The second annual AL DÍA 40 Under Forty

These 40 young professionals are shaping the future of the City of Brotherly Love.


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Philadelphia is a city known for many things. 

Whether it’s the distinction of being the birthplace of America, the first capital of the United States, or home to the nation’s first library, hospital and zoo, there is so much that can be associated with the City of Brotherly Love. 

The most recent U.S. Census data shows that Philadelphia has seen a 5% population increase — a nearly 78,000 resident increase — from a decade ago, including a growing Hispanic community.

As the city celebrates more than 300 years of existence and sets the stage for the next decade of prosperity, AL DÍA is taking the opportunity to showcase the diversity that is currently enriching the city more than ever.

On Aug. 27, that diversity will be on full display at the second annual AL DÍA 40 Under Forty event, which will once again be emceed by Loraine Ballard Morrill, news and community affairs director at iHeartMedia.

When this event was first brought to life in 2020, the goal was to locate the diverse young professionals who are making a positive impact in their respective industries and in our region, but not given the proper and well-deserved recognition.

As a media company, the responsibility is there for AL DÍA to do just that and provide a platform for these individuals through this event. 

An Uptick in Nominees

When the AL DÍA 40 Under Forty event first manifested from an idea into a full-pledged event with direction, vision and substance, we set out a mission to find those diverse young professionals.

Thanks to our nomination form and help from our loyal readers, we were able to do just that — and then some.

Last year, AL DÍA compiled a total of 160 unique individual nominees from across the region. This year, that number increased to 180. 

The diversity in age, background, skills, race, ethnicity, experiences and industries underscored the level of diversity that makes the city what it is today.

The next step is shining a light on that diversity, and diving deeper into the individuals who make that diversity possible.

An Esteemed Judging Panel

After putting together an impressive lineup of judges to help with the selection process for the 40 honorees last year, the goal was to put together an even bigger judging committee this time around.

This year’s judging panel was comprised of: David M. Davis, Managing Director, Consulting Lead for Pennsylvania and Talent & Organization Lead for North America’s Public Sector, Accenture; Nefertiri Sickout, Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer for the City of Philadelphia; Gregory L. DeShields, Executive Director of PHL Diversity at the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau; Ping Cao, Vice President at Robert Half Management Resources, and President of NAAAP Greater Philadelphia; Meghan O’Brien Wright, AVP of Financial Wellness Programs at Lincoln Financial Foundation; Susan Jacobson, President of Jacobson Strategic Communications, and Board Chair of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia; Lorena Plaza, Vice President of Financial Planning and Analysis at Independence Blue Cross; Ashlei Bobo, Vice President of Communications at JPMorgan Chase & Co.; Lisette Martinez, Executive Vice President for Inclusion, Diversity & Community Engagement at Thomas Jefferson University & Jefferson Health; and Raquel M. Arredondo, Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. 

Each judge is diverse in their own right, each with their own unique backgrounds and journeys into the positions they currently occupy. These judges represent an important voice, ensuring that diversity is imperative within the constructs of their industries.

They are all leaders who help drive the diversity, equity and inclusion in their organizations, and also in the city at-large.

For Nefertiti Sickout, she is directly in charge of that very effort for the City of Philadelphia.

For Nefertiti Sickout, she is directly in charge of that very effort for the City of Philadelphia.

In her words, her work is “focused on looking at how local government and institutions intentionally or inadvertently maintain racial disparities due to historical structures or systems that tend to repeat patterns of exclusion.”

The lack of promotion and implementation of diversity, equity and inclusion is deeply rooted in those structures, are often maintained across generations, and takes a concerted and collaborative long-term effort to undo.

The 2021 AL DÍA 40 Under Forty event will serve, in part, to promote and elevate this generation of diverse, up-and-coming young professionals. 

Businesses across the city would be well-served embracing that concept in their hiring practices. Gregory DeShields expressed such. 

He described embracing diversity, equity and inclusion as a “key business fundamental leading to a competitive edge and business success while also building work environments that will welcome and include the best of all employees.”

