Throughout the years, Roger Estrada has been through his share of professional ups and downs—days filled with good news and bad news, and moments when he wasn’t quite sure what waited for him around the corner.
And he has loved every second of it.
“With every change in my career, it was as if the universe was trying to tell me something I needed to hear,” Estrada says. “I always try to remind myself that there is a reason for everything that happens and to remain patient until that new opportunity becomes obvious.”
The youngest of three boys, Estrada grew up in a loving family in San Antonio, Texas. As a child, he loved to watch old movies featuring characters such as King Kong, Abbott & Costello, and Shirley Temple at his grandmother’s house on Saturday afternoons. Eventually, his love for film and television evolved into a love for art and later, the pursuit of it. “When I was a kid, I would watch the show Bewitched, and I always marveled at the star who played the advertising creative director,” says Estrada, who served as editor of his high school paper. “I thought what he did for a living was the coolest thing in the world. I know it’s crazy, but that show had a big influence on me.”
After graduation from Texas State University, Estrada took his first part-time job with Texas Monthly magazine, and his life in the creative industry officially began. “I remember one Saturday coming into the office without telling anyone and organizing the entire library in the magazine’s art department,” Estrada recalls. “I was thrilled just to be able to touch something in their world. They couldn’t believe it. But it showed them all how much I wanted to be a part of the creative world.”
But his pursuit to a creative career wasn’t always easy.
Take for example the trip Estrada made to Los Angeles back in 1991 when he was freelancing as a graphic designer for various advertising and design agencies in the hopes of making a career out of designing movie posters. “I drove halfway across the country to get that job, and then I hated it,” Estrada says with a laugh. “There were so many set rules and requirements, and it all was so inhibiting to the overall creative process.”
Luckily for Estrada, he would eventually end up finding a bevy of opportunities that would allow his creative drive to flourish. Since making the leap into the film and television industry, Estrada has worked everywhere from Sesame Workshop to Nickelodeon. Most recently, he was a senior vice president of the creative department for Sony Consumer Products, where he led the design and development team to support global creative and marketing strategies. “To be able to sustain a career in the entertainment industry for more than twenty years is something I feel very proud of,” Estrada says.
And Estrada has many high watermarks he can point to, even in the past few years. During his time at NBCUniversal, Estrada worked on projects related to Despicable Me, Minions, and The Secret Life of Pets. And in his latest role at Sony, he was involved with producing products for franchises like Hotel Transylvania, Ghostbusters, and Peter Rabbit.
Of course, to achieve this, Estrada says he has had to lean on many. “The creative teams that I have worked with throughout the years have been so beneficial to me,” he says. “It always seemed as if we benefitted by the mutual experience.”
Estrada also grew professionally with the help a handful of mentors, such as recent president of production and development for Nickelodeon, Russell Hicks. When the two initially met, Estrada was freelancing for Disney Publishing, and after knowing each other for just six months, Hicks offered Estrada a full-time position at Hanna-Barbera as a junior art director—his first real position in the entertainment industry.
“He took me under his wing because he must have seen something in me,” Estrada says. “He definitely took a chance on me, and thank God he did. I learned so much from him, and I believe he instilled in me the components to becoming an effective, motivating, and inclusive leader. He also taught me to enjoy the work. In fact, so much so, that many times it has never really felt like work.”
Estrada is now returning the favor to others, especially fellow Hispanic professionals within the creative industry. “I’ve never had any trouble hiring someone who was better at something than me,” he says. “I have always felt that it made the entire team better. I never expect to know everything. Learning new things makes me and everyone on the team change and evolve for the better. There is nothing greater than an influx of new blood.”
This philosophy is something he likes to call inclusive leadership.
“It’s all about being open to all ideas, no matter where you are in your career,” he says. “Some executives seem to have this air about them that they are better than anyone else, but that’s just never been me. I’ve always been that guy with the open door, waiting to invite someone to come in and contribute an idea I might otherwise never have thought of.”
This business philosophy is something that Estrada says could become quite beneficial, especially for the next generation of Hispanic executives. “There are just not many of us in this industry, which can bring a ton of insecurities,” he explains. “When there is no one there that you feel like you can lean on, it can be a scary place. But when you do have someone there that understands where you are coming from, it can make a huge difference.”
Being open to what the future holds is also something that Estrada thrives on, especially as he gets older. “The older you get, the wiser you get,” explains Estrada, who enjoys life now at his home with his husband of ten years and their two energetic dogs. “Granted, I’ve always had a little bit of a struggle living in the moment. I think we all have a tendency to want to regurgitate the past or imagine what the future has in store, and it can impede your potential today. But I continue to work on it daily, and I have learned to enjoy each moment and trust in the journey.”