20 under 40
PODER presents 20 Hispanics under age 40 who have and will continue to exert influence over the arts, business, education and government.
Alejandro Velez, Co-Founder, BTTR Ventures, Age: 22
BTTR Ventures provides a method for turning tons of coffee ground waste into gourmet mushrooms. Velez and his business partner Nikhil Arora, came up with the idea while attending an ethics class at the University of California Berkeley. They heard how in Colombia and parts of East Africa people suffering from malnutrition were growing mushrooms from coffee ground. They got a $5,000 grant from the university as seed money then found partners to provide coffee grounds and got Whole Foods to sell the oyster mushrooms in their San Francisco stores. They also sell a home growing kit for green-conscience consumers. BTTR (Back To The Roots) is expected to bring $200,000 in revenue this year.
Nina Tortosa, Aero-Dynamics Engineer, General Motors, Age: 36
Tortosa came to the U.S. from Barcelona, Spain at age 8. The daughter of a chemical engineer she grew up in Minneapolis, obtaining a degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Minnesota. Tortosa joined GM ten years ago to work in aerodynamic development. Working with clay models Tortosa and her team try to reduce the drag efficient on concept vehicles in development. “I like research. You can go and play in the wind tunnel and get dirty,” she says. “I like working with the designers and having an impact on design.” She led the aerodynamic development group for the much-vaunted Chevy Volt, GM’s electric car due out in 2011. “That was fun trying to take transportation to the next level,” she says.
Raul Vazquez, President of Wal-Mart West, Age: 38
Vazquez leads one of three new geographic business units (West, South and North) after Wal-Mart U.S. realigned its logistics, real estate and store divisions under one management team. Wal-Mart expects the restructuring to produce greater value for customers and shareholders alike. Before being promoted to his current position, Vazquez - who is a product of El Paso, Texas - was the CEO of Walmart.com. He held that position from 2007 until his promotion in January 2010. During his tenure, Vazquez built the retailing website into a juggernaut. It logged up to 40 million hits a month and reportedly saw sales totaling $1.7 billion.
Alfredo Balsera, Founder and Managing partner, Balsera Communications, Age: 33
‘Freddy’ Balsera is a rising star in south Florida’s Cuban-American community, with strong ties to the Obama White House. In 2008 he was a key figure in the Obama campaign’s strategy for the Hispanic vote, serving as National Co-Chair of the Democratic National Committee’s Hispanic Leadership Council. He helped craft Spanish language television and radio messages, including one featuring Obama which is reputedly the first time a non-Hispanic presidential candidate has delivered an ad entirely in Spanish. Balsera also served on the campaign’s National Finance Committee and was appointed as a Presidential Elector in Florida. He has since been profiled by Politics Magazine as one of the ten most influential Democrats in Florida.
Cesar Conde, President, Univision Networks, Age: 36
Cesar Conde has been on so many previous 20 under 40 lists it almost seems unfair to others. Yet somehow each year Conde finds a way to make new headlines that warrant his inclusion. In 2009 he replaced long-time Univision executive Ray Rodriguez at the helm of Univision, and now he is charged with accelerating the network’s production of original content. To that end, Conde has already put into motion a plan to open Univision’s own studios and this year divided the company into news and entertainment divisions to streamline operations. Conde thinks 2010 will be a pivotal year for Hispanics with three key storylines drawing the most attention: the 2010 census, the 2010 elections and the comeback of both the economy and consumer spending.
Vanessa Cárdenas, Director of Progress 2050, Center for American Progress, Age: 35
Born in Brooklyn and raised in Bolivia until she was 14, Vanessa is now taking on the future of Hispanic America. Progress 2050, the project she runs at the Center for American Progress, is looking to prepare communities of color for the day, sometime around the year 2050, when minorities in the U.S. will become the majority. Her goal is to produce policy initiatives aimed at easing the country towards that momentous change. “It’s a look at how far we’ve come and how far we have to go,” she says. In 2010 Cardenas says she will continue pushing elected officials to pass immigration reform, while also learning to play the guitar.
Nina G. Vaca, Chairman & CEO, Pinnacle Technical Resources, Age: 38
Vaca started her information technology services company, Pinnacle, when she was 25. Today it is the second fastest growing company in a $20 billion dollar market, employing a workforce that includes 3,000 consultants in 45 states. Pinnacle uses its proprietary Progata system that provides IT-solutions in vendor management, professional staffing and payroll services. Clients include Fortune 500 companies in the telecommunications, financial services, health care, technology, and consumer products industries. For her entrepreneurship and innovation, Vaca has won the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Business Woman of the Year Award twice, and received Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award for Technology and Communications. In March Vaca was elected to the board of directors of Kohl Corporation, a giant retailer with $16.3 billion in revenue.
Aurelia Flores, Senior Counsel, SAIC; Founder, PowerfulLatinas.com, Age: 39
In her youth Flores was tested by adversity. She was 15 and had become pregnant with an abusive boyfriend. Yet she made her way to Stanford Law School and became a successful intellectual property counsel at SAIC, the Fortune 300 government contractor that does everything from training dolphins to searching for unexploded munitions. Her life changed again on December 6, 2007 when she got the idea to start Powerfullatinas.com. “We all have adversity to come across in life,” she says. “I want women to say, ‘look, Latinas are doing so many wonderful things and so can I.’” In a little over a month she had founded the for-profit company and done her first interview. Seventy interviews later Flores is expecting to turn a profit this year by selling her interviews of successful Latinas to colleges, users, and cable TV.
Gustavo Adolfo Dudamel Ramirez, Principal Conductor of Gothenburg Symphony and Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Age: 29
Dudamel was born in Venezuela and throughout his youth was involved with the country’s youth music program El Sistema. It was at El Sistema that Dudamel first picked up a violin. From there he became the musical director of Venezuela’s youth orchestra. He traveled the world, earning conductor awards as he went, including the Gustav Mahler Prize, the most prestigious competition for young conductors. In 2006 Dudamel was named the conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony and last September was appointed music director at the Los Angeles Philharmonic. His passion and bombastic, arm-waving style have made him classical music’s most sought after rock star. World acclaim hasn’t diluted his commitment to Venezuela’s musicians, however. He is in his 11th year now with the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra.
Gina A. Rudan, Founder, Genuine Insights, Age: 38
Amaro Rudan is an entrepreneur, motivational speaker and strategist who looks to inspire genius. Amaro Rudan previously was an executive at Avon Products and PR Newswire but quit the corporate world to open her consulting firm. Based in Miami, Amaro Rudan focuses her national consulting business on helping her clients develop leadership, manage personal assets, and create personal brands. As such, she has lectured for Booz Allen Hamilton, BET, Fannie Mae, Merck and the Endeavor Organization.
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