From Political Asylee to Art Director
Art Director, Oscar, shares his career and life experiences that brought him from Honduras to CBRE.
Tell us how your journey led you to CBRE
Prior to my career at CBRE, I worked for a number of advertising agencies in Honduras, where I’m originally from. I came to this country in 2013 as a political asylee with $150. I had to flee due to political unrest, growing human rights violations, and my heavy involvement in LGBTQ activism in a very conservative society.
I began working as a graphic designer at 15, at my brother and sister’s business. From there, I worked for several advertising agencies in my country. I had to leave all that behind and basically start from scratch. It was a very rough time—I knew my trade, but I didn't have the connections and didn't know the environment. It was completely different—the culture, the language, the people...different expectations. There was A LOT of competition and it was extremely fast-paced.
How were you able to navigate a new culture? What worked to your advantage having previous experience at advertising agencies?
What played to my advantage is that with Honduran advertising agencies, you have to be a jack-of-all-trades. You have to be able to design the billboard, climb on a crane, and install it! You have to be able to design a campaign and come up with slogans and scripts for TV and radio. I've done it all. So I am very well-seasoned. When I got here, to the US, I was the new kid in town. The first opportunity I received was in a boutique agency and that's how I started.
What intrigued you to make the leap from a boutique agency to a global company?
When I got the opportunity to apply here, of course I jumped because CBRE is a juggernaut in the industry. I am an ambitious person and I do like to thrive; I like to succeed. The artist in me is always looking for validation. I thought it was a very good opportunity for me to do what I do best.
What did you notice once you became a CBRE insider?
When I got here, I discovered corporate is not bad after all. I saw an opportunity to keep on growing in an environment where It's fast-paced, but there's also a lot of civility in it. Advertising agencies can be rough!
The work here is very interesting. I've always been into architecture and interior design, so I gravitated to the artistic part. I saw I can marry these two things and still have fun with what I do. So that's how I ended up staying in real estate, which I NEVER envisioned, never in a million years!
You began your career being a part of a team and now, three and a half years later, you manage a team. Were there challenges that came with that?
Initially, there was some challenge in my mentality shifting from player to coach. I have worked with big teams before, but I was never the one in charge, so that was intimidating. That's the part where I learned the most from my Marketing Director, Johanna Clark-Wendt, because she knows everything that's going on around her. it's fascinating just to see her work.
Were you supported through those challenges?
I cannot stop singing praises about Johanna because she recognizes what I can do—even at times I didn’t know I could do them. She has always supported me in every way. That feeling of being supported, I try to absorb that in the player-coach mentality shift with my team.
You’re in New York City, what feeds your creative energy when you’re not working?
My friends and I went through the same experience as political asylees, so we're very tight. Whenever our schedules coincide, we love to go to museums. I LOVE opera! I'm always dragging my friends to the opera. The Met’s Fridays Under 40, I don’t just use it, I take FULL advantage of it!
That’s the thing I love about this city the most, all of that is available to take advantage of. I’m always trying to find these quirky experiences that I never would have imagined back in Honduras. That’s my outlet, my friends— and I'm very devoted to my family. Just like my career, that’s one of my legs.
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