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Meet Yándary: Executive Director of Communications and Community Relations for SLC School District

I am so thrilled to be sharing my dear friend Yándary today. In a lot of ways, Yándary and I are SO different… and yet we also have so much in common and get along so well! Just goes to show that you can be friends with people who have differing political beliefs and life experiences. I just adore this girl and am so honored to be sharing her with you today!

Tell us a little about yourself and your career

My name is Yándary, and I work as the Executive Director of Communications and Community Relations for the Salt Lake City School District. (Basically, I oversee all Communications (press, website, social media, etc) and Government Relations for the district. Growing up, I always knew I wanted to work in a field where I could make a difference. And what more important cause to work in than public education? I feel lucky to work for a cause I feel is important, with people who are passionate about what they do (you don’t become an educator without passion!), and for a (female!) superintendent who supports me and allows me to grow and thrive in my role.

I was born in El Salvador but grew up mostly in Riverdale, Utah, and I’m the oldest of five kids. In my spare time, I love spending time with my husband, friends, and family. (Although lately, all our spare time is spent on fixing up our new home and/or browsing Pinterest for inspiration!) I like cooking, baking (chocolate-chip cookies are my weakness), reading, keeping up on my personal blog, and dreaming about my next travel adventure.

How does your community of women you surround yourself with support you?

Right after I finished college, I moved to Washington, DC and lived there for five years. During that time, I had the opportunity to meet many talented, intelligent, driven women working in a variety of careers. I had so many role models! It was especially inspiring to me to see so many Latinas succeeding. That example of women who looked like me, who were thriving in their professions and making a difference every day, was not the norm for me in Utah, which is where I grew up. In fact, I just did some math, and during my career, I’ve had female bosses in more than 70% of my jobs, including some strong Latina leaders. Some of them have been working moms, and I’ve been inspired by the passion they have for their families while also giving their all at work. I hope to live up to their example.

While in DC, I was also so lucky to have a strong community of female friends. Most of us were living far away from our families, and we supported each other through graduate school, career and job transitions, moving, dating, you name it. At one point, my friend Caitlin and I even formed our own “Girl Group,” which was basically our version of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In circles. We met monthly and supported each other as we worked through various personal, educational, and professional goals.

When I moved back to Utah three years ago, I relied so much on my community of DC women to survive the transition. (I knew moving back to Utah was 100% the right decision for me, but I didn’t really WANT to move back.) I was lucky in that three of my good girlfriends from DC moved to Utah around the same time I did, and I’m grateful for their continued support and for the support of my girlfriends in various parts of the country. Thank goodness for modern technology to make the distance feel irrelevant in keeping up friendships! I’m active in group chats, Gchats, or Marco Polos with my girlfriends every day. There is just something about female friendships that you can’t get from any other relationship. The shared life experiences, the shared trials in the age of #MeToo, the same challenges that countless others have faced, all just seem easier to handle when you have a community of strong women who have your back.

That’s part of why I love being a part of the organizing committee for Real Women Run here in Utah. Real Women Run is a nonpartisan initiative run through the YWCA that aims to empower women to participate fully in public life and civic leadership thought elected political office, appointments to boards and commissions, and general political engagement.

You do a lot of volunteering and work in the community; how does this work inspire you?

I always wanted my work to be something that somehow contributed to making the world a better place, and I feel lucky that I’ve been able to do that. For most of my career, I’ve worked in either the nonprofit or political sectors— two areas you definitely don’t get into for the paycheck. I’ve worked to register voters, to get voters out to the polls, to make sure Latinos and other underserved populations knew how to enroll for affordable healthcare coverage, and I’ve advocated for issues I’m passionate about. Advocacy work has to be driven by passion, and I’ve been lucky to work with so many people who fight the good fight because they truly believe in their cause. I feel humbled to be in a leadership position within my organization, and I am fueled by the drive and heart of those I work with. Their dedication and example inspires me to give my all, too.

In terms of actual volunteering, I can’t say enough good things about the work that Real Women Run does here in Utah. Since the 2016 election, we’ve seen a huge increase in the number of women interested in and actually running for office here in Utah and nationally. It’s wonderful! I believe we all have a responsibility to elect good people, and I love volunteering my time to help provide resources to women who are jumping in to the political realm to make a difference and to help the candidates I believe in get elected.

What do you wish you could go back and tell your younger self re: your career aspirations?

It’s okay to not have everything figured out. Things will still work out!

What is your career-related mantra?

I can do hard things. I served an LDS mission in the Bay Area and got the chance to spend half of my time at the Oakland Temple Visitors’ Center (surrounded by other fantastic women!), where our director’s wife reminded us daily that we can do hard things. I’ve taken this to heart and applied it to other areas of my life. It’s a great reminder when I’m facing something that feels insurmountable.

I can look back at other times I have done hard things and remember that I can continue to do hard things.

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