The U.S. Department of Labor described Sonia Aranza’s work as “Outstanding!” Participants at SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) conferences from around the world consistently give her rave reviews for her dynamic and engaging style. Corporations and organizations recognize her as a high impact Global Speaker, Master Facilitator and Executive Consultant with nearly 20 years of solid experience specializing in Cross-Cultural Strategies, Diversity and Leadership. She is a sought-after keynote speaker and seminar leader at conferences worldwide and is a trusted advisor to leaders across industries. Ms. Aranza’s clients include top Fortune 500 companies and organizations such as Chevron, IBM, McDonald’s, Monsanto, NASA, SHRM, Sodexo, State Farm Insurance, Texaco, Toyota, United States Army, United States Internal Revenue System, United States Social Security Administration, numerous associations, universities and many more. Prior to establishing her global consulting practice, Ms. Aranza served as Director of Constituent Relations for Congressman Neil Abercrombie in the United States Congress, Washington, DC.
Ms. Aranza earned two Masters Degrees: an M.A. in Cross-Cultural Communications from the University of Hawaii and an M.A. in Public Communications from the American University in Washington, DC. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from the University of Hawaii and was an International Exchange Student to Russia while the region was still the Soviet Union. Ms. Aranza also graduated from Georgetown University’s Business Administration Certificate Program in Washington, DC. She continues to earn professional certifications from cutting-edge programs across the globe.
Ms. Aranza was born in the Philippines, raised in Hawaii, resides in the Metro Washington, DC area and travels throughout the world including numerous Asia/Pacific countries, several European nations and South America. This allows her to bring “real world” solutions to her work. She has expert skills in global cross-cultural engagement and cross-cultural business strategies. Respected by her colleagues, she is a Past Chairperson of the Diversity Professional Experts Group of the National Speakers Association and is on the board of several organizations. She has received numerous awards for her work and has been featured in local, national and international publications. Ms. Aranza actively mentors college students and emerging leaders. She is included in a Volume of Outstanding Women in America and is a past recipient of the “Outstanding Woman of the Year Award” from the National Association of Professional Asian American Women. Ms. Aranza was honored “100 Most Influential Filipina Women in the United States.”
Learning to bridge differences at an early age
I was born in the Philippines, a country at the geographic center of the Far East and comprised of over 7,000 islands with nearly seventy different spoken dialects. My parents each came from different parts of the country and each spoke a different dialect. Each was orphaned at an early age and learned to manage a life filled with challenges. They introduced their different dialects and backgrounds in our home and I learned early on how to comfortably navigate through differences and become fluent in both dialects.
When I was eight years old, my parents announced, “We are going to America!” The move to America and my experience as an immigrant greatly impacted me as a child. Although my parents were educated and worked as teachers back in the Philippines, the jobs available to them in America were menial. In order to survive, they started from the bottom and took the menial jobs. The weight of their struggle must have truly tested their resolve because I would occasionally see them shed a tear. But through it all, my parents were brave and they expected us to bridge any difference we may encounter, as they have, in order to attain the promise of America. They modeled how to bridge differences and accomplish goals with hard work and commitment.
Building bridges of understanding
When we arrived in America, I did not speak English. Communicating in a new language was not easy and people made fun of me. I used to cry until one day I discovered Sesame Street. I expanded my vocabulary and learned to construct sentences by hanging out with Big Bird and the gang! In addition, I practiced English by reading my books out loud. I finally became fluent and people stopped making fun of me. The experience taught me to embrace challenges and be strong in the face of difficulty.
In Hawaii, I grew up with children who were descendants of immigrants from all over the world. We each brought to the playground different cultural backgrounds and traditions. While the differences were sometimes frustrating, it made our experience with each other very interesting! From an early age I learned how to navigate through differences and leverage them to reach goals. I learned that differences are not negative. At an early age I learned that we are all inter-related and inter-connected.
Working effectively across differences
Working across differences has been a life long journey. My life experience is the foundation for the work I do today. I help individuals and organizations succeed in a complex and diverse environment. I help leaders work effectively across all dimensions of difference: ethnicity, gender, generation, language, nationality, personality, physical/mental abilities, race, religion, sexual orientation, socio- economic class and the many identities that make each individual unique. I strongly believe that the ability to work effectively across differences is a leadership competency, a competitive advantage and a business imperative. This is my purpose and my passion!