In episode 166, Erik and Kerel talk with Tricia Montalvo Timm, Board member, investor, DEI Leader and author of bestseller “Embrace the Power of You” about embracing and accepting yourself, achieving higher levels of success in work and life, and surrounding yourself with inspirational people. Tricia was born in Los Angeles to two immigrant parents, who she learned work ethic from, created deep family connections with and how she integrates those traits into her working career. Through growing up in a family that tried to assimilate to American culture in order to fit in and face less prejudices, Tricia eventually discovered that in order to achieve the success, happiness, and belonging she truly desired, she would have to embraces the things that made her different from the people around her - and even find that they have a lot more in common than first glance.
Through her work and her book “Embrace the Power of You,” Tricia helps future and current leaders develop skills and empathy to break through any fears that may be stopping them from including and celebrating all of who they and others are. In her personal life, as well, she teaches her family and her children to take care of themselves so they can take care of the people around them. Tricia shares advice for those who may be struggling in their career, stories about her life where she has continued to find and embrace herself, and so much more.
“What I say by embracing all of you is really figuring out who you are at your core. What are the values that resonate with you? What is the identity that resonates with you? And I think until we embrace that, until we love and respect that part of ourselves, and truly believe that voice, that perspective is valuable in the workplace, I don't think until we do that, can we truly get to the next level of success.”
We want to welcome all of our listeners to another episode of MRP, Minority Report Podcast, with Erik and Kerel. Each episode, we talk with real operators and leaders in media, tech and business. And today joining us is Tricia Montalvo Timm, who's a board member, investor, DEI leader and author of best seller Embrace the Power of You. Let's jump in and get to know Tricia. Tricia, how are you?
Tricia Montalvo Timm 00:32
I'm great. Nice to be here. Nice to see you, Erik and Kerel.
Nice to see you as well. Yeah. And Tricia first question is, Erik introduced you, long title, how do you do it all?
Tricia Montalvo Timm 00:45
Right, yeah, you have an added in, you know, spouse and mother of two. (laughs)
Right, which is like, the most important title, right? (laughs)
Tricia Montalvo Timm 00:53
(laughs) Right. Wow. You know, it's been a fabulous career. It's been quite busy, but I would say that, you know, I'm still practicing boundary setting. I'm also a perfectionist so that it's gotten to me to where I am, but it's got its challenges. So, yeah, I'm just a big believer in practicing boundaries. (laughs)
That's great. Maybe we'll ask you some follow ups on that a little bit later because it's always interesting hearing everyone's perspective, right, but I want to ask you a little bit about before you got to here, right? So tell us a little bit about you. Where did where did you grow up? Tell us a little bit about your family.
Tricia Montalvo Timm 01:30
Oh, yes, I would love to. I am the daughter of two immigrants. My mother is from El Salvador and my father is from Ecuador. I grew up in the Los Angeles area, born in the city of Los Angeles. And I was raised there until I was around five or six years old. My parents, like many Latino immigrants wanted the American Dream for our family, they wanted a better life for their kids. So they decided to move us out of the city into an accompanying suburb, to get a better education and enrolled us into a Catholic school. So I soon and quickly found myself as one of the few Latino families in a predominantly white suburban community. It was one of those moments, obviously, as a child that I didn't realize, but over time, as I reflect back, notice that big shift and change and some of how I'm showing up in the world. And one of the other things that may be generational might have been just my parents, but at the time, they thought the best path to success for me was assimilation, you know, blend in. They both had very thick accents, suffered from discrimination and thought, you know, why go through that yourself if you don't have to? And so, early on, you know, trying to blend in and kind of took that frame of mind, if you will, through school, college, law school and into the workplace. So that's been an interesting journey for me, because as I now, sort of 25 years later of trying to sort of downplay your identity, who you are, in these environments is quite exhausting and quite a loss, not only to myself, but to the community and to those around me of not really bringing the beauty of the Latino culture into the workplace and to be, hopefully a role model to others. So I've been on this journey of really reclaiming that piece of myself.
That's great. I want to ask you a little bit more about that, Tricia, because I know you have a lot of great insights, and one of them that really sort of struck me was what you're describing, you know, being you know, the real you and embracing it, how that kind of leads you to what you most want. Can you kind of expand on that a little bit?
