Diversity in Tech with Selina Suarez: Inspiring Latinas Interview

Selina Suarez, MBA, CSM, CSPO, PMPIII, and Executive Director of PepUp Tech, is a TOTAL Chingona in the tech industry and in LIFE. She has an MBA from St. John’s University and a list of honors and awards a page long. I knew I had to meet her when I read about the company she founded to diversify the tech industry.  We communicated online for a bit and met in person at Dreamforce in 2017. In three years, I have learned that she is one of the bravest, most passionate and empathetic people I know.

If you or someone you know feel like you have a past that keeps you from achieving great things, I urge you to listen to this interview. Selina grew up in poverty. The odds of her succeeding were stacked up high against her. But she prevailed, and now she helps others to achieve their dreams as well. Since this interview, I have become a Pep-Up Tech board member, and I couldn’t be more proud of the work being done to train underserved students to enter the lucrative field of technology.

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@carriemantione @ifitfloats @saasy_sistah

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Currently, the tech industry offers some of the highest paid jobs, but it is one of the least diverse industries. The numbers for black and brown people are dismal, and Selina wants to change that, one student, at a time. PepUp Tech is a non-profit dedicated to enabling community-based organizations to offer computer science and technology programs to underrepresented people. Their goal is to inspire individuals to learn about computer science and technology, gain access to people and careers in these industries and ultimately give back to their communities. https://www.pepuptech.org/ 

This is not just another success story. The fact of the matter is that we, as Latinas are an underrepresented group in media created to inspire. This series was created to inspire women (and men) from all walks of life, dream big, and improve mental and physical health and increase spiritual, emotional, and financial consciousness. 

Written and Produced by Angel Aviles for Living Firme

The responsibility of being educated and hood.

Yoga Instructor Taina Berardi.

We knew this shirt would be controversial and we made it anyway.

A huge thank you to Taina Berardi for stepping into her power with purpose and for rocking this shirt. Taina is one of the instructors we’ve enjoyed working with over the last few years. She is from Oakland, California, has her MBA from San Diego State and her Master of Arts from Loyola Marymount. Taina is a trauma-informed yoga teacher trained in yoga therapy. We are inspired by how she serves the community by ensuring that wellness is accessible to everyone, including marginalized populations.

“The hood,” like the individuals that occupy it, is a complex space. So many people confuse what being from the hood is. Part of this ignorance stems from a narrative that is often biased and incomplete. You see, much of what we believe about ourselves is based on how we’ve seen ourselves represented. And frankly, “the hood” is often misrepresented. We’re from the hood, and we know of so many brilliant minds, undervalued experiences, and unappreciated people. We’ve come to understand that stigma prevented many of these invisible stars from shining light on all that’s good in the hood.

So Living Firme set out on a mission to destigmatize poverty. There is so much to say about the stigma of poverty that we will have to write a separate post or suggest a reading list. Destigmatizing poverty meant sharing resources as well as sparking joy, encouraging unity, and promoting positivity. We took this assignment head-on, and we’ve brought on sensitive, insightful experts like Taina to help us.

Our trainings are a blast. We make sure to show up dressed a way that hints at where we are from. Oh, the looks we get! It’s so much fun to see arms crossed in front of chests in defense. We know that stance. Our attendees usually nod in agreement when we confess that we know we don’t “look” like other instructors. We let everyone know that they don’t have to like us to learn something new. We tell them a bit about how we started and that is how we begin to weave our storytelling into our exercises. We know that we are asking people to come on a journey with us but we are not asking them to do anything that we have not done ourselves. We get vulnerable. We share the truth.

We could easily pretend that we were NOT from our barrios. We could have easily kept our hardships and our successes to ourselves, but why? We are not here to incite riots but we are here to disrupt mindsets. That is why this shirt comes with a WARNING. The goal of our training is that attendees will not feel the same about themselves or the people they may have previously judged. The journey toward wellness has to begin with a desire to love oneself and empathize with others.

We work with business owners, inmates, public servants, educators, stay at home moms, artists, the list goes on… but our mission remains the same.

We work to elevate and evolve mindsets.

Things have been physically, mentally and emotionally challenging in 2020. It’s clear that things have to change, and they will.

WE have to decide how WE will contribute to that change. 

Please check out Taina’s Instagram for healthy, culturally relevant posts on body positivity, spirituality and mindfulness.

