Prestigious Women Awards Honorees: Haydee Sera

Haydee Sera is a municipal and land use attorney representing public and private clients. Haydee is committed to improvement of the legal profession and her community and has spent her career serving on the boards of the Cuban American Bar Association and the Miami Lakes Bar Association.

Favorite quote: “Everything happens for a reason.”

Fun fact: My great-grandfather received his law degree from the University of Havana in 1926 and later served as the mayor of Holguin, a municipality in Cuba. When I graduated from the University of Miami School of Law in 2009, my granduncle presented me with his father’s law school diploma, which miraculously made it to the United States despite the difficulties presented when they were forced to flee communist Cuba shortly after the revolution in the early 1960s. The diploma is proudly displayed in my office and reminds me of my roots and potential. I definitely feel like there is a “circle of life” type thing knowing that he was a lawyer involved with local government and almost 100 years later, I am serving as an attorney representing local governments and people seeking to do business with local governments.

How do you unwind after a long day of work? Enjoying dinner at one of our favorite restaurants in South Florida’s great dining scene or curling up on the couch and catching up on Law & Order: SVU.

What challenges have you faced in your career, and how did you overcome them? I’m often presented with novel issues that generally don’t have easy solutions. It can be intimidating when you have to resolve a problem and don’t know where to start. As a child, if I didn’t know the meaning of a word, my mom would refer me to the dictionary and tell me to look it up—she wouldn’t just give me the answer, even though she knew it. Looking back, I realize she was teaching me valuable life and problem solving skills. Throughout my career, when I’ve had a challenging issue to resolve, I use my resources. That can mean reading every piece of literature on a given subject or reaching out to trusted colleagues or subject matter experts for guidance, or both. You have to use the tools at your disposal if you’re going to solve problems.

What has been the most monumental moment of your career thus far? Becoming a partner at my firm, Weiss Serota Helfman Cole & Bierman, is definitely one of the most significant moments in my career. It’s the culmination of building a foundation early on: developing a substantive knowledge base, understanding the needs of our clients, and seeing the bigger picture when addressing a singular issue.

Who are your role models? My parents, without a doubt.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten? “Anticipate the need.” When I was younger and helping my dad around the house, he would say, “Anticipate the need.” That phrase stuck with me and as a professional, it reminds me to be proactive instead of reactive.

What advice would you give a young woman at the start of her career? Start building your network on day one and stay in touch with people. You never know who may be your next partner, referral source, or friend. The relationships I started cultivating when I first became an attorney have resulted in career moves, clients, and great friendships. I attribute a lot of my success to the relationships I’ve made along the way. Just because you’re at the beginning of your career does not mean you don’t have anything to offer. Be authentic and humble. And have confidence, but make sure it’s backed up by substance.

How does being a woman has impacted your career? I have certainly benefited from advancements made by women in the law and in society, generally. I am fortunate that I have not had many negative experiences due to my gender, although I realize that is not the case for all women. The reality is that I have had the support of many women throughout my career, I think, in part, because they recognize I am committed, hard-working, detailed, and straight-forward. From my first partners who gave me my first chance as a new attorney during the last recession, to a networking group of women who consistently try to support each other with opportunities for advancement, client development, and growth, my experience as a female attorney has been positive. When opportunities arise to pay-it-forward and support qualified and bright female professionals, I certainly do—others have opened doors for me and I’m happy to hold the door open for those who may follow. Sure, I’ve had moments where some assumed I was not a lawyer in a courtroom or at a public meeting, but I don’t focus on that. I focus on advocating for my clients, paying attention to the details without missing the bigger picture, and getting results. The fact that I can do that in a dress and heels is a fringe benefit.

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