New Grad or Seasoned Pro? How to Get Stellar Recommendation Letters at Any Career Stage


You’re all ready to land that great new job, or a slot in a prestigious graduate program. You’ve got your resumé polished, your new suit pressed, and your game face on. You know how to give a firm handshake and you nailed the interview. Just when you think you’ve got it all in the bag, the hiring manager (or admissions officer) asks you for at least three  professional recommendation letters professional references. So how can you make your references stand out and be memorable?

The typical way to think about references is to ask someone “superior” to you in hierarchy, someone that managed you or a professor. It is always recommended that it is someone that worked closely with you so they have something meaningful to say other than a standard letter. But is there something else we can do to make our references and recommendations stand out for the right reasons—namely, who can help you seal the deal?

Don’t panic. You probably already know several people who can serve as your professional references—even if you’ve never held down a “real” job before. Or anyjob, for that matter. But you’ll need to choose carefully. Landing your first job or getting into a coveted college or grad-school program is a high-stakes game, so you don’t want to blow it by giving bad references.(So if your hard-partying fraternity brother who barely graduated offers to be a reference, you should probably pass. Ditto for the two-faced drama queen who gossiped about you behind your back at your last summer job—her motives are probably not honorable.)

When seeking references, people always ask someone professionally “superior” to them—i.e., someone that managed you at a job. It could be your boss at a summer job—the director of the summer camp where you served as youth counselor, for example. Or the owner of the restaurant where you waited tables for three summers, or perhaps the residence-hall director where you worked part-time at the front desk. If you didn’t have a part-time job while you were in school, a trusted professor could also serve as a professional reference. (Going to college full-time is a career of sorts, too—and professors take on the role of your boss at that gig). This is what people usually do, but how can we make our references truly serve as a differentiator for us?

Whomever you choose, your references should always be someone that worked closely with you, so they have something meaningful to say about your personality, work ethic, skills, and talents. Try to find people whom you really “wowed” with your skills and abilities and who will talk enthusiastically—and sincerely— about how great you are, whether it’s a former boss you helped get out of a jam by working extra hours, or an instructor you impressed with your quick thinking when she put you on the spot in class.

References: The Next Phase

The above advice is great for people just entering the professional workforce or higher-level academia for the first time. If you’re a little further on in your career, though, it can sometimes be harder to get professional references than it was before. You might have lost touch with your professors or college-job bosses, for one thing. Meanwhile, your current boss probably doesn’t want you to quit, let alone give you a glowing reference for your next job! It’s why many young professionals find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place that prevents them from moving ahead in their careers.

If you find yourself in this all-too-common predicament, don’t freak out. If you’ve just spent two years at your first entry-level job after college and you’re in search of a stepping stone to the next big thing, consider obtaining a counterpart reference instead of going to your current boss or immediate co-workers.

What’s a counterpart reference? Basically, it’s finding someone at another organization – likely someone you do business with on a regular basis. Whatever your current job, chances are good you’ve built some relationships with professionals at other client companies with which your employer does business. (Or if you work for a very large company, government agency, or nonprofit, you probably work with people in other departments or divisions.)  These are people who have come to know you, your work style, your reliability, and your professionalism. Even though these colleagues are not necessarily your “superiors,” as professional colleagues they are often your best source for references as you move along your career path—and since they aren’t your direct boss or co-workers, they likely won’t have a personal agenda against you moving up the career ladder! (Your counterpart colleagues are often the most supportive of seeing people they like working with get ahead, because it often benefits them as much as it does you.)

How to Get a Counterpart Reference

Here’s an example from my own career. When I was applying to get into business school, I was working for Deloitte as a management consultant. In addition to getting the typical recommendation letters from my managers and professors (all of whom I had good relationships with), I also got recommendation letters from some of my client counterparts I’d worked with during my time at Deloitte. It was easy for me to ask these people directly for references because I believed that if someone I worked closely with was happy with the consulting work I’d provided them as a change agent and value-enhancer, they would also be happy to write  a professional recommendation letter for me. Not only was I right in that assumption, the recommendation letters I received from my client counterparts were head and shoulders above the other ones I received when it came to enthusiasm, details and quality.

Long story short, when you make a positive, measurable, “dollars-and-sense” impact on the professional work of your clients, they will be more than willing to return the favor.

