Hispanic Heritage Month Alumni Spotlight: Orlando Pimentel (ABJ ’17)

Editor’s Note: This is one in a series of spotlights highlighting the work of some of our alumni in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. Please watch for more profiles in the weeks to come.

Orlando Pimentel is a senior solutions associate at Heart+Mind strategies. Previously, he worked at Porter Novelli and Hart Research Associates. On campus, Pimentel was involved with Talking Dog, Leadership UGA and the Catholic Center. He participated in The Creative Circus summer program in 2015.

What classes at Grady College did the most to prepare you for your career?

I remember taking a different variety of classes, I think more on the account side. Every class had its own piece to kind of help me out. This field is so diverse and so varied. At different stages of my career, I’ve had to draw from different points. At one point I was an intern at Porter Novelli for the account team, so I had to think more about the account classes. And then before that I was a creative intern, so I had to think of my creative courses. Then ultimately I made the switch to market research in the bulk of my career, and that’s where I really draw on those market research, media planning and statistical-oriented classes. So they all had their importance at different points.

How has your field of study changed since you were a Grady student?

It’s definitely been a big shift. When I got to apply to Grady, I knew I wanted to study advertising, but I didn’t have a focus. After taking some time to try things out, I realized I wanted to do a Creative Advertising route. That was my big thing in my junior and senior year at Grady. I had ambitions to become a designer and an art director. And then after I graduated, I got a creative internship, but it just didn’t pan out like I thought it would. The actual work wasn’t as fulfilling as I thought. My ambition the entire time was to be able to help organizations, individuals and companies tell their story. I thought creative would be that, but I didn’t really feel that connection. I was really removed from that and I didn’t really feel like it was for me, executing other people’s ideas. So I switched over to account and then market research. Ultimately market research won. It’s the synthesis in communications before ideas, everything is kind of based on the data, the idea. It felt closer to that goal of helping people tell their story, being a visionary. It keeps me active and stimulated to be able to be on a different topic every other month, and I thrive on a changing landscape.

How does your Hispanic and/or Latin heritage influence your work? 

It’s interesting because we know that the Hispanic/Latino population in the United States is one of the biggest minority groups at this point. It’s very present now in media and music and more well known industries. But despite that, my observation is the office space or the workspace sometimes doesn’t always reflect that. There’s just not a common place for us to be in this communications or media space. These are the people in charge of reaching out to these demographics, reaching out to the population, whether they be white, Black, Hispanic, Asian American, but the workspace itself doesn’t always reflect that.

There have been a couple of times where I’ve had to kind of speak up a little bit and give my two cents. Like, I can’t speak on behalf of everybody, but it’s important to kind of give your two cents sometimes when you’re going to reach out to a certain demographic. And also consider how things are being represented, how the story is told. I’ve had to remind myself that I can’t put too much pressure on myself either, but I can just reach out to other Latinos in this space with similar backgrounds and share ideas and kind of support one another.

What advice would you give to young students of Hispanic origin who will soon enter the workforce?

I think it’s important to push yourself into spaces you may not be as familiar with and really try to take advantage of the resources available to you. Do not let your lack of knowledge of industries, of work, disqualify you. It’s challenging, it was for me, there’s not a lot of Latinos or Hispanics in the communications or media space. The route to pursue a career, it’s not quite as firm or clear as our parents. I think when our parents immigrated here, the idea of becoming either a laborer, or a blue collar worker, or the more common white collar career of a doctor or a lawyer, those are very clear and more easy to understand. I know for myself, I had no idea about the space, I can’t talk to my parents about wanting to become a creative advertiser. Don’t let that intimidate or discourage you if it’s something you want to pursue. Just lean into and ask a lot of questions. Even just admitting it, too, that’s what I did a lot. I don’t have a lot of background or connections in the space, but what can you tell me, what would you recommend, and then kind of piecing it together from there.

What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?

It definitely had more to play when I was younger. I grew up in rural Georgia very isolated from a lot of the conversations and opportunities that somebody may get if they’re in an urban environment. Being in D.C. the last couple years I realized that Hispanic and Latino communities have a big network, have a lot of outreach and support from different people and organizations, but that’s not the same in a rural area; everybody’s in the same space, but just because you’re in the same space doesn’t mean you’re going to be on the same playing field. So in my case, rural Georgia, very far from a lot of awareness of how to figure myself out and how to support myself as a Latino. I remember watching a lot of TV, reading a lot of books. For me, Hispanic media was seeing other people with similar backgrounds thrive and succeed here in the United States and really have pride for those who have similar stories and culture, whether it be language we speak, the things we watch, the food we eat. It helped me think there’s more to life than just being here in rural Georgia. 

