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Ep. 91 - Time To Come Alive: “Workforce Of The Future” With Laurie Larrea, President Of Workforce Solutions For Greater Dallas

Updated: Jul 9

Not Quite Strangers | Future Workforce

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Time To Come Alive: “Workforce Of The Future” With Laurie Larrea, President Of Workforce Solutions For Greater Dallas

Think back to your very first job. What was the first opportunity that you had to contribute to the workforce? What did you do? What was the environment like? How did it feel? Was it exciting? Was it nerve-wracking? Were there a lot of opportunities? Did it take some time to find the right fit? How has your work journey evolved? Where are you now? How did you get there?


This is a conversation to help us become more conscious and connected, as well as creative. My special guest for this episode will bring just that, and probably even more, I dare say. Those of you who are not subscribed to my YouTube Channel, please make sure you do that so that you get notified any time a new video comes up. If you'd like to get an email, announcing any of the new sessions, please go to Subscribe there and you'll get an email directly in your inbox that will let you know when a new episode is published.


In this episode, my special guest is Laurie Larrea. First of all, Laurie, you probably don't remember this but I met you several years ago when I worked at the Dallas Regional Chamber. I worked for Patti Clapp. At that time, my role was Workforce Development Manager. I got to go to some of the committee meetings with you and at Texas Instruments and the City of Dallas. This is the thing that struck me the most, whenever you and Patti walk in the room.


For those of you who don't know, Laurie and Patti, you're not statuesque. Someone describes you’re statuesque. You packed a punch whenever you sat, not even sat. When you walk into the room, the level of power is like a Wonder Woman moment. There was so much charisma and passion when you spoke and shared your opinion that you did so with Grace but also with a lot of assertiveness and pluck.


I took some notes because that was my first experience working in a Corporate environment for the most part. The people that were sitting around the table had titles that at that time I could only aspire to and probably only heard on TV. I want to say how much that made an impression on me over the years. You and I have been in and out of contact but I'm so grateful that you are still rocking it here in Dallas. I want to know more about why and how you keep that up. You're such an example and a role model. Thank you so much for saying yes to being a part of the show.


Thank you for asking. This is very good. I love seeing you and talking with you again. This is wonderful.


What else should we know about you, Laurie?


I am only 5’1”. Patti is shorter than I am. I’m Texas-born and bred. I grew up down on the coast in Port Arthur and made my way to Dallas on purpose. My first business trip was to Dallas, Texas. I remember turning to my colleague and saying, “I'm going to work here.” She's like, “Why? That was so far into us.” I said, “I don't know but something's calling me.”


It took me another ten years or so to get here but things have worked out very well. By the grace of God, because I know that I'm not that good of a planner, things have gone very well. I'm the Executive Director/President or CEO of Workforce Solutions Greater Dallas. I still love Workforce Solutions. I still love the work and the economic development part of it. I don't know that I would have ever found a job quite as perfect for myself. I'm very glad it happened.


Why was it so perfect for you? Who I see when I think Workforce is you. Part of it is because that's how I was introduced to it. You have such a passion and drive for that particular area of our city's development and growth that it's impressive. What is it about it that made it so perfect?


It took me a while to figure this out. Work makes life happen. I come from a generation where women were suburban housewives. Our generation is the first working generation. Think of all the possibilities when you work, the travel, the people you meet, and the challenges but it's mostly the accomplishments. It's a sense that there is a strong purpose in your life. I'm still a wife and a mom. I didn't forgo any of it. I always say, “Young women, you can have it all. You just can't have it all at one time.”

Work makes life happen.

I love that, “Work makes life happen.” There's so much conversation about the workforce. How did you determine that this was the work that you wanted to do and that it was such a perfect fit that you've stuck with it for many years?


It's a cautionary tale. I was unemployed. It was the ‘70s. I have a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology with an emphasis on Industrial. I was going to revolutionize the oil and gas industry. Just ask me. I did a little audition if you would. It wasn't quite an interview at Texaco where my dad had worked for 39 years. They politely told me where the door was. They had no interest in another female professional if you weren't in the HR department. This was a long time ago.


