Imagine a woman who is raising two daughters on her own, an immigrant in Australia, working part-time, studying towards her third degree, and the recipient of three scholarships. This is not superwoman. This is Yahima Ortega. How does she do it all?
Ms Ortega, originally from Cuba, finds her strength from a quote sometimes attributed to Albert Einstein:
“The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has been before.”
Ortega has found herself in Sydney, Australia and is studying for her third degree, the second in the ‘castle on the hill’ at International College of Management, Sydney (ICMS).
Ortega has always been ambitious. With a dancing background, Ortega started her entrepreneurship career in Cuba at only 21 years old, managing a dance company with 15 members. She then moved to Sweden and despite trying to keep her passion for the entertainment business, it did not work out. She decided to develop herself professionally and focus on a career in business.
After completing her undergraduate Bachelor of Business Management (now called a Bachelor of Business) at ICMS, Ortega got the opportunity to progress to a Masters of International Business at ICMS, and she took it. She completed her bachelor degree quicker than expected because she had already finished a Bachelor in Hotel Management in Sweden. She is also lucky enough to have won three scholarships from ICMS. She won the ICMS International Scholarship and has been a twice recipient of the Postgraduate Innovation Scholarship winning the same scholarship for current students again this year. These scholarships gave Ortega the economic opportunity to realise her dream of staying on at ICMS to complete her Master’s.
With a clear love of lifelong learning, Ortega also has a Certificate in Revenue Management. “I happen to be good with numbers, and I am very excited and passionate to work with the economy, revenue and accounting,” she says.
But it’s her children who are her driving force. Ortega’s personal goal is focused on her two beautiful little girls. She’s working hard to raise them to be “strong, kind, positive and responsible individuals in a happy and healthy environment.”
As a single mum, Ortega faces daily challenges managing her studies, her work and her children. “I am not superwoman. Sometimes it is really hard. My biggest challenge at the moment is trying to find someone who is responsible, whom I can rely on to help me take care of my daughters while I am working. Then another big challenge is that I have to wake up my daughters really early and drive over an hour to their primary school and almost two hours back again from school – which is really exhausting for all of us.”
So, how does she do it? Ortega explains that, “As a driven and ambitious person, I just focus on what I want taking into consideration that the result (my master study) will be beneficial for all of us. I hope to show my girls that although life can present a lot of unexpected challenges, it is worth to live it fully, to dream high and go for your dreams. Have resilience and never give up.”
This year, 2020, has been especially challenging. She was working in hospitality when the COVID-19 shutdown was implemented – she lost her shifts. She had to move away from the familiar beachside suburbs and with no regular income for many months she also had to curtail her daughter’s activities. And then there was the anxiety. “I suffered a panic attack because I thought I was sick when COVID started and got anxious thinking that my girls might be alone.”
Emotional support comes from her family in Cuba, in particular from her father who supports her decisions and believes in her. Her mum is also supportive but naturally worries that her daughter takes on too much. But it’s Ms Ortega’s own daughters who push her to keep aiming high. She aims to be the best role model she possibly can. “I want my daughters not only to be proud of their mum, but even become stronger than they are with their own personality and a high level of sense to make decisions in what they want in life.”
She is grateful for the support of her workplace, the Novotel Manly Pacific, “My manager has been very supportive, particularly when we did not have a place to sleep, she helped me to stay at the hotel until we found a unit. I am also so thankful for the support of my friends and Val McMorran from the Student Success Centre at ICMS.”
Ms Ortega’s career goal is to build her career and is aiming at hotel management in the long term. Medium-term she’d like to apply her revenue management skills and worksas a revenue manager in Australia. She believes “There is nothing better than be a strong, determined and independent woman.”
She shares her top tips for other young women:
Ortega finds motivation in phrases that inspire her. Some of her favourites quotes are:
True, she’s not Superwoman but she’s doing it all anyway – and her story is an inspiration to mums and international students everywhere.
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