Name that Woman Trailblazer: She made history as the first woman with Down Syndrome to compete in a Miss USA state pageant. Over the years, she has garnered many credits to her name, including Special Olympics athlete, gymnast (level 3), golfer, and model. She has been featured in campaigns for Sephora, Rosedale Mall, and Sigma Beauty, and is clearly, no stranger to the spotlight.
👉 Click here to reveal this woman.
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WOMAN OF THE WEEK
Meet Araceli Centanino 👋
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Q: How did you get into your current role/industry?
A: I didn’t always dream of becoming a professor, it was a path I fell into. When I graduated from high school, I enrolled at my local community college without any certainty in my plans for the future or clarity about what I wanted for myself.
However, it was there that I took a Latin American history course that changed my life. For the first time, I saw myself reflected in my textbooks and the curriculum, and it sparked a desire for knowledge I didn’t know I had.
I began to see myself as a scholar and that became a part of my identity. That one course and the professor motivated me to pursue history as a major, and then inspired me to transfer to UCSD.
From there, I followed that passion for learning to graduate school at UCLA, where I soon discovered a love for teaching. When I finished my doctorate, I knew I wanted to return to the community college system to give back and inspire future generations of students.
Q: What’s something you do to help boost your productivity?
A: As someone who struggles with focus and sustained concentration, I have found it immensely helpful to be self aware of my limitations.
For example, if I’m having hard time focusing on a task or project, I will set short time blocks for focused work that feel completely doable, like 25 minutes or 30 minutes. I can’t do anything else in that time block, other than that specific task. After 25-30 minutes, then I can get up, stretch, make a cup of tea, take a few steps, etc. It’s basically a variation of a Pomodoro technique.
Generally, after completing a few consecutive time blocks, I find it easier to get into a flow state or sustained period of focus. But the 25-30 minute block of time is helpful because it creates set boundaries around work that feel achievable on a hard day.
And on other days, the time blocks can sometimes build on each other and help motivate me to keep going on a task or project. Sometimes, I’ll turn it into a little competition with myself to boost my productivity—and I’ll try to produce more in an upcoming time block than the previous one.
This strategy helped me complete my dissertation!
Q: How do you find work-life balance?
A: I have made certain aspects of self care a non-negotiable in my day to day routine: sleep, daily movement, daily meditation/mindfulness practice, and giving myself one treat to look forward to at the end of every week.
Sometimes those treats are big (booking a spa day), and sometimes they are small (grabbing a donut on Friday morning), it just depends.
I regularly check in with myself and ask: how can I take care of myself today? What does showing up for myself look and feel like today?
Q: What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve received so far?
A: This isn’t advice that was given to me directly, but it’s something that has helped me tremendously, and it was former First Lady Michelle Obama’s discussion of imposter syndrome in her book “Becoming.”
She mentions that she has experienced it for much of her life as adult, and that was deeply relatable for me.
I always assumed that my feelings of self doubt and insecurity would go away when I learned more or achieved more, and then would become frustrated when imposter syndrome would rear its head time and again.
Michelle Obama said that it never goes away, but you learn how to keep going in spite of it because your ideas and presence are valuable in the world.
It’s been comforting to know that when I get those imposter feelings, I’m in good company. I have to acknowledge the feelings then and continue on with my work.
Q: What’s your favorite software or app that helps with your workflow?
A: I don’t have a favorite software or app, but I do rely on Do Not Disturb and the alarm clock on my devices quite a bit to help with workflow.
Q: What’s a book or podcast you’d recommend to a colleague?
A: I have so many favorites, but my current favorite podcast is Huberman Lab. It satisfies my curiosity and desire for knowledge, and I always learn so much from each episode.
It’s a neuroscience podcast, and I love learning how the brain and body function. I also get a lot of great science based tools from this podcast that can help with optimizing focus and cognitive performance.
Q: What do you like to do in your free time outside of work?
A: I love cooking, baking, reading fiction, and playing with my cat.
🎭 Read how to overcome Imposter Syndrome.
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BLESSINGS IN LESSONS
Don’t be your own worst critic
When I had to present research at my first professional conference, I was deeply anxious and insecure about myself, my project, and how my research would be received.
I was still in the early stages of my dissertation, so I didn’t feel totally confident in my work or the arguments it was making. I was deep in a cycle of imposter syndrome, and I remember how my heart was pounding as I was presenting to the audience.
When I finished, I was certain that I had bombed the presentation.
Instead, I got a lot of questions from the audience who were interested in my work and wanted to know more. To everyone else, my presentation was intriguing and engaging.
That experience taught me that we are often too hard on ourselves and are our own worst critics.
We shouldn’t let our fears of inadequacy consume our headspace or stop us from taking opportunities, sharing work in progress, or shooting our shots, so to say.
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