How did you start out?
I come from a long line of educators in my country, my parents used to own a co-ed boarding school in Colombia where I actually pursued most of my high school education. The school was an international school and bilingual (English and Spanish) most of the faculty were teachers from around the world and as such I grew up in an international environment.
My parents pursued their graduate degrees in Western Kentucky University and upon returning to our country after years of living in Bowling Green Kentucky they quickly realized that in our town the only available school for us as their children was a local Catholic school that was operated by nuns, and though they had nothing against the Catholic school they wanted for us to have a different education that was not necessarily conventional or traditional in a sense.
My father followed for years “The Neil Education Philosophy” which in a nut shell its main objective was to give children a different approach to education by giving them the opportunity to express themselves and governed their own decisions in and outside of the classroom.
My upbringing and the core values my parents instilled in me, gave me the opportunity to dream and live my life outside of a comfort zone, as such at a young age I left my country to pursue other opportunities in the United States and I settled in Miami, Florida in 1997.
At that point in my life I was already a mother of a young girl and the sole responsibility of having a child left no room available to spare time or essentially live the life of young adult. In retrospective being a young mother was a blessing that now today I value and embrace.
In 1998 I started OHLA with the full support of my parents and with the innate belief that if you set your mind to accomplish your goals, you will accomplish them no matter what. OHLA was born in the financial district of Miami and with little to no financial resources back in the old days.
We started teaching classes to local students and in a very small area of where the school sits today. As years progressed OHLA became a local name and slowly but surely progressed and transitioned into the international market. Today we welcome thousands of students in our campuses and we are happy to welcome students from over 68 nationalities.
What helped you get as far as you have?
I am true believer that if you surround yourself by the right people you are inclined to make better decisions.
Throughout the years I have been blessed to gather a team of professionals with years of experience in the industry and with whom we share the same core values.
I don’t’ know it all and I don’t intend to do so, but I do know that if we as a team work collectively then we accomplish greater things beyond our own expectations. At OHLA we are a family, we are all a united front, my staff has the ability to express their own thoughts, create their own working environment and furthermore disagree with me if need be.
The quality of our program since inception has always been paramount in our day to day operations as well as our students. Nothing at OHLA is delivered half way, we go the whole nine yards and a few more. We either do it right, or we don’t do it at all.
Additionally, we have been blessed to have comprised ourselves with an unbelievable network of agents that trust our product and qualify of services. The relationship that OHLA has with agents around the world extends beyond a selling point, it crosses barriers, and it reaches continents. I love every single agent that represents OHLA, in my heart they are more than agents they are my family. Our sales team is fully aware of the importance that agents represent to me, not only because they sell, but because they take the time to sell your product and in the process they become first your partner, then your colleague, and lastly your friend.
What piece of advice would you give to your 21-year-old self?
Don’t settle for what seems to be the normal thing to do, think outside the box. Be cautious but do not limit yourself, think but don’t over think, believe in yourself but don’t be arrogant, follow your instinct it never betrays you. Have faith that though the road ahead is uncertain, there is one thing certain in life, if one door closes another will open.
A low point in your career/life and how you overcame it?
I have had many low points in my life, made some business decisions at the beginning that were not necessarily financially savvy at the moment. I experienced financial struggles often in the early stages of OHLA, the road was not easy and establishing a brand took time and effort. I overcame these moments by focusing once again on what OHLA stood for and by working just a bit harder. I always saw a light at the end of the tunnel and I knew that with hard work and dedication I would be able to reach this light and feel its warmth. I persevered, and I never gave up. In retrospective those low points in my life gave me the ability to carefully cease the right opportunities today and make better decisions for OHLA.
One word to describe yourself?
Your first paying job: What and when?
13 years of age, I used to teach aerobics at the local gym in my little town in Colombia.
What do you do to keep yourself centered?
Exercising keeps me centered as well as spending time with my family. I am not a church goer, but I do believe strongly in God, so praying also keep me centered.
What’s your favourite quote?
I live my life by this one:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
What would your superpower be?
I would love to have the power of commuting at the speed of light, so in seconds I could see my love ones, plant them a big kiss, tell them how much I love them and come back to continue my regular day.