I went to the unemployment office. I was in my Master's program and quit school because it became a matter of money. You have to make money to stay in the game. In the Unemployment line, a guy behind the desk said, “You have a degree. Would you like a desk here?” I said, “I'm not busy. What would you like me to do?” They interviewed me and hired me as a temporary to work for the State of Texas. My first job was interviewing, without the benefit of a language coach or any kind of language line back then, Vietnamese refugees as part of the resettlement program down in my hometown.


I was doing about 30 people a day without the benefit of English language. It was like, “This is work. This is something that matters to people.” Find jobs so that you can then acquire the skills necessary to speak the language and be a part of society. It was eye-opening. The other thing I did that summer, and I'll never forget, was the summer jobs program. It was something that has died in our culture. I'm determined to make it back before I retire.


I interviewed 14-year-old and 15-year-old children who lived in poverty. Back then, Mom and Dad didn't come to the interview. It was us interviewing for a summer job. Those were heartbreaking stories. I still claim my heart is with my 13, 14, and 15-year-old customers whom everybody determines too young to work but these kids need a chance. They needed mentorship. That's how it all began.


When I finished my temp assignment, the state did not inform me that I wasn't their type but they told me, “You're not marking time like you're supposed to. We have these people down the street and we'd like you to go see them.” It wasn't then a council of governments. We still have those. These were young college grads out of their Master's program who wanted to revolutionize what was happening in terms of finding a job and putting young professionals to work. The ‘70s were tough. It was a bad time for us in terms of job opportunities. They hired me pretty much on the spot. That was a long time ago and I've never lost the passion.


You said a few things I want to go back to. You weren't marking time. What exactly did that mean? What were you revolutionizing dare I say, nudging them, or distracting them?


I think you say why as opposed to okay. Why comes out of my mouth before I can think about it, “You can't do that.” “Why?” “You have to do it this way.” “Why?” When I saw injustice, I identified it. I was in a lot of trouble for a temporary but thinking back, I don't blame them a bit.


They're like, “Just do the job. There are some admin tasks. Take care of those and then go home.” That's cool that they saw that promise and sent you someplace where you could flourish and use your revolutionary ways.


Some of them still take great pride in the fact that I started with them. I'm still in touch with my first manager.


Let's talk about young people because that's something that touches you to support and see them come to life, especially if you want to bring the summer jobs program back. What is it about young people working? What does that do for a young person, you think?


Think back to when you were 12 years old or 13 years old, and everybody said that you're not old enough to work, drive a car, or go with the older kids, and yet you're not a child. You're a young adult. I've noticed that most young adults get that exposure to someone who works, someone who's not their teacher, not their parent. It brings them out of themselves. They are blossoming. I also like to say that they haven't yet adopted an attitude. At 16 and 17 years old, it gets intense.


I'm nodding because maybe my mom took a page out of your book. I'm not sure but there are four of us in my family. I have three brothers and my mother was such an advocate for us to not be home during the summer. We had two weeks where we could sleep all day and eat Pop-Tarts for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. She was fine with it. We play video games a long hours of the night. None of that matters for two weeks though. After two weeks, we need to find something to do outside of the house.


Luckily, my brothers were all Boy Scouts. They've all become Eagle Scouts and stuff. They were always on that track. I didn't care for scouting as much so I dabbled and did a lot of volunteer work. You're right. It shaped and informed so much of who I am, how much I knew, and how much I was able to try out with no risk. We weren't asked to go find paying jobs but find a way to contribute. It sounds to me that that's what you're advocating for. Young people have something to contribute and it's an opportunity to shape them early on. What kind of programs do you see have an impact on someone that young? What kind of things would they do?


First time out, we do career awareness. It’s doing something that exposes young adults to the opportunities before them. Connect education to work. It’s speakers or people who matter in the community and talk to them about their futures. Amplify the hope that's still in their heart. I am convinced that hopeless youth are the largest danger to our world. If they can't see themselves in the future, they don't care about you and yours in the future.

Not Quite Strangers | Future Workforce
Future Workforce: Hopeless youth are the largest danger to our world.

It's hard for kids who don't have that exposure to what jobs can bring and what that circle of friends from a job can bring. Also, move out of where they may be struggling and help their parents and siblings. It's important to create that sense of want, hope, and direction. How am I going to get that? A lot of our work has been when we can work with young adults. They're in school still. We have some great programming we've been working on with Dallas Promise. If you don't know about Dallas Promise, it's phenomenal.


