miércoles, 22 de abril de 2020

The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Last year I was having a coffee break with my friend and co-worker Peti, and the topic of Junot Diaz came up. For Peti it was interesting to have someone to talk about the author’s narrative: a “dominican-york” with a clever style that mixes drama, sci-fi geeky stuff, a lot of dominican slang and history. Dominican history, of course. Quite a combo, right?

That’s what happens in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. And yes, I had to explain to Peti what the concept “dominican-york” means. 

On the other hand, I was amazed to have a hungarian person ask me about Junot and his work. A work that probably 99% of the Dominican Republic’s residents don’t know about, but that is praised in literature faculties and among the dominican “diaspora” around the world. 

I was always interested in reading this book and discovering what made him become the 1st and probably only Dominican-related author to hold a Pulitzer Prize. But as many of my fellow compatriots, I never did until I finally bought the book last year. 

I was not disappointed. 

However, this post is not meant to tell what the book is about. It had a different effect on me. 

I was moved by the language and cultural references, ones that only dominican descendants can really grasp. We feel the struggles in our souls. We understand the concept of living in “outer Azua” with its joys and limitations, the rooted infidelities of the male kind, the patriarchy, and the women who blindly love those men. 

I have no idea how anyone that is not at least latino can understand it that well. 

I was also very impressed about the historical references related to Trujillo’s dictatorship and following years. It also made me think of the things we never learned in history class in the DR because, if we think about it, after Trujillo, we had Balaguer or his puppets rule the country for most of the time -but few exceptions. He still had so much influence in the subsequent 4 decades. 

So what were we getting on our history books? What details were left out? 

Families affected by Trujillo’s ways didn’t say much. I used to ask my grandma about those times, but she wouldn’t say much.  

For me, this was the biggest question lurking in my mind after reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, a brilliant book written by a man with a lot of respect but mostly curiosity for his roots. And a lot of drive to tell this story. A book that took him 11 years to finish in order to give us such a masterpiece and inspiration for aspiring writers.

So please go read it. Then tell me what you think.

jueves, 16 de abril de 2020

¿Qué hay de bueno en no tener el control?

Leyendo el último “post para los que leen” de Gabi Desangles, un comentario llamó mucho mi atención. Gabi hablaba sobre todos los planes que quedaron en pausa o cancelados con la cuarentena. Y una de sus seguidoras (a quien conozco jejeje) comentó “para mí lo peor ha sido darme cuenta de que no tengo el control”. 

La entiendo perfectamente. Yo también por momentos he sido planificadora compulsiva. Sin embargo, en los últimos años la vida me ha dado interesantes motivos para aprender que “no tener el control” es una experiencia que es importante vivir y que me ha dado estas importantes lecciones: 

El mundo no se acaba
La situación del coronavirus es una situación nueva para todos nosotros. Pero te invito a detenernos un momento y pensar en todas las situaciones por las que ha pasado la humanidad, las que ha pasado tu país, las que ha pasado tu familia. Si vas de lo macro a lo micro verás que nos toca lo que nos toca, pero al final “todo pasa, hasta la ciruela pasa”. Así que respira profundo y has todo lo que puedas para preservar tu salud física y mental. Al final eso es todo lo que necesitarás para volver a salir a camino sea tarde o temprano. 

jueves, 16 de enero de 2020

What is a vision board good for? Here’s how it worked for me

At the beginning of 2019 I decided to do my first vision board. That’s what everybody is doing these days, no? I honestly didn’t have high expectations about its effectiveness, but this was my outcome: 

It can be fun

I’m not the most crafty-panky person (at least not anymore), but every once in a while I do enjoy doing “cut & paste” activities that remind me of my school days. A vision board is something like it. Plus, I always buy magazines that later don’t know what to do with, therefore using them to create a vision board seemed like a fun idea. 

To do it, I started by watching this video and this video. It didn’t seem like a complicated thing, but since now there are people who make money out of teaching you how to do one, I decided to do research in case I was missing any scientific facts. 

I wasn’t… so I suggest you do the same and learn from good old Youtube. 

jueves, 19 de diciembre de 2019

#YanegirlSmallTalks: El Efecto Greta

#TheGretaEffect -¿Te importa el cambio climático o crees que exageran?