You can also apply this same strategy when requesting LinkedIn recommendations for display on your profile. The more recommendations you have, the more your profile will stand out—and with many of today’s job recruiters doing “stealth” searches for their next hire on LinkedIn, you’ll want yours to look as attractive as possible.

Wherever you are in your career, always be on the lookout for your next professional reference. The more value you bring to the table in your career, the easier they will be for you to obtain. The most in-demand professionals are the ones that people at all levels enjoy working with.

Demographics Are Dead: Long Live Event-Triggered Marketing


“I do not care if you are 25 or 65, if you want to summon a car to go from A to B right now, you are still my target customer.”

Do you know who—and where—your target customer really is, right now?

Chances are good you have no idea.

Once upon a time, marketing was focused solely on demographics—age, gender, income level, ethnicity, geographic location, or a combination of these things. But that was in the era of passive marketing. Think about all those wheelchair and pain-reliever commercials that ran during late-night Matlock and Golden Girls reruns. Billboards for chocolate and soda on the subway platform. You get the picture.

But that model is from the pre-mobile, pre-digital economy. The passive marketing era is dying a slow death, if not over completely. Instead, we’ve moved into an on-demand economy, where people frequently make snap buying decisions in real time. But these aren’t the typical mindless impulse purchases—they’re made in the context of digital information. People choose which restaurant to go to in a specific neighborhood by checking apps on their phones. They play mobile games like Pokemon Go searching for PokeStops around town that often lead them into specific businesses. They use mobile apps for tracking everything from personal finance (like using Mint to track how much they spend on groceries versus dining out every week) to how many calories they’ve burned in the past hour. Many shoppers in brick-and-mortar stores use their phones to get product information and even digital coupons from QR codes displayed on the shelf next to products they might want to buy.

Long story short, effective marketing just isn’t passive anymore. Consumers are taking an active role in every purchasing decision they make, and marketers who don’t understand that are going to miss the boat. Therefore, thinking of your customer in the old way or even by demographics isn’t going to work most of the time. The market is far more complex and niche-driven nowadays.

What often drives purchases in an on-demand economy is something called atriggering event. In a nutshell, a triggering event is something that makes someone want to buy a specific thing, in a specific place, at a specific time. You have a very narrow window to capture this decision—often mere seconds. How do you do it?

Today’s app developers use proprietary algorithms to determine what functions or content users will see when using an app. These algorithms adapt automatically according to the mobile data collected from the apps. This same process can apply to marketers.

Think about how smartphones work. Mobile data, GPS signals, digital calendars/clocks, and even face-recognition technology in apps like Facebook can provide a plethora of contextual information than can trigger certain actions at certain times and in certain locations—regardless of what demographic the smartphone owner is a member of. This is key to understanding or even creating triggering events that consumers will respond to.

Examples of Event-Triggered Marketing Opportunities

Nearby restaurants. Create contextual ad campaigns that promote a specific nearby restaurant at lunch time. Think “It’s 11:55 and you’re craving sushi. Guess what? You’re only 2 blocks from Sushi Naru, a Zagat-rated sushi bar that’s hot on Yelp.” The ad includes a digital 2-for-1 coupon.

Music suggestions while exercising. Somebody turns on their RunKeeper app or the GPS detects that they’re moving along a bike path at cycling speed—those can be triggers showing that the smartphone user is exercising. You can create a contextual ad campaign that is programmed to suggest a workout playlist from a music app when these triggers are met: “Hey, I see you’re working out. Have you downloaded Taylor Swift’s rocking new single yet? Here’s a sample.”

Tying rideshare apps with driving directions (think Mapquest, Google Maps):When someone looks up driving directions on one of the many digital map apps, it’s a perfect time to target them for a ride-share. How about this: “Do you really want to deal with all of that traffic and those tricky on-off ramps yourself? Sit back, relax, and call an Uber.”

These are all common, everyday situations in consumers’ lives that can be monetized if you know how the technology (and the psychology) behind them works. Rethink your marketing strategies away from old-school, passive demographics and towards context-specific, event-triggered campaigns, and you’ll find that you can move the needle a lot faster.

Cultura Ambassador Lisa Morales-Hellebo tech founder way ahead of all of us!

