As a first-generation Mexican American college graduate, Melba Tellez, was lost when she started graduate school. She didn’t know anyone in her field and had no resources. In fact, she was a high school dropout, who despite all odds, had managed to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Texas A&M University San Antonio while working full-time. She was determined to pave her own path toward success refusing to let her struggles keep her from achieving her goals.
Dropping out of high school to get a job and help her family was one of the biggest obstacles she faced but graduate school presented a whole new set of challenges. Even though she went on to earn a Master of Science in Marketing from The University of Texas at Austin, it was not without its own difficulties.
“In grad school, I consistently felt out of place because no one there looked like me,” she explains. “There were so many times I wanted to quit, but I had sacrificed so much for that opportunity, so I stuck it out.”
And stick it out she did. Melba now works as a product marketing manager for Google, and at 29 years old, and is the founder of her own company, Mujeres on the Rise, a mentoring and career support organization geared toward Latina professionals looking to gain skills to advance their careers.
“I started Mujeres on the Rise because I faced many challenges on my journey that made me feel like my dreams weren’t possible,” she shares. “When I found ‘my people’ at the university, I learned the importance of community, and I wanted to do something to give back.”
She grew up living between San Antonio, Texas, and Monterrery, Nuevo Leon, Mexico and being first generation means she wasn’t exposed many success stories of people that looked like her. But when it comes to Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) Latinx representation remains low. Latinas only held 2 percent of science and engineering jobs, according to a 2015 report by the National Science Foundation and only 1 percent of the computing workforce in 2017, according to the National Center for Women and Information Technology.
So after several years in the tech industry working at companies like Amazon, CITI and AT&T, in 2019, Melba launched Mujeres on the Rise with a single Instagram post on New Year’s Day.
Now, Mujeres on the Rise has more than 38,000 followers on TikTok and roughly 7,500 followers on Instagram. The social platform offers a slew of services and courses including resume writing, career coaching, and business/marketing consultations.
“I’ve been privileged enough to be able to leverage my experience in marketing to build the community to what it is now, but honestly it wouldn’t be anything without all the mujeres who form part of the community.”
Initially, Mujeres on the Rise was simply an online community to help Latina professionals connect, inspire each other, and share resources, but as interest in more dedicated career support and enrichment grew, Melba evolved the company.
“Unfortunately, many of the career resources that are available online don’t focus on helping women of color, women with unconventional backgrounds, first-gens, or women who are trying to break toxic generational cycles,” Melba explained. And while she of course, charges for the work she does, her pricing is affordable, and she still uses social media as an outlet to share advice, tips and resources with any woman who needs them. “Overall, I am passionate about helping women rise in their careers and in their lives, recognize their potential, and take action towards their goals.”
To that end, Melba has plans to grow the company. Currently, she offers a self-paced resume writing course, and intends to develop additional online courses in which she uses video modules and downloads to help women learn the skills that are crucial to career advancement. She shares that her goal is to create more courses for women to be able to access on their own time.
For now, Melba suggests that anyone who has the means to do so, get some career coaching. Mujeres on the Rise offers private one-on-one sessions covering topics like interviewing, negotiating salaries, building a portfolio and/or a LinkedIn profile, and online branding. Basically the essentials modern-day women need to thrive in their career and many WOC don’t necessarily have knowledge or experience with.
But perhaps most importantly, is using platforms like Mujeres on the Rise to build a network. “One of the hardest things about building your career is that you’ll often be met with lack of representation. This can lead to imposter syndrome, lack of belonging, self-doubt, and so many other things,” she says. “My advice is to connect with other Latinas in the same field or industry. This really helps control those feelings and it’s a great reminder that even though you may not see it at your company and/team, there are a lot of Latinas out there who are doing deep, meaningful work every single day.”
One thing Melba wants every woman who comes across Mujeres on the Rise to take away though, is that she’s worthy of the career she dreams of. “Latinas deserve to receive the empowerment, support, and guidance they need to grow their careers, overcome barriers, and build the life they’ve always wanted.”
“It doesn’t matter where you start, all that matters is that you do,” she said. And for starters, we recommend jumping on Instagram or TikTok, joining the Mujeres on the Rise community and soaking up the positivity, joining in the conversation and sharing your experiences with other driven, ambitious Latinas, who are or have been exactly where you are right now.