Orlando Camargo has always been different.
At five years old, he and his family immigrated from Colombia to one of the most diverse communities in America: Queens in New York City. While all his friends attended a regular academic high school near their homes, Camargo attended a trade school, the New York School of Printing in Hells Kitchen. For college, he ventured far north to the Rochester Institute of Technology. And, when it was time for graduate school, he attended the University of Tsukuba in Japan, straying an ocean away from the expected path. After graduating, he was the first non-Japanese person to be hired as a civil service researcher at the National Institute for Science and Technology of Japan.
From those experiences, the founder of Ithaca Street Partners developed his life’s purpose–to empower and enable difference for a common good. At Ithaca—which was named after the street Camargo grew up on in Queens—the communications executive helps clients with branding and message development, thought leadership, crisis management, and influencer development consulting, as well as environmental, social, and governance strategy development.
Since starting the company in 2018, he’s successfully helped executives and entrepreneurs communicate their values, dispel myths about Latinos in America, demonstrate the power of girls in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics , and attract investments in women and minority businesses. Camargo says those successes were made possible by his firm belief in the power of uniqueness. He sees it as the key to transforming the world and bringing people together.
“After realizing that there was something unique that I brought to every situation I was in, I’ve tried to bring that out in others,” he reflects. “When I’m consulting with clients, many of them are trying to make a difference in a society that’s competitive, where they are the ‘other.’ My hope and my work are to show them how their own uniqueness and difference can make them successful and how that can help others.”
Today, he’s using his skills to drive economic empowerment for Latinos, focusing on increasing access to capital, education, and networks. He traces his passions for that back to his immigrant parents. His efforts come as Latinos are projected to make up more than 30 percent of the US labor force by 2060.
“I still have vivid memories of my dad painting cars and my mom working in a factory,” Camargo remembers. “Like many immigrants before them, they worked hard to try to make a living for us. That drives me to uncover opportunities and options for newcomers like us. It’s important for America’s future.”
His work with the L’Attitude Conference, the largest Latino-based national conference, has helped to reach those goals by highlighting the accomplishments and progress of Latinos. Through the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, Camargo and his colleagues have advanced sustainable home ownership while providing economic opportunities through networks. Additionally, he was the president of the Association of Latino Professionals for America’s New York Chapter, which looks to empower and develop young Latinos as leaders in a global economy.
“I take the time to get to know the leaders of these organizations, the members, or employees,” he says. “Then, I help to translate their part and their role in moving the larger agenda forward. I think what I do helps people who have the talent and the potential to get where they want to go.”
Camargo was drawn to his field after developing a deep interest in international relations. He liked learning about the world, politics, and how governments run. Most of all, he enjoyed having a chance to get to know students from all over the world. “I got very close to Japanese students, and I was so interested that I applied for a teaching job in Japan,” he says. “I loved it there so much that I stayed twenty-seven years.”
He went on to get his MBA from a Japanese university and work for the Japanese government for five years at a research lab for economics. He also served as a vice president and director of communications for Japan business related activities of Goldman Sachs and then president and representative of Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide Japan.
Camargo looks back at his career in Japan fondly, even though he was often the only Latino—and sometimes American—in the workplace. The loneliness was overcome by an endless sense of child-like discovery and adventure.
“Very often when you are put in a situation when you’re different from everyone else, it gives you perspective and incentive to work harder and fight harder,” he says. “It makes you want to stress what’s unique about yourself and how that can help others”
Camargo remains excited to continue his consulting work at Ithaca, so much so that he can’t see himself retiring. Among his other goals includes spending time with his two young adult children and participating in ten triathlons by the time he’s sixty-four years old.
If he had to give advice to an up and coming professional, he’d tell them to “be adventurous and don’t say no.” “Always be the first,” he says. “Don’t be afraid to be the only one.”