Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Find the work you love by María Celeste Arrarás

Read about María Celeste Arrarás’ experience as a member of the Women@NBCU advisory board and as a woman at NBC Universal in our series where we hear from employees across the company.

I remember the day Telemundo announced I would be joining the network. It was the same day the FCC approved NBC Universal’s acquisition of Telemundo. I always look at that as the best day of my career because of what was to come. In the seven years that I’ve been with the company, I’ve had more opportunities than I ever could have imagined — guest-hosting Today, contributing to NBC’s Dateline and NBC Nightly News, even appearing on NBC’s soap opera Passions.

Now I have the opportunity to be a part of a new think tank, Women@NBCU.
Advertisers are trying to tap into the fast-growing Hispanic audience,
especially Hispanic women, who are overwhelmingly responsible for making
their family’s purchasing decisions. But they don’t always know the best way
to go about it. That’s why it’s so important to have Telemundo represented.

Interacting with other women at this company is an empowering experience for
me. I’ve learned that when you love what you’re doing and you see that you
have the support of a company that lets you grow, respects your opinion, and
gives you a place of consideration, you can really thrive. I think that
support has prompted me to give above and beyond what is expected.

Along the way there have been situations I have had to confront, both
personally and professionally. Like going through a divorce and figuring out
what is best for your children. I’ve learned how to be successful in my job
without having to sacrifice my relationship with my children, and how
principles and my word are so important in this business. I also realized
that sometimes as young women (and men), we so often pass up career
opportunities because we follow the wishes of others instead of listening to
our own needs. I learned a lot about that from my own mother, who followed
her own mother’s advice instead of paving her own path. I learned from that
and sacrificed many personal situations for a while so that I was able to
achieve my career.

I’ve been lucky and successful as a woman, as a mother, and as a
professional. I think you have to live your life by a certain set of
principles and they have to be your True North. In order to be successful in
every area of your life, you first have to be successful as a human being.
If you’re successful as a human being, you will feel satisfied at the end
with whatever you have and most likely, it will be everything that you dream

Friday, May 1, 2009

"Follow your mother's advice-dont let love be the sole master of your destiny"

By Maria Celeste Arraras
Yes, it is possible to learn from someone else’s mistakes. My mother is a remarkable woman who speaks three different languages, plays the piano like a concert pianist, has a degree in chemistry and can talk about almost anything. Yet, when it came to matters of the heart, she admits that she sacrificed her own dreams and aspirations for love. Over and over again. One thing she did right was to make sure that I didn't do the same. And I never have. She married my father two months after graduating magna cum laude with a chemistry degree. Although she had been awarded a scholarship to continue her studies in Belgium, she heeded her mother’s advice and followed my father to England, where he too had been awarded a scholarship. After all, back then when a woman got married she was expected to stay home and raise the children.

And that's what she did. As a wife, she was the perfect complement to my father, who eventually became the chancellor of the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez, where my sister and I were born. After classes, she gathered all the professors at our house on campus and they would spend long hours discussing philosophy, literature and the arts.

We had a good life and enjoyed the perks that came with my father's position — a chef, a chauffeur and a live-in nanny. But my parents’ divorce changed all that.
. It was a tough time. My father was running for mayor of San Juan and, not having an income, he was struggling to pay our private school tuition and to send her $500 monthly alimony. My mother had no choice but to look for a job. It was a rude awakening. She had to compete with younger professionals with master’s degrees and doctorates. And after being out of her field for more than a decade, most of what she had learned had become obsolete in the face of technological advances. She was a housewife with no house and no husband.

I saw her go from the spouse of the university chancellor to a woman working entry-level jobs to make ends meet. She struggled unbelievably, both financially and in rediscovering who she was as a person.And in the process, she made sure that we learned by example. She would always tell me, “Brains over beauty, Mari. Studying hard and having a career is the only insurance in life.”

But nothing she taught me with her words has shaped me more than watching the woman I respect most in the world pick her life up in pieces and start anew.

As a result of my mother’s experience, I vowed that I was going to get an education, and I was going to have a career. And I was never going to let my destiny be in the hands of a man. That’s not to say I didn’t want to fall in love, or be married, or have children. I simply wanted to be the owner of my own decisions. I didn’t want to be in a situation where I lost at love and lost at life as a consequence.

