Marlene, a certified Mediator and Board Certified in Labor and Employment Law, has over 25 years of experience representing private and public sector employers in labor/employment matters. Marlene is also an active community partner, dedicating her time to civic and personal causes such as CABA and the Miami Bridge.
Favorite quote: “Haz bien y no mires a quien.” (My Father’s constant quote that defines who I am.)
Fun fact: I love to entertain and cook, and I do ridiculous amounts of travel research. Also, I started sending out a daily “Thought for the Day” in 2008. It started as a joke amongst friends, and the bcc list grew to over 150 people. Although I have become a bit derelict in the recent past from sending it every day, people still think that it was “meant for them” every time I send it out.
How do you unwind after a long day of work? I confess that I am not very good at unwinding (according to my soon to be husband). However, I love to cook, spend time with family and friends and enjoy a nice glass of red wine. After that, plan travel or my next “project.”
What challenges have you faced in your career, and how did you overcome them? I was 23 when I graduated law school, and had a hard time adjusting to not being able to immediately know/study whatever I needed to succeed. I also could not understand how loyalty and integrity were not common traits. Time and experience taught me humility, a keen sense of character, as well as patience and the value of relying upon others. Personalities whom one encounters can shape and define you. I enjoyed being exposed to different ideas, but had to learn to listen, compromise and broaden my horizons. I also struggled to learn how to stay quiet and not express everything I was thinking (According to most, I’m still working on that one). Subtlety is not one of my greater qualities.
What has been the most monumental moment of your career thus far? Wow. That’s the most difficult of the questions posed. If I were to deeply reflect and be completely transparent, as simplistic as it sounds… I am the proud daughter of two hard working young and hungry Cuban immigrants, and I am first generation college. Every time I call my parents and tell them about a milestone or achievement; or they see my name in some publication; or I mention something my fabulous law firm did, their approval gives me the will, strength and stamina to keep going. It also gives me more pride than any award or title ever has. They worked so hard to provide me (and teach me to value) every opportunity they never had. I include them in everything. They beamed as I became President of CABA; as the CABA mentor program which I established celebrated 10 years; and as my law firm opened its new offices. They attend every event for the Miami Bridge Youth and Family Services, and cheer as I strive to help promote positive youth development, strengthen families and enable our most vulnerable youth to reach their dreams. And, they ask me every single day if I settled the mediation before me that day. It may not be traditional, but that’s more than monumental enough for me.
Who are your role models? My parents, by far. They came at 18 and 20 to a country they did not know, to a language they did not speak. They had no roots and no plans. They were married by proxy. They left their families behind, with no option to return. Simply put, they sought a better future and were willing to work as hard as it required to obtain it. As their family grew with my sister, her children and me, they diligently instilled those values and ideals, and to this day, have never failed to support us in our pursuits to attain them. And while they taught me the meaning of hard work and perseverance, they also taught me to dream and to always lend a hand, no matter the cost. They taught that by example. There are no greater role models.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten? I go back to my favorite quote… Haz bien y no mires a quien. It has served me well.
What advice would you give a young woman at the start of her career?Don’t use your gender, ethnicity, color or creed as a crutch and don’t view it as an impediment. You are the author of your career and reputation. Don’t allow yourself to be put in a box, and don’t put yourself in a box with which you are not comfortable. Always carry yourself with confidence, even if you have no clue what you are doing. Acknowledge it is ok to ask questions. Remember that everyone is watching at all times. Treat others with respect and kindness. One never knows what hides behind a smile, and your random acquaintances may be in a position to help you tomorrow. However, never help anyone with the thought or promise of reward-do it because it is the right thing to do. Above all, extend a hand to other women. Help your colleague, your adversary, your superior, a student, a random encounter…any woman who might cross your path. It is worth it. Above all, never lose yourself. No position, title or case is worth it.
How does being a woman has impacted your career? As a female Cuban-American, I don’t take anything for granted. I understand that I will sometimes be underestimated, and I will have to work harder to obtain the excellence (and reputation) that I require of myself. I have been very lucky though. I am fortunate to have some great female and male mentors, and to be a part of a firm that supports and celebrates me in everything I do. I have zero doubt that they always have my back. I have always thought that being a Cuban-American woman is stepping stone to prove myself, not an impediment.