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In Today's Tip Jar section, Alexander Rodriguez, Esq. will give you specific info on how he connected with other professionals. And this is coming from a master networker.
First, find out how Rodriguez used his love of parties to make himself stand out in the professional world.
THE PARTY SCENE
At the age of 16, Alexander Rodriguez was already creating his own opportunities.
In the party scene.
He started out working in nightclubs as a photographer and then decided he’d launch a blog with partners.
“I started to build a team of… content writers, photographers, videographers, dancers and also promoters to sell tickets to parties.”
ALL THE BUZZ
The blog quickly became popular in the South Florida scene. That eventually led to Rodriguez and his partners leasing a nightclub at the age of 20.
“I would… sit in my car sometimes and watch it all operate and realize that all these people are here working and all these people are here having a good time because of the idea and effort we put into blossoming that idea.”
INDUSTRY: Law, Entertainment and Cryptocurrency
Currently: Co-Founder and Managing Partner - International Blockchain Legal, LLP
Counsel at Carrasquillo Law Group
2002 – Gawdrock.com Events/lifestyle blogger
2006 – Invite Miami – Production company/Nightclub operator
2006 – Logistaff - Logistics staffing agency
2017 – Chariot Payments (formerly Tunnel.money) - FinTech start-up
LATINO/HISPANIC CONNECTION: Parents are Cuban
Harvard University – Master’s degree in Finance
St. Thomas University – Juris Doctor & MBA
Florida International University – Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration (Triple major in Finance, International Business and Marketing)
DREAM JOB AS A KID: “My dream job growing up was always to be a rapper. But my voice is not good for it, so I chose other things.”
Note: His favorite rapper is Kanye West.
BIGGEST GOAL YET: “My long-term goal is to launch an entertainment company to help influence policy.”
THE BUSINESS OF CREATING SYSTEMS
To Rodriguez, it was fascinating to “create systems.” So, while he was organizing all these events that drew thousands of people, he decided to also create a logistics staffing agency, Logistaff.
It’s not that things were all rosy.
“When I was operating nightclubs, I was, basically, broke for the first three years…"
He says his business only became profitable when he was 20.
He and his partners transitioned the nightclub leasing business back to being a production company called Invite Miami. That’s when Rodriguez decided he’d go to law school. Not that he really knew what he was getting into at the time.
“I had no idea what law school was. I had no idea what being a lawyer was.” But he spoke with an immigration attorney who told him he enjoyed his life. And that sounded good to Rodriguez.
Rodriguez admits he wasn’t the best student. “Academically, I was a good student - but not a top student.”
But don’t underestimate him.
Rodriguez graduated college with a triple major, earned his dual law degree and MBA and got into graduate school at Harvard. He sold off his shares in his business so he could support himself for a year.
A DEEPER PURPOSE: THE BIG CLEANSE
There was a deeper purpose to his trek to Harvard.
“My logic was to kind of cleanse myself of my nightclub history or past so that I could be, you know, a real lawyer. I was probably 26 then, and I had no idea what that meant... I just knew that putting Keratin in my hair and tucking in my shirt would make me look more like a real lawyer.”
Here’s the rub, though.
To start networking, he joined Student Government. He asked the leaders how he could volunteer. He wanted to know how he could help. When he was asked what he knew how to do, he mentioned that he graduated law school and passed the bar.
The leaders in Student Government were unimpressed.
He was told, “Half of us are already in law school.”
So Rodriguez brought up that he’d started businesses since he was a kid.
Rodriguez was told, “Yeah, half of us have done that, too.”
IN DEMAND: A PARTY PRO
So, muttering under his breath, Rodriguez finally offered up this: “I used to set up the largest college parties in Miami [for] like seven, eight years.”
He explains, “I said it with shame because I didn’t want to be known for that.”
Bingo. Their eyes lit up.
“And then they asked me, ‘Oh, can you do that for us? Can you set up social events for us?’”
And just like that, they created a VP role for him. Rodriguez became the VP of Social Engagement at the Harvard Graduate Council.
Rodriguez flew up DJs and promoters from Miami to set up large-scale events like the Harvard Masquerade Ball.
STRENGTHS AND SKILLS
“That opened a lot of doors for me because, now, I was able to use a strength – that I didn’t know was a strength to help me excel…”
It helped Rodriguez navigate the Ivy League world and helped him get elected as president of the Massachusetts Association of Hispanic Attorneys or MAHA.
His events background again worked to his advantage when he was able to organize MAHA’s largest fundraiser, in conjunction with the Broadway musical, Hamilton, to benefit Hurricane Maria victims.
“I had no idea that I could merge those two skill sets – that I could merge those two lives. But I did.”
After working for a failed legal tech start-up, Rodriguez learned what it meant to practice law by actually going and working at a law firm.
THE ENTREPRENEURIAL BUG BITES AGAIN
But it wasn’t too long before the entrepreneurial bug bit him again.
This time, he’s been able to combine his ability to connect with people and his interest in cryptocurrencies.
“It seemed sophisticated. It seemed very high-end.”
