How often do you feel like you don’t belong at the table during a big meeting — that you couldn’t possibly have anything worthwhile to contribute, or that everyone around you thinks you aren’t qualified to be there? There’s a name for that feeling: imposter syndrome.
And “Morning Joe” producer Daniela Pierre-Bravo knows it well.
As an undocumented immigrant growing up in Lima, Ohio, “I never felt like I deserved to be in spaces, because I wasn’t supposed to be here in the United States,” she told an audience at Palm Court, in Miami’s Design District on Friday night.
Pierre-Bravo was speaking on a panel hosted by RAW Residency, a membership-based group that focuses on creating community and facilitating members’ personal and professional development. She joined RAW Residency CEO Cristina Sosa, wellness coach Giselle Schreiner, Mujer Balance Founder Andrea Minski and Miami’s NBC 6 reporter Kelly Blanco.
“I was undocumented. I was the only Latina in my high school. So, I came from this position of having to find my space in spaces where I was told I didn’t belong,” said Pierre-Bravo, who recently co-authored “Earn It! Know Your Value and Grow Your Career, in Your 20s and Beyond” with “Morning Joe” co-host and Know Your Value founder Mika Brzezinski.
“Imposter syndrome comes in many forms, but we really have to understand that we’ve earned it,” she shared. She suggested women struggling “list out and constantly tell yourself all of the things that you’ve achieved, even if they’re really tiny.”
“Earn It!” aims to be a guidebook for young women starting their careers. Its creation stems from Pierre-Bravo’s desire to create a platform for those who don’t have career networks or those who need help leveraging them.
In today’s world, “there’s so many opportunities, but there’s a lot of ambiguity,” she told the group. “Especially for someone who has a background where you’re either first-generation or you have a family who never went to American college, there’s a lot more that you have to figure out all by yourself.”
Pierre-Bravo, who learned she was in the country without documentation during high school, shared some of the life-changing moments in her own journey. A highlight was when then-President Barack Obama announced DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which ultimately allowed her to get a work permit and state identification. That opened up a full range of job and career possibilities for her.
One of the worst moments came two weeks before the start of her sophomore year at Miami University. Pierre-Bravo and her family scraped together cash to pay for college, semester by semester. She had saved up $3,000 to pay for the coming semester and was doing a delivery for her Mary Kay business when she got into a fender bender.
With no driver’s license because of her undocumented status, Pierre-Bravo knew that dealing with police and insurance companies would be a significant problem. She asked the driver of the other car to name the price for the damage. It was nearly $3,000.
As Pierre-Bravo and her mother drove back from handing over the cash, they pulled into a parking lot and her mother, who never broke down, wept uncontrollably. “Latina mothers are the best, right? They’re the ones that say … ‘don’t worry, we’ll get through this, there will be a way,’” she recounted as many in the audience nodded in agreement. “It was a moment where we realized we had no idea what was going to be next.”
They both knew Pierre-Bravo wouldn’t be going back to college right away. And, they knew that, without documentation, even if she finished college, she wouldn’t be able to get the kinds of jobs that she wanted.
The next day, though, Pierre-Bravo woke up determined to earn the money she needed and return to college. She worked three jobs, and was back the following semester. The experience shifted her mindset. “It’s being able to understand that failure will come and you’ve got to embrace that failure,” she said.
Taking risks and dealing with failure were key themes throughout the discussion. “One of the quotes I say in [“Earn It!”] is that when it comes to taking risks, you have to be okay with understanding the possibility of failure,” she said. “Failure is just going to get you closer to where you want to go.”
Blanco shared a story about taking a risk to move her career forward. While still in college, she got the opportunity to be a General Motors Super Bowl correspondent. Although her Spanish was terrible at the time, she answered “Sí” when asked if she spoke Spanish. When a producer pointed out that her Spanish was not good, she said “Let me tell you about Spanglish.”
A few weeks later, Blanco was in Los Angeles covering the Oscars. “I knew that half of the actors that I was going to interview for the Oscars spoke English, so why did I have to be completely fluent in Spanish?” she said. “I knew that I could do the job.”
The takeaway? You can create your own career narrative, and it’s more important than ever in today’s world, Pierre-Bravo told the group. “Embrace the ambiguity that comes with taking risks and doing things … without doubting yourself,” she said. “Don’t wait for permission and then lead. Create that for yourself.”