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AL DÍA's inaugural 40 Under Forty is five years in the making. Graphic: AL DÍA News.
AL DÍA's inaugural 40 Under Forty is five years in the making. Graphic: AL DÍA News.

The long road to AL DÍA 40 Under Forty

What went into making AL DÍA's biggest virtual event yet? It all culminates on Aug. 20. 

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To do a 40 under 40 event has been something on the mind of AL DÍA CEO Hernán Guaracao for the last four or five years he reckons. 

For him, the event was to highlight those young people in the city that had grown up with AL DÍA. As the company matured over 25 years, so did the generation being honored in its inaugural 40 Under Forty celebration.

“I think it’s important to honor the younger generation we overlooked because they were little when we started,” said Guaracao, “and now they’re going to replace us.”

New year, new energy

However, to recognize 40 people at once is a tall task, and what kept AL DÍA from doing it for so long. But 2020 brought new energy to the idea.

“We had members of the staff that said we could do it, so we did,” said Guaracao.

Those members of the staff were Martin Alfaro and Alliyah Maduro.

It was Alfaro that took the idea from Guaracao’s imagination and started building substance around it. 

On Maduro’s end, she was still an intern as ideas for 40 Under Forty began, but would play the vital role of event coordinator as it materialized.

“We did not invent this idea,” said Alfaro. “But you always ask yourself: ‘What can we offer that’s new and exciting?’”

The new and exciting came from who would be honored at the event. 

In lockstep with AL DÍA’s overall purpose to highlight parts of the Latino community ignored by the mainstream, most of the honorees would be a part of that community, along with others that highlight the true diversity found in Philadelphia’s young professional workforce.

The hard part was finding them.

“This is challenge number one for anyone in the Hispanic community,” said Guaracao. “We don’t know who’s out there because no one has counted us and identified us.”

Nominations started at the end of January. In addition to nominating others, there was also an option to self-nominate.

Alfaro also acknowledged that, despite himself knowing a wealth of diverse and talented professionals in the city, there is a hesitation at being recognized.

“I feel like we’re a little shy on feeling prideful and feeling like you deserve it because we haven’t been included in events such as AL DÍA 40 Under Forty before,” he said.

Initially, it was uncertain if even 40 people would get nominated. But those concerns were soon overwhelmed by the number of nominees that actually came forth.

In total, 160 individual professionals from across the Philadelphia region were nominated to be recognized at AL DÍA’s 40 Under Forty. 

Of those nominated, 65% were women and 68% were Latino.

“Within that 68% it’s also a very diverse group of people. We have people who are first generation, we have people who are from South America, people who were born here, but from different countries,” said Alfaro.

It made the job of judges Raul De La Rosa of NBC/Telemundo, Juan Lopez of Independence Blue Cross, Sheila Hess of the City of Philadelphia, and Tiffany Newmuis of Comcast very difficult, as they had to narrow the field to 40.

“We need to give ourselves a little bit more credit,” said Guaracao. “Indeed, there are a lot of people there on the back of the previous generation that we have recognized as leaders in this region and are growing.”

That growth is beyond what was expected of the previous generation, and Guaracao said he sees more confidence and breadth of expertise from the new crop of leaders.

“What is missing is public recognition that they are around,” he said.

But before they could be recognized, the coronavirus pandemic hopped in the driver’s seat of the world and brought it to a standstill.

The COVID-19 roadblock

For AL DÍA’s 40 Under Forty, it meant a postponement of its originally-planned in-person event in March to August. 

“There was a lot of uncertainty with anything, really. We haven’t lived through a time like this before,” said Alfaro.

He said the key to the team’s perseverance was a penchant to learn and adapt.

No one on the team embodied that more than Maduro. 

Coming out of college at Cabrini, she was handed the reins of the event when it was still up in the air as to whether it would be in-person or virtual.

“We were really trying to wait it out to see how things were going to go,” said Maduro in regards to hosting 40 Under Forty in person.

However, at the end of June, the team decided to go virtual.

As opposed to an in-person event that involves an itinerary, a venue and tickets, a virtual event is “a whole production,” in Maduro’s words.

“It taught me that I can adjust to anything,” she said. “There were a whole lot of things I had to learn.”

In a little over a month, Maduro, with the help of intern, Melanie Cunha, pieced together the production that will premier at 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 20. 

In addition to testing and finding a virtual streaming platform for the event, Maduro and Cunha also put together the entire presentation, which included speeches from the emcee, Loraine Ballard Morril — award-winning news and community affairs director at iHeartMedia Philly, keynote, Raquel Tamez — CEO of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), Guaracao and others. 

They also produced most of the promotional materials for the new-and-improved event, which included graphics, social media posts and videos highlighting some of the honorees.

Maduro would be lying if she said she hadn’t lost some sleep throughout the process, but said she was proud of what the team created.

“There’s a lot of stuff that stressed us out and we go to sleep thinking about it, but at the end of the day we learned so much,” she said.

Recognizing 40 people

For Alfaro, the hardest part was keeping 40 people on the same page throughout the development of the event, and commended those being recognized for their help and understanding.

“To me it’s so awesome to see on social media how this message has been sent out all over the place and how excited people are,” said Alfaro. 

AL DÍA’s inaugural 40 Under Forty virtual event will be held on Aug. 20 at 5:30 p.m., but its planners hope it’s something that will keep happening for years to come.

“Impacting 40 people at a time is a big deal,” said Alfaro. “The individuals, they all have amazing stories, and it’s great to see what all these people are doing because they’re going to be the next leaders of the city.”

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