NextGen Collective recently spotlighted Fabiola Salazar. Read about her work, her career advice, and more.
Where are you from?
I am from Jesús María, Jalisco, Mexico.
What do you do today and where do you want to go in your career?
Today, I am the director of venture and partnerships at Fiserv, a payments and financial services technology company. In this role, my team is responsible for evaluating potential investment opportunities and forming partnerships with startups. In five years, I will become a general manager with P&L responsibility or the CEO of a private equity-backed company. In ten years, I plan to launch my own business and venture into an entrepreneurial endeavor.
Who inspired you the most in your life growing up?
My parents inspired me the most growing up. My dad worked in a laborious construction job. He would leave the house at 5 a.m. every day and work in the rain, snow, and summer heat. In the afternoons and weekends, he would spend time with me and my sisters while doing extra cement work to bring additional income. My dad’s tireless work ethic, cleverness, and unwavering strength inspires me every day. My mom had the world’s hardest job – being a mom and homemaker. She arrived to the United States not knowing a single word in English, yet learned the language, and assimilated to the brutal Chicago weather. Her creativity in making different meals every day, discipline for maintaining a tidy home, and intelligence for running the household are the qualities I most admire in my mom.
Today, my dad is retired and my mom is a “cool mom.” They are the epitome of what is possible when you work hard and have a bit of luck in your journey. I carry their story with me and it is a reminder of why I keep persevering despite challenges. Additionally, Jalisco nunca se raja!
What do you wish you had known at the start of your career?
At the start of my career I wish I would have known that money is less important than exploring as many industries and roles as possible. It is more important to see all areas of a business–marketing, finance, sales, operations, and product, or the exploration of one’s areas of interest early in one’s career.
What are some of the biggest challenges you see facing early-career Latinx professionals?
The biggest challenges I see for Latinx professionals are 1) lack of role models at the top echelons of companies or funds, 2) lack of support for navigating the political nuances of corporate America, and 3) being over-mentored and under-sponsored. These challenges stem from the small number of Latinx in corporate or business arenas and the difficulty of finding Latinx professionals willing to help. Many Latinx are busy trailblazing and don’t feel like they have the bandwidth (or don’t want to) to pull other Latinx up with them.
Although these challenges are difficult to quantify or grasp, I believe they can be solved by changing the narrative in business from “I” to “we” and providing more opportunities for high-ranking professionals to meet young professionals and to also sponsor these professionals.
How can Latinx professionals better advocate for themselves?
Latinx professionals can better advocate for themselves by learning from their non-Latinx peers. Oftentimes it takes watching another person advocate for themselves, for us to learn how to do it properly. We also should learn how to brag without seeming overconfident or arrogant. Lastly, we should ask others to advocate on our behalf. Sponsors are the ones that can put our name into the hat and recommend us for positions. We should be unafraid to ask sponsors for support or a recommendation.
What are you most excited for in 2022?
I am most excited about traveling outside of the US and Mexico. Traveling abroad always opens my eyes to new sights, ideas, cultures and food. Traveling is a reminder of how similar the human experience is regardless of where you are in the world–we all value community, family, and want to feel connected to something greater than ourselves.
When you get a new idea what’s the first thing you do with it?
When I get a new idea, the first thing I do is share it with a peer or someone that I trust. Sharing the idea out loud helps me articulate and practice communications, while getting feedback. Once I receive feedback, I will share it with a second person and solicit more feedback. If two people think it is a good idea, I will proceed with taking the first step towards making the idea a reality.
What behavior or personality traits do you attribute to your success?
I am successful because of the high importance I place on people and building relationships. After getting my first job out of college, I’ve never applied for any job that I have gotten since then. This is due to my relationship building and ability to nurture relationships.
Which causes are you passionate about?
I am passionate about increasing the number of Latinx entrepreneurs and small business owners (not limited to Latinx entrepreneurs in tech). Entrepreneurship is not only a path to gain freedom from a traditional 9-5 p.m., it is also a path to a better economic future–as a business owner, the upside is uncapped. There is no better decision than to bet on oneself.