Vivian Garcia-Tunon has years of experience in executive coaching, as well as a successful career as a Human Resources leader within financial services, private equity, and investment banking. Her specializations have included mergers and acquisitions, talent management, performance management, and change management. Throughout her career, she has built high performing teams in fast-paced growth organizations. Recently, she made the leap from corporate America to running her own executive coaching business.
What did you want to be when you were a little girl?
I wanted to be a happiness doctor. I didn’t know what it meant, I didn’t know if it existed. But I knew I wanted to help people be happy.
What was your very first job?
I was the shop girl in a tennis shop. I learned the importance of being able to interact with people, and in helping them solve their needs. And patience.
What was your major in college?
International business and marketing.
Did you want to pursue a career in that field?
I had no idea what I was going to do with my career!
When you got out of school, what did you do?
I ended up accepting a job at a nonprofit that, ironically, taught entrepreneurship to low-income youth. I was there for a year and a half. Then, I became a campus recruiting coordinator at an investment bank. I loved the nonprofit work, but it didn’t pay the bills in NYC, and I knew that I had to be able afford to live on my own. My sister-in-law was a recruiter at a different bank, and she suggested that I look into it. At the time, I really just started networking, talking to people, applying for every job under the sun to see if it was something I’d be interested in.
Did you find it fulfilling? What did you take from it?
I did. I found it fulfilling because I was helping people in a new phase of their life. For about the next ten years I was doing recruiting and HR consulting. But slowly I realized that I wasn’t happy – I loved my work, and I defined myself by my work, but I was getting frustrated with what I couldn’t fix in terms of really trying to enhance people’s performance and engagement in their jobs.
How did you plan your next move? Did you plan your next move?
I did plan my next move. I had been thinking about what I wanted to do for a while, trying new things, taking classes, talking to people, to expand my perspective, which was something I had struggled with in my old job. I started going to different coaching programs. I started exploring what is a coach, how can I be happier, what out there is more fulfilling. One day I was in a coach-training program, and I literally just blurted out loud, “I need to be a coach.” I was like, 'holy shit, I’m going to do this.' Which was crazy because that same week I had a final round interview for another job, and I was also meeting with my boss. I knew that, in the next week, things would unfold in one way or another.
As luck would have it, the offer was supposed to be coming – which was literally going to be a gold mine – ended up falling through. And, at the same time, my boss said, “You don’t seem like you’re really happy. What can I do to help you and support you?” So it was really just a matter of taking a leap of faith, figuring out those next steps. Within a month, I was out on my own and ready to start my business.
How did you start?
It was really me building a foundation of:
What I realized was, once I had my product and started sharing my story, it started to crystallize and became easier each day. The vision of an entrepreneur I had before that was of my mom, who really struggled. She made it look a constant grind. For me it’s been the opposite – I receive calls from people who want to work with me all the time. Today I did a presentation for 100 top STEM teachers. It’s all just coming together. The more I started talking about it, and the more I started sharing, the more it started evolving.
What was the scariest thing about it?
Learning to trust myself and my ability to succeed. And stand in that. Trusting that people will want what I’m creating. Trusting that what I’m offering is good enough for people to buy, and that it’s going to be my livelihood. Its different and takes getting used to having money flow in in different ways versus a consistent paycheck.
What is been the most rewarding part of what you’re doing now?
I really love that there are limitless possibilities in how I can help people. I have the opportunity to help people get unstuck, and help them navigate the path that is best for them. And there is no script. I am completely unfiltered with my clients, and it empowers their success even more. I’m able to tell people truths that no one else will, and explore places they haven’t ever before.
I think that people are very scared to admit some things that they think. And people are really scared to hear the truth at times. I help people create change in their life that’s sustainable. It’s about people intentionally living versus being reactive to life. Oftentimes we think, “I’m on this career path, it’s all going to come together” or “if I work hard enough I’ll get promoted.” You assume logic, and your career and your life isn’t logical. You can enhance any dimension of your life if you’re wiling to be aware of it.
What is the most challenging thing about growing and scaling?
Finding the right people to partner with in the future. Today, I am my brand. I’m the person that people buy into. As I grow, it’s about my product and it’s not about me. Finding people with similar values or experiences that can drive a similar product is challenging. Which is funny because I was in recruiting!
What is your biggest weakness?
Right now, my biggest weakness is learning to delegate. Because I’m selling myself, I haven’t created a process that I can replicate with others. I know how to delegate – I had a team of 150 people in my last career - but now, it can be hard to figure out what I can delegate and what I need to do myself.
What is your biggest strength?
Helping people see the value of my products. Being able to have people naturally buy in to investing in themselves.
Are there any goal setting, organizational or other tools you must have?
One Note is literally my bible. If my computer shut down, I would be screwed. Every time I’m thinking of my clients or new activities or facilitating new events or other products that I can offer, that’s my draft book.
What do you see in your future: work, life, everything and anything?
I view the possibility of having all my dreams come true. Of being able to travel, having a flexible work location and schedule. Being able to expand into different cities. And to also to get married, start a family and be able to balance it. Big dreamin’!
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Letting go of people’s expectations of me. I know that’s a general thing to say. But I feel like this year, has been transformative for me. I’m Palestinian-American and a Muslim-American, but I don’t look like what people’s stereotype of those.