Tricia Montalvo Timm 03:47
Yeah, you know, I think that, you know, when we start out in our careers, depending on where we come from, but as a first generation professional, I didn't know how to be in the workplace. I didn't have any family members that came from corporate culture or a network. And so I just sort of looked at what was around me as sort of the playbook of how I was supposed to show up. And, you know, for me, I'm a corporate lawyer, I was in enterprise software, so what was around me was predominantly white male leaders. And so that white male leadership style is what I was thinking was my only path into leadership and success. But that's not me. I am a different person. I have different likes and interests. I have a different leadership style. And so trying to conform and adapt and constantly sort of evaluating my environment to do that became exhausting, and it eventually took a toll. What I say by embracing all of you is really figuring out who you are at your core. What are the values that resonate with you? What is the identity that resonates with you? And I think until we embrace that, until we love that part of ourselves and respect that part of ourselves, and truly believe that that is valuable, that voice, that perspective is valuable in the workplace, I don't think until we do that, can we truly get to the next level of success. Because we're not worried about all that stuff anymore and we can just say the things and be who we are, and give our perspective without second guessing ourselves.
I want to ask you a little bit more about that, because I love how you describe, you know that as a Latina leader, that not seeing anyone around you that looks like you or even if we just think sort of about sort of the optics, and I love how you describe, you know, the curly hair and wearing hoop earrings. Right? No one else is doing that. I was just gonna ask-
Tricia Montalvo Timm 05:52
I got them on! (laughs)
Alright, so you got the hoops on now and I see the waves. How does that feel now?
Tricia Montalvo Timm 06:00
It feels like freedom, it feels like a weight is lifted off. And it's interesting, because it may be a small thing to some people. I've had people say to me, "What's the big deal? Wear the earrings, wear the curly hair, we don't care." But whether it's media, what we see, you know, there is a real fear that Latinas have, and I've been in Latino communities and Latino women groups, and I still hear, they say, "Well, I straighten my hair every day, and I don't wear the hoops," still today. I think it's the struggle to try to gain respect and credibility in the workplace. And when we haven't seen those images around, whether it's a real bias, or it's an internalized bias that we might hold, either way, it's holding us back.
Tricia, was there a moment in your career where it just sort of happened for you where you said, "Okay, now I have to start being more of who I am." Was there a particular moment or did that happen sort of over a period of time?
Tricia Montalvo Timm 07:09
I would say both. I think that the transformation of me recognizing that something was wrong took time. I didn't recognize what it was, I was experiencing anxiety and burnout and all the things, so I went to do some real work on myself to recognize why was I feeling like this? You know, now that I learned a lot, and it's very common for women of color to have the same similar experiences - all people of color - but I didn't know what that was at the time. So as I began doing some of the work on myself and learning about some of the reasons, I started just slowly revealing little parts of myself, showing up a little bit more. That's when at Looker, my last company, I decided to start a DEI program there. And in that role, this is where the, it's the 'and,' it was small, 'and' there was a moment. The 'and' there was a moment part was the Latino employee resource group asked me to tell my story during National Hispanic Heritage Month, because we had a storyteller program. And it was the first time anyone had really asked me to tell my personal story out loud in public in front of hundreds of employees. And there was a real fear there, because of all the sort of beliefs I had around how I might be received, but I did it anyways. And the result of that conversation and that talk, at the end, I had so many people from that organization, in particular Latinos, that came to me with hugs and tears and just saying, "I've never seen anyone that looks like you in leadership." "Your story is my story." "Thank you." And that was such an incredibly powerful moment for me because it reframed it for me. I no longer was afraid of any potential personal backlash, because for me, it felt like a moment where I need to step into this because it makes a difference. I remember coming home that night telling my husband something incredibly powerful happened to me today. I don't know how it's gonna show up in the world, but something changed. And so that moment was pretty pivotal.
It sounds like it was a very liberating moment for you as well, too.
Tricia Montalvo Timm 09:43
Yeah, you're right. It was because I didn't get any backlash. I got surrounded by love.
Awesome. Awesome. Tell us about Embrace the Power of You.
Tricia Montalvo Timm 09:54
Yeah, so it's sort of the, from that moment on. So the book is for anybody who feels like an 'other' in the workplace, and they may be hiding or downplaying a piece of their identity in order to fit in or belong, and may not realize that bringing their true authentic self to the workplace is where they'll achieve the success that they're looking for. So it's for anybody, you know, it's not just race, gender, ethnicity, it's for anybody whose felt 'othered' and that can be economic status, it can be education, LGBTQ+, a religion. There's so many different identities that we have and hold and how we feel 'othered'. And for those that struggle with it, it has tips and strategies to get through that journey to belonging and self acceptance. But it's also, I have a secondary reader, which is the manager or the leader, who wants to create spaces of belonging, but may not have strategies or tips on how to do it. So at the end of each chapter, I've got some manager strategies. And the hope is by telling my story and the story of others, that there's empathy that's built through it, because many times, if you've always had a sense of belonging, it's hard for you to understand what another person's lived experience might feel like. In my book, and my story is trying to convey what that might feel like.