Our community is doing very well with helping kids pay for the first two years of school with no out-of-pocket cost for college. A lot of what they need is direction on how to spend that time in college and those resources. “What am I going to do with my life? How am I going to be productive and build the life I want to have?”


Beyond that, a lot of the kids can work in the Public sector beginning at age fourteen. It’s anything having to do with volunteer work that you would normally do but a subsidy is necessary. They need to equate, “My work matters and my work makes money.” That money is a way of training them on the value of the work. How they are going to use that money when they have it? We do financial literacy. That's a huge part of it. Also, decision-making empowerment and lots of things that don't get covered in school.


These are courses. They're not just work experiences. They're work-study-ish type programs it sounds like.


We've always had an education portion to a work program but the kids can still work a 30-hour week on a job site as long as it's all safe. It’s mostly clerical work and things that you can't violate the child labor laws or any of the safety measures. The situation in the summer of 2020 would have been tragic either way. There were no jobs that would probably encourage young teens to be in the workplace. We can't find many remote jobs for that age group. We're having enough trouble getting them connected for their schoolwork.


I'm looking to 2021. I'm very optimistic. Our mayor of Dallas is very set on having a signature youth program. Our chief of police had one last summer and I believe they did work out some at least coaching with another nonprofit. It's whatever we can work into their lives to make sure these start becoming points of direction when they return to school. Why does that matter?


I love that about giving them hope. It sounds like giving them a future to live in. Back in the ‘70s, it was tough, especially in the workforce world. Talk to us a little bit about what you've seen transpire since you started in this particular type of work. I can imagine you've seen all things. What are the ones that stand out to you that have been the most impactful on you?


Things change and that's okay. I have seen this economy down for the count, up to its peak, and down again. I have hope and heart that this too shall pass. We shall move forward and we will regain. I've seen it too many times to doubt it. I did an interview with a news reporter. He said, “Statistically, maybe the blush of Dallas is gone and people won't be interested.” I said, “Not so fast, sir. Don't ever sell Texas out, much less Dallas.”


People here have an entrepreneurial spirit. There are wildcatters, people who founded Texas. Looking at the paper, Amazon is going to do more jobs in our community. We're going to have some relocations in this community. It's not going to go away. We are going to make it better but it takes all of us trying and that's something that I have seen. Let's not repeat mistakes of the past and buy into this division. We got to pull together.

Not Quite Strangers | Future Workforce
Future Workforce: Let's not repeat the mistakes of the past and let's not buy into this division. We got to pull together.

The mayor in 2020 is my ninth mayor. I have seen every definition of political persuasion you can imagine. I said something that's encouraging here. We're all Dallasites. We all want what's best for our children. They will not separate this community. We will work together and that's the most important. Keeping it local and regional is critical.


I hate when people say, “What is the picture in Dallas?” I say, “Don't ever average too many people. It's not smart.” The stories and neighborhoods are independent. We have to look at all of those differences to tell the whole story because on average, we look pretty good no matter what. That doesn't mean that we don't have things to do and fix. That's my way of getting through each crisis, looking forward and remembering we've been here before. It's different but we've been low before and we'll get back.


Where does that hope and heart come from Laurie? Where do you find that in yourself?


I believe that a lot of it is where you place your brain. If you live in a depressed state or a situation where it's always bad, it's always going to be bad. I understand it's hard, believe me. I grew up in a working-class family. My mom got our jobs for us as soon as we were able to work. She got our Social Security cards and first jobs. It wasn't a struggle to know that work was part of life. We were going to keep doing what we had to do to get where we needed to go. That concerns me.


Back when I went to college, 4 years was 4 years, and you didn't think much of it. In 2020, we measured everything in minutes. “How many minutes will that take?” Our time works against our money and our time works against our lifestyle. Most of us who've been home doing web calls realize there's no more transition time. There's no more trip to that meeting where you might be five minutes late. It's minute by minute by minute.


I see that we are capitalizing on this and using every minute to make something happen. That's our young people. You mentioned video games. It's minute by minute by minute. When they see a four-year trajectory with breaks, the dropouts are explainable. That's why we don't have as many graduating from college or finishing a two-year certificate as we need. It's so important in the marketplace.


What you're saying is the value of the time that's invested in going to school has diminished because we live in a culture that's moving so quickly.


