​​My Mentor Encouraged Me to Move Beyond My Comfort Zone

In 2017 I swapped a full-time job for a minimum wage internship and I took a leap of faith and moved to New York City

Rose Barraza Ramona Ortega

Photo courtesy Rose Barraza

In 2017 I swapped a full-time job for a minimum wage internship and I took a leap of faith and moved to New York City. Little did I know this would be the best decision I’d ever make, and my former mentor, Ramona Ortega, greatly influenced that decision. If you’ve ever had a mentor, then you understand the importance one person can play in your life. The Mentor Coach Foundation reported that 79 percent of Millennials see mentoring as crucial to their career success and I believe that’s 100 percent true.

I’m a social video editor and producer for the true-crime network Investigation Discovery. While the job title might sound glamorous, the road leading up to this position was not an easy feat. Fortunately, Ramona was not only a successful New Yorker, but she was also my second cousin on my mom’s side who was willing to show me the ropes. At the time, we didn’t know each other all that well because her family grew up in Northern California, while mine resided in Southern California. However, our paths crossed when I graduated from college in 2015.

Ramona, a former Wall Street securities attorney, founded My Money My Future (Mi Dinero Mi Futuro), a platform dedicated to educating underserved millennials about finances in 2016. I began attending her company boot camps in Los Angeles, where our relationship evolved. I captured content for her company, and she took me under her wing.

Whenever Ramona was in town for an event, she ensured I was there. As her mentee, I watched from the sidelines and learned the ins and outs of networking. I watched her confidently walk into rooms, shake hands, and speak to crowds. During live panels, she often talked about the value of inclusion, pride, and visibility. And that was the main lesson she wanted me to take with me into my career: represent our community in spaces where we’re underrepresented. Because similar to the world of law and financial tech, journalism also has a lack of Latinx professionals.

I eventually confided in her about my desire to move to New York City, having fantasized about becoming the Mexican American version of Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City. Ramona, who resided in Brooklyn at the time, offered up space in her apartment if I ever made the move. She knew that her offer would force me out of my comfort zone. Then, all I had to do was stay consistent in the application process and focus.
So when I was finally offered an internship in New York City – I jumped at the opportunity. Two long years of applying to countless editorial internships had finally paid off. That’s how competitive the industry is. I knew moving to New York would be the scariest action I’d ever taken, but knowing Ramona was there to support me made all the difference.

I only lived with her for two months before I ventured off, but in that time frame she taught me about the financial hardships I’d eventually face. The main one was that I’d have to fight for the pay I deserved, even if I was qualified for the position. It took me approximately two years and plenty of meetings to finally negotiate a fair salary. But in the end, it was all worth it.

One of my favorite quotes is “you can’t be what you can’t see,” and that’s why Ramona’s mentorship and example were essential for me because she showed me what I could make of my life. But unfortunately, fast forward to today, and I currently do not have a mentor.

Sure I have people who support me and who I can turn to for advice, but I don’t have a true mentor to help guide me into the next chapter of my life. And when I don’t have a mentor, I tend to become stagnant, which is why mentorship is crucial.

There’s still a lack of Latinx mentors in my field. However, during my research I came across numerous mentorship programs. And in the world of video communication, these programs are now more accessible than ever. So if you’re seeking a mentor like I am – this is your sign to start your research and apply for a mentorship program. As a starting point, email your organization and inquire about mentoring opportunities where you work — even if they don’t have a program in place they may be open to pairing you with someone. Alternatively, if you have advice to offer, then consider becoming a mentor for other Latinx professionals in your field, even if it means taking an hour a week (or a month) to answer a few emails.

Take it from me that mentors can change your life. Ramona unveiled a world of possibilities I didn’t know existed. She taught me to be proud of where I came from and own who I was – even if I was the only Latina in the room.

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