Pete Rodriguez, Managing Director & Asset Servicing CAO at BNY Mellon has been a part of two Color Magazine’s Men of Color conferences—once as a participant and again as a panelist. Pete recognized the importance of these events and decided to bring the Men of Color (MOC) Leadership Conference to New York City this fall.
What was it about the Men of Color Conference that most intrigued you?
There are two reasons I attended those events. The first one is that I’m a firm believer that you can never have too many tools at your disposal, and I really think that by attending those meetings I came away with new ideas and a new energy to bring back to my job. Secondly, as an individual driving diversity and inclusion (D&I) efforts in my business, I’m always on the lookout for new talent. I didn’t attend those events looking to recruit people, but I always have my mental rolodex with me and when I meet people who impress me, I remember them. When an opportunity comes up at BNY Mellon, I go back and remember the people who made a positive impression to see if they fit our needs.
You’ve been with BNY Mellon for nine years now, but can you look back and imagine what a young Pete Rodriguez would gain attending the MOC event in New York this fall?
Any young person starting out in the business world needs to get their foot in the door. They need to be noticed. Everyone they meet at these events, every successful businessman who attends them, started somewhere. Somebody had to notice them and believe in them enough to let them in the door to learn how the business world really works. That’s the real key to success.
How did you get to where you are today? How were you able to get your foot through the door?
I grew up as a poor kid in the inner city in New York with no idea how to get started in the business world or even if there was a place for me in it. I had no plans for college; after high school my only plan was to get a job. I used to work as a messenger in New York and I did my deliveries on foot so I could save the tokens. The www.colormagazine.com 9 NEW YORK door finally opened for me in 1988 when I got a job working in financial services at a major trust bank. I didn’t start in financial services. I started out as a microfilm clerk. Remember microfilm? I used to sit in front of the microfilm machine looking up information for seven hours and fifteen minutes a day. Not the most exciting job, but I did it and I did it well. Before long, somebody noticed the good work I did and decided to invest in me. They moved me to accounting and they offered to pay for me to go to school at night. That was the start of everything I’ve achieved in business so far.
You do a lot of commuting between New York City and Florida for work and to see your family. What’s it like to do so much traveling?
I’m a very spiritually grounded person, and that really gives me the strength to handle any problems that come my way. It reminds me of what is really important in life, like having a wonderful family who supports me. I know without those things, I’d probably be one of those corporate executives with no work-life balance.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? What else are you passionate about?
Any spare time I have I spend with my family. I don’t make any plans until we’ve all made plans to do things together. I don’t schedule or attend any events on the weekend, and I silence the phone on weekends and vacation—that’s family time. To be honest, it wasn’t always that way. I used to have my phone on all the time. Then my wife showed me some pictures she took of me on vacation when I wasn’t looking and in each of them I have my phone to my ear. She didn’t make a big deal about it; she just showed me the evidence. That’s when I stopped checking emails all throughout weekends and vacations. That’s when I also learned that I may be a CAO at work, but that doesn’t mean much at home.
What was it about Color Magazine’s Men of Color Leadership Conference that made you want to bring it to New York City?
I really believe in what Color Media is doing with their events and could see how important the Men of Color and the Women of Color events have become to the local community. Now I want to help them bring what they do to the world stage in New York. For me, that means bringing the best possible talent to the event. Sure, the venue is nice and there will be good food and drink, but the core of the event will be the speakers we are lining up to be there. We’re just putting the final touches on the agenda, and when people see it, they are going to be very impressed. I know we here at BNY Mellon are excited to be part of it because the people attending the event are just the kind of eager professionals we are looking for. That doesn’t mean it’s a recruiting event, because it’s not by any stretch of the imagination. However, I can assure you that every business leader attending the event is coming with their own mental rolodex and won’t forget who makes an impression on them that day.