The expectation is that it moves quickly for you. When we try to slow down a nineteen-year-old, we’re fighting a losing battle.


What was it like for your family? If you walk into a meeting with this energy and want to revolutionize and ask why, I can't imagine what the Larrea household was like so tell us.


My dad was a machinist and he took great pride in being an apprentice machinist. He had come through an apprenticeship program straight out of the Army. Back then, you could make enough money to raise three kids and mom didn't work. That's the life we had but I'll tell you, my dad was a character. He had never been given the opportunity for college, his friend had. In his head, college was the thing of the North Star. He took three of us. We're quite different in ages. He said, “You don't leave this house until you have a college diploma.” He was serious so we went to Lamar University. It was 20 miles away. It was affordable but had a good education. Not one of us left our home until we had our college diploma.


You studied Industrial Psychology and Psychology. 


I also have a strong English and Math background. I had a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, which was unusual but it was never about the white mice in the maze. For me, it was about bettering the lives of people who worked for a living. That's where we still are. What's sad to me is why haven't we gained more ground in the years of my career.


What do you mean by that?


When I entered the workplace and began to be a manager, I was under 30 years of age. Men mentored me and I don't mean in a poor way. They gave me tips like, “You're very linear about your thinking. You communicate rather succinctly. You have a great memory. Take this project. Do this project. Let's see.” Within three years, I was running a large department. I got to Houston because a gentleman watched me perform something about union work and he said, “We need you in Houston. Please, come.” I went. Four years later, I came to Dallas. I applied for this job and they told me I was not the person they needed.


Did you apply to be the President of Workforce Solutions?


It was Executive Director at the time. They told me, “You're not what we had planned on.” I tell this story because I want women to understand. “It's not ever. It may just be not now.” I took a consulting job for a year and got to raise my child working from home. That was cool. Within that time, I became a consultant and consulted for this organization for a little while. I took a job there in October and by November, I was the Executive Director.


It's a great story. Patti's a great friend to both of us. When I came to Dallas, I'd spent five years living out of a suitcase working for a nonprofit called Up with People. I was traveling the world. In every role from operations to public relations, recruitment, and going to cities all over the world, I was setting up these events for 125 young people with community media and you name it. I did tons in those five years.


When I moved to Dallas, it was hard to find a job. By the grace of God, I found my first online job-finding experience, the Chamber of Commerce. I remember my mom saying, “Chamber of Commerce. Usually, they're all connected so find out what you can connect with there.” They had that Ministry of Assistant position, which I was like, “I've been to Denmark and Venezuela. I don't think so.”


Patti was phenomenal. I remember her telling me specifically, “Here's what I have. I see you can do more. Give me 8 or 9 months. Someone's going on maternity leave so when this position opens up, it's yours.” It was the most humbling position that I'd had at that time because, like you, I had been in the workforce since I was a young adult. I've been around, I travel the world, and here I am like, “Coffee and copies, what?” I learned so much.


That's when I got to watch you in action and how you showed up in board meetings. I learned how to staple and make appointments with CEOs. It was a learning experience that set me up. To your point, it was a launchpad. The thing I've learned about work is that every position becomes a launchpad if it's used to learn and grow oneself. It sounds like that's your experience and what you advocate for others. What other things are you noticing, especially about women in the workforce compared to when you first got in?


One of the things that concerns me is knowing our value at work. That's a tough one for me because I am as guilty as anyone else of not asserting my negotiating power. It's not defining us. Money doesn't define women but we also need to understand that we're only benefiting our families and the women who come behind us by articulating why you are worth certain paychecks. Men do it rather automatically. Men don't have as much stress about it.


I have interviewed more women who underestimate their worth in the job than I have those who get it. I can only point to 1 or 2 that I've hired who say, “No, ma'am. I'll take that much more to be in this job.” That's how others negotiate. All too often, women go, “Thank you so much for giving me this job.” That's not good. Ask for what you need. I'm going to give you an example. I have a lot of women on my staff only because the nonprofit sector is a good place for women. We're usually family-friendly. In my office, you can bring your children to work, particularly newborns for the first 3 to 6 months. Bring a swing and a pallet. Take care of your child. It's important to the kids to see Mom work.


