What was your biggest failure that turned out to be a success in disguise?
I thought that my biggest failure was coming back to the Dominican Republic, after studying in the United States. I was admitted to Northwood University in West Palm Beach, with a tennis scholarship. After I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Management Information Systems, I was offered a job at a Microsoft partner company in Boca Raton.
It was a rare opportunity for an international student and a chance for me to complete my Optional Practical Training (OPT), available to foreign students after they graduate. I could eventually apply for a U.S. permanent residence and later become a citizen. The decision should have been a no brainer. I could have been living and working in a country with unlimited opportunities and earn a much better salary, compared to the DR.
The trade-off was to not go back to the DR for over a year during the course of my OPT and until I got a permanent job offer from the company.
The thought of not being able to see my family for such a long time made me nervous and I took this as a sign that I had to return to my home country. Family is very important to me. I was very happy about my decision in the beginning, but as I started my new life back in the DR, I was struck by the lack of general education, the low wages for entry-level professionals and the overall challenges in a developing country.
This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Within three months of being back, I got a job offer from Microsoft (not the partner company in Boca Raton), here in the DR! This ended up being a life-changing experience, which would later catapult me towards where I am today.
“Being in my native country has also given me the opportunity to make a difference locally, where a LOT of help is needed.
How do you define success?
I believe that each individual defines success differently. Success to me is to be able to remain grounded during difficult times.
It’s to make a difference in at least one person’s life while on earth and to let go of personal biases and negative experiences from the past in order to be a better human being.
How did your failures and successes lead you to where you are now?
My failures allowed me to see parts of me that weren’t so pretty.
“Most of my failures showed me that what I needed the most was to give myself the permission to be myself.
Permission to trust my instincts and to be kind to myself throughout this journey. And through this understanding, I was able to quit a job that I didn’t enjoy, and go for one that aligned with my personal values and beliefs. Finally, I was able to build up the courage to understand that I, too, can make a difference. Today, I am brave enough to make an impact myself, instead of observing and admiring from a distance at what other people are doing. It wasn’t an easy lesson, and it didn’t happen in one day but it was valuable and I cherish it. For me failure equals growth.
How do you cope with failure differently today than you did when you were younger?
I feel a 360-degree change. I used to give myself a very hard time every time I failed. I told myself that I could do better, and I felt both guilt and shame. Mostly because I was worrying about failing other people, instead of looking inside myself and thinking about how I had failed myself.
When I was younger, I never looked back at failure to reflect and learn from it. I was worried about what others would think, how many doors would close for me, and feared I would be able to move on after such a bad move.
Today, when I fail it is because I am failing myself.
Just like with success, there are endless definitions of failure. And one has to understand what it means for us. Have I let myself down here? Why did I do it? How can I learn from this? Did I hurt someone else? This is something I strive for and practice everyday, and it has been one of my biggest and most important challenges in growing to be a much healthier and happier individual and a better professional.