Excellent. I love that. I love how you describe also those common sort of identities, we think about, our race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, but it's so much more, right? Like it could be a single mom, as you describe it, right, struggling to keep it all together, or it could be an executive with a learning disability. The reality is, it's so much broader than folks think. I'm curious about, I believe, another author, but you were kind enough to share it on one of your social channels and it's about the concept of The Mirrored Door, right? There is the concept of the glass ceiling, which I feel like many, many more people generally have heard of the glass ceiling, but really The Mirrored Door, can you share with us and tell others what is The Mirrored Door?
Tricia Montalvo Timm 12:09
Yeah, The Mirrored Door is by an author, Ellen Taaffe and the concept is that, and it's primarily for women who are trying to reach the executive leadership position and they have all these characteristics about them that get them to that mid career level, which is being perfect at what they are, it's being loyal, it's being, you know, not making mistakes, and all the things that get us to achieve excellence in our mid career stages. But those are the things that hold us back as well. And so we may not be viewed as a leader if we are the soldier. And so some of those characteristics about ourselves, some of the beliefs that we hold about ourselves, create a door that we ourselves are not willing to go through. So we come to the door, there's a mirror that reflects back to us that we're not ready, we're not good enough, all these thoughts about the we're not enough, prevents us from just opening that door and walking straight through. And so it's a fabulous book for any person that's really feeling challenged of walking through to get into the next level of leadership.
Tricia, what advice would you give to someone who came to you and said, you know, outside of reading that particular book, right, what advice would you give to an individual who will come to you and say, "I'm actually struggling with this right now in my career"?
Tricia Montalvo Timm 13:42
A couple of things. You know, one is, I believe in the importance of mentors and sponsors in your career. Mentors are folks that will give you advice and very pragmatic, you know, how do I build some, you know, grow internationally, or whatnot. But some of that advice is incredibly important in order to know how to do your job well, but sponsors are incredibly important to be advocates for you behind the scenes, in the room, really championing who you are, and not only externally to other folks, but also to you, reminding you, oftentimes, when we second guess ourselves. And I know for myself, having those people in my life that reflect back to me the accomplishments and achievements that I've had, they carry great weight in managing some of that impostor syndrome and negative self talk. The other thing is, for many people, the perfectionist paralysis, we wait, you know, we pause and we wait, we wait until the promotions coming our way, we think hard work is enough, we want the presentation to be perfect. And so we spend countless hours rather than thinking strategically of what might be more important. Or we might just hold ourselves back because we think we might not have enough credentials. And so part of that is recognizing that that fear that you might feel, it's okay and normal. We all feel it when we're about to do something new, and not resisting that fear is a reason not to try. And I think that one of the things I learned as I'm working with entrepreneurs, much of my career is they are not afraid to fail. I mean, they fail over and over and over again (laughs), but they fail fast, and they learn. And I think that muscle of practicing and not being afraid to try and fail and, you know, give things a shot. That's where you're going to really go for those stretch projects, get out of your comfort zone. But that's where you really get to step into leadership.
Tricia, I want to ask you about something because you're a parent, Kerel is a parent, I'm a parent. You know, I like how you describe, you know, where many of us feel guilty, sometimes about sort of stepping away, right? We don't want to miss our kids events, right? Sometimes we don't feel like we spend enough time with our partners. And I think you've described it so well. And there's always a, you know, as busy professionals, there's a never ending kind of list of things that we need to do sometimes before we can take care of ourselves, right? I think you just encapsulated everything there, you know, but for you, you know, you had a great, I think recent experience, I want you to share it with everybody about being "I love retreat mom," from your daughter's perspective. Tell us what it feels like to hear "I love retreat mom."
Tricia Montalvo Timm 16:35
(laughs) I know, man, you know, our kids will teach us so much. And yes, I recently took three days off to lead a leadership retreat. And I've gone myself as a participant to retreats in the past. And it's a time where you are able to self reflect, pause, this particular facility had programs around meditation, we had nature walks, we just had time to really decompress, learn from each other and reflect, you know, how we want to show up in the world, what kind of leaders we want to be, what kind of humans we want to be. And when you give yourself that time to do that, you come back a much stronger version of yourself. You're rested, you're kinder, you know, just have more patience, you have more insight, more ideas, more innovation. I mean, it is a gift to ourselves, but not only to ourselves, but to those around us. And any time that I've gone away and taken some time, a day or two, to do this type of work, there is just monumental benefits to those around us. And so, you know, yeah, like what you just mentioned, I came home and you know, I got the guilt, I haven't seen my daughter for three days. And you know, I just want to, you know, find out what happened. And she just looked at me and I must have been, you know, really providing the energy of calmness and grounded and she just said, "Mom, I love retreat mom." (laughs. And I was like, wow, they can tell. They can tell.
