The Hardest Goodbye: The End to My Era in the City of Miami Beach

The Hardest Goodbye: The End to My Era in the City of Miami Beach

“In the end, we seek meaning,” Daniel Pink reminds us in “When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.” Pink’s book entered into my life by happenstance, around the same time two once-in-a-lifetime work opportunities unexpectedly fell onto my lap. As I was mulling over the possibility of leaving my career at the city for one of the new professional options before me, I looked to the book for guidance. It didn’t really do anything except give me a great opening line and a couple good quotes for this post.

Nevertheless, an end is upon me. At the end of this month I am closing a nearly decade-long chapter with the City of Miami Beach to return to the private sector. I am, as Pink describes, experiencing “one of the most complex emotions humans experience: poignancy, a mix of happiness and sadness.” Right now, the balance is tilted heavily toward sadness. Just ask my team who watched me explain my departure through tears and sobs yesterday. Can you blame me? It’s hard to say goodbye when you’ve got it as good as I’ve had—a job that feels like a calling, a team that feels like a family. (People say that, but I mean it. You need only count how much time I willingly spend at the office and how many of my co-workers I spend time with outside of work.)

And this is the part where I seek meaning. I needn’t look very far, my time at the city has seen me through so much. Professionally, I skyrocketed from an entry-level environmental scientist to an acting director all in my 20s. Working at the city has given me a lifetime of work experience in hyper-speed that prepared me to take on my new role. Thank you to my colleagues and mentors that trusted me and opened doors along the way. I brought the raw talent, you chiseled it like Michelangelo. It has been an absolute pleasure to work with you, to learn from you, and pour our collective passion into this beautiful community I call home.

There is so much more I want to say about my Miami Beach chapter, but all the words I type and then erase don’t feel worthy. Instead, I will leave you with an apropos quote from my spirit animal Leslie Knope, who as she was closing her chapter as Assistant Director of the Pawnee Parks and Rec Department wisely said:

“Sometimes you have to make the hardest climb to see the most beautiful sunrise. I read that once on an old lady’s decorative pillow. But it is really how I feel today. I’ve climbed a very weird and rocky mountain, and it was a pain in the ass, and my legs are tired, and I’m starving, but the sun is rising over the sea of love and waffles and possibility. So I’m just gonna relax and take a deep breath and enjoy this view for as long as I possibly can.”

The Year of Living Dangerously

The Year of Living Dangerously

I am risk averse. Or, as Jeff Bezos told 60 Minutes, “I don’t go for ‘Carpe Diem’. I go for regret minimization framework.” My conservative strategy has served me well—it has kept me alive in one piece and in good financial standing thus far—but it can also hold me back from trying new things. My body reacts to new experiences like it would an approaching black bear: my sympathetic nervous system kicks into gear, flooding my veins with adrenaline and my stomach with hyperactive butterflies. It’s safe to say that stepping out of my comfort zone doesn’t come easy.

Throughout my life I have taken calculated risks. In 2009, under the guidance of an experienced instructor, I got scuba certified. In 2011, after seriously researching companies, I went skydiving with my sisters for their 18th birthday. And in 2012, after weighing the pros and cons for weeks, I made the career jump that led to where I am today. I have experienced the benefit of taking risks, but it hasn’t made it easier to take them.


In 2017 I resolved to saying “Yes!” more, to step out of my comfort zone and take more risks. I call it my year of living dangerously. I said “Yes!” to leading my department as acting director. I said “Yes!” to training for my first marathon: the 2018 Paris marathon. As an airsoft newbie, I said “Yes!” to Operation Overwatch 4, a two-day MilSim event. Along the way, I found new talents, new friends, and new hobbies that make my life more fulfilled. (At a minimum, they make it more exciting…I mean, I got to shoot an Airsoft Junkiez Bingo from a helicopter for Pete’s sake!)

The more I say “Yes!”, the more natural it becomes. With each passing experience, I become a little less fearful of the unknown and become more confident in my ability to face new challenges. It’s incredible what we are capable of handling, of accomplishing when we choose to take a risk. And, it’s eye opening how much we miss when we stay where we feel safe out of fear.


