Juan Otero recently began his new role as vice president of Corporate Diversity & Inclusion at Comcast NBCUniversal (No. 7 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list).
Otero's impressive career has included many roles, such as serving as deputy director at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, a lobbyist on Capitol Hill, and working in various positions at Comcast, all of which helped inspire his advocacy for inclusive environments.
“As I think about my professional journey, and the opportunities that have come my way, diversity and inclusion have always been at the heart of it," he said.
“I think a lot of that comes from my parents, who grew up in a world where they were not so welcomed when they came to the United States."
Otero's parents came to New York City from Ponce, Puerto Rico, and he was born and raised in the South Bronx. Otero explained that his father was identified as a special needs student by the public school system, simply because Spanish was his first language. This created obstacles for him throughout his education, and had a strong impact on how Otero was raised.
“That's what they did with Spanish speakers," he said.
As a result, Otero's father did not want his son to speak his native language, because he wanted him to assimilate into American culture. It wasn't until later in life that Otero learned to speak Spanish.
“So, it's a very personal thing for me to see this transformation of the United States — how we now talk about the ties that bind us and the things that make us unique," he said.
“Diversity & Inclusion is that important piece that helps drive the conversation."
'Placing D&I in the DNA of a Corporate Entity'
Otero oversees the strategy and implementation of diversity and inclusion initiatives across Comcast NBCUniversal in five focus areas: governance, workforce, procurement, programming and community impact.
He also works closely with Comcast's Executive Internal Diversity Council, its Workforce Diversity & Inclusion team and the external Comcast NBCUniversal Joint Diversity Advisory Council.
Otero, who has been with the company since 2009, previously served as vice president of federal government affairs responsible for federal legislative advocacy with members of Congress and the Administration. He was also responsible for developing strategies for achieving corporate legislative objectives.
“Having been a lobbyist on Capitol Hill, having worked in various roles at Comcast, it's always been, for me, a fascinating dialogue watching the intersection of public policy and issues around diversity and inclusion, and how they manifest themselves into American life," Otero said.
He will continue to utilize his legislative skillset of “messaging, educating and supporting efforts to make change."
Otero added that he has been “very close to our D&I efforts from the beginning, when we started this journey at Comcast," and he has been fortunate to see the company's growth and evolution to becoming an innovator in the D&I space.
In 2017, Comcast moved up 10 spots on the DiversityInc Top 50 list.
“With the support of our senior leadership, David Cohen [senior executive vice president and chief diversity officer] and Brian Roberts [chairman and CEO], D&I is embedded in our business and culture."
Otero also said the process involves “having strategic engagement, both internally and externally, with national leaders and our joint diversity advisory council."
“It's many, many moving parts that have so many of our business leaders driving it," he added. “But it's certainly a commitment that is here to stay and one that we have to continue to always make progress on."
Mentoring and Sponsorship
Otero admitted that when he was younger, he was “an absolutely dreadful" mentee.
He explained that he initially fought the mentorship process because “I always thought that I didn't need it."
“But once I got involved in the process and went through the process," Otero explained, “There were so many key learnings that I still hold today."
Now, Otero said he seeks the advice of his mentors and sponsors everyday.
“In my Comcast life, I've had amazing friends, leaders…I still do," he said. “They have really helped guide and shape my path."
Otero currently serves on the executive committee of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI), a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization, providing leadership development programs and educational services to students and young emerging Latino leaders.
“I was a product of CHCI," Otero said. “Candidly, I was a poor kid from the South Bronx. I wanted to go to D.C. and I wanted to experience that world. Because companies like Comcast sponsor fellows and internships, people like me get the opportunity to spend a year working on Capitol Hill."
He said being on the committee “is a labor of love."
“CHCI has created so many amazing leaders," he said. “And touched so many kids."
Otero works with the students in Washington, D.C., sponsored by Comcast NBCUniversal.
“I don't believe you just write the check," he said. "I think that you make sure that you connect with these kids and stay in contact with them and help give them the network that they need."
Otero also serves on the boards of Make Room USA and the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute.
In regard to advice for those just starting out in their career, Otero said it's important to figure out what you're passionate about.
“I knew that I loved the law and I wanted a law degree," said Otero, who holds a J.D. from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and a M.P.A. from American University.
“I knew I liked public policy, so I worked toward those things."
He also said to be a continuous learner.
“It's knowing what you're passionate about and educating yourself about it over and over again," Otero said. “Never get stagnant in terms of your brain power."
The advice he offers to those already in the workforce is to know when it's time to reinvent oneself.
“I had a really amazing job in D.C.," Otero explained. “I think I was pretty good at it. I enjoyed the work, but I needed that next challenge."
He said when the D&I opportunity came forth, he asked himself the question, “Am I ready to challenge myself with the next role?'"
If you're considering a new challenge, Otero said to also reflect upon the question, “Am I working in place or am I managing my own career?"
As managing one's career is “something that only you are responsible for, at the end of the day," he said.