Hice este video en noviembre luego de leer una entrevista a #GretaThunberg en la revista Glamour y no imaginé lo relevante que sería hoy.

Image result for greta thunberg glamour mag

Me impresiona su determinación, siendo sólo una chica de 16 años y con síndrome de #Asperger, y cómo el ahora llamado #EfectoGreta está propiciando cambios significativos en el mundo. 

Ayer ella fue anunciada como la Persona del Año en la revista Time (Te invito a ver el video dentro del artículo, buenísimo). A pesar de mi escepticismo sobre lo que Greta y sus jóvenes partidarios pudieran lograr a estas alturas, están logrando mucho, y están presionando porque cambiemos nuestra postura pesimista y mentalidad hacia lo que se puede servir para mejorar el planeta.

sábado, 23 de noviembre de 2019

#YanegirlSmallTalks: El inicio de un experimento

Estoy iniciando un nuevo experimento con Instagram TV o IGTV, y es una serie de videos cortos que quiero hacer cada semana o cada dos semanas. 

A veces tengo ideas que quiero compartir o ganas de escribir un blogpost, pero quizás no tengo tiempo en el momento o se me van las ganas de sentarme en la computadora a escribir y todo lo que conlleva (aquel proceso que les describo (en inglés) en este otro post). 

También puedo resolver el problema de cómo presentar mis posts en dos idiomas, pues en lugar de tener que subir algo con la doble traducción, puedo escribir en el idioma que me inspire y luego crear una versión resumida para IGTV en el idioma siguiente. 

Espero que la idea les guste tanto como a mí. He reconocido que estoy consumiendo más contenido de video que cualquier otro tipo de contenido a través de las redes sociales, así que me permití darme el chance de crear algo de la manera que me gusta: sin grandes producciones, ni complicaciones, ni mucho maquillaje, etc. Ustedes me conocen. 

Éste es el primer video. Espero lo disfruten y me dejen su parecer en Instagram @Yanegirl.

View this post on Instagram

Hace 2 meses que encontré la manera de retomar el #blogging en www.yanegirl.com. Hasta el momento está funcionando. Así que mi siguiente acción es retomar videitos cortos aprovechando IGTV. Aunque me encanta escribir y leer artículos, debo confesar que en el día a día dedico más tiempo a consumir contenido en video. Y es que según las tendencias de comportamiento del consumidor, el video es ya el formato preferido por los usuarios de redes sociales. Solté mi propia creencia de que para hacer videos hace falta toda una producción y otros prejuicios, y teniendo como referente a mis chicas @clayramorales y @yosoyaisha que hacen videos orgánicos que disfruto bastante, decidí que puedo disponer de 20 minutos a la semana para probar esta idea. ¿Ustedes qué prefieren? ¿Videos orgánicos o producidos?
A post shared by Yaneris Michel 🇩🇴 (@yanegirl) on

sábado, 19 de octubre de 2019

Rihanna vs Victoria's Secret: Or why you should do your social listening homework

Here's a quick post I came up with after looking at some recent events happening in the world of fashion. 

News was that Victoria’s Secret cancelled its -once super popular -tv show for this year. Most likely because of this

Meanwhile, Rihanna announced that this year's Savage x Fenty lingerie show is now streaming through Amazon Prime. In case you didn't know, Savage x Fenty is Rihanna's new venture -another one away from the music business-, a lingerie brand for women of all kinds.

In other words: Fenty is in, Victoria is out. 

Diversity is among Savage by Fenty's core values.

I think the Victoria’s Secret brand had never generated as much uproar as in the past 3 years. It certainly had haters and critics before, but advocacy on social media was just not as strong as it is today, making the complains shine through. Or maybe, the body positivity movement was not as present as it is in today’s social conversations. Whatever the exact reason might be, all the planets aligned for a brand like Savage by Fenty to come to life, backed up by Rihanna’s powerful endorsement/involvement. It took long for society to come to this point, but the moment came. 

The situation surrounding Victoria’s Secret can be considered an interesting case study of why social listening is so important. If they had considered it on time, they would have been able to react opportunely to the demands of the audience. 