The other point that I see is women have needs and they think that's not available to them because the company's never done that. Ask for it. You never know. A Senior Accountant who is my CFO has triplets. She's very young. She's very good and accomplished. One of her children needed her and needed surgery. She worked from home for an entire year and in the office three times a month to make sure she turned in the reports. She was always on her phone so we set her up at home. She got better. When she came back, we made her the CFO. She's under 36.


Laurie, in this case, you are the leader so you get to make decisions. You have a background and a passion for supporting people. What would it take for a leader to think the way you think and create a workable space and opportunity for women in this case?


Empathy is critical. Understand that you've got to build the workforce that you want to manage and give people what they need to succeed. That means it's not about you and your management style. It's about finding out what other people need from you because everybody responds differently. It can't be about Laurie's management style. That's not a thing. The thing is what that person needs. Some are self-starters. Some need you to call them every day. That's the role you play.

Not Quite Strangers | Future Workforce
Future Workforce: As leaders, empathy is critical, and understanding you've got to build the workforce that you want to manage.


The other thing that bothers me about work is there are too many given customs. They're not rules but customs. Imagine how far the pandemic has pushed us to work from home. This would have taken another ten years to get as far as it would have. I see so much productivity out of my people and what I hear in the boardroom is everybody else has the same response. They're all saying, “My people are thriving. We're getting work done.”


The next thing that comes up is, ”I bet I could work with fewer people.” You go, “Stop doing that.” I have been blessed all these years to have an amazing board of directors. They are critical for me. If I had people who were sitting there saying, “Don't,” but they say, “Perform, do, and make it work,” then they trust me to do that. I've been very blessed with that.


What have you noticed in the leaders that you work and consult with throughout the city? You're in connection with Fortune 500 corporations in many cases, too. What are you noticing that they're open to or resist as far as adapting to the workforce they want to manage?


What I've noticed is that it was always in everyone's mind but no one shared it. It's this moment where people are going, “You too? We should have said something.” They’re losing these artificial rules and conditions. We were all open to it. It's people my age that concern me. You have to roll with it, be nimble, and be open to change. When I hear people who go, “It's about change disturbing us,” change needs disturbing. Disruption is great but you've got to be open to it.

Disruption is great, but you've got to be open to it.


I laughingly tell people that I'm the best tweeter for my age group. I'm there doing it. I'm going to forgo TikTok, sorry. It's open to change, sharing the change, and encouraging each other to change. That's what's important. Share it. Talk about it. You're going to find out more people with similar minds. The next thing up is maybe a four-day workweek. That's what's out there. You can maximize the days. People have done it for a long time, the 10-hour days or the 9-hour days. Get that synergy going. Get something accomplished and then give people a chance to rest.


What's getting in the way of us or some of these leaders being disruptive? The pandemic has thrown people for a loop and people are managing to stay somehow in some state of normalcy. What else besides these external conditions do you notice is in the way?


Before this, we worried that we would cycle out of control and lose those things that made us the right fit. We would lose the profit margins, the things in entrepreneurial, and the performance like what I have in my shop. We were forced to learn. We found out two months later that we were still okay. In the third month, we found out that we're not just okay but innovating. It's become a new norm.


It has ushered us down this transition so much faster than we would have gone on our own. Let's bring it, get more of this, and find out how well we can work and survive this pandemic because it's important. In unemployment, particularly in the Dallas community, the bulk of females who have lost their jobs were under the age of 35 and predominantly women of color. That cannot stand. We've got to find a way that they either upskill or find any kind of transition to work. That's something we've got to work on as a people.


Everybody's got to have a job. If they don’t have one, they have to have one. Not too many people who are independently wealthy and living on $7.50 to $9 an hour can afford to not have that income. Our next challenge is building the jobs for the people who need them, particularly the future workforce that's going to replace me and the Boomers. We can't shut them out in their twenties and say, “Sorry.” It's time for us to find jobs for them that are career and compensation-oriented. They are not just a job on the way.

Not Quite Strangers | Future Workforce
Future Workforce: Our next challenge is building the jobs for the people who need them, particularly the future workforce that's going to replace me and the Boomers.

Laurie, which organizations, industries, or sectors do you see doing it the right way or the way that you'd like to see everyone do it?


