. It has been challenging in different ways but I continue to grow and learn, and have been able to use my USH expertise to lead strategic conversations and the development of bilingual shopper marketing principles. My dream is to one day work within a global multicultural position where I can apply my knowledge to lead to the development of universal ideas that move beyond language and the evolution of multicultural marketing.

    Michelle

  • Hi, I am a Cuban American and speak both English and Spanish. When I was younger and living in the Los Angeles area I always felt that there was something underlying that people thought when they looked at me. I was fortunate enough to attend predominantly white private school for some time. However, every time I met someone new there, they would look at me and say, “No offense, but you look Mexican (or Hispanic or Puerto Rican), what are you?” When I was younger, I never thought it was a big deal but looking back I think to myself, why should it be offensive to be hispanic? It shouldn’t. After people found out my ethnicity I found that they would try and stereotype me over the foods I ate, the music I liked, or even the political views I had. Most of the time they were wrong. As I’ve grown older I’ve learned to laugh it off and I think I’ve become quite a unique individual that does not fit any stereotypical mold. I’m extremely proud of my heritage but hearing other’s speak about the issue they have faced because of theirs always makes me remember how lucky I am.