NextGen Collective is spotlighting diversity, equity, and inclusion professional Sara Maldonado. Read on about the Guatemalan American’s work at Warner Bros. Discovery, her personal inspiration, and advice for rising Latino talent.
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Arlington, Virginia, and my mother is Guatemalan. I lived in Guatemala for a few years when I was younger, which was an amazing experience.
What do you do today?
I work at Warner Bros. Discovery on the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) team. I’m currently a manager of global DEI creative and production, where I collaborate with our creative and production professionals to ensure they have the tools they need for our shows reflect our global audience.
Whose career really inspires you?
One of my career inspirations is Issa Rae. She created her own pathway through her YouTube series which led to her hit show Insecure. Her content and brand have a distinct voice and represent a population that doesn’t often see themselves on screen. She also uses her successful platform to further civil rights and create opportunities for those who have been historically excluded.
What are some challenges Latino professionals face early in their careers?
One of the biggest challenges I see for Latino professionals early in their careers is the assumption that if they haven’t seen it, they can’t be it. Through my work with Vibras, WBD’s Latine Business Resource Group, I have seen that early career Latino professionals are often the only ones in the room or think they don’t have any Latino executives to look up to. Because of this, they can become discouraged or feel there’s no room for growth and leave the industry altogether. Navigating a career in entertainment can be challenging, as the industry was not created with our community in mind. However, we’re working hard to shift systems and narratives so that as we have new talent coming in, they are able to see themselves reflected at all levels throughout the company.
I am also part of the Hollywood, Radio, and Television Society Associates Board and the organization has a great fellowship program for people looking to start or advance their career in entertainment. Programs such as this fellowship, WBD pipeline programs, and internal ERG/BRG groups, make a huge difference in cultivating community. If you’re feeling discouraged or unable to see yourself reflected in your workforce, I encourage you to join groups like these to build yourself up and keep working towards your goals and dreams.
When you get a new idea what’s the first thing you do with it?
At WBD, we have a group of guiding principles that we work by and aside from “champion inclusion” (of course!), one of my favorites is “act as one team.” When I get a new idea, the first thing I do is reach out to fellow colleagues that have experience or expertise in that area to bounce the idea off of them.
We have such a wealth of talented people at WBD and what usually ends up happening is the idea I shared becomes so much more refined and impactful through conversation and collaboration. It also helps me be more efficient because I’m able to get varying perspectives and find potentially other parts of the business that may already be doing what I’m thinking about, and we can build off of existing resources to create a more cohesive program or project.
Which causes are you passionate about?
I’m passionate about DEI which isn’t so much a cause but a business imperative. As a co-chair of Vibras, I’m passionate about supporting our members in their career development and growth while also celebrating our culture. This year, we celebrated the release of Blue Beetle and Loteria Loca, two Latine-led projects. We have also provided our members with career coaching and access to executives. Our goal is to continue building the capacity of our members and support their professional journey.
What are some of the benefits of joining an employee resource group/business resource group?
I have been part of Vibras since I started at WBD about five years ago. During this time, so much has changed in the entertainment industry landscape and the BRG has been an incredible resource of support and wisdom to help navigate my career during all these shifts. Being able to lean on each other and learn from one another is an invaluable experience.
It’s also a great way to contribute to your company’s landscape. ERG/BRGs are an important component of DEI work and are often vehicles of change.
What’s one thing we’d never be able to guess from your LinkedIn profile?
I love unscripted TV! I’m excited about “Hot Dish with Franco” on the Food Network. At Vibras, we’re celebrating this new show by cooking some delicious food with the star of the show himself, Franco Noriega. Our board and committees have been hard at work planning this event. The first episode released Sept. 30, during Hispanic Heritage Month season.
What is part of your daily routine that you look forward to every day?
Grabbing my morning cafecito and evening walks with my dog, Emily. Those little self care moments are so important to avoiding burnout, especially when things get so hectic.
What is some advice you can share with rising Latino executives?
Say yes to opportunities. Don’t be afraid to jump in and do it—doing is the best way to learn. Also, I have met many early career folks who worry a lot about what the future holds and their “dream job” or “dream goal,” but I believe that as long as you follow your passions and stay true to your internal vision and mission, the right doors will open up and they are often even better than anything you could have dreamed of.