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Holly was my first-ever interview. After months of preparation, I found myself sitting in my car outside her office reading my questions over and over again to make sure I didn’t mess up. But in reality, no amount of memorization was going get me what only experience can: Confidence in an interview.
With sweaty palms I greeted Holly — who I could best describe as a badass in stilettos. I was extremely intimidated by such a confident and assertive woman, but as we began talking, my nerves slowly slipped away.
Holly had the unique opportunity to spend a lot of time in Caracas, Venezuela when she was growing up. Her grandfather worked there, so they made frequent trips to see him. She shared a funny story with me about her time there: “I was a huge fan of the tamale man who used to come down the streets — like how kids go crazy over the ice cream here, they would do the same with tamales over there. When I heard the bell of the tamale cart I would run down the street to meet him. I loved them so much my friends gave me a nickname that they still call me today, Holly Holly Hot Tamale.”
Despite these great memories in Venezuela, Holly had a difficult childhood in the States. She was raised by a single mom who worked two jobs to provide for her — and never knew her real father. “[My mom] would get up in the morning and be gone before I got ready for school, but she always had everything laid out for me that I needed. I would come home and make my dinner and then she would come home in the evening and I might get to see her briefly.” Holly stressed, however, that she was forever grateful to her mom for everything she sacrificed for her.
When her mom married a wealthier guy, their whole lives changed. Holly was sent to a private school where she said she felt “insecure” because “kids made fun of [her] because of what [she] was wearing.” This experience had a real impact on how she viewed women — and not in a positive way. From middle school through high school Holly was teased and bullied for not having Polo jeans and the newest purse.
Holly said that when she got older than she became more popular because she “stopped taking people’s bullshit.” (Amen, sister.) She adopted the thought that she just got along better with guys than girls, and this idea stuck with her long after high school.
Career + Role Models
Holly said that because her mom was always working and she never knew her father she really latched onto her grandfather for emotional support and guidance — which is one of the reasons she spent so much time in Caracas. She said that he really “molded [her] into the person [she] became.” Her grandfather must’ve been a driven, hard-working man because that’s exactly how Holly turned out.
Professionally, Holly said that she’s had too many mentors to count so instead of listing individuals she gave me the qualities they all had that she admired. They gave good advice, tried to make her own her insecurities and work past them, and “honed [her] negotiation skills.” She added that the most valuable thing she’s learned from her mentors over the years is to “ignore that little voice inside you that constantly tells you that you can’t do it. Take a chance and go in there and show everyone that you are worth it.”
Holly started an organization called Women In Networking (WIN) in 2007. This is a group designed to get professional women together to support and encourage one another. As you might notice, this is a big change from her high school “boys rule girls drool” mentality. I was extremely inspired when I heard about the impact that she’s making in our community — and I can’t wait to see what else is to come.
“Let’s face it,” she told me, “the rules of business were written by men and are still written by men to this day and we all follow them like cattle whether we mean to or not.” So she likes to surround herself with successful and influential women to help guide her in the right direction.
What I Learned From Holly
Holly showed me that no matter where you come from or what your face early-on, you can accomplish great things with the right motivation. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever met someone with as much drive as Holly — and I would really like at least a sliver of her confidence.
She was bullied as a child, didn’t have much money growing up, wasn’t able to finish college, but is now working for a well-respected firm doing what she loves. Now that’s what I call a success story!