We had the good fortune of connecting with Dr. Pablo Otaola and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Dr. Pablo, how does your business help the community?
Since the murder of George Floyd in early 2020, organizations and people in general, have been trying to make sense of how to be successful in diverse settings when in fact, social psychology research shows us that when we put diverse people groups together, it often creates more division. Whether it’s religious difference or political differences or cultural difference, what has been traditionally be modeled to us has been violent approaches when interacting cross-culturally. The name of my business is my attempt at the answer to that violence. I named my business Thriving Culture because I personally have seen it work within an organization. Additionally, when studying diversity, equity, and inclusion in a global context, I have also come to understand the science that is needed to make this all work.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion is a leadership approach to life and work that takes into account the entirety of the human experience and attempts to create meaning of that experience in life and work. In doing so, it attempts to approach life and work with justice in mind so that diversity can be leveraged. In other words, my business helps people create the kind of world they are proud to live in. A world where we attempt to create Shalom: nothing is missing, nothing broken; the way it was always meant to be. I think we can all benefit from that pursuit if done well.

What should our readers know about your business?
I started my business during the pandemic, with only 1 contract in hand. Heck no, it wasn’t easy. It never is, but adding the pandemic and the weight of providing financially for my family was heavy. But here we are succeeding in being sustainable. Providing a place where talented DEI practitioners can THRIVE.

What sets us apart from others is 3-fold. First, we rely on the latest research coming out of academia on diversity, inclusion, and equity. Often times in this work we can rely too much on opinion, so we want to rely on some cutting edge research. Secondly, we bring intentionality to the diverse teams for every project we take on. I cannot do this alone. I am not “diversity” – diversity is a team of different people that all bring their difference so that we can leverage it for innovative solutions. Third, we take a global approach to this work. The US is the most diverse country in the world, with over 400 languages spoken. In under 4 years, we will have the most ethnically diverse 23-year-olds that hit the workforce with the addition of over 70 million immigrant-culture people. That’s super diverse. Our solutions require a global perspective, and we bring that in our lived experience, our research, and our global DEI best practices that have been tried and tested in over 66 countries.

The major lesson that I have learned is that this is about people… not about race… not about gender… not about any other topic that hyper-focuses on 1 topic-area so much that it gets away from the largest umbrella: human nature. We are wired to be exclusive, divisive, and inequitable. It just so happens that we talk about the things that are most visible: skin color, presumed gender, age, etc. But if we take a step back and realize that it is within our nature and brain chemistry to punish difference, then we can focus on a solution that is inclusive of all people. Don’t get me wrong, we have to talk about race, etc. but it’s a subcategory to cross-cultural efficacy.

How did I get here? GRIND. I have degrees, certificates, lived experience, professional experience that culminates into thousands of hours of work and over 20 years of experience. SACRIFICE. People see where we are now, but they don’t know about us working for a nonprofit years ago and being under the federal poverty line. We were strategic, but dang, it was a lot of sacrifice at the expense of self, my marriage, family, and friends. Those relationships have and continue to repair. It was a great sacrifice and risk.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
This is fun, ha! This actually happened. I started a 60-minute drive around the city talking about neighborhoods, their histories, and the social implications of how people have moved around. Then we visited some restaurants. Anything from Maria’s Empanada’s and their Argentine mate, to Super Mega Bien and their delicious food coupled with the owner’s immigrant story and business success, to White Pie and their sourdough pizza. I would also hit up a couple of Whiskey bars like Seven Grand Denver and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot and one of my favorites for old fashioned drink – the Green Russel. Lastly, we would enjoy a cigar on my back porch with a roaring fire.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
This question reminds me of the dedication page within my dissertation. So I’ll reiterate. First and foremost is my life-partner Anna. This work of the last 12 years of inter-racial, inter-gendered, cross-cultural, and multi-lingual marriage did not start with a deep understand of social identity, however, the name of the business and intended impact begins with our marriage and seeking a marriage culture of thriving. Anna has intuitively led us into places that I could not have gone out of my own recognition. I am thankful for her leadership in our partnership.

Going back a few years, I want to point to my parents, Hugo and Liliana Otaola. Through the suffering they experienced as immigrants, they created a ceiling that became my floor. They modeled leadership, starting 5 separate non-profits that still exist today. They modeled love and belonging that I still rely on when doing this work. And, they moved cross-country in their retirement to be with their 3 kids and grandkids. It never ends. I’m so grateful.

The rest is a long list of leaders over the last 12 years that allowed me to poke and question and see what they knew, how they led, and invited me into the collaboration of a new inclusive future. Some names: Dr. Gabriel Veas, Dr. Daniel White Hodge, Dr. David Livermore, Lindsey Patchell, Terry Leprino, Art Williams, Angel Ruiz, Jeremy Baker, Alberto Cuellar.

Website: www.ThrivingCultureLLC.com

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/pablootaola/

Other: https://medium.com/@drpablootaola

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