Tech, which is more than an industry. It is tech-ing across all industries. I laughingly tell people that every agency needs a Web Call Producer. Think of how many web calls go awry when you're in the middle of the webcam and you can't get the leadership or the speaker to come into the picture. That's a skillset that people can learn. It's going to give us more skills and conversation about who is needed in the workplace than we've ever had before.


Healthcare is doing enormous things, especially Tech Healthcare but healthcare itself is tactile and in-person. That's the need for child care. If you're a working mom, working two jobs, mom in and outside the home, I'm very fearful of this. Child care is one of the things that we administer as the Workforce board. Centers are closing. Parents are fearful. There's a lot going on in that particular industry of child care.


How many people can't do everything they need to do from work-from-home and school-your-children? We have to find a solution. The solution may be an extended family. I've seen several colleges ask 5,000 volunteers from the college to become tutors to kids in K to 12. That's amazing but it's almost like everybody's got to do one. Every college kid needs to find a kid they can mentor and be there to help the parent continue to make an income. It's a tough time.


Much of your passion and interest goes to working families, predominantly women in this case. What are some of how we could help ourselves? There are a lot of things happening in the organizations that we may be working for. I happen to have my company and my organization is doing okay but for those who work for other organizations, what are some things that we can do to safeguard what we have, or for those that may be displaced, find and connect with something that could be meaningful?


Communication. Talk it. Ask the questions. Check on your family, your friends, and their children. I had two professionals say, “What about my daughter or son? What can I do?” You'd be surprised how the synergy around problem-solving is so critical. There is no stigma to my son having COVID-19 or my daughter losing her job. You've got to reach a point where we are all agreeing this is not normal and not about individuals not reaching their potential. This is the way times are and we've got to help each other. It’s the communication and getting over the stigma. We've always had this culture.


Unemployed people, you and me without a job. They don't speak up. They expect that job to come to them without having to say, “I need a job. Can you help me?” The higher up the ladder, the more likely they will not communicate. That's something we've got to beat down. Communicate. Talk about it at church or online at church. Call people. Visit people. Make people aware of what your skills are and what you can do. I get emails from all over the country from people saying, “I'd like to move to Dallas.” I'm like, “You don't even have to move but you could work in Dallas from wherever you live.” That's another thing. This has opened up the world but also opened up worldwide competition.


The thing that could get in our way as part of the workforce is not sharing with people that we're looking for those opportunities or that people need more money or perhaps childcare. There are so many things that we need each other for. I remember thinking at the very beginning of the pandemic when all these organizations were getting together and doing these beautiful benefits and the most unlikely people created partnerships. There is so much synergy and collaboration happening.


It's almost like it's starting to die down a little bit. What I'm hearing from you is this is an opportunity to amp up the partnership, synergy, and collaboration, not retreat like, “I'm embarrassed. I don't want to tell people I needed a job or I want a promotion.” Laurie, if you were in this situation and you had any of your staff go through something like this or family members, what are the top three things that you think would make a difference in them getting over the stigma?


It’s communication because I noticed, people are like, “I must be the only one who is scared, didn't succeed, or have a game plan. I must be the only one that lost money or can't find suitable childcare.” No, you're not alone.


How do you get over that though? If you're embarrassed to say it and you don't post it, you're always posting happy pictures or your lattes, how do you get over that fear of letting people know, “I need support?”


It is a trusted conversation. It's finding someone who looks a lot like your situation. I'm encouraging professional women with childcare issues to please talk to each other or me. It's that fear that they have somehow failed. Nobody has failed here. This is not personal. This is something that everyone is experiencing, especially the professional women. It breaks my heart to get a phone call or an email that says, “I think I'm going to have to make a choice. I'm going to either be a good mom or keep my career because, with the way things are, I can't do both.”


I'm begging them, “Please, don't step aside. We've worked too hard to get you here and you've worked hard.” Do you have extended family? Do you have some college kids down the street? Find those remedies that used to be community and still could be. Don't always look for a solution that you can pay for. Throwing money at the problem does not seem to work during a pandemic.


I don't have kids so I do not have to think that way. Something has shifted. There are more women in the workforce. You mentioned the idea of having a community. When we lived in another country, because we were from Panama originally, my mom said that when she first went back to work, it was about finding a neighbor who also had a child who was young enough who could also watch my brother and me. She found that having a circle in the neighborhood made all the difference. Also, finding the man next door who drove a little bus to the bus station that she could get on every morning and things like that. Where did that sense of community go?


