Once a year, America acknowledges the egregious pay gap in which Latinas earn just 67 cents for every dollar a non-Latinx white man makes. It’s time we interrogate this fact year-round. The L-Suite examines the diverse ways in which Latinx professionals have built their careers, how they’ve navigated notoriously disruptive roadblocks, and how they’re attempting to dismantle these obstacles for the rest of their communities. This month, we're talking with Google alum and founder of Eliment and Company, Eliana Murillo, about overcoming cultural pressures to stay in job, when it's time to leave your full-time gig, and setting yourself up for success.
The numbers are in, and women are ditching corporate America. Lean In and McKinsey & Company reported last year that one in four women are contemplating leaving their corporate careers, many due to the challenges of balancing work and home obligations. This number swells for women of color. According to a survey by Working Mother Media, 50 percent of women of color are considering leaving their companies within the next two years — and for different reasons than their white counterparts. These Black, brown, and Asian women often find that their race, ethnicity, or accent prevent them from building strategic networks and growing at their companies, as per the study. Wanting more control over their careers and lives — and identities that fall under the pressures of code-switching — many of these women are leaving corporate jobs and turning their passion projects into businesses.
This is reality for Eliana Murillo. After 10 years at Google, where she founded and led the multicultural marketing team, the Los Angeles-native departed from the tech giant in the summer of 2020 (yep, amid the global pandemic) to focus on her entrepreneurial endeavors. During the day, she’s now running Eliment and Company, which works as an innovation venture lab, production studio, and consulting firm for small businesses, content creators, tech leaders, and more. Additionally, she’s working on her family’s organic tequila business, Tequila Alquimia, which launched in 2007. During her nights and weekends, the Mexican-American businesswoman gives back to Latinx communities, particularly through Latinos in Tech Giving Circle, a movement of philanthropic leaders she co-founded to invest in Latinx-led tech organizations, and Latinas Who Brunch, a social-first network of Latinas she created for empowerment through virtual events and community partnerships.
While that might sound like a heavy load (and it is), this range brings Murillo joy. “There’s nothing wrong with a stable corporate job, but I’ve always wanted to do things in an unconventional way: paint with more colors and mix them in ways that make sense to me. That’s my magic,” Murillo tells Refinery29.
We spoke with the tech expert and entrepreneur about the complex decision to leave a revered (and stable) corporate job to forge her own path. From overcoming cultural pressures to stay at jobs that no longer serve you to setting yourself up for success before leaving your full-time gig, Murillo shares her story and offers advice for Latinas still struggling with the resolution.
Knowing when it’s time to leave corporate
Two significant factors went into Murillo’s decision to leave her full-time job. The first one was the pandemic’s disastrous impact on small businesses. “I thought about overcoming this challenge, and I wanted to show up and use Eliment and Company as a resource and amplification tool to inspire people and promote businesses as much as we could,” Murillo says. The entrepreneurs that she worked with while she was at Google were the ones who inspired her to take the plunge herself, and having more time to dedicate to her own endeavors would increase her ability to support those same small business owners.
The second factor was the rise of the Black Lives Matter protests, which awoke many to the injustice and systemic oppression that has been rampant globally for centuries. Knowing the power and resources that startups and corporations have, she wanted to use existing tech tools — and others she’s currently developing — to help them make a powerful and lasting impact on racial justice issues. “I want to make sure that corporate leaders have a plan, not just a statement or one-time donation, and that startup leaders create a culture of inclusivity from the jump,” she announces. “While I had been doing this work for some years on my own time, I realized that this needed to be more than a side hustle.” These projects are currently underway, and Murillo says she will be sharing more on this soon.
While these two historic moments were catalysts, they ultimately emphasized Murillo’s “why” for leaving corporate and starting her own business: a deep desire to do more to help her community. That’s why Murillo urges everyone to pause and reflect on their intentions before pivoting careers, which will be beneficial to your well-being. “Moments when I felt tired, what would refuel me was reconnecting with my 'why,'” she shares. “When you know your 'why,' it’s less easy to get caught up in internal politics or self-doubt.”
Setting yourself up for success
Before making the leap, it’s also important to set yourself up to win. While working her full-time job, Murillo spent her nights and weekends dedicated to the passion projects that would later become her business. As a result, she was able to pilot her venture and get feedback. Seeing the interest in her vision and work from potential clients, Murillo was able to gauge the business before quitting and ultimately see that committing herself to this work full-time could be sustainable.
But that’s not the only way she set herself up for success. She also reviewed her finances, a step she says everyone should take before jumping into entrepreneurship. “I had saved a lot of money,” she says. “I knew how long I could go as a bootstrapping founder to self-fund my business and not make decisions from a place of scarcity. I had conversations with myself, asking, ‘can I make this work while walking away from my financial income and my 401k.” Surveying her finances also made her mindful of how to start her business. For instance, she knew she couldn’t immediately hire full-time employees, so instead she worked with part-time contractors and interns.
It’s also important to consider your worst-case scenario. According to Murillo, thinking of the plight could help you see that this decision is not as frightening as you think. If that least favorable outcome is practical, it might actually give you the push you need. “When I thought about my worse-case scenario, I realized it was just that I’d have to apply for a job again. If the worst-case scenario is where I am now, then it isn’t so bad,” she says. “We sometimes allow these fears to become bigger than they are, but if we think rationally about the worst-case scenario and the best-case scenario, then you realize it’s a pretty good bet, especially if you tested it.”
Overcoming self-doubt and familial pressure
Similar to many Latinx folks or children of immigrants, Murillo didn’t want to disappoint her parents with the career switch. So, when her father expressed sorrow after she told him she was considering leaving her corporate job, it made her rethink her decision. “As someone who values the thoughts of my parents, which is true for many of us, it was hard to walk away after I ‘made it.’ I also had mentors who told me to play it safe,” Murillo says.
Ultimately, Murillo overcame familial pressure and self-doubt by measuring the likelihood of her success, listening to other mentors who told her she was ready, and trusting her gut. “I tested it myself. I had started these projects on the side, and most of it I had done out of love for the work I care about. It wasn’t transactional,” she says. “I had pre-risked this opportunity through these pilots and knew I could do it. I realized I was worth investing in and decided I’m the person who’s going to take the bet on me.”
In less than a year, Murillo says she’s running with full force, and the people around her (including her papi) are supportive. That’s why it’s best to not let other's opinions overpower your own.
Honoring all of your dreams
When Murillo started her career, she tried to put herself in one box. She thought focusing on one area would strengthen her skillset and make her more successful. However, there was one problem: she was miserable. “What makes me happy is multiple projects and ventures and connecting the dots between them all. I see the synergy across all of them, and it helps me do better at each of them,” she says.
She’s not alone. A 2018 report found that 4 in 10 Americans have a "side hustle," and 59 percent of that group consider the money disposable income. Many loathe the monotony of their jobs, and sooner or later, they long to start multiple projects at once. If that sounds like you, Murillo thinks you’re capable, and ultimately should honor all of your dreams — you just have to do it with intention and care. This will not only allow you to invest in the projects wholly but also prevent you from burning out. “A mentor once told me, ‘You can do many things. Just do them all with love.’ I realized giving something you love the real love and care it deserves is critical,” advises Murillo. That’s why the Google alum dedicates a different day of the week to a particular project or venture, ensuring that it has her full attention instead of living in a juggling act:“I know I can do it all, just not all at the same time.”