Noreli Garcia Valentin is a Director of Strategic Initiatives for WarnerMedia. She leads internal communications and change management within the HBO Max Technology team, a vibrant and growing organization. If ever there was a theme for Garcia Valentin’s career, it would be closing the digital divide for communities of color through connectivity and entertainment.
👉 Tell us about your role.
I support the organizational growth strategy for a team that’s delivering on a key element of WarnerMedia’s global business mission. At WarnerMedia, we’re working on some amazing projects that will bring entertainment solutions to customers everywhere and on multiple devices in the global market.
To me, the mission in its purest form is to really bring joy to people through the power of entertainment. It’s also about supporting an environment for engineers to innovate entertainment options for the best possible enjoyment. I get to work with our technology leaders in the direct-to-consumer business to help share that vision and implement new strategies to touch employees, fans, and entertainment lovers everywhere.
👉 Where do you find your inspiration in tech?
When I think of inspiration, I often think in terms of the pre-iPhone days. I used to work at AT&T, and I remember working with the executive team launching this new device that we were branding as an iPhone. It was something new that we felt would change how people interacted with technology. Little did we know, it did more than that, the iPhone infused mobility with connectivity, and changed everything.
I love working on new product launches where we get to change how people experience life through technology. Technology can be a very powerful tool, but in my opinion, the most powerful tool in human history is the art of “storytelling” which has transcended throughout time. In a way, storytelling is its own form of technology, which is why I love working for WarnerMedia. We bring people together to have a human experience by way of tech.
👉What do you bring to your role as a Latina that’s broaden the scope of your position or brought a new perspective to the things you manage?
The simple act of being in the room. Having a seat at the table and leveraging the power of my voice to share data, insights and perspectives that may not be thought of. One example, we recently were preparing a large-scale recruitment event for our internal rollout. At the end of the meeting, we were asked if there were any other questions. I said, “yes…there are no women presenting at this event. We are a leading brand moving culture through stories and supporting equity in the workplace and representation in media, tech and business.” The event wasn’t designed to exclude women, but the fact of being in the room changed the course of the event. We are now including women and ensuring we have diverse representation participation.
👉 What kind of impact have you made at WarnerMedia? And what kind of impact do you want to make with your career?
For WarnerMedia, I think it’s been promoting a great workplace culture for all, opening the doors to underserved talent, increase representation in front and behind the camera, engage Latinx, black, women and indigenous talent; as well as drive business growth through diversity advancement.
With my career, I want to increase representation across media, tech and business. Open doors for underserved talent. Highlight the benefits and contributions of diversity. Make the world a more equitable place for my daughter and son and all the little brown boys and girls who will make up the largest demographic in our country’s future.
👉 How has your cultural heritage shaped you as a leader?
Puerto Rico is a culture rooted in collectivism vs individualism. My ability to lead has been influenced greatly by this. Alone you get there faster, but together we get further. Leading is about people, and when you are culturally predisposed to understand the importance of servant leadership, teamwork and empathy naturally follows suit. As a bi-cultural, bilingual woman, I have a broad perspective of the differences that make us who we are.
👉 Share some of your background of what motivated your career decisions.
Every career decision starts by making education decisions. Education was a top priority in our Puerto Rican household, and was the key to unlocking my mother’s success story, who was the youngest of 13 but the first to go to college, which ultimately landed her a job in Corporate America in the 1980s. With that as my background, I felt I had to live up to my parent’s expectations to move the family’s legacy forward.
I went from an island to University Park in Pennsylvania, where I started my spring college semester at Penn State University. When I arrived, I couldn’t even get out of the airport because of all of the snow. I was asking myself, how did I decide on this, but I knew I had to stick to it because my family was counting on me and they were supporting me. I definitely felt the weight and responsibility to do well.
👉 How did your journey lead down the path you ended up taking?
In college, I found my love for communications, which was going to be my career path. So, I joined the Communication Arts and Sciences School at Penn State, where I ended up interning for a local congressman in the 40th Congressional District.
At that time in my life, I was very much interested in investment, politics and moving the needle on diversity issues. I was very engaged in my college and wanted to continue this path post-graduation. I got my first job in a public affairs agency doing strategic communications and learning about the telecom business. My clients at that time were Comcast and tracfone, which provided wireless services through federal subsidies to the elderly and low-income populations.
It was a very exciting time for me to be part of the advent of broadband connectivity, the digital divide issues and the future pipeline of that investment.
I was eventually moved to AT&T where I was promoted to Vice President of Federal Public Affairs. I was passionate around getting AT&T involved with the Latino community and immersing them in our shared values and commitments. There was a huge digital divide with the Latino community. So, I worked really hard to connect AT&T with Hispanic civil rights leaders and partner organizations like The League of United Latin American Citizens, Unidos US, and the Cuban American National Council. This was an opportunity to really bring resources to the discussions to help people within the Latino community.
Then, I had the opportunity to come to Atlanta to be involved in our emerging enterprises and division to launch AT&T’s first prepaid subsidy or no contract brand. This was exciting because we knew that prepaid was serving a part of the market that was being ignored – immigrants. This was passion work for me, because we were serving single mothers and any and everybody smart enough to go to Marshalls instead of Macy’s. I helped create a brand and scaled services that ultimately served a mix of multicultural consumers that included, black, Latino, millennials and LGBTQ individuals.
After that, I did one final assignment with the Latin American division that included everything from IPO exploration, rebranding, restructuring and getting the company listed on the top great places to work. The pandemic offered me a new opportunity with WarnerMedia that allowed me to spend more time with my family. Through WarnerMedia I get to continue that legacy of expanding something that is positive in the world through connectivity and entertainment.
This industry allows people to connect with stories that produce empathy and feelings of kindness and connection especially during this pandemic. Of all my roles this is my favorite. We recently launched HBO in 39 countries in Latin America with the larger goal of reaching 190 countries globally. I think it’s a beautiful indicator of what’s possible with digital entertainment, which is a great way to think about accessibility and inclusivity on a broader scale.
👉 What advice would you give someone who’s interested in following your footsteps?
Keep going. Resilience, adaptability and courage are key to success. Set up a board of directors for your career – a group of people who can guide you and support you throughout your journey. Find sponsors in addition to mentors. Read, study, travel, connect with people in the industry, volunteer and give back. But most importantly, stay true to yourself, listen to the voice in your head and the feeling in your gut. You know what’s best for you. Integrity is everything. There is only one you, so don’t try to be like anybody else. Unique is key!
👉 How do you have balance in your life and/or professional career?
I am a mom to a 3-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old son. A partner to my husband. A daughter, sister, friend and colleague.
I don’t balance it, I integrate it. No one day looks entirely the same and that’s okay. I embrace change versus bracing for it. This means planning. I use software to keep our family calendars up to date and reflective of our priorities with the work view included – ASANA board. Same software I use at work to manage our programs and objectives and key results.
👉Are there any resources you recommend a person check out to help them be successful in this field (books/podcasts/etc.)?
- LinkedIn: It’s a great resource to connect with content and leaders in the industry.
- Resources: Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, Deadline, Variety,
- Community: Join a non-profit organization, association or networking group to meet people with the same interests and mission to support communities – connection is key
- Book: The 4 agreements