Cultura Ambassador Lisa Morales-Hellebo is highlighted via Verizon for being a tech finder that is way ahead of all of us!

Learn more about Lisa via this two part series that Verizon has put out.

How Advertising is Evolving: From “In Your Face Ads” to Sponsored Experiences


What is a sponsored experience?
One of the examples that comes to mind from the “real” world, is the Sephora makeup session: When a customer walks into the store to get a free makeup session using the products from brands Sephora want to promote, that’s a sponsored experience.

How can we create sponsored experiences in the mobile world?
Advertising needs to evolve. Smartphone screens are very small (even though they have grown into phablets), and display ads take too much of that screen real estate. Hersh Choksi, VP Products & Strategy at Flightly, an exclusive Twitter advertising partner, agrees: “Mobile has been much faster to adopt native advertising, which aligns more with the idea of a sponsored experience rather than an interruptive ad.”

In today’s digital world, we see a shift towards convenience and instant gratification. Sponsored experiences can be part of this mobile content, and would provide users a convenient experience on their smartphones without having to leave the mobile app or browser experience they are currently in. So how can we provide meaningful experiences for brands that relate with users?

Here are some examples and use cases for sponsored experiences in the mobile world:

1. Meeting Locations
Many of us use our smartphones to coordinate when and where we are going to meet with colleagues and friends. When we are searching for that cool restaurant or bar, wouldn’t it make sense for either the location apps or restaurants themselves to pay for placement right there, at your fingertips?

2. Transportation
Once we decide on the place and time, we need to get there! Why couldn’t there be a sponsored transportation experience at this time to take an Uber or a Lyft? This could be sponsored or subsidized by the transportation company, or for the transportation company could pay for the opportunity to surface at this time in the user’s screen.

3. Music for Fitness
Let’s assume you are one of those people that track their physical activity while exercising; using apps to track your ride or map your run, etc. Let’s also assume you like to listen to some music to “pump you up” and energize you while exercising. Today you need to open your fitness apps and then go and open another music app to find that music. What if Pandora or Spotify would offer you a sponsored “Work out music” option within the fitness app itself?

I wanted to show you through the examples above how sponsored experiences can be meaningful to users and not be considered interruptive.

How would you prefer to have Sponsored Ads served up to you?


Cultura Ambassador Laura Gomez takes aim at Diversity Issue


Silicon Valley Latino Cultura Ambassador and Advisory Board Member Laura I. Gómez is part of an amazing team of women who are tackling the Diversity Issue in Tech. Here is yet another article highlighting who they are and what they are shooting for.

How are you taking part in battling this issue?  Share your actions and thoughts here.

Congrats Laura and keep up the great work!
‪#‎Latina‬ ‪#‎LatinaMentor‬ ‪#‎LatinaLeader‬

Latinos in Tech at the Q4 HITEC 100 & Awards Gala Summit – Silicon Valley


Redefining what it is to be a Latino in Tech and it looks incredibly appealing and inspiring!

I have been attending a variety of conferences and summits over the years ranging from the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and the National Society of Hispanic MBAs to smaller regional events for the last 20 years, and thus can speak from experience when I say, that the leadership of the Hispanic IT Executive Council (HITEC) have come up with a high impact and winning formula. Since 2011 I’ve attended their Q4 Executive IT Leadership Summit in Silicon Valley and each year this conference has improved dramatically. There has been a growth in attendance and sponsorships as well as in corporate executive participation.  It all seems to be moving forward with great momentum. However, the element that impresses me the most is the organization’s mission to impact those who it touches. Once again this was clearly displayed at this year’s summit through its “push up, pull up” approach. The enthusiasm was evident as I talked to the various attendees from renowned, emerging and established brands like HP, Cisco, Facebook, Google, Disney, ESPN, Oracle, Accenture, AT&T Apple, Coca Cola, Intel and Microsoft.

HITEC 100 & Awards GalaThe summit had an appealing and comprehensive agenda which included numerous hard hitting and relevant topics such as Diversity & Inclusion, The New Style of IT and The Digital Business Economy to name a few. I was particularly impressed with the authenticity of the presenters which included Ramon Baez (Global CIO at HP), Isaura Gaeta (Director, Product Enabling & Ramp Operations at Intel), Marina Escobar (VP of Visual Technology at ESPN), Shari Slate (VP, Chief Inclusion & Collaboration Officer at Cisco), Gustavo De La Torre (De La Torre D&I Consulting) and Guillermo Diaz JR (Sr. VP of IT at Cisco). Each person shared the real and genuine aspects of their incredible journeys. Many of us were truly touched by their openness and generous manner of relaying their challenges and successes.


