Fridays from the Frontline: A Latina in Business School – On Being the Bridge at UCLA Anderson
First-generation and multicultural students know all too well the challenges of navigating disparate languages, communities, frameworks, and disciplines. Amanda Sol Peralta took to the UCLA Anderson blog to talk about her experiences being the bridge in a variety of social and professional settings.
A Latina in Business School: On Being the Bridge at UCLA Anderson
by Amanda Sol Peralta (’20)
National Hispanic Heritage Month always prompts me to reflect on the community that I unwittingly joined when I moved to the U.S. 25 years ago. This fall, as I begin business school at UCLA Anderson, it’s made me recommit to how this community has enriched my experience as an American.
Among activist circles I have often heard that it shouldn’t be the burden of marginalized peoples to explain their experiences or educate others. This is a perspective I understand and respect, but one that differs deeply from my experiences in underrepresented groups (Latinos, first-generation Americans and college graduates, LGBTQ for context). Perhaps this makes sense, considering I have a tendency to pay attention to how I am different. What may equally affect my perspective is the fact that as a Chilean immigrant, I have rarely been in social or professional settings where even one other person shared my background.
Peralta moderated the panel La Futura: Identifying Identity as an audience engagement manager in New York
From an early age I found myself educating others on what “Chilean” meant. I loved subverting expectations and sharing new information, even though it meant constantly standing in contrast to my peers. I was the single overlapping point between my family, friends and school — which I later realized was not everyone’s experience. Like many children of immigrants, I learned English more easily than my parents and served as their translator and mediator. In fact, at the age of 9, I was often called to the front office of my elementary school to translate calls from Latino parents and relay their requests to the administrative staff. I understand that these experiences could feel like burdens or responsibilities that I shouldn’t have had to fulfill, but I honestly enjoyed them. I was eager to contribute my unique knowledge to make life easier for others.
During a UCLA Anderson organizational behavior class, I learned about the concept of “structural holes,” the gaps between networks that can be bridged by individuals straddling disparate groups. At first, I couldn’t stop talking about it: I bet more than a few of my classmates were puzzled at my excitement — even I was puzzled at first. Then I realized that I have been bridging structural holes my entire life. As a Latina in elite higher education institutions, startups and the tech space, I’ve often had a different background from those around me. And, yes, this can be exhausting and disheartening and lonely. It can also be an opportunity. With this mindset, I’ve made the choice to be vulnerable by sharing my differences, which will help to expand the conversation, provide new context and arrive at better results.
It’s been so rewarding to share that authentic version of myself that I’ve made it a practice to talk about my experiences and identities as often as possible (in my LinkedIn or Instagram profiles, for example). When I read those resume studies that showed whiter names garnered more job interviews, it actually prompted me to ask myself if my name represented me accurately. I’ve since started asking my peers to call me by my middle name (“Sol,” which means sun in Spanish). By putting my Latin and other identities front and center, I get to faithfully represent myself and add to the slowly shifting perceptions of my communities.
During the next two years at Anderson, I plan to exercise my bridging muscles in big and small ways. For example, when we discussed the financial rationale behind share buybacks (at the cost of stagnant salaries) in an accounting class, I challenged myself to raise my hand and bring up the effect on wealth inequality that we should also consider. It’s worth speaking up in these moments, not because my classmates don’t care, but because I believe that they do. If topics like wealth inequality continue to be a part of the conversation today, I am hopeful that they will inform our decision making in the future when we are running organizations.
During this National Hispanic Heritage Month, I’m excited to once again find myself in an environment where I can bring my experiences as a Latina to my work and relationships.