Strangely, we started paying for things. Childcare when I was growing up was my grandmother and my aunt next door. It was the woman across the street because her daughter was my age. We cultivated into our industry around childcare. Sadly, I hope it's not fear of your neighbors, not fear of the unknown. That could be a part of it. We all live very comfortably alone in our homes. We're okay at the workplace. Isn't that strange? We all love that socialization. A lot of people are walking outside their doors meeting their neighbors for the first time or at least saying hello. We laughingly used to say that one day, we had to drop our son off at luggage at Love Field to make the handoff.


Between the two of you, not with some random stranger. I want to make sure that is clear.


We treasured that only child but the way we got through it was that neighbor. Strangely, the boys grew up together. When they were ten, they said, “I'm not going to childcare anymore.” She worked right next door to me at Bank of America and we would run into each other. Suddenly, we realized her work hours were different than mine. She could take the boys in the afternoon and I could take the boys in the morning. She’s dropping him off at my house.


We've got to be open to that and extended family. I'm sure you've got a history, too. I grew up in a very large Cajun family. I knew my grandparents. I knew my aunts and uncles. We knew our cousins but people got so separated. I notice in some cultures that there's still that connectivity to family. You build the family you don't have. It's not always blood. You have to ask for help though, be open to yeses and noes, and offer help.


What you're saying is this is an opportunity not only for industries or businesses to innovate but for us as community dwellers to innovate how we relate to other people. Who do we have in our circle? How do we connect with them? What support can we provide and ask for? Innovate community, I love that.


It's always been there but rediscover it because necessity drives things.


Laurie, you're a force to be reckoned with. I can't say that enough but I always like to peel back the layers a little bit more. I have these cards for a game that I like to play called, “We're Not Really Strangers.” They're get-to-know-you questions. I'm going to give you a chance to tell me which card would you like to choose and I will ask the question that's on the card so we can learn even more about you. Tell me when to stop.




The question is, “What question are you trying to answer most in your life, Laurie?”


“What is my next chapter?” I've done this for quite a long time. I have had the honor to do this for a long time. There has to be a time when we all consider moving to the next stage. I don't want to rush the timing. I want to make sure my team is all set. “What do I do next?” To me, it never ends. I do not see a place in my life where I am not working at something.


I've thought of writing, consulting, and a million things. There's going to be a right thing but I've got to study and contemplate it. I've got to work through it. It will come, and I'm excited about it. Change is always a good thing but it's how we greet change or anything. How do you withstand trials like this? How do you withstand grief? It's how we need it and put it through.


Some would say, “It’s time for a rest. Take a break. You and your husband can go and chill out in your backyard. You can't do much travel.” What is it in this next chapter that's drawing you to do something more?


It’s because I can. My mom had been a stay-at-home mom and yet she loved when she worked. She worked at the census and the voting polls. She loved the socializing that came with work. She said, “Why do you work so hard? Why do you do this?” I said, “It’s because I can.” I figured that out a long time ago. If we can, we must. Our job is not done here until we get in touch with everything that's inside us, and there's still more.


What would you like your legacy to be?


I have no idea. Other people have asked me that and I think of legacy. That's made up by the people who survive. That's something that other people are saying, “I've done 1 eulogy or 2. I always study it and wonder what would they have wanted.” It's good to tell people what you want but do we really know? Perhaps their vision of us would be better than ours.


Legacy is made by the people that survive us.

What do you think people think of you?


I am a tough person. I tell people I'm an acquired taste. I'm not for everybody. People who get to know me realize that they're has to be this layer. I'm in charge of a lot and that in-charge behavior tends to transcend. I push, you know that, but I know where I'm going and I only want what's going to benefit everybody. I don't believe in a lose-win conversation ever.


Everything is possible. That's the subtext of all the things that we've talked about so far. I have two last questions for you. One I wanted to touch on is you were talking about the community and the family structure and how one can continue to amplify. You and your husband, thinking about your journey in your career and how you supported each other, what are some things that you could share with other couples who might be navigating something like this and need to have a partner with whom they could negotiate these?