As usual several hundred Latinos attend the summit and it’s always inspiring and refreshing to see that these Techies are nothing close to the traditional stereotypes. They are vibrant, charismatic, warm, accomplished and genuine about their desire “push up & pull up.” Oh yeah, I forgot to add good looking, hip and trendy… These are not your grandparent’s nerds – they may be techie but nonetheless bringing “sabor” to the industry.


I think most of us have heard the perception that Latinos are not good candidates for the tech job or that there aren’t enough of us or that we’re not qualified. Well, I have to say that my friends at HITEC are certainly demystifying those perceptions. A perfect example of how they are doing this is by recognizing the TOP 100 Latinos during the annual awards gala. I’ll drop a few names from the 100 to offer a sampling of what I’m talking about. Ramon Baez at HP, Isaura Gaeta at Intel, Myrna Soto at Comcast, Marina Escobar at ESPN, Jorge Titinger at SGI and Tim Campos at Facebook. These Latino are not only excelling in Tech but they are also leading technology within their premiere brand companies.

HITEC 100 & Awards Gala


One of my personal favorite elements of the summit is seeing Latino high school and middle school students invited to attend the summit. This year the schools that participated were Cristo Rey High School and Sacred Heart Nativity Middle School, both from San Jose. It is exciting to see these young men and women leave so inspired and motivated to be the next generations of Latinos in tech that will take it to the next level.



We would like to thank the HITEC Board of Directors for another great conference and a special acknowledgment to HITEC President Andre Arbelaez and HITEC Chairman J. Alberto Yepez for their vision, dedication and leadership. Silicon Valley Latino once again looks forward to the next summit!


Lastly, we would like to give special credit to Elba Linscott of Intuit for sharing her photos for this article.

If you had a chance to attend the event share your thoughts with us here or on our facebook page!


Here’s what other had to say about the summit:



The Hispanic IT Executive Council (HITEC) brought together the premiere technology executives together from all over the United States to celebrate their success during the Leadership Summit and the HITEC 100 Gala.  No greater group of leaders has ever been assembled in the technology industry, let alone with the fact that they were Hispanic.  A great achievement for our community!

Andre Arbelaez

President – Hispanic IT Executive Council



“Technology is transforming the world, Hispanics are transforming the technology.”

Dr. Pablo G. Molina – Chief Information Officer and Adjunct Professor, Association of American Law Schools



“Driving the future of America by inspiring Hispanic youth to pursue education in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) — Great role models!!!!”

Alberto Yepez – Chairman, Board of Directors HITEC



“I got inspired in so many ways at HITEC, but I loved the reminder from HP’s CEO Meg Whitman about the importance to ‘do something you love.’”

Elba Linscott – Bay Area Lead for “Latinos Connect @ Intuit”



“The HITEC summit offered students from Sacred Heart Nativity School a window into their own futures. They saw that they could “be what they see,” as one summit participant said. Seeing a room filled with Latino executives and thought leaders showed our students what was possible once they finish their college degrees – a goal we lay the foundation for at SHNS during their middle school years. Many thanks to HITEC and Cisco for broadening the horizons of our students!”

Sonya Cotero Arriola – President at Sacred Heart Nativity Schools

Signal brings painless encrypted calling to iOS via The Verge


We share this with you today but secretly  
Would love to hear what some of our tech entrepreneurs think of this app and if it is worth downloading? Share your insights with us.

“Avion: An Accelerator For Latinas Takes Flight” by Giovanni Rodriguez

The launch of Avion, an accelerator for Latinas, comes at a key moment in N. American history and they plan on making history! Good luck Deldep & Jesse.

“Will Silicon Valley bet on Latina Youth” by Giovanni Rodriguez

The Heartbleed Hit List: The Passwords You Need to Change Right Now

I know this can be a literal heartache but here is a list of what accounts you should be changing passwords to. Good luck!