Hmm . . .Quién es Elisa. Mother, wife, lawyer, counsellor, board member, mentor. I was born in Brooklyn NY (yes, we do consider Brooklyn to be a city (not just a borough of NYC). My parents were the children of immigrants from Spain. My dad was the oldest boy of 8 children and as such, left school in 8th grade to help support the family. My mom graduated High School and had dreams of a career in design, worked at a millinery shop and as a secretary. My parents both worked when I was young, so I spent my days with my grandparents. I spoke no English until I started kindergarten a few months before I turned 5 years old.
Our Brooklyn neighborhood (Redhook) was by the Brooklyn docks and was not the neighborhood it is today. It was very much an immigrant neighborhood. Therefore, it was not unusual for my parents to speak in Spanish at home. My extended family lived nearby, and they were my world.
When we moved to Queens and I started school, I was pulled out of class for speech help as they thought I had a terrible lisp. I guess we can blame the King of Spain for that Castilian lisp, and once I knew what the speech teacher wanted me to do, I fixed it. She took the credit.
I’m a product of public school education, from P.S. 34, the Plainview, NY schools and SUNY @ Stony Brook where I received a BA in Political Science and a M.S, in Policy Analysis and Planning. But I wanted to be a doctor—a corner or pathologist to be exact.
After an early career as a Developing Country Energy Analyst, working in the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Antigua and Montserrat, I decided to go to law school. The decision was driven by a desire to be a legislator. I was active in local politics since my early teens and was even nominated to run for statewide office. I declined, knowing that I did not have a chance of being elected and decided to go to St. John’s University Law School instead.
Law school was hard work, but I did well. I was an editor on the Law Review, and I participated and excelled in civil trial competitions. I was part of a very, very small group of Latino law students. We were such a small group, that we could not form our own chapter of LALSA, so we joined with the Black Law Student Association and changed the name to BALLSA. We started a Street Law Program in Spanish to teach the community about immigration, landlord tenant and trust and estate matters. That program still exists today.
I had many opportunities and have had a great career. A quick walk through my resume:
Started as a corporate associate at Willkie, Farr & Gallagher. A Wall street firm that gave me the foundation and training to grow and succeed.
Corporate and International Counsel at GAF, Corp. A company that pushed the envelope in many areas and tested me daily. We did lots of M&A and had our share of big asbestos litigation.
Regional Counsel for Latin America at Philip Morris International. Food, beer and tobacco counsel for Central and South America focusing on the Andean Pact, Mexico and Central America. Here I learned to lead remote teams and how to be a trusted business counselor.
General Counsel at Domino’s Pizza Inc. I joined when Bain Capital bought the company from the founder and was the new CEO’s first external hire. One of the highlights of my career was getting this company ready for, and taking it public. And I could make a large pepperoni pizza in 44 seconds.
CLO of Office Depot, Inc. Lots of interesting legal issues at Office Depot, including an SEC investigation and a financial restatement, but another career highlight was the merger with Office Max. I also tried to merge with Staples, but the government made the mistake of blocking the transaction.
CLO of Macy’s Inc. At Macy’s I have the privilege of leading some of the foremost legal experts in Retail legal matters. My team is brilliant, and they make me look good every day. I also have the wonderful opportunity to be a part of an American icon—Macy’s is important to America and I am part of the leadership team building the strategies that will ensure it will be around for a long time. AND I get to be a clown in the Thanksgiving Day Parade.