My career took me from San Juan to New York, from Los Angeles to Miami. I felt like a gipsy. In five years, I lived in four different cities. And even though I managed to fall deeply in love, I moved every time my job required it. My love was strong, but the fear of ending up like my mother was stronger.I met my second husband after living in Miami for several years. We had many happy times and three beautiful children. But trying to juggle my family and a successful career took all my energy. I was so determined to be the perfect wife, mother and professional that I never saw it coming: He started seeing someone else.The night I found out, I couldn’t close my eyes. Yet, the next morning, anxious and exhausted as I was, I took a flight to New York for a scheduled meeting with the President of NBC. It took everything I had to stay focused during a meeting that was valuable to my career. Again, I wasn't going to let anything interfere with my goals, my independence, not even one of the most painful disappointments of my life.I have learned that it is possible to find love — true, passionate, meaningful love — more than once. But there’s a difference between giving your love to someone and letting yourself get lost in love.

Some people may judge me as calculating or unromantic. But nothing is further from the truth. To give yourself in a relationship, you need to be whole; otherwise you have nothing to offer. And that can only be accomplished by achieving your goals as an individual. Then, and only then, will you be able to choose a partner based on their human qualities and not on your insecurities or financial needs. And when you give your heart, they will know that they earned it for all the right reasons.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Broadcast journalist

Make Your Life Prime Time: How to Have It All Without Losing Your Soul
by María Celeste Arrarás

Dear Readers:

I was fortunate to grow up in a family with a great passion for excellence. Both my mother and father instilled that in me. They believed that every time you reach a goal you have to raise the bar and go on to the next level. I spent my childhood surrounded by the wonderful academic world because my father was the chancellor of the University of Mayagüez. One time I got a C in school and my father sat me down and said, "In this house, you come in with an A or an F. You have to be either the best of the best or the best of the worst. But never mediocre." And that is one of the most valuable lessons I've ever learned.

After I graduated from college in New Orleans, I went back to Puerto Rico, but at the time there was really no opportunity on the island for new graduates, so I took a job as an advertising copywriter. I figured that advertising deals a lot with the TV industry and that I had a better chance to find an opportunity to make the crossover. And sure enough, that's what happened!

Soon after I began working, I went to an Advertising Awards ceremony where I met an impresario who was about to start a 24-hour news station in Puerto Rico--kind of a CaribbeanCNN. He was looking for hungry and driven young people for on-camera jobs. It was the job I had dreamed about and a great place to learn. This man sent us all over the world to report on every major event at the time. I covered civil wars in Latin America, the Olympics, the presidential elections in the U.S.

After a while I was offered a better-paying job at one of the established local stations. Because it was one of the many that didn't open the door before, I declined. I could have brought up the offer to my boss as a bargaining chip to get a raise, but I didn't. I felt a sense of loyalty. My parents always told me to let my principles guide me.

Eventually my boss heard what I had done and rewarded me by giving me the most coveted assignment at the time-- to cover the beginning of glasnost and perestroika in the Soviet Union. I went to the Soviet Union and came back with a one-hour special that won me the Journalist of the Year award. At the awards ceremony, I met the man who would be named news director of the Univision affiliate in New York three months later. The same week he started, he asked me for a demo tape. That's how I entered the Hispanic television arena.

After a couple of months, a new management cleaned out the staff. The new news director brought a new anchor and new reporters because he wanted his own people. Because of my contract, I had the option to stay as a reporter or cash out and leave. I decided to stay because I knew I could learn from this experienced news director. When I informed him of my decision, he said, "You have two choices. You have a bag of lemons and you'll either get sour or make lemonade." I was so eager for him to trust me and accept me that I went all over New York City until I found a card that had a lemon on the front. I wrote on it, "Let's make lemonade," and I bought him a bag of lemons. It did nothing for him. He would always send his reporters on assignment, not me. He took my office away and sat me in front of a Formica desk looking at a wall.

But finally, I got to do little stories and I put my heart and soul into them. I got noticed by the news director of Univision network. He offered me the job of substitute national anchor and head of the L.A. bureau. A year later the network moved headquarters to Miami and they asked me to come along as the national newscast anchor for the weekend edition. I later became coanchor of "Primer Impacto," an infotainment news magazine with a more flexible format that became the national newscast. The show was a big success, but after almost 10 years, I decided it was time to grow in a different direction, and I joined Telemundo network.

It has been seven years since "Al Rojo Vivo con María Celeste" first aired on Telemundo. As the managing editor of the program, I told everyone from day one that we were going to keep raising the bar while sticking to principles and ethics. And we have. Not long ago, when I had the honor of receiving an Emmy for my career achievements, I dedicated the award to my father. In my acceptance speech, I spoke to him directly and said, "This is definitely an A, Dad."

Maria Celeste Arraras