But, again, Rodriguez didn’t overplay his hand or experience. “I partnered with a subject matter expert in the space.”
His name is Aaron Krowne.
“And I launched International Blockchain Legal, more as an outfit to offer legal services to crypto clients or the clients in the blockchain space.”
Rodriguez also used his knack for networking and joined another law firm, Carrasquillo Law Group, as their Business Development guy. In exchange, the lead attorney, Rogelio “Roy” Carrasquillo, exposed him to “sophisticated and complicated work” in the crypto space.
KNOW YOUR ROLE
The bottom line is this: Rodriguez played to his strengths and understood his role well. “Even though I wasn’t the subject matter expert, I was able to find attorneys that were able to work with me, so long as I brought in the clients.”
Now, at the age of 36, Rodriguez has found a way to use those people skills that helped him build buzz and put on huge parties as a teenager and young adult into a career that still lets him be himself.
“Being myself involves me not… looking like a stuffy attorney or living like a stuffy attorney.”
“At first, I thought, well, I have to be a really prim and proper attorney in order to get clients.” Rodriguez has since realized, if he, instead, focused on working with clients who prefer working with someone like him, “… it’s a win-win for everybody involved.”
THE TIP JAR (tips passed out courtesy of Alexander Rodriguez, Esq.)
STARTING OUT: “If you have that drive, then it’s important to find tools to nurture it… It’s a responsibility to nurture it.”
“Finding entrepreneurs and talking about your ideas.”
PRACTICAL APPLICATION: “When I wanted to launch IBL (International Blockchain Legal), I didn’t know what I was doing exactly. So I went on LinkedIn and messaged probably close to, like, 100 attorneys in the space so I could ask them for an informational interview. So I could get tips and guidance from them and, at the same time, hopefully, find a partner who could work with me.”
STEEPED IN SKILLS (mid-career): “It’s about… breaking that paradigm of thinking that the Facebook model is the only way.”
Note: Rodriguez is referring to the erroneous belief that it’s mostly people in their early 20s innovating in their dorm room who become entrepreneurs.
“Question and find supporting evidence against the idea that most entrepreneurs are in their 20s.”
STARTING OVER: “The same advice I gave to the first two [types of] people, but patience. And an understanding that it’s part of redefining your shift. That doesn’t happen overnight, at least that’s been my experience."
I’LL NEVER DO THAT AGAIN: “If you’re a young person and you come from a family that doesn’t have means, and you don’t have a fallback, it’s really important… to build a marketable skill.”
PRACTICAL APPLICATION: Rodriguez says it was important for him to use that marketable skill to make money while he was in between companies or ventures.
In his case, the marketable skill was practicing law. “I was a lawyer, but I hadn’t practiced law yet. For me, it was, like, I failed [with the legal tech start-up]. I’m going to join a law firm to learn a marketable skill so that, worst case scenario, for the rest of my life, if I fail at projects, I could always just be a lawyer for some time [and] offer people value [to] support myself until the next idea.”
BEST ADVICE FROM “LA CASA”/BEST “HOUSE” ADVICE: “I know that my father isn’t the only person that teaches this… He would always teach me to respect everybody – from the very wealthy people to the janitor… People have different purposes in life… Somebody’s financial success is not a good measure of the value that they bring to this world.”
NO NEED TO GO IT ALONE
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INSPIRATION FOR THIS ISSUE:
Who knew that someone’s ability to put on a good party would be the breakthrough that would get them noticed at Harvard?
Certainly not me.
But, then again, I’m more of the private, non-party type.
Still, I think Alexander Rodriguez’s unconventional road from party blogger extraordinaire to Harvard student and grad to lawyer in the crypto space is something to learn from – for a few reasons.
In today’s world, if you have anything “social” as one of your descriptors (social media influencer, social butterfly, social planner), you’re more than just a connector. You have a big leg up on the competition. Besides, people tend to hire or give work to the people they like to hang out with in social settings. It makes sense.
I think it’s also interesting that, even though Rodriguez had been an entrepreneur in his teens, he really wanted to correct the myth that entrepreneurs usually launch their start-ups in their teens or early 20s. He’s right.
I did some research on this. The average age of all entrepreneurs in the U.S. from 2007 through 2014 was 42 years old (at founding), according to another Ivy League institution, the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.
With the explosion of entrepreneurship during the pandemic, it’ll be interesting to find out if, or how, that age shifts.
I also found Rodriguez’s story a great case study on challenging the assumption that if you’re going to be an attorney, you’ll go to law school, work at a law firm and, hopefully, make partner someday. And that’ll be that.
Rodriguez’s unexpected route and hybrid-themed path of combining his entrepreneurial ventures and partnerships with a more mainstream career is a great roadmap for coming up with your own hybrid model. These days, employees are demanding flexibility and employers seem more willing to play ball with more unconventional arrangements to keep valuable employees.
So see what arrangement you’d like to try. Pitch it and, if you get the “no-go”, that might be the push you need to go out on your own. Either way, I hope Rodriguez’s maverick ways inspire you to carve your own path to fulfillment.
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