As it pertains to the look ahead to the future of the Philadelphia workforce, this generation of up-and-coming professionals are key, as they are likely to see both ends of the spectrum — the status quo and the ever changing landscape.

“40 Under Forty leaders will be required to balance a diverse generational workforce ‎embracing traditional work styles and embracing evolving styles and work expectations,” said DeShields. 

When the judges took on the task of selecting the 40 honorees of this year’s event, ensuring that diversity remained a frontward concept was paramount. This was proven given the level of diversity that can be seen by the honorees.

“This event, in addition to celebrating the commitment, work and efforts of the awardees, also creates more community,” said Sickout. “In terms of establishing a network of people who can become more aligned and in a better position to collaborate and intentionally advance diversity, equity and inclusion for the improvement of Philadelphia and our larger society.”

Philadelphia is diverse in so many ways, and it was important to reflect that in the selections. 

“Representation is critical to foster a culture of inclusivity — it gives light and life to people often stuck in the shadows,” said David Davis. “It says, ‘we see you.’”

“Representation is critical to foster a culture of inclusivity — it gives light and life to people often stuck in the shadows,” said David Davis. “It says, ‘we see you.’”

These honorees will not only be seen, but also heard.

 The 10 judges all understood the mission, and took the lead in making the final selection of the 40 honorees. 

A Keynote for the Ages

When you hear the story of keynote speaker Sandra Campos, you hear a story of drive, hard work and determination.

Campos is a first-generation Mexican-American, California-born Texan.

As one of six children born to Mexican parents who arrived in the United States in search of a better life, Campos saw firsthand the value of working hard.

Her father worked a number of jobs, from hotel jobs to milk delivery, until he found the entrepreneurial spirit that so many immigrants share — and he began working at his uncle’s tortilla factory in El Paso, learning all he could about the business.

After a few years, he moved his family to Dallas and started his own tortilla business there. 

“I think that there’s just a spirit of working and building something for yourself that I have seen within this culture that’s so prevalent,” said Campos.

That spirit would soon explain her own career path as a professional in the fashion industry, which has now spanned over two decades, working at a number of brands, such as Juicy Couture, Bebe, and BCBG.

“I had grown up with entrepreneurial parents, so business was something that I always had in me,” Campos noted. “I was always a leader in a leadership position.”

“I had grown up with entrepreneurial parents, so business was something that I always had in me,” Campos noted. “I was always a leader in a leadership position.”

“I wanted to become a CEO, I knew that really early on,” she added. 

In 2018, she became the first woman and Latina CEO at Diane von Furstenburg.

“It was important to me that I became a leader within a fashion retail company that wasn’t just a name on a label,” said Campos, “but actually had a real purpose and meaning.”

Since leaving the role, Campos has since followed her entrepreneurial dream, founding Fashion Launchpad, a premium subscription platform that offers on-demand education for retail and fashion professionals in June 2020. A few months later, she was named CEO of Project Verte. 

Campos credits her career success to three main factors: hard work, persistence and healthy curiosity. 

For the next generation of professionals and industry leaders, Campos noted three key pieces of advice.

“Networking is at the top of the list,” she said. 

“Networking is at the top of the list,” she said. 

The second is being open to thinking outside the box, and the third is understanding that career success is a roller coaster ride. 

“It’s a marathon. It’s not a sprint,” said Campos. “So really defining that path and understanding that there will be really rough days and really great days… and not letting ‘no’ get you down, and stop you from what your goals are, that is going to save you.” 

“It certainly saved me.”

Looking to the Future

As the honorees, AL DÍA staff, and dozens of other guests fill the Barnes Foundation on Aug. 27, one thing will be certain.

The 2021 AL DÍA 40 Under Forty will be a celebration of both the present and future of the City of Brotherly Love. 

The city — and overall country — is just going to become more increasingly diverse, as the most recent Census data entails. 

That reality just makes it more important for individuals and organizations to embrace that diversity, increase equity and inclusion, and watch positive growth take place as a result.

Congratulations to the second class of the AL DIA 40 Under Forty honorees — the new generation of industry leaders in Philadelphia!  


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