Yeah, you know, it's interesting, Tricia, as I hear you describe that, it's, to me, it feels so much like, it's a newer concept to be able to sort of take that time, go and do that, because I'll speak personally, you tell me if it was the same for you, like my parents didn't do that.
Tricia Montalvo Timm 18:38
I was just gonna say that.
My grandparents didn't do that. And I think we learned that through work and we learned that and it's more of a modern thing, but maybe people did it in a different way. So that's something it sounds like we all have a shared experience with and I'm willing to bet many others listening and viewing have that same perspective. I think it also takes a little bit of courage to take that step and be able to do that when none of us have had that, right? What a paradox that must sort of feel like. But back to the family thing, I'm sure there's a lot of family lessons learned that you bring forward to and to who you are today and how you interact with others professionally to help them. What are a couple of things that you feel like you learned from your parents or just from your family and life experiences that you bring in to help others?
Tricia Montalvo Timm 19:27
You know, you touched on the work ethic and I think it's a blessing but also a challenge, right? I mean, the work ethic no doubt helped me succeed. I mean, I had to work hard and to get through law school and corporate law firms and you know, the big, big companies and all the glass ceilings and micro aggressions and biases and all the things, I had to have resilience and work ethic to keep going. So, you know, my parents work multiple jobs, they never rested. So yes, that work ethic has gotten me to where I am, but I also recognize that it does lead to burnout and you know, all the things that aren't good for our health. So I am trying to change that generationally for my two daughters. And I think that the one thing that helped me give myself permission to change that pattern was recognizing that I was role modeling to them when they go into the workforce and they become parents. That they have permission to do some self care as they navigate their own lives. And so that, for me, it's easier when it's just not all about me, when it benefits others and so that helped me. But, you know, culturally, for my family, you know, I mean, gosh, just the sense of family, such deep family connections, and culture and music and food. And, you know, all of that is, I think community comes from that and a deep sense of taking care of people. I've got that, I think that trait and in the teams that I've worked for, I treat them like my family and care for them deeply. And I think that comes from my parents.
Tricia, where do you draw inspiration from?
Tricia Montalvo Timm 21:16
Other courageous leaders. And right now, I'm sending other courageous leaders early on, you know, my mother was a big inspiration. She sort of broke all the cultural norms, she was a working mom, worked her way up into a manager at a local bank. So she was definitely a role model for what it looks like to be a working mother. But right now, I would say that doing some of this work can get hard and exhausting and being vulnerable can be frightening at times and so when I see other courageous leaders take on some of the hard issues and topics and inspires me to keep doing the work, as well as the people, you know, that I'm impacting, you know, when they tell me their stories of how my words may have helped them. It inspires me to just to keep, just keep amplifying and to keep telling the story if I can help another person.
Gotcha. Alright, fun question for you. What's in your music rotation right now?
Tricia Montalvo Timm 22:20
Oh, my gosh, Pink! I just went and saw Pink live and she is freaking unbelievable. I mean, she was like, it was like a rock concert with Cirque du Soleil with like Broadway musical. She was hanging upside down doing, like literally singing doing twirls upside down. I mean, like, it was unbelievable.
Tricia Montalvo Timm 22:42
Kerel, that might have been the fastest answer we got. Said that right away. Pink real strong, love it.
Tricia Montalvo Timm 22:48
And I love, you know, I think she also touches my heart because she's such an authentic singer and her words like if you listen to any of her music, she has just paved her way so authentically and stayed true to who she is and her audience. It's great. You know, at her last concert in Florida, she gave away banned books. (laughs)
Tricia Montalvo Timm 23:11
Yeah, I mean, she's just like, amazing. I love her.
That's great. What else you got in there?
Tricia Montalvo Timm 23:16
I also like, I, you know, I tend to like a lot of well, okay, back in the day, I will admit that I liked, you know, like, heavy metal rock. So I used to like, you know, Poison and all the heavy metal stuff.
So that means you got a playlist recently where it surfaces every once in while.
Tricia Montalvo Timm 23:35
(laughs) Yes. But then I kind of moved into alternative rock. So I like the band fun. What else? I just went and saw Depeche Mode. That was an old band too. So yeah, kind of alternative rock is my jam.
Tricia, you know, a lot of times our listeners and viewers like to stay in touch. What's a simple way that they can follow you or get in touch with you and also learn more about your book?
Tricia Montalvo Timm 24:04
Yeah, so you can find me at my website triciatimm.com. I'm also on LinkedIn and Instagram, probably are the best ways to find me.
Excellent. Tricia, thanks so much for hanging out with us today. It's been a blast. And thank you for sharing all of your insights. And also everyone, thanks for joining us for another episode. You can find many more episodes wherever you find all of your audio and video and just search for the logo. And we'll catch you on the next episode. Thanks.
Tricia Montalvo Timm 24:37
Thank you. Thanks for having me.