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Yoga Therapy training has expanded my concept of how yoga can positively impact an individual’s health, wellness and lifestyle. By looking at the whole person, not just symptoms felt in the physical body, we can recognize the implications of an individual’s environment, history, disabilities, injuries, chronic illness, habits, diet, sleep pattern, stress level, etc. and use this knowledge to create an accessible plan of action for addressing the underlying issues behind the symptoms. Every person is unique and therefore deserves a unique approach to achieving optimal wellness. Fortunately, on an individual level, yoga provides many tools to achieve this goal. At a macro level though, yoga is inaccessible to many of the people who could benefit the most from its practices. From “one-size-fits-all” classes, to studios that focus on creating a brand of exclusivity… yoga is being commodified vs democratized. It’s up to us as teachers, practitioners, studio owners, event runners and thought leaders to be advocates for more accessible forms of yoga so that as many people as possible can experience the true bliss that its teachings have to offer the body, mind and spirit. This is why I am so looking forward to the @accessibleyoga #AccessibleYogaConference in St. Louis this week! A whole conference of conversation, deep thought, learning, listening, connecting and re-imagining yoga with other folks who are whole-heartedly dedicated to this work. There are some amazing speakers, world-class teachers and a deeply compassionate group of people in the mix. So glad to be able to attend and volunteer some of my time at the conference to help out! Just wish I could hire a personal stenographer for all my note taking!! ✏️📜📜📜📜🤦🏽‍♀️

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Living Firme Back for 2nd Training at University of California, Riverside

In May, Living Firme had the opportunity to work with some incredibly talented and influential mujeres. We had initially scheduled to do onsite training, but Covid-19 foiled our plans. Luckily, Zoom came to the rescue. We were able to adapt our four-hour wellness curriculum to meet these faculty and staff members’ needs.

The burnout rate for educators is high.

In May, a survey to learn how best to support teachers coping during the pandemic was done. The survey included 92 questions related to burnout, efficacy, techno-stress, attitudes toward change, resources, demands and coping. The hope is that findings can help how we can consider supporting educators during this pandemic. One of the key takeaways was something that seems obvious but is often ignored.

 Perceived support matters to educator resiliency.

Survey data demonstrated that teachers who perceived high parental support or high administrator support coped better. Teachers who perceive collegial support, who set limits on their time, and who practice self-understanding are more successful in recovering efficacy and coping

Living Firme works with populations who have high-stress jobs and lives. We meet so many people who dedicate their lives to doing good work in the community yet feel overwhelmed, ineffective, and unsupported. Kudos to Estella Acuña, Director, of Chicano Student Programs, for understanding the needs of her staff and students.

We were able to work with Estella to create a lunchtime series that focused on, mindfulness, goal setting, time management and emotional intelligence. The series went so well that we have been invited back to work with the students.

We are excited to have seamlessly transitioned our unique live training to an online platform and look forward to working with more clients online.



Okay, we can all agree that this year is not going as anyone planned! Living during a time of a pandemic, despite all our technological advances, can truly bring forth feelings of compassion for anyone else back in the days who lived through plagues and pandemics. But even with all our advancements, unless you live off the grid, there are very few human beings who have not been affected somehow.

These times have left most with the same question: “What do I do now?’ Surprisingly, it has pushed many people to wake up and chase their dreams. Many people who lost their jobs have decided what the next step will be in their future. The time off has afforded people the gift of time and given some the time they needed to slow down and think. We’re in the time to think and plan, to make plans for making moves.

That idea that has been marinating for years, that hobby that you have always thought you could make money on, that business you have always wanted to start… The playing field is now open! Many may think that this is not the time to start a business, to leap, but take a moment to reconsider. When would you have the time to create a comprehensive vision and plan if you worked a regular full-time job? When would you have the time to create the opportunities that set your soul on fire? Are you planning out how to live your best life while you’re grinding in your 9-5? The time is now to take the leap! There is strength in numbers and in support. Here at Living Firme we not only believe that, but we nurture that too, through our MasterMind Groups.

Do not let 2020 become the year that you “should have” when you can still make it the year that you “DO”! Sharpen your personal and business skills with a team that genuinely cares and wants to see you rise to success. We invite you to take the leap.

Learn more about our Mastermind here.

{Written for Living Firme: by Maralis Self}

Self-Esteem, A Starter Guide To Self-Improvement

In general, 2020 has brought us some revolutionary and historical events. We have lost, fought, cried, tended our sick, bonded, and grown. Through it all though, we have known, without a doubt, that we will make it through this. We have the chingona gene in our DNA. So even if we have to start all over again, we will. Si se puede! ✊🏽

So how do you stay calm, composed, and maintain self-esteem in a harsh environment? Here are some tips you may consider as a starter guide to self-improvement.

