Name: Gabriel Rodriguez
Current Title: Director, Apparel (Run)
Industry: Retail/Sporting Goods
Prior Professional Experience: 8 years at Under Armour; 4 years at Brooks Sports
Education: Florida International University
What is the most important professional lesson you’ve learned to date?
Never be afraid to raise your hand and take on a project well beyond your perceived current abilities. There are opportunities all around us, on a daily basis, to take risks, to prove competence, or to simply extend oneself in search of further learning and growth. These opportunities can change your life and your career trajectory, but I have seen many colleagues bypass challenging opportunities out of fear: fear of not being compensated for additional work, fear of being relocated, and fear of not being recognized for extra effort. Have the confidence to raise your hand and declare that you are an option, and then provide the evidence as to why, sometimes, the simplest solution for leadership is the person standing right in front of you.
What has been your biggest professional failure to date and what have you learned from that experience?
Once upon a time, I was tasked with leading a high priority and high visibility project with one of our most important assets. We had spent countless hours and resources developing and designing our product, and refining our story. I was tremendously confident in the direction we were heading, but I had failed to account for one thing: the consumer’s experience in a specific condition. The data and feedback arrived too late (we were in the midst of production), and we had to return to the drawing board. I had simply over-thought the solution. However, I learned that despite failing at the worst possible moment, I was able to regroup and reapply myself with stronger determination than ever before to rectify the situation. In all the chaos, I was able to bring order not just to myself, but to the team and our partners as we successfully launched the product on time and with great results.
What issues have you dealt with being a person of color in corporate America and how have you overcome these challenges?
I have yet to have a Latinx manager in my career in corporate America, but what I have been able to do is approach each day with an inclusive mindset and set the tone in my realm of influence by ensuring that I create an environment of respect and mutual connection. I truly believe that diversity drives innovation – diversity of thought, experience, ideas, and perspectives – which drives our teams to new frontiers in business.
What resources, professional or personal, have you leveraged to ensure your career is progressing?
I work in sport, specifically in running, so my life revolves around providing solutions to runners that make them better, faster runners. To do this, I live, breathe, eat, and sleep running. It has become my lifestyle. And so, my resource is people. Other runners across all generations that I connect with in order to stay engaged, learning, and challenged. These runners, of all abilities, inspire me to never slow down and never take a day off.
Do you have a mentor? If so, how did you select this person or people?
I do not have a mentor, but I have a tight group of trusted professionals who know me, whom I can lean on for advice and guidance while being brutally transparent and open. And when I do reach out, it is more along the lines of probing if I am missing a perspective or not understanding a situation. Most of the time, our conversations lead to reflection and a repositioning of how I would handle a situation. I am blessed to have these people, and their support, in my life.
What advice would you give a young adult who is about to start their first job post college?
Attack it like your life depends on it, learning everything you can about the position and industry. Realize that business is about people and every person you come into contact with may one day influence your career. Focus on delivering value to the company, and recognize that passion is contagious.