What Message Do You Think Every Woman Should Hear?

With Erika Cruz

Introduce yourself! Who are you?
My name is Erika. I founded The Nutty Oven, a blog that is dedicated to inspiring a healthy and balanced lifestyle. It consists of nutritious recipes, health tips, and anything that has helped me along the way that is worth sharing. I also work at a tech company full time as a Sales and Marketing Manager.

What is one thing no one really knows about you?
It wasn’t until I was 27 years old that I first orgasmed with a man. I knew that society and culture shame women who are in touch with their sexuality. However, I wasn’t aware of how deeply rooted that was in me and how much it affected me. It’s an uncomfortable topic for many women to discuss and I’d like to change that.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
“Don’t take anything personally.” You’d be surprised by how much unnecessary stress we cause ourselves by taking things personally.  

What would you say to 16 year old you?
First of all, relax and enjoy being 16. Secondly, you are smart and capable. Lastly, be mindful of your self-talk. Be nice to yourself. Your thoughts manifest your reality so ensure they are positive and uplifting. Love and believe in yourself because the relationship you have with others can only be as good as the relationship with yourself.

What is your greatest fear?
My greatest fear is to let the fear of failure get in the way of going for things. I’ve worked really hard at building my self confidence and loving myself. But some days it’s easy to doubt yourself.

Have you ever had anyone doubt you? How did that make you feel?
Yes. From elementary school teachers, to family who didn’t think I could make it to college, and in my career. Being 1. Young 2. Female 3. Latina (especially in tech) this happens too often. How has it made me feel? Inadequate, afraid, angry, and shameful. We doubt ourselves enough, so when someone else does, it’s almost as if they confirm the doubt. However, I am grateful that I’ve been able to use this as motivation to prove them wrong. It literally fuels me now.

What message do you think every woman should hear?
Every woman should know that we, women, need one another to be successful. Just because one woman is successful does not mean you won’t be. Rather, that woman’s success will help you get to your success. The success meant for you will never go to someone else. Once this is understood and believed, envy will not be a thought. Remember that empowered women, empower women.

What is your favorite thing about where you live?
The Bay Area is an amazing place. The weather is great and there is so much to do (beaches, hiking, cities, and more). I especially enjoy how diverse the Bay Area is; I meet people from all over the world. The food is also excellent — being a food blogger, this is a big deal for me.

What do you love most about yourself?
My hair. I spent most of my life straightening my hair, so it could be smooth. I hated the frizz, and in my opinion, my curls looked messy. A couple of years ago I made the decision to embrace my natural hair. It was liberating! Now I feel so empowered to let myself be seen, for who I am.

Do you remember a specific time you overcame adversity?
I can think of many big events such as starting college at UC Berkeley or my parents’ divorce. However, I’d like to share a very specific time when I felt like I failed. I was hired for a job that I didn’t have much experience for. Two months later, I was demoted for underperforming. I considered quitting but then that fuel kicked in. I needed to prove to management (and most importantly to myself) that I was capable. That doesn’t mean I was going to learn everything overnight. There is no replacement for experience. But I changed my attitude. I asked questions and was enthusiastic. I reminded myself that just as I was lucky to have a shot at this job, they were also lucky to have me. Sometimes, it’s what you don’t know that can help bring a different point of view to the table. Two months later, I was promoted to the original position. Six months after that, I was promoted to the elite team of top performers who traveled for the company. This job helped me pay for college and taught me invaluable skills for my career. I wouldn’t change anything about this experience.

What is the biggest thing you’ve learned along the way?
That I need to ensure I am happy. If I am not happy, I can’t make those around me happy. I can’t make decisions based on what other people want because in the end, that doesn’t help anyone. I need to check in with myself because sometimes it’s hard to distinguish what you ”should” do (family, culture, media influences) and what you “want” to do. Writing and paying attention to how I feel usually helps clarify that.

Why do you love to travel?
I’ve been very fortunate to travel a lot in the last five years. As I write this, I am sitting on a plane. My favorite part about traveling is seeing other ways of life. We get stuck in a routine so often that it’s impossible to imagine a different setting. I also enjoy exploring new places through food, because local food in itself tells a story. Many times, traveling also makes me appreciate my home. Most importantly, travel has taught me that no matter how different we are, we are all human. It does not matter what language we speak or how we dress, we all feel love, anger, insecurities, and desire.

What motivates you most?
My mother. An immigrant and single parent who has a primary school level education and now runs her own small business. She is a driven and strong woman that has made it possible for me to have the opportunities I have had.  Why would I not make the most of them?

How do you manage your work-life balance?
My mornings are critical. Before I go to work I ensure to meditate, workout, and write down three things I am grateful for that day. It sets a positive tone and I feel accomplished before my day even starts so it doesn’t matter if I leave the office at 4pm or 7:30pm. Since I work with team members all over the world, there are times when I need to respond to emails + messages at night. However, when I am with family and friends, I turn my notifications off so I can be present.

What is your favorite meal?
I grew up in a Mexican household so whole beans with handmade tortillas are my comfort food. My favorite cuisines are Thai and Mexican.

What do you do on a daily basis to grow and move forward?
I live by Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote “Do one thing everyday that scares you.” Getting out of your comfort zone a little each day expands that zone. You’d be surprised what you’re capable of when you just go for it.

If you weren’t doing the job you have now, what would you be doing?
I’ve given this a lot of thought. “What if I would have gone to culinary school?” “What if I would have gone to law school?”  “How did I end up in Tech?” but the truth is that I am where I am and I love who I’m becoming. I’ve learned so much along the way and I love working at a fast paced startup and going home to bake for The Nutty Oven.  

What is something on your bucket list?
I am pleased to say that I have already completed a lot on my bucket list! I’d love to keep traveling and exploring new places. One thing I’d love to do is travel somewhere tropical and stay in a water bungalow/water villa and a tree house.

Have you ever had an extraordinary experience? Describe it!
I went to burning man last year and it completely opening my mind to a different way of living. A temporary (but fully-functioning) city that consist of a variety of camps. Everything there is on a “gifting” system so some camps will gift coffee, food, drinks, and more and they expect nothing in return. It’s amazing to see what can happen when humans collaborate.

Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere. And from everyone. I find inspiration being outdoors in nature, at work in my office, from other food bloggers, from children, from pets.

What are your biggest passions?
In general, I love helping people. Some specific passions include: Diversity and Inclusion in Tech, Mentorship, Food Equality, and Educational Equality.

More About Erika

Erika Cruz is a healthy food blogger and full time Sales & Marketing Manager at a tech start up. When she’s not baking or working, you can find Erika in the outdoors, traveling, or spending time with loved ones. Erika is an advocate of Diversity of Inclusion and Food Equality. 

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