We watched the news and TV and saw places as grandiose as New York City or Los Angeles, or even Atlanta. And I remember just thinking, those are really faraway places, how could I ever reach them, what does it take to do things to be in that space? Like watching all these successful Latino figures and Hispanic individuals make their way through life and being highlighted just helped me get a sense of confidence in myself, and I think that was very important for me and for a lot of others. When you see somebody in similar shoes in spaces that you want to be it gives you permission and the boost that you need to think, oh, I can do that, if they can.

Passionate convocation speech leads to professional opportunity

One never knows when or where opportunity will knock. For Orlando Pimentel, Grady College’s senior speaker at its April 28 convocation, he certainly didn’t expect opportunity to knock as the result of his convocation speech.

Nor did Pimentel expect that when he met convocation keynote speaker Brad MacAfee backstage, that it would be such a consequential introduction.

However, late that evening, Pimentel received a call from MacAfee who is the CEO of one of the largest global public relations agencies, Porter Novelli. MacAfee was congratulating Pimentel on his speech, but also was offering him a dream internship at Porter Novelli.

Orlando Pimentel and his family after Grady Convocation April 27, 2017.
Orlando Pimentel and his family after Grady Convocation April 27, 2017.

“It was surreal at first, because when Brad introduced himself on the phone, I still couldn’t get over the fact that I had just taken my phone off airplane mode nearly 5 seconds before his call,” Pimentel recalled. “The timing seemed so perfect.”

Earlier that day, Pimentel delivered one of the most emotional and passionate senior speeches in recent years, garnering a standing ovation at the end. Touching on the challenges he overcame to study at Grady College, this first generation Mexican-American implored his fellow graduates to work relentlessly, nurture a supportive network and maintain their confidence. These were all messages that resonated with MacAfee.

MacAfee delivered a powerful message in his keynote address, as well, talking about the Four I’s: Integrity, Imagination, Improvement and Inclusion.

Pimentel had been searching for a job or internship in creative advertising over the past several months, however, due to his heavy course load including a campaigns class and his work with Talking Dog, he had not been able to dedicate the time required to secure employment for the summer.

MacAfee’s offer to Pimentel included an internship opportunity in New York City which would focus more on consumer accounts, or an internship in Washington, D.C. which would focus more on public affairs and social good. Pimentel chose the internship in Washington, D.C.

“When I came to UGA,” Pimentel said, “I knew whatever I studied, I wanted to use it to make a positive impact on society, and the chance to intern in D.C. is the perfect embodiment of where I want to take my life and career.”

It was the convocation speech, not a traditional interview, that led Pimental to the Porter Novelli opportunity. Pimentel admits that he was prompted to apply to be a senior speaker because he not only wanted share his story, but to encourage his fellow graduates to participate, as well.

“Despite attending one of the best colleges in the state and nation, I witnessed how much (other Grady students) didn’t believe in themselves, and it was disheartening, because they were all capable and talented people,” Pimentel explained. “They lacked confidence, something I can relate to very much. I just wanted to go up to them and say ‘you are more capable and stronger than you think.’ I knew in order to inspire them, I had to share my life and the circumstances I came from.”

Pimentel said his family was very proud of his talk, especially his sister who graduated from college two years ago and had a similar journey. He has been surprised by the reaction of his speech by others, though.

“When it came time to give my speech, I hoped it would succeed in at least resonating with some students, but I had no idea that it would impact and move so many people as deeply as it has,” Pimentel said. “It has truly been an honor, as well as very humbling.”

As he prepares for his internship at Porter Novelli in a few weeks, Pimentel finds strength in the work ethic his parents have instilled in him.

“I lacked confidence and self-esteem, which led me to be discouraged a lot like my friends and peers were, but having matured and gained confidence, I realize I’m not where I am today because of chance or luck,” Pimentel concluded. “I’m here because I made the effort to move forward, every single day, by staying determined, believing in and developing my abilities, being kind to myself and others, and reaching out to others for guidance and support.”

Pimentel, like many of our Grady College graduates, is well on his way.