Imagine yourself as a Dart Board. Everything and everyone else around you may become Dart Pins, at one point or another. These dart pins will destroy your self-esteem and pull you down in ways you wonít even remember. Don’t let them destroy you or get the best of you. So which dart pins should you avoid?

Dart Pin #1: Negative Work Environment

Beware of a workplace that operates under a dog eat dog theory. These are the places where everyone is fighting to get ahead, and non-appreciative people usually thrive. No one will appreciate your contributions even if you miss lunch and dinner, and stay up late. Most of the time, you will work hard without getting help from a team. Stay out of this kind of work situation is you can; it will wreak to havoc on your self-esteem. If you are already in this position, make sure you have a balanced and healthy home life. Also, start recording all your accomplishments. Creating a “brag” sheet will help you build self-esteem, and it will be useful to have when you apply for other jobs!

Dart Pin #2: Negative People”s Behavior

Bulldozers, brown nosers, gossipmongers, whiners, backstabbers, snipers, people walking wounded, controllers, naggers, complainers, exploders, and patronizers are the kinds of people who create bad vibes. Bad vibes are not good for your self-esteem and will ruin a self-improvement scheme. If you find yourself around these groups of people, you may have to spend more time alone. If you have never liked to be alone, it’s probably because you have never given yourself a chance to get to know you. Take some time to sate yourself!

Dart Pin #3: Negative Past Experiences

tís okay to cry when we experience pain. But donít let pain transform itself into fear because fear can keep you from growing. In building self-esteem, we must learn how to make the best out of worst situations. Treat each failure and mistake as a lesson.

You may wonder if some people are born leaders or positive thinkers. NO. Being positive and staying positive is a choice. Building self-esteem and drawing lines for self-improvement is a choice and a habit. Building self-esteem will eventually lead to self-improvement if we start to become responsible for who we are, what we have, and what we do.

When we develop self-esteem, we take control of our mission, values, and discipline. So how do you start putting up the building blocks of self-esteem? Stay focused. Never miss an opportunity to compliment yourself and others.

A positive way of living will help you build self-confidence, which is your starter guide to self-improvement.

Living Firme and The Women’s March Foundation

So proud to be joining the Women’s March Foundation for their Connecting Community Series. Come join us for a Celebration of Self. We will be doing an exercise that explores the use of creativity and imagination as a tool for personal development and transformation. 

Zoom Registration Links:
10am Registration: is.gd/25Rrop

1pm Registration: is.gd/rjU7KZ

A Little more info about the Chingonas at the WMF (from their website)

Women’s March Foundation is a women-led movement bringing together people of all genders, ages, races, cultures, political affiliations, disabilities and backgrounds to affirm our shared humanity and pronounce our bold message of resistance and self- determination.

Recognizing that women have intersecting identities and are therefore impacted by a multitude of social justice and human rights issues, we have outlined a representative vision for a government that is based on the principles of liberty and justice for all. As Dr. King said, “We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.” 

Our liberation is bound in each other’s. The Women’s March movement includes leaders of organizations and communities that have been building the foundation for social progress for generations. We welcome vibrant collaboration and honor the legacy of the movements before us – the suffragists and abolitionists, the Civil Rights Movement, the feminist movement, the American Indian Movement, Occupy Wall Street, Marriage Equality, Black Lives Matter, and more – by employing a decentralized, leader-full structure and focusing on an ambitious, fundamental and comprehensive agenda.

How to Conquer Your Fears

These days it seems like there are a million things to be afraid of. The news is full of gloom and doom. But we want you to keep trucha! Fear has the power to hold you back from taking risks, following your dreams, or becoming successful at anything you attempt to do. If you allow it to control you for long enough, it can eventually erode your quality of life and keep you locked in a prison of inactivity.

What many people fail to realize is that fear is nothing more than a conditioned response. It’s a natural reaction to a frightening or unfamiliar situation. While it is usually automatic, there are things you can do to overcome it.

Check your expectations.

One major contributor of fear is the prevalence of negative expectations. Do you usually find yourself expecting the worst in every situation? Do you worry obsessively about what could go wrong, rather than focusing on your strengths and capabilities?

If you make a conscious effort to expect the best, see the positive side of each situation and keep reminding yourself that you can handle more than you often think, you’ll find yourself with much less fear to deal with. Even if feelings of fear do manage to creep into your consciousness, you’ll still be able to keep them in perspective and balance them against an underlying sense of confidence.

Acknowledge then discredit your fears.

It’s no use denying that you are afraid of something but we usually don’t get to the bottom of things. Experts will tell you that the majority of things you fear will never come to pass anyway. While this may be true, it sure doesn’t feel that way when fear has a chokehold on you! However, if you look a little more closely at your fears when they arise, you may be able to dismiss at least a few.

