Juan Alexander Concepción, who immigrated to New York from the Dominican Republic over forty years ago, was raised by his mother in Washington Heights, where he witnessed rampant crime, drug use, and frequent police misconduct. For as long as he could remember, he wanted to help solve the socioeconomic problems that many Black and Brown communities faced.
But, as a young professional, he struggled to figure out the best way he could contribute.
“After my first two degrees from Boston College, I did a quick stint in teaching, wanting to give back in some way. I felt education was one of the highest contributions one can make to communities like ours but after a while, I felt powerless because there was a greater need,” says Concepción, who is currently senior counsel and legal director of global employment at Boston Scientific. “Some people do make bad choices in life but if you take a deeper look, many are also caught up in the same patterned web their fathers, mothers, and grandparents were trapped in. It became clear to me that to make a difference, I had to learn the law.”
Concepción decided to pursue a law degree at Boston College, initially focusing on constitutional law and criminal law and procedure. At first, he thought he’d go on to be “the meanest prosecutor in the world,” helping to fight back against many injustices he’d seen as a kid in the Heights. But even that, he says, would’ve been too narrow of a goal.
“I started to widen my lens and saw that I was still getting too caught up in one corner when the problems were more structural,” he says. “It made me think that I needed to strengthen myself and climb to a position with enough influence and resources to start shifting the way the machine works. I slowly realized I didn’t need to go at problems directly, but I could sail at deliberate speed, not lose steam, and help achieve the results I wanted to see as long as I stuck with my mission.”
After graduating with degrees in business and law from Boston College, Concepción is doing just that. He started his foray into the legal world at Nixon Peabody, where he worked as a business litigator. Countless hours of discovery, questioning witnesses, and appearing in court showed him what advocacy looked like and what it meant to give a voice to others. As one of very few Afro-Latino lawyers in his sphere, he also learned to embrace the powerful things that made him unique while soaking up as much knowledge and wisdom from mentors as he could.
Nixon also exposed him to labor and employment matters, another area of the law that he had considered in law school which turned out to be one that he believes is perfectly in line with his racial and social justice passions.
“I can’t think of anything more important than a person’s life, freedom, and pursuit of happiness, which means to a great extent the opportunity to earn a solid living and to set your family up to enjoy life sustainably,” he explains. “To most, that’s being able to pay for healthy food, to live in a nice house, to go to the doctor when we’re sick. As an employment lawyer, my job has been to help employers create positive work experiences for greater success, so people are able to do achieve these things and to thrive in society.”
After serving as a litigator and employment counselor to employers in highly regulated industries like healthcare, transportation, and telecommunications, Concepción brought his vision and wealth of expertise to Boston Scientific. There, he prides himself on being part of a leadership team that’s dedicated to upholding values of caring; diversity, equity, and inclusion, and social responsibility while advancing science for life.
“I think people feel confident in what I’m doing here because I’ve stayed true to what I believe—people should be treated with respect and dignity as we confront difficult situations,” he explains. “If we stick by that, we can make better decisions. Even if people disagree with certain decisions, they can at least get behind our process. Most workplace conflicts sharpen when people aren’t given the opportunity to understand what’s happening to them and why, and in my role, I’ve put an emphasis on that kind of transparency and that level of care and respect.”
Concepción is also proud to continue to pursue his mission outside of work in many avenues. He’s a founder and current director for the New Commonwealth Fund, which aims to disrupt and reform power structures that have created generational economic and social inequities for Black, Latino, and Indigenous people. He’s a long-serving director of Lawyers for Civil Rights, efforts that won him, among other kudos, the Massachusetts Association of Hispanic Attorney’s Leadership Award for outstanding leadership and excellence in the legal community.
He also aims to give back to the institutions that helped him succeed as a trustee and faculty member at Boston College and a trustee for Cardinal Hayes High School, his alma mater.
In devoting himself to advocacy and social justice, Concepción creates a path for others to do the same.