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Nely Galán: 'Self-Made' TV Executive who came from Cuba

Nely Galán: 'Self-Made' TV Executive who came from Cuba

Posted by PanamericanWorld on July 04, 2016

Nely Galán’s immigrant story began in Cuba in the 1960s, and has yet to end. When she and her family arrived in the United States, they started over from scratch. She saw how hard her parents worked, and followed suit. The “immigrant mindset” would inform everything she did thereafter; she credits that thinking with her success as an executive, motivational speaker, and advocate for women’s empowerment.

Galán took an internship at a TV station—a spark that fueled a career in television. She would go on to run her own production company and helm hundreds of shows, become the first Latina president of Telemundo Entertainment, and even appear on The Celebrity Apprentice reality show.

She started a nonprofit, The Adelante Movement (“Move it forward!” in Spanish), with the mission to train Latinas to become entrepreneurs. As she worked with more women, heard their stories and learned their challenges, she wrote a book to expand her reach even further. Self Made: Becoming Empowered, Self-Reliant, and Rich in Every Way was published in May. The inspirational memoir is about how Galán became her best self as an entrepreneur, advocate and mother—starting with the idea to channel her savings toward buying a building, rather than wasting money on shoes and living beyond her means.

Here’s the advice she offers others as a way to climb beyond self-sufficiency to financial fabulousness.

We are raised to be pleasers, generally, and don’t always ask for what we are worth. How can women get bigger pieces of the pie? How can we adopt a new code of doing business?

I think it all begins with what I like to call “acting as if.” This means that when I sit in a roomful of men, and find myself in the position, for example, of trying to raise money, instead of resorting to a quiet, submissive female tone that, as you say, we are often raised to use as “pleasers,” I channel the energy of so many of the male bosses whom I have previously worked for, and I literally act as if I am one of them. I tap into the male energy that doesn’t take no for answer; an energy of unbridled confidence; a stance of power. I know it may sound crazy, but it’s almost like acting. And it works.

Regarding how women can get a bigger piece of the pie, I’ll share another piece of advice I once got from an employer: when you’re trying to raise capital, always ask for at least double what you think you should get. Begin from a position that shows you refuse to diminish your worth.

As more and more women wake up to the realization that no partner, boss, company or position is going to rescue them, they will take the reins and become self-made. It’s already happening, and it’s just the beginning.

When should you work for free or for less money?

You could work for free or less money when you are trying to get a foot in the door, which is really what the proverbial internship is. As we all know, the ambitious ones among us start out in such internships or voluntary positions, and in time, climb the ranks to something more substantive. It’s about a willingness to put in the work, from the ground up, which I am all for.

Another instance when you might work for free or less money is if you are hell-bent on learning something new, or in a new field, that you know absolutely nothing about. In such a case, you should fully embrace humility and patience, and see your opportunity as an investment towards a much bigger picture.

Let’s talk about the immigrant mindset. How does it serve us, and in what ways does it set us back?

Immigrants, by necessity, have always had to be adaptable to change, simply because they have had to uproot, resettle and find a way to survive. This built-in flexibility makes them natural-born entrepreneurs. They understand concepts like having to pivot. They live with the self-made mindset because they have to. It’s their way of coping with the inevitable ups and downs of life. Immigrants don’t subscribe to what I like to call “magical thinking,” and instead tend to be more resilient and determined to bounce back from setbacks; and to do a lot with a little because they understand that uncertainty is a part of life.

As you embark on your own entrepreneurial path, take your cues from the immigrant value system, which include: hard work, humility, flexibility, family/community collaboration, and zero sense of entitlement.

In the book you tell a story about harnessing anger over a teacher’s mistaken accusation that you’d turned in a Hemingway story as your own. How do we harness anger and frustration without being called a bitch, crazy, hysterical, over sensitive and all the other labels people put on women of decided passion and determination? (And without losing our jobs?)

Well, just to give some context, at the time of that Hemingway story accusation, I was still a high school student just learning how to wrangle my still-young emotional landscape. That said, there’s no question that over the years and throughout my career I have had to be firm and even downright tough on colleagues and even some employers.

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