Dania Gelfond is the Founder & CEO of Dania Micala Group, a digital marketing firm in Los Angeles, California. Certified in Social Media Management and Analytics from Pepperdine Graziado School of Business and Management, Dania specializes in social media marketing, corporate training, and analytics reporting. Simultaneously enrolled at Cornell University, Dania is completing a certification for Women In Leadership. Dania strives to be an influence for aspiring entrepreneurs and tech professionals.
How did you get to where you are today?
I believe all of my experiences have shaped me into the woman I am today. My journey is undoubtedly unconventional, and at times, failed to showcase a clear trajectory. I was given the gift of two parents who allowed me to navigate the world on my own terms, while offering wisdom along the way. I was given the ability to make my own choices, which changed frequently. One day I wanted to be a soccer star, the next day I wanted to be on Broadway. I was terrible at soccer, but great on stage.
Eventually they told me, “Whatever you want to do, we support you, but be the best at what you do.” They allowed me to follow my passions, but reminded me that excellence would require dedication and work-ethic. This allowed me to view the world differently.
Whether I was professionally dancing in NYC or headhunting tech & creative professionals, I was determined to be a leader. Each position taught me a different component of building a business, managing employees, and learning to manage management. Without the support and guidance of my parents, I wouldn’t be where I am today. They believed in me. Whether I moved across the country or decided to quit my financially stable corporate career, they would always say, “You’ll figure it out.” They were right, I always did.
What was your toughest obstacle and how did you overcome it?
The toughest obstacle that I have faced in my career was “Boy’s Club,” which became a challenge to overcome when you reach a particular level of the corporate ladder. There is an imbalance on how men and women are treated in the workplace, especially when the demographic of an organization’s C-Suite is predominantly comprised of Caucasian males. While this is a heavy and complex topic, it is something that must be addressed.
Some of the toughest days in my corporate career were navigating my way through Boy’s Club, to realize I would never truly be included or valued. Boy’s Club creates unconscious bias. For example, men are seen as “assertive.” An assertive woman is seen as “bossy.” The fraternity like behaviors of the “boys” tend to isolate women in leadership. Even once invited inside, you won’t like what you see.
Overtime, certain corporate behaviors became very disturbing. I remember sitting at my desk filled with anxiety for the younger women in the company who were tolerating such behaviors out of fear and youth mentality. I needed to save them. I did my best to follow company protocol by reaching out to HR and mentoring my reports as a woman in leadership, but eventually realized the best thing I could do would be to leave. I wasn’t walking away from Boy’s Club; I was creating my own club.
I started my own company to create a work environment where women and men would feel safe. It was my dream to dissolve the gender gap and to build a work space where Boy’s Club did not exist. This motivates me every day to get up and be the best I can be, for the future generations.
What’s the key to staying focused & motivated?
Personally, staying motivated and focused is a constantly evolving practice. We must accept that we are human. We all lose focus. We all have good days and bad days. The key to maintaining motivation and focus is learning how to manage the highs and the lows. We plan on different ways that we can reach our goals, but we rarely plan on how we are going to navigate the ups and the downs. Don’t go overboard on celebrating your wins, and don’t linger in negativity when you feel a loss. Learn to manage your emotional responses to activity, and you will be able to maintain motivation and focus.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
The best piece of advice that I ever received was from my father in regards to choosing a career: “Always do what you love, but make sure you are doing something that helps people.”
What advice do you have for someone who is looking to start a new venture?
My advice to someone looking to start a new venture is that there may never be a right time to start. Many aspiring entrepreneurs are afraid to take the leap. You can spend months or even years constructing the perfect plan. Plans change. Sometimes you just need to go for it.
How do we get more women leaders?
When I was 8 years old, my mother was called into a parent-teacher conference. The teacher told my mother that I was “too bossy” during a group project.
My mother listened, patiently. She then simply asked, “What grade did they receive?”
When the teacher said we received an A, my mother stood up and said, “Good. She’s going to need to be bossy in this world.”
We are responsible for raising young women with the belief that they are capable of being leaders. We are also responsible for educating them on the hardships that they may face. Parents must build their daughter’s confidence from an early age that they can successfully run companies or build a company of their own. Mothers and fathers play a significant role in developing the next generation of female leaders.
What does success mean to you?
Success is having the freedom to do what you love, while making the world a better place.
What are your secrets to productivity?
Time-blocking is crucial to time-management. Just try it!
If you had a life motto, what would it be?
Nothing of significance is built without sacrifice.
What is something most people don't know about you?
I am allergic to sesame seeds!