Catherine Salgado is Global Communications and Marketing Manager for the American Society of Safety Engineers and has been using her talents, passion and education to pursue her professional and social objectives. This is her story.
Moving to the U.S.
As a child I enjoyed visiting and vacationing in the U.S. but it was never part of my plans to move here. Before moving here my longest stay in the US, besides vacations, was when I studied English for three months in New York after graduating from high school. At that point I briefly considered going to college here but ultimately decided to go back to Ecuador.
I studied TV production in Ecuador and when finished I worked as a freelancer producing TV commercials and other projects. Although I enjoyed this line of work it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do in the long run. As I was looking for the right calling I fell in love with someone who lived here in the US. After a year and a half of a long-distance relation I decided to move here to be closer to him and to start studying Multimedia Arts in Chicago.
Though the relationship did not work out I really enjoyed the program at school and decided to continue and finish my education here.
Education & Work
I received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from Loyola University Chicago, which not only provided me with skills to be a communications professional but gave me a strong sense of social responsibility and the desire to work for social justice.
Since 2006 I have worked in the non-profit sector at local, state, national and global organizations on issues that include immigrants’ rights, women’s health, and workplace safety. Through these work experiences I’ve been able to combine my communications talents with my desire to make a difference in the world while building strong skills on crisis communications, media relations, lobbying, and partnership building.
Working in a demanding and fast paced environment was thrilling and connected me to brilliant, committed, and driven people. This instilled in me a desire to find ways to advance my career. After speaking to several trusted advisors, including friends and colleagues I made the decision to attend grad school at the same time that I started a new job. While challenging, I was grateful to find an organization that provided me with the flexibility to attend school while also learning new skills on the job. I obtained a Master of Science in Communication degree from Northwestern University. This degree provided me with entrepreneurial, management and leadership skills, as well as a new found interest to work on global issues.
The combination of my work experience, educational background and passion for social issues helped me find a job in a global organization. In my current role as the Global Marketing and Communications Manager for the American Society of Safety Engineers I work to develop and implement the international communications strategy for our target global markets that include India, China, West Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America.
My contributions to the community have mainly been around improving the lives of underserved Latino populations as well as other minorities. Through my work in the communications field and through volunteering my time with organizations that serve these groups I have been able to see first-hand the needs of these communities and also learn from the work many of them are doing to empower their own. This has been critical to succeed in my career and has given me an in-depth understanding of the political, economic, and social structures that influence their wellbeing.
Staying in the U.S.
Ultimately I decided to stay in the U.S. because I met my husband here and we started a family. His support has been key to my professional success since our dating years. We share the same values and responsibilities of a household of two working parents that aim to have the right career/family life balance. In addition, this country has provided me with great opportunities to explore my passion for social justice and equality and to apply my communications’ studies and experience to affect people’s lives.
Catherine and her beautiful daughter Luciana and husband Pablo
I have a passion for cooking, traveling and photography. They provide a space outside of work to experiment, create and discover.
I didn’t know how to cook when I moved here and it took me a while to build an appreciation for it. At first my cooking skills were very poor but after years of experimentation with new flavors and different types of cuisine, I have mastered a few dishes including Ecuadorian ceviche!
I have always been interested in traveling because I am very curious about other cultures. Visiting new places gives me a broader perspective of the issues that people face here and abroad as well as a strong appreciation for the diversity and beauty of this world.
I developed my interest in photography when I was very young but I didn’t know actual techniques until I took a class. My teacher said I had a good eye for it. I did a lot of black and white abstract photography at the beginning, now my collection is mostly of digital pictures of my daughter.
Advice for Latina professionals
The advice I would give to young professional Latinas is to connect with many people from different fields and backgrounds in order to learn from their careers and personal experiences. Sometimes it helps to find a mentor in a field that is of interest to you, a seasoned professional that can provide constructive criticism and help you think through tough decisions or difficult changes you might need to make in your life to succeed. It helps if they share a similar background with you, so they can help you navigate specific situations.
I have been in the U.S. for 15 years and I am very happy about my decision to live here. It is not always easy to be far away from family and friends, in a different culture, or to feel insecure about my accent. But it is those experiences that have ultimately led me to become an experienced bilingual communications professional with a solid education, happily married to a wonderful husband, and a mother of a beautiful 2 year old daughter.
Lastly, I would like to add that success can be measured in different ways and you need to define what it means to you personally. Sometimes it takes time to know where you want to be in the next 3 or 5 years. I was not the type of person that knew exactly where and how I was going to accomplish my dreams or what my perfect career would be. But I continually ask myself what makes me happy and what I need to change or adjust in my life to feel accomplished. Sometimes it is straight forward and sometimes I ask for guidance from people who know, understand and care about me. They provide me not only with sound advice but also with opportunities to develop my talents.
So I encourage younger Latina professionals to define success on their own terms and look to connect with people that will help them achieve it.
Thank you Catherine for sharing your story and great suggestions with all of us!