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We interviewed Rahima Young, Senior Administrative Manager out of the Pasadena office and co-lead of SWCA’s Hispanic & Other Latino Amigos Employee Resource Group (HOLA ERG). She shares her experiences leading the SWCA HOLA ERG and what their Hispanic heritage means to them.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your career?

Rahima Young, Senior Administrative Manager for SWCA’s Pasadena office.

A: I joined SWCA’s Pasadena office in the summer of 2021 with a background in facilities and office management for the commercial real estate sector. It is a high-demand low-appreciation industry, especially on the administration side. I was looking for a more meaningful role with a company that cares about its employees. I applied to SWCA after a particularly tough day at work during the pandemic. It’s been a real joy to work here ever since! In addition to being the HOLA ERG lead I am the Gives Back Local Office Champion for Pasadena.

Q: What are your hobbies outside of work?

A: I have two adult age children, so after 20 plus years raising them, my life is a bit different now. My husband and I adopted a dog, Hustle, that we absolutely love, and we own and operate a MMA gym which keeps us busy. I enjoy long walks, listening to comedy podcasts, swimming, hosting Japanese vintage car events with my husband, and baking cookies.

Q: What does leading the HOLA ERG mean to you, and how did you become involved with it?

A: I never planned on being the HOLA ERG lead, but when no one else volunteered and I was asked if I could do it, I eventually stepped up. I really value this group and the connections and friendships I have made. I couldn’t do it without Jeremiah as a strong co-lead who brings so much to the table and the support of all the group members. It has been a really positive experience.

Q: What are the goals and activities of the group?

A: We use our platform to foster a safe space for people to come and connect and learn. We present topics to discuss and host activities. We have had some inspirational guest speakers, but mostly we allow time for people to share their experiences and welcome allies to come and learn more about what it’s like being a Latino employee at SWCA. Down the road we’re hoping to get more involved with Gives back efforts like supporting scholarships for Latino youth. 

I think these ERG groups are so valuable to find support and encouragement – I really value having the space to celebrate all the diverse cultures within the group. That is reflected in switching our name to HOLA, a decision we made as a group to be more inclusive.

Q: Can you touch a bit on what your heritage means to you? 

Rahima with her sisters

A: My heritage is a bit different than those in the HOLA group. I am biracial, Mexican and Bangladeshi. Fitting in was difficult at times growing up. Because I didn’t speak Spanish and wasn’t accepted by the other Hispanic kids at school, and I just didn’t feel like I belonged to any group. That is why being a part of HOLA is so important to me because it finally gave me a safe space and a group that welcomed me.

Having multiple cultures in my household, we co-mingle the two and combine the customs and celebrations. Our guests get a kick out of us doing things like marinating carne asada for tacos with curry and spice blends from my grandfather’s hometown in Sylhet, Bangladesh. We also recite Muslim prayers in Arabic while celebrating traditional Catholic holidays like Christmas and Easter.

Q: What are some things that you do to recognize and celebrate your culture?

A: Food is an important way of celebrating our cultures. We cook a lot as a family, like making homemade tortillas or rotis, which sparks so many stories and really brings us together. Food is also a unifier for different cultures across the Latino community and a great way to facilitate conversation and connection.

For instance, our HOLA group represents people from so many different countries – Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico, and others, and we were just talking in a meeting about how we all make homemade tamales, but we all have our own twist on it. Everyone’s story is different, and it’s been great to learn more about this diverse group of cultures.

Q: What would you like people to know about your culture? How can individuals better support and be allies to the Latinx community?

Rahima and admin team at happy hour

A: Being an ally means being observant and open to learning about other people’s cultures – a great way to do this is through listening to these ERG presentations. For Hispanic Heritage month we have one of our members of HOLA talking about the significance of Día de los Muertos. Our group represents people from many different countries and backgrounds, I’m always learning about the cultural and personal significance of some of these different traditions and holidays.