Jul 31, 2014

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Spotlight: Heidi Pellerano, V.P. of Hispanic Marketing at Wasserman Media Group

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Career and Professional Information: Vice President of Hispanic Marketing at Wasserman Media Group.

Degrees You Hold: Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, Duke University; Master of Science in Sports Management, University of Massachussetts – Amherst; Master of Business Administration, Duke University Fuqua School of Business.

Country of Origin or Family Heritage: I was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I moved to the States when I was 15 years old. My mom received the opportunity to attend UNC Chapel Hill to get a PHD in Epidemiology so she could then go back to the University of Puerto Rico and teach that specialty. I was about to enter my junior year of high school and quickly realized that everything I saw in the movies about US high schools was completely true. I clearly remember the jock table, the outsiders, etc. It was quite comical and scary at the same time as I had gone to private Catholic schools all of my life with no more than 50 peope in my class. Thank goodness that I made the basketball team and that Chapel Hill High had a very robust exchange student program. Otherwise
it could have been very interesting.

What city do you live in? What do you love about it? I live in Santa Monica, CA. I think without a doubt the thing I love the most is the weather because it never gets too cold or too hot. The weather is primed for you to spend a lot of time outdoors which is how I grew up in Puerto Rico. However, I still can’t get used to needing a light jacket during 4th of July – seriously.

Professional/Social Achievements: The two I am most proud of are: the Air Force Contractor of the Quarter & Analytic Services Excellence Award during my first job out of college. I was just 21 years old advising people with a ton more experience than me and being recognized for all of the work that I put in to catch up with them and in instances exceed them meant a lot to me and really set the tone for my work ethic. The second is Fuqua Scholar which means I was in the top 10% of my graduating class
at Business School. This one was special because I was the only Hispanic representative and seeing the sense of pride in my friends and my family was truly special.

Who Has Inspired You to Be Your Best?: Without a doubt my mom has been the most inspirational person in my life. She is super woman as far as I am concerned because she juggled a pretty demanding job while raising my brother and I. We had a very happy home and never lacked anything. Then to top all of that at the age of 47 (she might kill me for revealing that little nugget) she decided to go back to school and get a PHD. Watching her push through those challenges – she actually fell our first winter and tore some ligaments and was on crutches for months – was really remarkable and I am so proud of her for sticking with it even though at times it was very (very) hard. My goal has always been to be a small percent of the person she is because even a small percentage will make me remarkable. At the end of the day I really want to make sure my life stands for something so I can say “well, what did you expect of Dr. Rosa Perez daughter?”

25 Million Latinas and Counting! Your thoughts? Having moved to the States in the late 80′s and being one of the few Latinas in North Carolina, I find these numbers just staggering. I remember that my mom and I had to drive an hour to Fayetteville on the weekends just to be able to get beans and plantains.

As these new numbers show, Latinas will play a significant role in shaping the future of this country. I think that is a tremendous responsibility that should not be taken lightly. The one thing that gives me great encouragement is knowing that the Latina spirit is one that values family, compassion and hard work. Those are great attributes that can help build a stronger tomorrow for future generations. I don’t need to look any further than my friends (Kecia, Isela, Ivonne, honorary chica Dhanusha) to see what we are capable of.
I am constantly amazed by their strength, intelligence and grace under pressure. I would never bet against them.

Countries You Have Visited and Your Favorite One: I have been very fortunate to travel to some amazing places: Spain, Germany, Austria, France, Italy, Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico, Dominican Republic, and South Africa. All of them hold a very special place in my heart so picking a favorite is not easy. Instead, I am going to pick the place I want to go back to visit the most which is South Africa. I was only there for a week last year during the World Cup so I did not get to see a ton. However, I can tell you South Africa has the most beautiful sky I have ever seen in my life. And for someone that thought she was going to be the first Latina on the moon when I was a little girl, I was just in awe of a sky blanketed from corner to corner with stars. Plus experiencing nature (the giraffes, lions, elephants) up close and personal makes you appreciate how amazing this earth is and also humbles you about your place in it.

Describe a Perfect Day Off From Work: A perfect day off from work is one were I get to spend time with my family or friends. I don’t really need to be doing much as long as we have the opportunity to sit around and relax and talk (or mainly laugh) and at some point during the day there has to be some good food. Plus if the BlackBerry does not go off that helps a ton.

What Has Been Your Biggest Challenge in Life? I have been very blessed because my challenges have been trivial by comparison to what others have faced. I think what I struggled most with was finding the right professional path for me. I studied electrical engineering at Duke following in my brother’s footsteps. I had the amazing opportunity to start my career as a consultant for the military. It was a great job and I worked with some amazing people. However, something was always missing. I looked for other engineering jobs and none felt right to me so I felt a bit lost (actually a lot lost). I even decided that maybe I should go to Law School. I was always told I was good at arguing, but I could not pull the trigger when it came time to send my check to Georgetown.

I really struggled to find an answer and when I finally landed on sports, to the big surprise of my family, nobody in the industry took me seriously. Everyone I talked to kept telling me I needed experience, but in a catch 22, nobody could tell me how I was supposed to get it. Plus, everybody kept getting hung up on the fact that I was an engineer making great money and why would I want to leave all of that to work a low paying job in sports. I persevered through all of those obstacles and learned a lot about myself in the process. Most importantly, I finally find myslef in a place that feels right for me. The one lesson for others out there is that it is OK if you don’t have your life all figured out by the time you are 18 or 21 or even 30 for that matter. This is your life and only you can live it so follow what is in your heart and in your gut. As long as you are willing to work hard and eliminate the word quitting from your vocabulary you will be fine – actually you will be amazing when you look back and think about it.

What is Your Next Big Dream? I don’t want to sound corny, but I am not sure I have dreamt it yet. For now my big focus professionally is to grow Wasserman’s Hispanic business. I have been entrusted with a great responsibility and have been given extraordinary support to build a very special practice within our company. I am really excited about what the future holds and hope that we can move our industry forward when it comes to using sports to reach the Hispanic consumer regardless of age, gender, country of origin or acculturation level. To all of the marketers out there, yes – you need to increase your budgets targeting this segment and yes – you need to have sponsorships in your marketing mix to create an emotional connection at the cultural level. Personally, my goal is to continue to carve out time to spend with my family and continue traveling the world. The Olympics in London next year is next on my target list.

 

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Angélica Pérez-Litwin

Angélica Pérez-Litwin

Dr. Perez-Litwin is the Founder & CEO of ELLA Leadership Institute, a multi-platform professional development organization designed to advance the careers and leadership of women. She's the creative force behind the LATINAS THINK BIG™ national tour, sponsored and live-streamed by Google.

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