April 2010

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.

By PODER Staff



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.

Gretchen Colón, Senior VP of Advertising, Sales and Business Development for Turner Broadcasting System (TBS) Latin America, Age: 38
If you have a television in Latin America, odds are the hand of Gretchen Colón has touched you. She handles all marketing for CNN International, CNN en Español, TNT, TCM, Cartoon Network, HTV, Infinito and Fashion TV. Colón speaks English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French fluently. That comes in handy when she is directing her staff in Miami, Los Angeles, Buenos Aires, Bogotá, Mexico City and Sao Paulo. Based in Atlanta, Colón has spent the last 13 years with Turner and is currently a fellow with the Betsy Magness Leadership Institute which helps elevate women leaders in the cable and telecommunications industry.

Angelo Milli, Venezuelan film score composer, Age: 34
A native of Maracaibo, Venezuela, Angelo Milli is an award-winning film composer who received his degree in film scoring from Berklee College of Music in Boston. Milli started writing original music for feature films in 2004. Since then he has written original scores for 10 feature films. His most recent credits include: Gabrielle Muccino’s Seven Pounds staring Will Smith, Ricardo de Montreuil’s Mancora, Simon Brand’s Paraiso Travel. In 2009 Milli wrote the original score to Anton Chekhov’s The Duel, a film based on the play by the same name set in Russia in the beginning of the 1900s.

Jorge Conde, Co-Founder and CEO, Knome, Inc., Age: 32
Unlike his brother Cesar, Jorge Conde has spent his entire professional life in one field: Biotechnology. In that landscape he has achieved an extensive acumen in both technology and business. He has an MBA from Harvard, a joint MS from Harvard and MIT, and has jumped from finance to development then marketing in his career. Conde now heads one of the most innovative companies in the nation. Knome Inc. specializes in decoding the individual genetic sequences of its customers, in the process detecting possible diseases and cures.

Julissa Reynoso, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Central America and the Caribbean in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, Age: 35
Reynoso joined the State Department in November and has helped shape U.S. policy on such important issues as Haiti’s devastating earthquake and the Honduras political stand-off following a military coup. Her specialty is law, having practiced at the international law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett and clerked for the Federal Judge Laura Taylor Swain, both in New York City - Reynoso’s hometown. She has also worked in the accountability office of New York City’s education department, and has earned degrees at the world’s top universities; a bachelors from Harvard, a masters from Cambridge in the U.K., and a doctorate in law from Columbia.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, Music, Lyrics and Original Concept, In the Heights, Age: 30
Miranda has received a litany of awards the last couple of years for writing and performing in the breakthrough musical In the Heights. In 2009 he won a Grammy for best musical show, and in 2008 it was a Tony Award for best musical and best original score. The list goes on and on back to 2007. Miranda wrote the first version of In the Heights while studying at Wesleyan University and now is turning the musical into a movie, where he will once again play the main character Usnavi.

Julian Castro, Mayor, City of San Antonio, TX, Age: 35
Elected in May 2009, Castro is the youngest mayor of the top 50 American cities. He came close in 2005, winning a majority of the mayoral votes but losing in a subsequent run-off. Castro got a quick start at politics when he was elected to the city council at age 26, the youngest ever elected in San Antonio history. He is a Democrat who has had to focus on jobs creation in his first term as the national economy nose-dived. Castro has an identical twin brother, Joaquin, who is a state representative. Both attended Stanford as undergraduates, went on to Harvard Law School, and then started a law firm together.

Maria Teresa Kumar, Executive Director, Voto Latino, Age: 35
Kumar had her own successful political consulting business with clients like Bayer Pharmaceuticals, Accenture and AT&T before she decided to start Voto Latino with actress Rosario Dawson in 2004. She sunk her life savings into the non-profit and moved back into her parents’ home. She knew her idea —use technology to motivate Hispanic youth to participate in American politics —was a good one, but it wasn’t until the 2006 immigration mobilizations that donors came around. With their help, Voto Latino used text messages, social media, volunteers and celebrities to bring down the price of registering a Hispanic voter from $30 to $7, and increasing the number of people registered in one hour from the usual handful of door-to-door sign-ups, to about 50. Now with 11 employees nationwide, Voto Latino is planning to start registration drives in 10 states during this year’s mid-term elections, and is encouraging participation in the Census using Twitter, iTunes and viral videos.

Nínive Calegari, Co-founder and CEO, 826 National, Age: 39
In 2002, Calegari and novelist Dave Eggers founded 826 Valencia, a nonprofit writing center for youth aged six to 18 in San Francisco’s Mission District. Since then, local chapters have opened in Ann Arbor, Boston, Brooklyn, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle and Washington DC. Calegari is a veteran of public schooling, having been a teacher for ten years. Calegari started teaching in Cuernavaca, Mexico, her family’s hometown and now holds masters from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education. She is also the coauthor of Teachers Have it Easy: the Big Sacrifices and Small Salaries of America’s Teachers.

Javier Rodriguez, Senior Vice President, DaVita, Age: 39
Rodriguez is a senior executive at the Fortune 500 health services company DaVita, which provides dialysis services for patients suffering from kidney failure. Rodriguez heads the company’s relationships with insurance companies and oversees 20 percent of its operations, representing $1 billion of the company’s $5.6 billion in sales last year. Before joining DaVita in 1998, Rodriguez, worked in finance at Baxter Healthcare Corporation and also lead operations for CBS Marketing in Mexico City, where he lived throughout his childhood. He is an alumnus of Boston College and Harvard Business School.

Marco Rubio, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate seat from Florida, Age: 38
Rubio has emerged as the front-runner for the U.S. Senate seat in Florida being vacated by Mel Martinez. To get there he has leap-frogged Florida’s Governor Charlie Crist, once considered a shoe-in for the Republican primary. A former lawyer and local government lobbyist, Rubio, 38, has risen fast up the political ranks, becoming one of the highest-ranking Cuban-Americans in the state. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 2000 after serving a City Commissioner in West Miami. He gained a major influence over state legislation when he took over as speaker of the House from November 2006 through November 2008. A father of four, who is considered to be close to former Governor Jeb Bush, Rubio champions a conservative, anti-big government approach to politics.


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2011-09-25 14:26:32

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