Dineen Garcia, Vice President of Diversity Strategies, Macy’s, Inc. (Photo/Alfredo Gugig)

Six Figures: A constant career changer says exploring made her who she is

Dineen Garcia’s path to success was not an easy, straight path, but she likens it to an educational adventure. Challenging herself with new opportunities that come her way is the way she likes to live her life.

“My original plan was that I wanted to be a newscaster,” says Garcia who got her B.A. in communications and Spanish, ended up being a prosecutor in NYC – with a few cases appearing before Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and is now the vice president of diversity strategies at Macy’s, Inc.

She says each one of the skill sets she learned, at each stage in her life, contributed to where she is today. What also helped her, she says, was building up her network, being a people person, and her law degree from New York Law School.

“I look at each job as an opportunity to go towards another avenue,” says Garcia, now 44, and a mother of 6-year-old twins. “A lot of people said you can’t go from civil litigation to in-house counsel. But I did it. I went from general litigation to a private law firm. I was then recruited to the Federated Law Department for Macy’s for three years.”

Garcia says she made all these career moves by listening to her gut.

“I felt it was the right time,” she says about moving to Atlanta, Ga., the first time she was to leave her home state of NY, for the in-house position. “Of course there were jitters…I didn’t know a soul in Atlanta, but I thought I could always try it and come back.”

She says that was a wonderful eye-opening experience. She ended up staying almost three years, and then she let her personal life a chance to have a leading role in her life’s journey.

“I had to compromise with my fiance – Atlanta wasn’t up his alley, and I wasn’t prepared to come back to NY,” says Garcia. “We both liked Florida…I asked Macy’s Federated if I could work out of Florida. They were willing to let me.”

Again, she says she decided to take a leap of faith, and shortly after, she was asked to become general counsel of a project management consultant company called PACO Group. She ended up staying there almost three years, until she decided to take a three-year hiatus to start a family.

“I was in my mid- to late-30’s – I knew I wanted a family, and I wasn’t prepared to forego having a family for the sake of my career,” says Garcia who personally felt she needed to not work for a while to give 100 percent to her new unfamiliar job. “I had dedicated 36 years towards developing my career and my professional path, and now it was time to change gears a little and focus on my family life.”

She says she feels very fortunate to have been able to do this, as it was the best experience to be able to dedicate three years to her little boy and girl.

“It’s the most difficult job you could ever have,” says Garcia. “You can’t turn it off.”

And again, she knew when it was time for her to switch gears again and go back to work. She says she’s very happy now at her vice president of diversity strategies position at Macy’s, Inc.

“What I love the most is that I get to meet really, really outstanding Latinos – something I didn’t have before,” says the multi-skilled woman. “I’m exposed to so many Latinos who have contributed so much – even on a historical level – Rosie Rios, Hilda Solis…”

She says she often goes home so excited to talk to her kids, and explain to teach them about these Latino role models, because it’s not part of their everyday learning.

“I’m also having an impact internally,” says Garcia whose primary responsibility is to forge relationships with Latino organizations across the U.S. “We’re supporting organizations that in the past we didn’t support.”

Last year, she says was the first engagement between Macy’s and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI), in which 40 high school students were granted a 1-week internship in DC.

“Macy’s provided them the opportunity to feel empowered and look the part,” says Garcia proudly. “We impacted those students by providing them with some clothes, because your self-esteem is affected by the way you present yourself – from head to toe being able to represent and not feel lesser.”

Also last year, was the first year she started a growing relationship between Macy’s and the National Council of La Raza (NCLR). This year, she says they were co-sponsors with Nuvo-TV at a fashion presentation highlighting designer, Cenia Paredes – the first Latina designer launched in Macy’s. Garcia also co-hosted a panel with SouthWest Airlines for women road warriors, teaching them how to pack their bag and not have to check it, and still look good day and night.

“We’d bring in a stylist, pull some clothes, give out tips, and women came up to us saying the tips worked,” says Garcia. “Really, it’s all about meeting internally, reaching out to our partners, and now I’m working on our diversity and inclusion training for our executive new hires.”

She says she loves that her job brings new experiences every day.

“I think this is the right position for the right time in my life,” says Garcia. “Maybe I found my right fit, and this is where I’ll be the next 15 to 20 years. I don’t know.”

However, the one thing Garcia was always sure of, and always carried with her wherever she went, was the advice of a female attorney mentor she had when she was younger: ‘”Follow your moral compass.”

She says her moral compass always told her to steer clear of office politics, to stay open to other people’s needs, and to be respectful – and that direction helped guide her through all her different routes in life.

“Some people say I’m a risk taker and adventurous, but I feel if I didn’t take them, where would I be?,” reflects Garcia who believes things happen for a reason. “So long as I’m not affecting anyone else, then why not explore? It works for me.”

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