For example, if you have a fear of public speaking and your boss wants you to give a presentation at work, you might feel like your life (and perhaps your livelihood) is on the line. You may fear getting fired, or worry that your colleagues will lose respect for you if you don’t do a good job.

But is any of this likely to happen? In most cases, no. Rather than worrying about what “might” happen if you don’t give a solid presentation, you might brainstorm ways to help improve your performance, such as being well prepared, practicing your delivery on friends and family members, writing notes to yourself and so on.

Do the very thing you fear.

When you remember that fear is simply a feeling, it loses much of its power. It can’t harm you and except in truly threatening situations you can choose to ignore it and move forward anyway.

If you weigh the pros and cons in any situation, you may decide that the possibility of negative consequences is minimal so there’s nothing to stop you from ignoring your fear and going for it! This will be determined by you on a case by case basis, of course. The point isn’t to become reckless with your decision-making but rather to empower yourself to know when a fear is groundless and easily overcome.

We believe in you and in your dreams!

Stress Management: 10 Practical Steps

We know we FEEL it but what is stress?

Dr. Hans Selye, who first noted and described the concept of stress as:

“the non-specific response of the body to any demand made upon it.” Stress is neither good nor bad. The effect of the stress is not determined by the stress itself, rather it is determined by how we handle the stress.

Effects of Stress

1. “Emergency Response” This happens when people believe they are in physical or mortal danger. Pupils dilate, blood pressure increases, and the production of stress hormones increase. The body prepares within seconds to respond, which is known as the ‘fight or flight’ syndrome. The adrenal glands pour out adrenaline. This is a healthy, response to immediate danger but if continually activated, this emergency response may cause a higher-than-normal level of hormone production that can eventually cause physical wear-and-tear on the body. Health problems related to this constant high level of response include hypertension, headaches, ulcers, heart disease, and increased vulnerability to diabetes and colitis.

2. “General Adaptation Syndrome” In studies, Selye came to believe that diseases of adaptation such as hypertension could be produced by abnormal or excessive reaction to stress. The body would increase its supply of hormones in order to be ready for action to stress. Over a prolonged period of time, excessive stress leads to distress and the accompanying physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health problems. Contributing factors to distress include

  • a) your attitude towards life and
  • b) your mood (optimistic or pessimistic).

Both help to create the atmosphere that assists your defence system in repairing small wounds, bruises, and infections. This is also the system that tries to destroy strange cells such as those of cancer, including leukaemia. In mastering stress, you have to figure out what you are doing that contributes to your problem/challenge and change it.

The four categories of change include: change your behaviour, change your thinking, change your lifestyle choices, and/or change the situations you are in. Symptoms of overstress include fatigue, aches and pains, anxiety, problems sleeping, depression, and lack of joy in your life. This may just start by you turning off the news or getting of social media for a while.

So what can we do about it?

The Living Firme team leads wellness classes all over the country and a lot of the tools we share are practical steps to manage stress and create balance. Here are some easy tips you can follow to reduce stress:

  1. Make your life regular like ‘clock work.’ Go to bed and get up at the same time each day.
  2. Give yourself a break today.
  3. Say ‘No’ more often when other people want your time. This includes social engagements, the family dinner on Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc.
  4. Postpone making any changes in your living environment if you have been coping with undue stress. Change of any kind is stressful and limiting it until later is a good strategy if you are under a lot of pressure.
  5. Reduce the number of hours you spend at work or school. If you are a work-a-holic or school-a-holic you need to reduce the energy drain on your body. TAKE SOME TIME OFF.
  6. Nutritional eating habits and eating small meals helps to keep your blood sugar stabilised. Many people reach for something high in sugar content when feeling stressed which compounds the problem. You may not want to hear this but… Drink more water and eat more vegetables!
  7. Rest your mind, as mind activities alleviate stress. These mind activities include reading, working on a craft, listening to music, playing a musical instrument, meditation, self-relaxation, dancing, and biofeedback.
  8. Have a worry time if you must worry. When you find yourself worrying over a problem, set aside a time (I suggest to my students 7:30pm on Tuesday night) and then put off worrying until that time. Chances are you will not even remember what you were stressing yourself about.
  9. Book time for yourself. In your daily or weekly schedule book time first for yourself and then the other activities you are involved in. Don’t let anything, except an emergency, usurp your commitment to yourself.
  10. Have a massage or another form of self-care activity. This doesn’t have to be expensive. Try practicing on your partner or try checking out some videos on self massage!