People want to see bodies that are more real; people want to see a little less perfection. And maybe they didn’t want the whole show to be created for the girl next door, we understand that the aspirational part is still important for a brand like this one, but at least they wanted a higher dose of real representation. 

How come the first model of color to walk their show with her natural hair DIDN’T HAPPEN UNTIL 2015

Of course, the brand can take on the excuses that they serve a specific target audience, that they have certain brand identity or standards. They could even claim that they don’t care if they lose a few customers that don’t agree with what they portray, maybe most of their customers agree with the way they think. 

But what cannot be ignored is the fact that when brands remain ignorant and so full of pride to respond to the public perception, the time will come when the public opinion will affect their reputation and ultimately their business. And even sooner, the time will come when a new competitor will rise to “offer the same” with the added benefit of taking what your brand has been ignoring and work it out to do better than you do. 

It is true that brands must have an identity, and that brands cannot please everyone, but doing social listening must help you understand the difference between having some haters  from witnessing a real change in the industry that might lead to disruption. 

So here's a free piece of advice for you: 
  • Check your comments and check them right. The good, the bad and the ugly. 
  • Make sure you have justified answers to the “Whys” you are being asked. 
  • Check the comments on the articles that talk about you on the media. Your PR efforts get you to the media, but the real people get to the comments. 
  • Make sure your team is DIVERSE. Bringing in people from different backgrounds is the only thing that will help your brand understand the opinions of your customers and the different meanings your messages can have to your audience, their struggles and their needs. 
  • Don’t think things will just pass. Keep on listening, and if the same claims persists on and on, then you MUST take action before it’s too late. 

I'm Yaneris Michel. Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn to share more thoughts. 

jueves, 26 de septiembre de 2019

Is sharing killing your blogging creativity? Here are 3 things you can do about it:

While I started my “30-minutes brain break", I realized that usually it is not a problem for me to find the time to write. What really kills my mood is the whole process that follows. You know… that process that someone working with digital communications considers important in order to get the content “out there” and read by someone else (which should be the ultimate goal, right?). 

Knowledge can be a double-sided weapon (un arma de doble filo, we say in Spanish). Becaus I know how blogging works, how SEO works, how social media works; and because I work with these each and every week for a minimum of 7-8 hours-a-day, thinking of it makes me anxious before I even start typing. 

I wrote this post while I was waiting in the mall, so I took this photo to remind myself that I can make time to write anywhere, anytime. 

That process is the following:

1. Finding a topic and writing about it
This is the easy-piecy part for me. I get writing ideas flowing every day. I find inspiration in many things. My favorite sources of inspiration are books, because the lack of image leads me to various trains of thoughts that can turn into different topics. My second favorite source of inspiration are good conversations. Do yourself a favor and get friends or a SO you can have serious, deep conversations with. Listen to other people’s life stories; meet people with different cultural backgrounds, etc. I find a lot of art in others. Last but not least, traveling is my third favorite source of inspiration. I don’t mean only going too far. Just commuting in the silent wagon from home to work, or having a walk through a new park, can spark some content ideas. But of course, the further you can get, the more you discover. 

2. Proofreading 
Then it comes proofreading. Which I hate, but I know how extremely necessary it is, especially as I am writing in a language that differs from my mother tongue. I wish I had a permanent editor to do it for me, but I can’t afford it, yet…

3. Sourcing
I’m a journalist. I like to read articles with credibility, and I like to write articles with credibility. Therefore, I like to know the sources of what I read and I like to include my references when I write. For that reason, I tend to include links to what I mention in my articles. Not only this is good for SEO purposes, but it’s the right thing to do.   

4. Finding a suitable image
In today’s day and age, the competition for getting a reader’s attention is fierce. I myself tend to scan articles with images that tell a little more than the headline, and I bet you do it too. After all, we are the generation of Instagram, right? So finding a suitable image for my blog posts or social content is important to me, at least until I reach Gary Vaynerchuck’s level of influence. He is the only one who shares LinkedIn content without pictures that I constantly read. 

