Recap: Society Connect at Nike World HQ
Nike’s Jorge Casimiro and The Alumni Society’s Pedro Guerrero spoke at the organizations’ first event together
by Frannie Sprouls
On October 4, The Alumni Society hosted its first event with new partner Nike Inc. at the athletic wear company’s world headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. Attendees convened in Nike’s Tiger Woods Center for an intimate, one-of-a-kind networking experience.
Society Connect @ Nike featured a fireside chat with two inspiring leaders: Jorge Casimiro, Nike’s vice president of global community impact, president of the Nike Foundation, and Class of 2018 member ; and Pedro A. Guerrero, CEO and cofounder of The Alumni Society. Francisco Estrada, senior talent sourcer at Nike and member of The Alumni Society, led the discussion and encouraged the audience to ask their own questions.
Being Authentic and Finding Your Voice
On the topic of diversity and inclusion, Estrada asked both leaders how Latino leaders and executives can find their voice and represent their diverse community.
Guerrero recalled something that LinkedIn’s Rosanna Durruthy said at the 2017 Leadership Summit in San Francisco: “The power of leading is the power of being yourself.”
“I heard that, and I thought, that’s brilliant. Because all of us have our identities, and Latinos have half a million different identities,” Guerrero said. “One of the things that I love about the work that I get to do is that I have the opportunity to meet people like Jorge to tell their story.”
Guerrero also mentioned that Latinos should get out of their own way, which can be a struggle as an entrepreneur at times, he said. “There’s no more harm for you to do for yourself than to have that imposter syndrome thinking.”
On the theme of authenticity, Casimiro shared that it wasn’t until he got to college that he really began thinking of how to articulate who he was. He grew up in Cuban neighborhoods or Latino neighborhoods and had never had to put his identity into words. “I am facing my Latino past, if you will, because of the color of my skin, and the lack of an accent sometimes makes it easier to blend in and makes you safer in some environments,” Casimiro said, adding that it was a big part of him being able to break into corporate America.
Someone told Casimiro that when he spoke, it was very personal and authentic. Casimiro credits the Nike environment, where he is able to add in stories about his family. “It just made me think a little bit about how much our environment affects and impacts how we express ourselves.”
Elevating the Next Generation of Leaders
Mentorship and sponsorship is an ongoing and always relevant issue. As Estrada phrased it, how do you send the elevator down to bring others up?
For Guerrero, advisory and peer groups and mentorships have always been tremendously helpful for his personal development and advancement. “I like to think of myself as a mentorship hoarder, because I seek out a lot of opinions and advice,” he said. So his main recommendation was to find a peer group, no matter what career stage.
At Guerrero Media, he continued, they identified that leadership development is important. “We’ve implemented a program where we mentor some of the people on our team,” Guerrero said. “It’s an incredibly impactful and important component of what we do.”
Casimiro weighed in on the importance and effectiveness of sponsorship, which is a more genuine experience for him. He told the audience about his trip to Atlanta to celebrate the retirement of his sponsor, who was the president of the foundation that provided Casimiro with a scholarship from high school to college. “Being there at the celebration made me realize that what I got the most from him wasn’t mentorship, per se, but he provided stability and consistency at a time in my life where I didn’t have that,” he said.
You have to be very intentional about being a sponsor, Casimiro advised. “I’m big on setting a vision, being relentless in pursuit of that vision, and then bringing others along with,” he explained. “If you’re constantly thinking about that, you’re looking at opportunities and saying, that’s an opportunity to include someone else.”
Finding Board Opportunities
The final portion of the discussion centered on audience questions, particularly on how leaders can tap into board directorship opportunities.
Getting on a corporate board, Guerrero said, is really about whom you know. “Luckily, we have a pretty tremendous network in The Alumni Society,” he said, adding that The Alumni Society has partnered with the Latino Corporate Directors Association. “Start coming to our events and meeting people. We’d be happy to put you in touch with the people in our network.”
Estrada chimed in. “For me, this network only works if you actually connect with everyone here in the room,” he said. “And the next time you’re aware of another board opening, think back to the people you met at Nike HQ. That’s really the way, I think, Latinos have to start thinking. Let me first think of the Latinos that I’ve met and consider them first.”
Casimiro told the audience about conversations he’s had with Oregon-based CEOs who weren’t sure how to get more minorities and women on their boards. “What I have found sometimes in those conversations, that institutionalism that exists, it’s sometimes there because it’s been there for generations,” Casimiro said. “I told these two CEOS—one man and one woman, by the way—just say that you’re going to do it. You have the authority to do that. Find a way of doing it.”
He added that Latinos have to take opportunities as much as possible. Casimiro currently sits on two nonprofit boards in Portland, one of which is the OHSU Foundation. As a member of the large board, he is “always making noise” about diversifying. He received a call when he was about to board a plan to DC, and they asked if he would chair their nominating and governance committee.
“I said, ‘Let me think about it.’ I’ve got a busy job, I travel, I’ve got a big team, I’ve got kids,” he said. “After thinking about it, I was like, if not me, then who? So I called back and said yes. It’s got to start somewhere.”
Photos from the event can be found on The Alumni Society Facebook page. The next Alumni Society events with Nike are scheduled for 2019.