Communications Consultant | Former White House Spokesperson & Senior Media Director
How would you summarize your career path?
For the past two decades, my career was focused on the intersection of strategic communications and international affairs. As a Senior Communications Executive, I advise governments, non-profits, and private sector clients on how to reach key audiences, tell their story, and showcase their impact.
Like many, my career path has not been a straight line. I have pursued challenging and interesting opportunities, leading me to places such as the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City; U.S. Congress; the World Bank; the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID); and the White House.
You are currently an Independent Consultant. Tell us about what you do.
I work with a range of clients on their communications and public affairs. I advise them on messaging, branding, target audiences, and outreach strategies. For example, I recently worked with Bloomberg Philanthropies helping U.S. Mayors across the country think strategically about community problems and brainstorm innovative solutions.
As a former White House Spokesperson and the Senior Director of Hispanic Media under President Obama, what were your responsibilities and following achievements?
At the White House, I counseled President Obama and senior officials on how to best communicate with the Hispanic community and press on critical issues such as foreign policy, national security, immigration, healthcare, and education. I served as a bilingual spokesperson, and frequently interviewed on topics such as the President’s historic visit to Cuba, the Zika outbreak, and immigration reform.
How did you end up working at the White House?
Some days it still feels like a dream. Due to my work at USAID as Head of Communications for Latin America and the Caribbean, the White House approached me to join the communications team and lead Hispanic outreach efforts.
You served as the Senior Communications Advisor at the USAID. What did your role entail?
I led communications efforts for USAID in Latin America and the Caribbean, a region that received significant attention due to issues such as devastating crime and violence in Central America; post-earthquake disaster relief in Haiti; democracy concerns in Venezuela, Cuba, and Ecuador; the increasing child migration to the U.S. border, and so on. We developed communications campaigns, conducted press outreach, and captured social impact. We told the story of how USAID was helping to improve the lives of the most marginalized and vulnerable people in the region.
When did your interest in political communications become clear to you?
In college. I remember wanting to work with governments or companies to impact people and generate awareness of issues. A friend one day said, “Well, isn’t that public relations?” I looked into it and found my calling.
As a woman of color with a prominent career in government and communications, tell us what it has been like breaking into the field and what has helped you succeed.
I am many things; a woman of color is one of them. I am female. I am Argentine. I am Jewish. I am from California and studied on the East Coast, and I have lived abroad several times. All of these aspects have helped define me, drive me, and give me an unbelievable perspective on life and people. Everyone has a story, a background that has helped shape them. No one is one thing. That is why it is imperative for young women to know who they are and who they want to be, and not get tied down by stereotypes.
What insights have you gleaned about career trajectories?
When I interview candidates for a position, I never ask where they see themselves in five years. Even after a 20-year career, it is a hard question for me to answer. Most careers are not linear; there will be zigzags and swerves.
I used to think that those first few jobs out of college were going to determine the rest of my career. That’s false. It is important to take a job that seems interesting and if not, you’ll give your two-week notice and try something different. Every position will teach you something about what you like, the type of colleague and leader you want to be, and what you want to do next.
What did you study at university, and how has it helped you in achieving success in your career?
I studied International Relations at Tufts University and Communications at Johns Hopkins University. My education exposed me to the two fields that have defined my career, but more importantly, I am a student of life and a student of the world. I have lived abroad and traveled extensively, building relationships with people from different backgrounds and ways of thinking. All of these educational opportunities – formal or not – have helped prepare me for a global career.
What advice might you offer to young women interested in pursuing a career in politics and communications?
My advice for young women kicking off their careers is to be a sponge. Go into new experiences soaking up as much as you can, especially from senior people in the room. You might start off as a fly on the wall and that’s okay. Observe, learn, and be excited. Every day is an opportunity to become better, smarter, and build your network. As you progress in your career, that bank of information will help shape and inform you.