5. Sharing it!
And then, after all that I’ve just described, comes the moment of actually publishing the blog post. I use Blogger, which I personally consider very easy and user friendly. But publishing your blog also takes time: adding a title, making sure the format is right, making sure the links and photos look right and in the right place, thinking of the byline or short description, etc… 

And even after that, comes the process of sharing it on social media. Which, as told by the real experts, supposes a totally new process in which you should adapt your message to the corresponding social audience, be it your family on Facebook, your friends and acquaintances on Instagram, your professional network on LinkedIn, and so on…

See, my job is not that easy, and if you are thinking of blogging, or vloging or podcasting, the process is similar only in a different format.

Now let’s get to what I’m currently doing to take things easier for myself and not to kill my inspiration with the thought of “all I have to do”. 

1. Write first, share later
Through my 30-min writing challenge my main concern is to find time to write. My priority is to exercise my creative writing; to give my brain “a walk”, and ultimately to do something that I enjoy a lot. Therefore, sharing shouldn’t keep me awake, and I’m not forcing myself to share things right away or to figure out how to put it across all my social networks in an hour. 

Instead, I give myself a window of two weeks to do so. Within two weeks after writing the post, I must find the time to upload it to Blogger one day. Then in the days following that, I find the time to share it on social media, and sometimes by the time I get to publish it, I can already tease my readers on what the next topic will be. 

Spreading out the process takes the pressure out of me, and actually gives me more liberty to create fresh approaches to share my blog on social. While having an actual deadline still keeps me focused on the goal. 

2. Do I really need a picture?
Again, I know I’m not Gary Vaynerchuck, but honestly who cares? Having a picture is very important for the reasons I explained above. But if I can’t have one that’s original or not burned by Pexels users across the world, then I don’t sweat it anymore. Again, my goal is to write and I want to stay focused on that purpose. 

3. Remember this is your hobby, it’s supposed to be fun
Finally, I repeat myself that this is my hobby. For my work, I can and I must follow the whole process, but for this, it’s more important for me to have fun and stay engaged in the task. Authenticity matters, and forcing things to look perfect doesn’t help my cause neither helps my potential readers. 

In simple words: Take it easy, start somewhere, focus on creating, and keep working towards your main goal. 

Is the process killing your creativity? What are you doing to avoid it?

viernes, 23 de agosto de 2019

How do you practice kindness at work?

Yes. These are a few of my flowers. You can compliment them if you want. 

Last month, the headline of this article caught my attention (yes, I also fall for the dramatic click bait sometimes). It was the story of a woman abducted in Austria, and she empathized with her captor through a random act of kindness. Complimenting his orchids started the conversation that ultimately saved her. 

Around the same time, I read this post in the Instagram account of Humans of New York (I never miss an opportunity to say that this is one of my favorite social communities of all times). In the post, the subject reflected on how the lack of empathy and love towards him while growing up led him to develop an aggressive personality and desire to hurt others. Until he found someone who cared. 

I know there is a lot of wrong in both stories, and I know there are more complex situations that cannot be solved easily within these people’s minds and life choices; but beyond that, I was more interested in the common lesson that both cases can provide: kindness works and it’s good for everyone involved. 

My train of thoughts after reflecting on these led me to the following ideas that I’d like to share with you:

The “good” we don’t give

We all have our problems and we’ve all experienced hard situations in our lives that led us to be the way we are today. But some of us are luckier than others, and I guess we’ve got more to give more. 

Some people never had that someone to teach them better. Some people never find a kind person that with one gesture or words can inspire them to step out their holes of internal misery. Therefore, their lives never change, and they never get to experience hope. 

It is difficult, I know. And the more we get, the less we are open to share with others face to face, because with more having comes a bigger fear of losing, of being robbed, betrayed or hurt. We are scared of smiling to the homeless, to keep giving to the beggar that keeps on asking, we don’t want to talk to those who look too weird… We develop some kind of fear to do well. 

More dangerously, we forget that kindness is a habit that needs to be exercised, for our own good and for the good of others. 

Kindness at work

But practicing this doesn’t require you to become the new Mother Theresa neither Gandhi. It is about being courteous even with those you don’t know, being thankful to those who serve you, showing appreciation for the ones around you… and little by little making a difference in your personal and professional interactions. 