Minimizing stress in these ways is an adjustment for some of us. We are not used to making time for ourselves. But these simple tips may ultimately help you add years to your life!

The Mira Costa Community College Chola Panel

Last week, we had a chance to head on down to Oceanside to participate on a panel at Mira Costa College. This event was a gift!

The event was generously hosted by the Latina Leadership Network, which is an on campus group or woke students and their brilliant and powerful advisors. (Thank you Dr. Vanessa Bustamonte!) And thank you to all the students, faculty and staff that showed up from both Mira Costa and Palomar.

The questions were on point. All of the panelist addressed the questions from various perspectives, and each one had had to navigate the systems they grew up in.

When asked “How have you navigated the system of higher education.”

Part of the discussion focused on the work we currently do to serve the community. This is an are we area particularly proud of. Angel mentioned her passion for food justice, homelessness and mental health awareness. She also mentioned her passion for seeing a more representation in technology and using her influence to promote one of her favorite nonprofit organizations, PepUp Tech. If you are in a career transition or interested in finding a way into the tech field, check out PepUp Tech! If you don’t know about that amazing organization, you can watch the interview we did with PepUp Tech Founder, Selina Suarez below.

One of the things Angel forgot to mention was the mission of Living Firme to promote other small businesses. For us, it isn’t enough to do well if we are not also doing what we can to bring others along. When we do events, we do them with the intention to stimulate the local economy. It’s not just about one group making money, it’s about collaborating so that as many people can make money as possible. This is the ABUNDANCE MINDSET at work. We are about wellness in body mind and spirit and financial wellness is part of that too. In addition to all the collaborations we do, we do a weekly online video broadcast to share the work of other businesses with our growing online community.

Anna Alvarado at Mira Costa Community College.

We think that it’s important to mention that different people move at different paces and it sometimes happens that when you grow, some people may not be ready to grow with you. But it ALSO happens that when you grow, you meet amazing people who ARE also growing. Case in point is the lovely artist, Anna Alvarado. When we first met Anna, her work was already being sold out at shows but she needed more connections to get to the next level in her business. We knew she was a gem and although we barely new her, we started working with her. We also knew her story was too good not to share so we interviewed her as well.

30 Inspiring Women Podcast: Artist Anna Alvarado

Happy International Women's Day!Anna Alvarado is a mom of three and an admirer of Sharpies, Latin inspired art, wood panels, bold colors, messy hands, old Spanish tile, the violin, peppermint oil lip gloss & Home Depot. Born and raised in the heart of East Los Angeles. It was through her beloved abuelito’s encouragement that she began to explore her creative side. First in high school through pencil renderings, then in college at the Art Institute of Seattle through graphic design.Like her art, which is always evolving — she learns something new about herself every time she picks up a paintbrush, sharpie marker, pencil or pen.

Posted by Living Firme on Thursday, March 8, 2018

Anna has since, quit her job to be a FULL TIME artist, embraced her story and shared it to inspire others, done several media appearances including one for MiTu and taken the opportunity to share her art with others whenever possible. She has also turned us onto some incredible opportunities. We brought Anna to Mira Costa with us. She was asked to introduce herself and she did. Everyone loved her.

Whether you are a chola reading this or not, you can do something amazing to elevate your life and the lives of those in your community. Plant the seeds of positivity in your mind and in the minds of others and see how that garden grows. We have seen it time and time again.

Al rato.

Celebrating the Women of GRYD

The Mission of The GRYD Foundation is To create safer, healthier and stronger communities that we all can enjoy and be proud of, starting in Los Angeles…one individual and one family at a time.

We had the honor of celebrating a group of Chingonas who, without a lot of pomp and circumstance, make Los Angeles a better place. These woment come from all walks of life but have one mission, to help our kids and our community.

We love that the retreat was focused on Wellness and self-care. Burnout is a BIG issue among first responders. Although, these women are not firefighters PER SE… it’s undeniable that they put out all kinds of fires, on the daily. Wellness, mental health checks, and self-care are a huge success factor for anyone who serves, as a job or as a volunteer. Bravo to the GRYD Foundation for making this retreat available for these amazing mujeres.

We could not be more proud of our ability to serve the people in the field, putting in the work to help others.

We had a BLAST with these ladies celebrating the women of @grydfoundation Thank you to all the ladies who fearlessly and lovingly serve our communities. Thank you to @iamcecevalencia @straightfromthestreetsradio @sparkles_sparkles_1 @livingfirme @choppedupcherries for your hearts and of course for the laughter. 💕 #goodtimes 💕

You can learn more about the Gang Reduction & Youth Development Foundation by visiting the website https://grydfoundation.org/