Present Yourself Alumna Interview: Zoraida Cabrera-Mieles

Earlier this year, we launched our reimagined Present Yourself program as an 8-week online course. While this iteration of the program is new, we hosted our first Present Yourself weekend workshop back in November 2017. Since then, we’ve worked with hundreds of new and experienced speakers and have put everything that we’ve learned into this program.

One of the main reasons we wanted to offer Present Yourself as an online program was to make it more accessible to our entire global community, allowing participants to learn on their own time while still having the support and feedback of a live cohort. The online format opened up the possibility of offering expertise from a variety of experts and guest speakers in our community. 

The first Cohort wrapped up in July and we couldn’t wait to hear from the first round of participants. We asked for feedback on the topics and structure throughout the course and were happy to see such positive experiences and gain valuable insights. With our September Cohort kicking off in a couple weeks, we want to share the experience of one participant in her own words. Meet Zoraida!

Zoraida Cabrera-Mieles grew up in Hatillo, Puerto Rico, but moved to Boston in 2010. She has been a UX Designer for about 3 years, currently working for Harvard University IT. Recently, she finished a master’s degree in Digital Media Design, but her undergraduate degree is in Art History and English Literature. Before working in technology, she was pursuing a career in museums, giving art tours part-time while working e-commerce customer support full-time. That’s where she became fascinated with how technology influenced the visitor experience and interested in solving product problems at her e-commerce job, both of which launched her into the rabbit hole of switching careers. 

We chatted with Zoraida about Present Yourself as well as her background and goals as a speaker.

WTD: What kind of speaking do you do most or are you most interested in? Where are you in your path?

Zoraida: My public speaking journey began with art tours. I did these because I wanted to make art accessible to anyone. After switching careers, being an educator and storyteller continued to be important, but my subject matter changed. Nowadays, I speak at work and local meet-ups about UX Design and Research. However, my goal is to become a conference speaker.

WTD: What were you most excited about going into Present Yourself? What made you commit?

Zoraida: I’d done some public speaking before the course, but I felt uncertain about my skills. I had no framework to go about developing talks, which made the preparation process overwhelming. And I often received very little feedback after speaking, which made it challenging to identify how I could improve. 

When I saw the description of Present Yourself, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to learn about a framework I could follow, get feedback, and grow my confidence. But I didn’t register right away. I didn’t know if I had the time or money. Then, a few days after learning about the program, I gave a presentation at work. My manager later told me that I could be an excellent public speaker and asked me if I had considered the Present Yourself program. That’s when I decided to sign up. I realized that having that extra encouragement and support was necessary, and I hoped to get more of that from the network I developed in the program.

WTD: What questions did you have going into the course and how were they answered?

Zoraida: I had a lot of questions. How do I choose a topic and know that it’s a good one? How do I not go on ten different tangents while developing my talk? How do I get feedback? When do I work on my slides? Do I need to script everything?

Each week of the program focused on a central topic, which made answering my questions more manageable. The program provided videos, articles, and different exercises to put what I learned into practice. I also had an opportunity to meet weekly with my fellow cohort members and the course instructor to ask questions and get feedback. Those weekly office hours were extremely valuable for addressing unanswered questions and feeling motivated.

WTD: What part of the course was most useful to you? How do you feel the tools you learned in the course set you up to achieve your goals?

Zoraida: The course provided multiple perspectives, which I found very helpful. It didn’t just explain one framework for approaching public speaking. It also included interviews from different experienced speakers. These interviews, combined with exercises focused on developing a talk, helped me create a framework tailored to my specific needs. Aside from this framework, I also found it extremely useful to dive deeply into how to structure my talks.

I’m no longer starting from ground zero when speaking. If someone walked up to me and asked me to speak at an event, I now know how to prepare for such a talk. So I can definitely say that I feel more confident about facing my goals.

WTD: What is the next step you’ll take as a speaker?

Zoraida: I’m currently developing a Product Design course for beginners, which I hope to teach in the fall. But I think my next big goal is to speak at a large design conference.

Thank you so much Zoraida for diving into our first Present Yourself online Cohort and for sharing your experience with us! We are so glad to have you as part of our community and can’t wait to see what’s next. 

Enrollment for our September 2021 Present Yourself Cohort closes this Monday, August 23rd. If you’ve been thinking about moving your speaking career forward or taking your presenting skills to the next level, now is the time to join! We also have resources available to ask your employer for reimbursement and advice on how to prepare and get the most out of the program. Have questions? Reach out to us anytime via our website or social and we’ll be happy to answer them!