Early in my career, I learned from a bad boss the importance of that Spanish saying: “Se atrapan mas moscas con miel que con hiel”. The translation would be something like “You can catch more flies with honey than with gall”. 

Bad leaders think the opposite, but the truth is that kindness (sweet as honey), drives more and better results than shouting, being pretentious or prepotent (bitter as gall). Those bosses that lead by fear might get the work done but never get the best out of their teams. Subordinates would either fear them or hate them. 

Meanwhile, good leaders can be assertive and kind at the same time, and get their teams to work towards common goals. They even get them do more because they want to help, because they feel appreciated and thankful. They will ultimately get things done because they want to, not only because they have to. 

Enabling confidence in your team

As another example, kindness can also give comfort and confidence to shier team members, encouraging them to excel. 

Recently, I participated in a workshop that required a lot of brainstorming. The first rule we received from the workshop facilitators was that we were not allowed to criticize others’ ideas. Everyone should be listened to, and all ideas were welcomed. 

During the first few exercises, only the same people dared to speak. But by the second half of the workshop, the more introverts ones felt more and more confident to participate, and the outcome was great. They couldn’t stop coming up with great things and there was a change in their attitude that was even reflected in their body language. 

I hope this gives you something to think of. To ask yourself how do you experience or practice kindness at work?

viernes, 2 de agosto de 2019

Starting my 30-minute brain break

Me sitting in my favorite escaping corner/couch. Everyone should have one. 

Today (when I was writing this) was one of those rare days when I found myself with 30 minutes free from work. It probably happens to you as well. You’ve been doing things non-stop, either at work or at home. Your to-do list is never ending. Then suddenly… you have 30 minutes. 

They were not planned. They just happened because a task you deemed complex, turn out to be simpler than expected and therefore you completed it in good time, enough to have this unexpected free time that you don’t know what to do with. 

And it’s not like you don’t have other tasks you could do. In fact, you have so many that you don’t know which one is deserving the honor. 

But this time, instead of going on to cross-off something from my tomorrow’s to-do list, I decided to go sideways. I decided to write. 

The Challenge

My challenge was to write a simple blog post in 30 minutes. Using my version of the Pomodoro Technique. In case you are not familiar with it, it’s a technique that works well for those who get too used to working under pressure. Those who hate “productivity hacks”. Or those who procrastinate when we don’t have much to do, but do it all with high stress levels when we have too much. 

All you need to do is set a timer and focus on completing the task within that time frame. With no distractions of any kind. With no excuses. 

The Outcome

I managed and this is the first post that resulted from it. My new goal is to find this time every week or every other week. Either at home or at work. To take back this therapy of writing which is one of my favorite pastimes, and one of my favorite brain-stress-relieving activities (as ironic as it sounds). 

I closed it, then the next morning -while taking a shower- new blog ideas where showering my mind (see the pun there?). I wrote them down in my phone’s notepad and now I’m ready to keep the creative juices flowing. 

It’s amazing how a little action, a little step back can have such a productive result.  

My hope is that next week I will have something new to share with you. Either in this blog, or in Fina en la Oficina, or in my Linkedin, depending on what fits my inspiration. 

The last challenge was to find the time to actually post this. If you are reading this... I conquered!

sábado, 8 de diciembre de 2018

Poema: Ojalá sigas adelante

Ojalá que al pisar las hojas 
te des cuenta que el tiempo pasa. 

Ojalá que al pisar las hojas
te des cuenta que todo pasa. 

Ojalá sigas adelante
segura o no de tus decisiones. 
Que aprecies los rincones
que se ven con ojos del alma. 

Ojalá sepas cambiar, ojalás sepas olvidar, ojalá puedas recordar 
que vivir es caminar. 

Que no importa bueno o malo
lo que queda en el ayer. 
Puedes cambiar el mañana,
puedes volver a querer.

Lo que vives te hace ser 
mucho más de lo que eras. 
No te juzgues, no te estanques, 
vuelve siempre a la carrera. 

Por Yaneris Michel
Escrito en Nov. 15, 2018 y Dic. 8, 2018.