Compiled by Anna Martinez
Adriana Velasco is using her Mexican background to bring an intersectional lens to Mattel, ensuring that every little girl will one day see themselves in Barbie. Velasco uses her experience to push forward; being a first-generation graduate from Mexico has not slowed her down and will not. She uses her Latinidad as empowerment and allows it to guide her work and the innovations she hopes to bring to Mattel.
Velasco had a similar upbringing to other Mexican kids. She was born in Aguascalientes, and her dad would travel back and forth from the United States to Mexico to provide for their family. However, when Velasco turned nine years old, her parents decided to move to the United States so that Velasco and her siblings could have better opportunities.
Like many Mexican children whose parents were trying to give them bigger opportunities, Velasco faced a lot of stress. “Nine-year-old Adriana knew that she had a big task ahead of her because her family had decided to make the sacrifice, leaving, you know, their entire family behind. And she knew that she wanted to do something big, she didn’t know what. But I think she would be pretty proud today,” Velasco said.
She became the first in her family to graduate college, and she attended UC Riverside. There, she obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Bachelor of Science in business. Velasco worked in many jobs including at a medical clinic and as a consultant before obtaining her job as director of U.S. Marketing at Mattel.
Velasco’s first job after graduating college was at the medical clinic, where she worked with kids who had autism. In 2009, the company closed due to the recession and Velasco decided to go back to school.
Velasco also worked in the entertainment industry, and even launched a Spanish language movie network with Sony Pictures before moving to Mattel, where she works to ensure future generations of kids grow up with Barbie like she did. Velasco believes in working with Mattle because she wants to help inspire the limitless potential in every girl. “I want to help make a positive impact in girls’ lives. I want to inspire them to dream big and partner with nonprofits such as Latinitas to make a tangible impact,” Velasco said.
Being Mexican played an important role in Velasco’s mission at the company. It was important for her to see herself represented in the brand and understand what this means for all young girls. “It’s so incredibly rewarding to see children find a doll that resonates with them or maybe even looks like someone in their life, right? So our goal is for everyone to be able to find a doll in our portfolio that speaks to them,” said Velasco.
Velasco is now in a position that she enjoys and where she is contributing to important work. However, this opportunity did not come easily. Though the job market was intimidating, Velasco found a lot of support along the way.
“I have had great bosses that also were mentors and friends that taught me how to navigate the waters and how to stand my ground and how to present with confidence and how to come across as an empowered Latina,” said Velasco.
It is also hard to maintain motivation in the business world. Velasco found this to be especially true when she had to start at lower-tier jobs, such as consultant. At this job, Velasco was sent to run errands including picking up food. However, the task wasn’t the issue- it was the consideration or lack thereof that she received.
“I was upset because I had worked so hard and I had taken out what felt like a massive loan to pay for my MBA. And at that moment, I felt like I was going nowhere. That was a moment of weakness, but I took that job and I made something bigger of it,” said Velasco.
Velasco stressed that the hard moments are just as important as the easier ones. The challenging moments in her career are what propelled her forward and what pushed her to keep working. Today she is an amazing leader to her team because of these experiences. Her upbringing also helped her become a better leader. Because she comes from a different background than most, Velasco tries to pay attention to this.
“We all have different backgrounds and different stressors and circumstances. So I try my best to understand where people are coming from and always assume positive intent,” says Velasco.
Velasco also sets the example for her team. She understands the importance of having an example to follow. Thus, she always puts her best work forward to inspire her team.
Velasco is not done working hard. She has many other dreams that she hopes to bring to fruition.
“And with that come fears and doubt and hesitation,” she said. But each day she still tries her best.