The paths that individuals travel on their way to a career in the MI industry are numerous and varied. Some start banging away in a garage band, fueled by dreams of future stardom, whereas others, possessing a passion for the entertainment industry and boundless creativity, come to find, in the fertile soil of a well-respected musical products company, the ideal place for their talents to blossom. Laura Rivera, who serves as Director of Strategic Marketing & Branding with the Avedis Zildjian Company, fittingly represents the latter. Although still young, with school-aged children and a supportive spouse with whose help she has been able to realize her goals, Rivera has already had an estimable career that has included time spent with renowned entertainment brands, as part of whose teams she has contributed greatly.
Rivera, a Midwest native and University of Wisconsin alum who, in 1994, graduated from the Harvard Business School, having earned her MBA, has continually sought positions enabling her to marshal her creativity and utilize her talents. Prior to earning her MBA, she seized an opportunity in New York City with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. "I was promoted to Director of Marketing after one year," she recalled. "And, over the course of the next five years, I was a member of a talented team of managers who shaped the trajectory of the company and positioned it for long-term success." Looking back at this stage of her career, Rivera is particularly proud of her involvement in the development and launch of Ailey Camp in New York City, Baltimore and Kansas City.
It was then that Laura Rivera went to Disneyland. Well, Walt Disney World, actually, where she served as a Creative Manager, a position for which Disney recruited her during her second year at Harvard. A member of the original team charged with developing and launching a new resort, Rivera's responsibilities encompassed program development, contract negotiation and producing more than 100 programs and events. Then, having gained operational and talent relations experience with the company, she was invited by the President of Walt Disney Feature Animation to serve as Director of Marketing and Communications. "I executed global branding and marketing strategies for Feature Animation's three studios," she explained, "including the management of all worldwide, corporate branding campaigns for both traditional and digital animation."
Then, making a move to San Francisco, Rivera joined the California Culinary Academy (CCA) as Vice President of Marketing and Sales. "It was experiencing declining revenues, and a team was assembled to turn the company around," she noted. "We developed the CCA's first professional marketing department, re-engineered the call center and sales organization, and enhanced acquisition and conversion rates to double total sales within one year." It was after helping to reinvigorate CCA that Rivera, already having accomplished so much, decided the next phase was to begin: starting a family. She took some time off, doing independent consulting in marketing and branding for two years, before assuming her current position at Zildjian.
Rivera joined the Zildjian team in September 2010. As Director of Strategic Marketing & Branding, her responsibilities comprise the creation and execution of integrated marketing and branding strategies, including the company's online marketing strategy, as well as supervision of the design and development of all domestic and international digital/print advertising, sales collateral, product packaging and POP, plus management of all public relations and company publicity. She extolled the talents of the marketing team with which she works, and noted the company's powerful brand. "If there is a common thread in my career path," Rivera began, "it has been my desire to work for creative companies that are brand leaders." She continued, "I've consistently sought out opportunities to work alongside talented people who share my belief that our chief responsibility as marketers is to serve as ambassadors, unlocking the brand DNA of the company and ensuring that every point of contact…is a positive and consistent experience for customers."
Clearly, Rivera's career has not been hampered by any structural challenges presented by being a woman in business, although, as someone whose 1994 graduating class was more than 70 percent male, she certainly recognizes that, in some ways, women like her represent a departure from the norm; it should be noted, however, that this discrepancy is thankfully beginning to diminish, and Rivera mentioned that this year's incoming MBA class represents the greatest number of female admissions in the history of the school. As outmoded gender roles begin to give way to a more egalitarian approach, we might see our industry populated with a greater proportion of people like Rivera, who herself strikes a delicate balance between family and work…being a mother and being a businesswoman.
Rivera is still relatively new at Zildjian, so, although she has already accomplished a great deal—for that company as well as the others for which she has worked—there is much she still wishes to do in service of building the brand. And one can sense her organic passion for, and enviable knowledge of, her field when she discusses her work. "Brands are not static," she stated. "They need to be current, relevant and dynamic, while still retaining the unique identity and heritage that have contributed to their strength over time. So, too, must the people entrusted with building those brands remain relevant. The marketing professional in today's fast-moving, intensely competitive environment must assume a more expansive role of driving growth and producing results than that of her predecessor a decade earlier."
Rivera's successes have not quashed her humility, and she expressed gratitude to her husband, her parents, the talented individuals with whom she has worked (particularly Joan Lounsbery, Paula Panczenko and Alvin Ailey) and the Harvard Business School professors under whom she studied. The lessons she has learned, in her work life and her personal life, and during her education and career, have informed the woman she has become, enabling her to drive Zildjian to greater heights.
And the bright promise of the future is already shining…or should I say, singing. "Music is an important part of our family life," Rivera declared, before adding, "For the past several years, my daughter's been performing with a children's chorus in Boston."
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