Exchange Matters / May 21, 2024

Career Connections Miami: A Convergence of Culture, Connection, and Career Growth

By Julia Totskaya, Communications Manager, Global Ties Miami

This past April, the vibrant city of Miami served as the host for the eagerly anticipated Career Connections seminar, “Forging Your Own Path.” Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and organized by Global Ties Miami and Global Ties U.S., this three-day event brought together a dynamic group of 41 U.S. citizen ExchangeAlumni from across the United States to network,  leverage the unique skills gained from their international exchange experiences, and grow professionally.

U.S. ExchangeAlumni participants begin to network while exploring tote bags filled with materials they used throughout the seminar. All photos by Global Ties Miami

A Diverse Gathering of Minds

The seminar commenced with a warm welcome reception, where attendees shared their international exchange stories and connected with peers and professionals. 

Patrick Morris welcomes U.S. ExchangeAlumni to Miami and kicks off the theme of Forging Your Own Path by sharing his career journey.

Mignon Turner Houston, U.S. Diplomat in Residence, and Patrick Morris, Director of Civic & Philanthropic Partnerships at Miami-Dade County Office of the Mayor, set the tone with opening remarks that celebrated the significance of civic engagement and international experiences in career development.

Group photo of Career Connections Miami participants and implementing partners from the U.S. Department of State, Global Ties Miami, and Global Ties U.S.

Program Highlights and Participant Engagement

The seminar agenda was filled with sessions designed to inspire and educate. The “Careers of the Future” panel featured insights from Caryn Lavernia of Lab22c, Ana Maria Sencovici of Royal Caribbean, and Erick Gavin of Venture Miami, who explored emerging industries and necessary skills for the future.

Jennifer Hudson of ThinkBeyond Public Relations and Julia Totskaya of Global Ties Miami led the “Personal Branding Workshop,” which was highly interactive and practical. Miriam King from E.V.E. Consulting Firm guided attendees through creating actionable career plans in the “Planning for My Professional Future” workshop.

The “Forging Your Own Path Roundtables” session inspired intimate discussions with distinguished speakers. Attendees heard from representatives from the Peace Corps (Sidney Skervin, Member Specialist, and Erica Thibault, Foreign Service Officer), Miami-Dade County International Trade Consortium (Sudeshna Chatterjee, Global Engagement Officer), Florida International University (Leland Lazarus, Associate Director of Research at Jack D. Gordon Institute of Public Policy), NatushMedia (Nathalia Ortiz, Director Content & Production), Texas International Education Consortium (Antoine Battle, Global Membership Coordinator), and Global Ties Miami (Athena Passera, Ph.D., President & CEO), who shared their career journeys and discussed the work-life balance needed to thrive in their fields.

Throughout the seminar, ExchangeAlumni engaged in a multitude of activities designed to enhance their professional portfolios and expand their networks. They engaged in personalized resume reviews, updated their professional headshots, and took advantage of numerous networking opportunities. These activities provided valuable tools and connections to help advance their careers.

From left: Caryn Lavernia, Erick Gavin, and Ana Maria Sencovici share valuable career insights on our Careers of the Future Panel.

Cultural Immersion and Networking

In addition to the workshops and discussions, the seminar featured a cultural tour that showcased the significant influence of our multicultural population. The tour started with a visit to the American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora, which is devoted to exploring the history and contributions of Cuban-Americans in Miami. This experience deepened the participants’ appreciation for Miami’s rich cultural heritage and reinforced the seminar’s theme of embracing and navigating diverse pathways.

This was followed by an exploration of Miami Beach, where participants immersed themselves in the local culture and vibrant atmosphere, adding an enjoyable and informal networking opportunity to the seminar.

A handful of attendees finish their Career Connections weekend at Miami Beach!

Feedback from Participants

The participants’ feedback underscored the profound impact of the Career Connections seminar. Caroline Miranda reflected on her experiences, stating, “This event reignited my commitment to forging paths initiated through my U.S. exchange program,” capturing the essence of the seminar’s influence on her professional journey. Rosalina Macon shared her enthusiasm, noting, “Attending Career Connections in Miami was the best experience I have had in a long time,” and emphasized that the seminar “reaffirmed to me that my dream is achievable and also necessary.”

Career Connections attendees network with Global Ties Miami’s own Tamara Garcia (center).

Luiza Kinzerska-Martinez provided a heartfelt testimonial about the depth of her learning: “Speakers like Dr. Athena Passera and Mignon Turner Houston opened up about the challenges they have faced, reminding me that difficult moments in life can be priceless learning and character-building experiences.” Antoine Battle, a speaker at the event, expressed his gratitude for the engaging discussions: “It was immensely gratifying to engage with such a passionate and receptive audience,” highlighting the reciprocal enrichment between speakers and attendees.

Attendees engage in career roundtables with speakers including Sudeshna Chatterjee (center), representing the Miami-Dade County International Trade Consortium.

Faith Seawell also praised the diverse and welcoming environment: “This diverse and welcoming environment exposed me to an array of resources and perspectives, ultimately sharpening my resolve to pursue diverse avenues of service as I progress in my career.”

Elaissia Sears shared that the seminar was “a life-changing experience,” appreciating the chance to connect with fellow U.S. ExchangeAlumni, and explore career opportunities like the Lateral Entry Program. She noted, “As an elected official transitioning to local government, it was enlightening to see the options available to me. Being at Career Connections felt like a mini exchange program—I now have even more friends across the United States! I’m grateful for the U.S. State Department’s continued investment in us, affirming that diplomacy truly changes lives.”

A Career Connections attendee grabs a photo with Peace Corps Recruiter Taylor Mahjer (center), and one of our U.S. ExchangeAlumni speakers, Antoine Battle (right).

Looking Forward

The overwhelming positive feedback from participants highlighted the seminar’s success in meeting its goals of empowerment, education, and connection. We extend our heartfelt thanks to all our speakers, participants, and organizers. Your enthusiasm and active participation have not only enriched this event but have also strengthened our community of U.S. Exchange Alumni. As we look forward to future events, the experiences shared in Miami will undoubtedly continue to inspire and influence the professional lives of all who attended.