In 2018, I am going to keep saying “Yes!” and I hope that you will join me. What are some risks you can take this coming year? As you countdown tonight, promise yourself you will take at least one of them, no matter how small. I promise that, no matter the outcome, you will look back and be glad you did.

I wish you nothing but health, happiness and success in the new year! And now, for your quote of the day:

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” —“Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” by Baz Luhrmann. (I listen to it on New Year’s Day every year for its invaluable advice.)

The Unexpected Story of How I Started My Career

The Unexpected Story of How I Started My Career

I decided a few weeks ago that I need less sleep than I am already getting and therefore need to expand this blog into YouTube. You know, so I can spend countless hours filming and editing video into the wee hours of the dawn, generating content in a format that doesn’t come as easily to me as writing does. But your girl never backs away from a challenge and, while the quality of my videos is definitely not up to par with my written content, there is something to be said about sharing my career advice “face-to-face”.

For the very first video on my new YouTube channel, I decided to start from the beginning: the story of how I started my career. I kept it short and to the point so feel free to write in the comments—either below or on the YouTube video—if you have any lingering questions. (A common one for example is how I chose marine affairs and policy as a major in the first place.) I would also appreciate your support in subscribing to my channel and giving your feedback on other stories, advice and topics you would like me to cover via video.

As you watch it, please be gentle. Remember that video creation does not come easily to me and that this is my very first attempt. I am hoping to create at least one video a month to start and promise that they will progressively get better in quality as we journey along together into the depths of YouTube. Happy watching!

What Running Has Taught Me About Work Ethic

What Running Has Taught Me About Work Ethic

My dad introduced me to running. My friend Roy got me back into it after I slipped into a year-long hiatus. I’m grateful to both of them because I’m meant to be a runner, just like other people are meant to be tennis players, or swimmers, or dancers. My body—I have long, lean legs—is certainly built for it. In fact, my body needs it to burn all the excess energy that materializes as anxiety or stress when I don’t run.

When I became a born again runner, I asked Roy to be my accountability buddy because he has a great training philosophy and runs at least three times a week, no matter what. His advice helped me tap into next-level running potential I didn’t know I had. After one year, I was logging an average of 21 miles per week and whittled down to a 110-pound athletic frame with a budding six-pack. I also started winning races, helping my South Beach Triathlon relay team place first in April and my Mack’s Cycle Trilogy relay team place second just last weekend.


Beyond building physical prowess, my return to running has greatly improved my work ethic. It’s not surprising. When I first started applying for jobs, multiple people recommended I include my sports experience because both team and individual sports teach skills needed in the workforce. Alas, as an entry-level candidate, I heavily pitched my seven years of competitive volleyball as proof that I am committed and a team player.

Being a runner has taught me discipline—the discipline of eating well, taking care of my body, getting enough sleep, and not missing a day of training. It has taught me mental toughness, the kind you need to push through mile 12 of a half-marathon or hour 13 of a long work day when all you want to do is quit. Last but not least, it has taught me to be patient with myself. There are days when I kill it in training and days when the training kills me. Running has taught me to celebrate the good days and to dust myself off on the bad days, keeping my goals in sight and working toward them no matter how discouraged I may feel.


My next goal is to run my very first marathon in 2018. I’m actively searching for an epic race—think Paris, Greece, New York, Boston—for which to start training. Any suggestions? And, while we’re on the subject of epic races, next month Roy will be competing in a Boston Qualifier for what will be his fourth time running the Boston Marathon. He’s worked extremely hard these last five months so please send him positive vibes for a successful (and enjoyable) race day.

And now, for your quote of the day and one of Roy’s favorites:

“You train to race, not race to train.” —Bill Bowerman

The Best Career Advice I Have Received From My Dad

The Best Career Advice I Have Received From My Dad

My dad has been giving me career advice for as long as I can remember. When I was an undergrad at the University of Miami, he would drive down from Boca to run with me and spend the entire time telling me how I should study to be an engineer. “It is the highest paying job for hispanic women right out of school,” he would say matter-of-factly.

