Washington Gas Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

Washington Gas Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

Oct. 18, 2023

Washington Gas was honored to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month 2023, which began in mid-September to coincide with independence days in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Mexico, Chile and Belize. Our Latino Empowerment and Diversity (LEAD) Employee Resource Group works tirelessly throughout the year to promote cultural diversity and professional development. 

 We invite you to meet five of our fantastic team members as they discuss what this month of celebration means to them. En español

Jonathan Iriarte

Jonathan Iriarte, Lead for Field Operations Development
"Approach each challenge strategically, breaking down problems into manageable tasks and implementing efficient solutions."

Hispanic Heritage Month brings me back to memories and moments of my childhood. These times have given me a great appreciation for who I am and the unique experiences that have helped mold me into who I am today. The Bolivian culture and way of life have fed into multiple aspects of my family structure, and I have always been grateful my parents took me there early in my life.

Living in Bolivia presented numerous challenges I had to overcome, which helped me develop my decision-making skills early. These experiences strengthened my confidence and fostered a willingness to take calculated risks, innovate and problem-solve. Drawing from my experiences in Bolivia, I approach each challenge strategically, breaking down problems into manageable tasks and implementing efficient solutions.

I am a Lead for Field Operations Development at Washington Gas and am active with all aspects of my business unit, from digital to process improvements to tools and equipment. My expertise revolves around problem-solving and project execution to improve our department and meet goals. The skills I began developing in Bolivia serve me well in my fast-paced career. I am dedicated to fostering an inclusive environment where everyone's voices are respected, and diverse perspectives are celebrated and leveraged for success.

Gabriela Linares

Gabriela Linares, Senior Marketing Specialist
"I value how we continue celebrating our holidays while maintaining our culture, traditions and customs."

Hispanic Heritage Month allows me to celebrate with fellow Hispanics what makes our culture unique and introduce people to our culture. It is an occasion to celebrate being a Venezuelan and pay tribute to the history of our esteemed Simon Bolivar, the liberator of many Latin American countries, including Bolivia, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela.

My parents arrived in the United States from Venezuela in the early 1960s. I am thankful that they kept their culture alive and educated my siblings and me about our traditions and how to speak Spanish, which has been an advantage in the workplace and life in general. I also value how we continue celebrating our holidays while maintaining our culture, traditions and customs. Yearly summer visits with our extensive family in Venezuela were a wonderful way to broaden our horizons, experiences and worldviews.

Given the devastating situation in Venezuela, most of my family members have left the country, relocating to different parts of the world. Several cousins now live in the DMV area, making our family reunions even livelier and much more fun! As a proud, first-generation Hispanic American, I appreciate the depth of our kindness, warmth and caring personalities, delicious food, lovely music and dances.

Fabiola Jaldin

Fabiola Jaldin, Senior Financial Analyst
"My advice to Latino professionals in the corporate world is to be your authentic self."

Hispanic Heritage is not one month but a way of life. In elementary school, my family was the only non-white family in the neighborhood, and my cousin and I were the only Bolivian-American students at my Miami middle school. Today, I am “loud and proud” about the beautiful culture that has shaped me. I share stories of the triumphs and struggles of the daughter of immigrants who worked throughout my childhood to ensure I would attend college. I embrace my culture by raising three children who visit Bolivia, speak Spanish (even though they complain), listen to Spanish music, cook Bolivian food and respect Hispanic leaders.

Our culture embraces working hard, giving hard and loving hard, to which I would add faith, family, friends and futbol! I didn’t have to learn a strong work ethic in a classroom or through long conversations. I saw the examples within my family and learned to work hard even when no one was watching. When I think of family, it’s not just those who share my blood; it also extends to my “chosen” families at work, college, school, church, soccer, etc. If you come to my home, you will leave as family.

My favorite work collaboration teams have always been the most diverse, such as one with members who had backgrounds from Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Puerto Rico, Vietnam, Bolivia and the United States. What a dream team! Our large-scale system implementation and reconfiguration project was successful because of these experts who thought outside of boxes and barriers to drive innovation.

My advice to Latino professionals in the corporate world is to be your authentic self. When you contribute professionally and bring ideas supported by education and experience, your voice will be heard, respected and valued. Wherever we come from, we all share this planet and have more commonalities than differences.

Lena OlivaresLena Olivares, Senior Operator Qualification Specialist/Chair, LEAD Employee Resource Group
"One's cultural origin or gender should never serve as a reason for judgment or limitation."

Hispanic Heritage Month is a time of celebration, unity and respect. It is an opportunity to educate people about our rich culture and contributions while fostering a genuine appreciation for embracing and respecting different cultures.

Born in Cochabamba, Bolivia, I take immense pride in my Latina roots. Passing down my culture to my children fills my heart with joy as I strive to instill a deep appreciation for our origins in them. However, I believe teaching them the value of embracing and respecting diverse cultures is equally important because it actively contributes to creating a society that is both inclusive and diverse.

As Chair of the Latino Empowerment and Diversity ERG at Washington Gas, I have the privilege of working alongside a remarkable team to represent and advocate for our Latino and ally members. Our shared mission is cultivating an inclusive, supportive environment where everyone feels valued and respected. I am grateful for my opportunities at Washington Gas and LEAD and even more thankful for the mentors who have played a significant role in my journey. They have provided guidance and support and challenged me to step out of my comfort zone. Their belief in me has boosted my confidence, inspired me to push my limits and provided valuable lessons about perseverance, resilience and continuous growth.

As a Latina woman, I've faced stereotypes that label me passive or lacking assertiveness and leadership skills. The challenges of navigating male-dominated industries have not always been easy, sometimes including a lack of peer support. However, I have chosen to channel these misconceptions as fuel to improve my abilities and strengthen my unwavering determination to reach my goals. While misconceptions and stereotypes still exist, I remain committed to proving that one's cultural origin or gender should never serve as a reason for judgment or limitation.

Alexandra Balbuena AlleyneAlexandra Balbuena Alleyne, WAFF Program Manager/Latino Outreach Specialist
"Every project, every day and every person is unique."

As an Afro-Latina, Hispanic Heritage Month means sharing my culture with others. As the daughter of an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, my household was different from my American friends. Only Spanish was spoken. Breakfast was los tres golpes of Dominican style salami, fried cheese, eggs and plátanos. Merengue music played during Saturday chores. Today, I honor my Dominican roots every day, such as celebrating the patron saint of the Dominican Republic, La Virgen de la Altagracia, with fresh flowers. I attend mass in Spanish with my mother. I married a Panamanian who only speaks Spanish to our children.

In addition to Washington Gas, I am a 30-year veteran in the television industry, including a stint with “America’s Most Wanted” right out of college. As a post-production director, I facilitated the launch of the TV Azteca DC Bureau Office and the first 4-1HR shows for TV One Network. My experience includes FOX 5, NBC 4, National Geographic and China Central Television (CCTV), with positions ranging from Chyron Operator to Post Production Manager. As a past board member of Women in Film & Video (WIFV), I cherish the relationships I have formed over the years.

My career is rooted in flexibility and an open-minded viewpoint that embraces individual contributions. The diversity of my heritage has supported me in these goals and encouraged deep connections among diverse communities. At Washington Gas, I continue to enhance that understanding as the lead for Latino Outreach. Every project, every day and every person is unique, but they all blend beautifully in my los tres golpes approach to life.


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