Name: Israel Rojas-Moreno
Title: Senior Consultant
Professional Experience: 2 years at IBM; 2 years with the City of Chicago; 5 years with the City of LA
Education: MBA at University of Chicago; B.S. Management Science & Engineering at Stanford
What is the greatest lesson you've learned in your career thus far?
Growth comes from challenging yourself and if you aren’t a little bit uncomfortable, you aren’t challenging yourself. It is not easy to take on new roles or to learn new skills. Often, it will feel like you have no clue what is going on and that doesn’t feel great. You can mitigate this by making sure you are giving maximum effort - and sometimes that means putting in more hours than expected. It is difficult to constantly challenge yourself. But, it is a choice. Each time, you have to decide who you want to be. It doesn’t get easier each time, but if you make it a habit to say yes to everything and to approach each challenge as a growth opportunity than you will succeed. Both in your professional career and in life.
What has been your greatest professional failure to date and what have you learned from that experience?
I failed all my consulting interviews as a first-year business school student. I didn’t make it to the 2nd round, let alone a final round. This was devastating, but It forced me to ask myself, did I really want to be a Consultant? I realized, I did not. I was not willing to work as hard as my classmates to secure and prepare for the case interviews. I did not want a job that would take over my life. I reaffirmed to myself that my family came first and that meant pursuing other job opportunities that would allow me to prioritize them.
What issues have you dealt with being a person of color in corporate America and how have you overcome these challenges?
Corporate America loves this idea of “fit.” Does this person “fit” in at our firm? When your background is less traditional - as was my case, a formerly undocumented immigrant, first-generation high school graduate - it is hard to “fit in”. Unfortunately, the onus is often on you as the employee to bridge this gap or to find common ground. Still, if you treat it is an opportunity, you will be fine. Travel stories often serve as a common denominator, so save up and take a trip somewhere. Read a new book in a different genre, listen to different types of music, watch classic movies - there are many ways to familiarize yourself with the culture of a place and its conversation topics. That said, be yourself, don’t feel like you need to give up your entire identity just to fit in.
What resources, professional or personal, have you leveraged to ensure your career is progressing?
My greatest resource has been my friend network. I lucky to be surrounded by friends who are positive, motivated, and kind. We motivate and inspire each other. We support each other through personal or professional challenges. This does take work, but cultivating and maintaining a strong network of friends is completely worth the effort. On a more specific/tangible note, I also use Khan Academy, Coursera, and a variety of other online resources to learn about new topics of personal or professional interest. Learning should never stop. you must always push yourself continue your education.
Do you have mentor? If so, how did you select this person or people?
I don’t have a mentor, but I am not shy about asking different people for advice. In my experience, you can always find someone at work or in your personal life willing to offer advice. I find colleagues and other professionals with interesting roles and ask them about their experiences as well as their career progression. If you are respectful of their time and genuinely interested, I haven’t met a single person who isn’t willing to answer your questions in return.
What advice would you give an undergraduate who is about to start their first job post college?
Your career is your professional reputation. My first job post college was not intellectually challenging. As a result, there were days when I definitely slacked off and would commit careless mistakes. My boss called me out on this and I’m glad he did. His point was simple. If I wanted to be trusted with the bigger things, I had to do the little things right first. Your jobs will change overtime and so will your roles within a given job. But if you can’t execute well at the beginning, you will not be given the opportunity later. Tomorrow, if I got assigned to ditch digging, you better believe I’d be the best ditch digger around.