As you notice, my married last name is Larrea. My husband is Ecuadorian. He came from halfway around the world to meet up in Houston, Texas, and married. People look at the two of us and I even had a guy tell me one time, “You quit your job and move for your husband's career.” I said, “What was best for our family?” He said, “I would never have expected that of you.” My career-driven self was not exactly selfish. I wanted what was best for both of us. Couples need to learn that. It has to come from both sides.


There are times when his job gives the family more income. There are times when my job does. Having that ability to share is for our prosperity, comfort, and fulfillment of our destinies. It can't be one or the other. It's got to be both of you working together, especially through this but that's hard to negotiate and it's not always like, “Aren’t we sweet?” There are a lot of battles involved but don't shy away from the battles. The battles make us all better.


Don't shy away from the battles. The battles make us all better.

To your point, you don't believe in win-lose conversations. It sounds like you might have quite a lot of those conversations before you get to one where it's a win-win.


On occasion but there are also limits to how far to push. It's that compassion and empathy, knowing what matters to both of us and understanding that. I have a phrase that I tell most newlyweds, “I hate to tell you but whatever either one of you doesn't like is going to fall out of the marriage after about five years.” Both people in a marriage have to find common ground pretty much. If he's got a friend you don't like, or if you like country music and he doesn't, chances are in five years, neither one of them is in the marriage anymore.


Not the people. You're talking about either the country music or the friend.


That's what happens. Both of you fall to the wayside for the benefit of the union. That's exactly what happens in careers. You have to find a pathway that is not solo. Pathway is shared. Luckily, we married in the industry. He is also in the Workforce. He has been retired for several years. He is my biggest cheerleader. We talk about business and still talk about work. We share the need to make the workplaces better for people.


On that note to wrap up, what is something that you'd like to leave us with that would help make workplaces even better for people or resources that you think would help us move in the direction that you've described?


I want people to realize that it's up to you to make your career. You can talk about the external forces. If you don't believe in yourself enough, nobody else is going to do it, believe me. Find something that gets your juices going. This is not an act. I couldn't do this for many years. Find what turns you on about showing up every day. If it's not there, you're going to keep looking.

Not Quite Strangers | Future Workforce
Future Workforce: It's up to you to make your career.

“Get your juices going.” That should be on a T-shirt. You have such a wonderful, generous spirit. I have another set of cards. This is the last set. The reflection is you have to choose between four cards. Which of these four would you like, 1, 2, 3, or 4?


It’s the second one from your hand.


“What question were you most afraid to answer?”


Our legacy is not for us to define. Hopefully, others get it and know why we did what we did and appreciate it. It should be hard to talk in those terms.


It’s like that Hamilton song, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story.” The story that's told, we have no control over.


That's a cool thing though, if you think about it. One less thing to think about is our responsibility.


One less thing and one more opportunity to make it a good and worthy story for people to tell. Laurie, it's been such a pleasure. I'm so happy that you said yes to being a part of the show. You're the epitome of coming alive as you shared so aptly during this hour that we've been chatting. I know there are some resources on the website for Workforce Solutions. Thank you so much for being who you are, for having the commitment that you do, and for the impact that you have left in the City of Dallas as a result.


You're so kind and easy to talk to. I hope we can talk more soon offline. Anyone out there looking for work or their destiny, please come to We have jobs, counselors, people, and a lot of offices in Dallas. We can hook you up if you live in another part of the state.


Look at that. Maybe even the different parts of the country?


Yes. There are over 500 Workforce centers nationwide. We are all teleworking for the safety of our customers and staff but we're here.


Laurie, it has been such a treat. Thank you so very much. Everyone, I hope you've gotten your dose of wisdom, if nothing else to ruffle your feathers a little bit at least, revolutionizing. That's what she does. Laurie, have a wonderful day. Readers, thank you. Have a wonderful rest of your day.


Important Links

Alexander Graham Bell: “Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun's rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”


What a fascinating time to run a business or to work for one anywhere in the world. “Work makes life happen,” according to Laurie Larrea, the President of Workforce Solutions for Greater Dallas. Throughout her own career path, she paved the way for millions in her community to access jobs. The jobs helped them acquire skills, connect with other people, and ultimately fulfill their purpose.



  •  Work makes life happen

  • Young people have something to contribute

  • Our next challenge is building the jobs for the people who need them—the future workforce


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