I don’t always listen to him. I definitely didn’t when it came to majoring in engineering. (I don’t have a facility for math, so the field didn’t seem prudent or enticing.) Instead, I ended up with a triple major in Marine Affairs and Policy, International Studies, and French Language and Literature. I also didn’t listen when he said to go into the private sector, choosing instead to build a career in government that is going on six years.

To my poor dad’s dismay, I ignore most of his recommendations. Everything he says sounds right—his advice to become a private sector engineer certainly worked for my younger sister Lucy, who found success in California building cool stuff—most of it just isn’t right for me. But, amidst his mostly maligned pointers, he shared one nugget of wisdom that has proved super valuable in my professional journey: to build and foster a network.

I don’t know why I decided to listen to and apply this one piece of advice—perhaps because I’ve seen it work successfully as I’ve followed my dad’s career. As he’s gone from a Mexican naval officer, to a telecommunications executive, to a business development and sales executive, he has formed relationships that have been clutch in unexpected circumstances. For example, he recently won a multi-year contract because an assistant he worked with in the ’90s, with whom he has since kept in touch, helped him secure a hard-to-get meeting with a Mexican mogul.

Motivated by his success, I’m trying to learn from my dad’s networking savvy. The man doesn’t let a special occasion pass without sending each of his contacts a congratulatory e-mail. Alas, I too try to reach out to everyone in my network during birthdays and holidays. He is also very good about passing along articles that his contacts (me included) will find useful. It is through maintaining regular, meaningful communication that he continues to strengthen relationships when most of us allow them to fizzle.

While I have never scored an elusive meeting with a powerful Latin American businessman, I have seen the worth of my network in action. It helped me get the interview that led to my current job and it helps me every day when I have to work with people in other organizations to solve problems. Heck, it occasionally even gets me access to free technical advice from consultants. For these reasons, having and maintaining a robust network is one of my most prized assets and the best career advice I have ever received from my dad.

(A huge shout out and a happy father’s day to my dad! Thank you for being patient and caring enough to keep doling out advice when I clearly have a track-record of ignoring it. I wouldn’t be where I am without you and for that I am forever grateful.)

And now, for your quote of the day courtesy of my dad:

“Work hard in silence. Let success make the noise.” —Frank Ocean

I Started This Blog To Pay It Forward

I Started This Blog To Pay It Forward

Hi, I’m Margarita, a 29-year-old environmental professional and writer based in Miami, Florida. In my seven short years in the work force, I have gone from an entry-level environmental scientist to Acting Environment and Sustainability Department Director, from novice blogger (at to published author (of The HUNT Miami), and—much to my private sector devotee dad’s dismay—from a private sector consulting job to a career in public service.

I spend my free time running—I’m a born-again runner with intentions of running my first marathon in 2018—and dancing. I also scuba dive, play beach volleyball, and am head-over-heels in love with skiing. I can’t tell if I naturally enjoy being active or if I absolutely need it to stay sane given the demands of my schedule. For your sake and for mine, I don’t ever stop to find out.

My professional (and personal) successes are the result of a great education. (I spent my formative years at Pine Crest School and earned my Bachelor and Masters degrees from the University of Miami—Go ‘Canes!) Inasmuch, they are the culmination of a solid support system, first-class mentors, and a little luck. I started this blog to pay it forward by sharing helpful advice, experiences, and resources I have collected along my journey. I hope they will help you, as they have done me, in reaching your untapped potential.

To start, I will be posting twice a week: on Wednesdays and on Sundays. Sometimes the posts will come as personal reflections, sometimes as recounted conversations with my mentors, sometimes as lists of articles, books, podcasts, etc. that I can’t live without. Please, please, please send me your feedback and leave comments. This is as much about you learning from me, as it is about us learning from you.

With that, I leave you with the following quote of the day:

“If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you’re not sure you can do it, say yes then learn how to do it later.” —Richard Branson