NYC Recap: Changemaker Chat with Bernadette Aulestia

Bernadette Aulestia, Photography by Babita Patel

Be Bold and Ask For It: A Conversation with Bernadette Aulestia 

Bernadette Aulestia is the mentor we need in our lives. Sitting in the beautiful Hearst Tower, she told us about her professional journey – navigating through corporate politics, building her network of cheerleaders, and what she learned from watching “the dude on the couch getting promoted.” Here are a few of our favorite moments:

Build Your Tribe

Bernadette rose through the ranks during her 20 years at HBO, but she didn’t do it on her own. She had a tribe, a community of supporters who believed in her before she believed in herself. They gave her the confidence and support she needed to take that step forward. Her advice to young professional women? Build your tribe! They can be family, friends, peers, mentors – anyone who can be your champion and give you confidence, and the group may morph over time. But remember, this isn’t a one-way street. Tribe members support one another – so pay it forward and lend your support to someone else.

Channel that Inner Gutsy Moment

One of Bernadette’s gutsy moments came when she was 23. She decided to pivot from a career in investment banking to working in a different industry and ultimately joining HBO. It was a bold move – she would leave a job that she excelled at for one in a new field, at half the salary. Despite her parents’ disapproval, she wanted more than what banking offered so she took the leap. To this day, Bernadette still channels that gutsiness. While she admits being a more conservative risk taker, she encouraged us to be bold and chase opportunity. How? Stop overthinking. What will people think of me? Will others receive this the right way? These are all thoughts that stop us from making a decision. Shut out the second thoughts and just do it.

Don’t Compromise Yourself

You don’t need to change who you are to get ahead. Early in Bernadette’s career, she worked in an environment where taking clients to strip clubs was a part of the job. While, thankfully for her, those days are long gone, there are still situations that arise that don’t reflect her values. Bernadette cited the “amplification” strategy of female White House staffers as a great tactic when women’s points of view or contributions are being overlooked. As a fan of the pre-meeting meeting, she also recommended aligning with potential allies before meetings to address similar issues and using humor to get certain points across in a way that might appear less combative.

Find Your North Star

Always focus on what you are running toward, not what you are running away from. 20 years at one company, particularly in an industry that is rapidly changing, has made Bernadette a pro at recalibrating. Sometimes the most important lessons are learned from bad experiences. Bernadette stressed constant re-evaluation, taking a mental health day when you need it to rest yourself, and making sure that you are valued for the person you are as you work toward your goals.

Ask for What You Want

Bernadette attributes some of her early success to having strong mentors who recognized her abilities and helped foster them. But that alone is not enough. Some opportunities may come to you, but others you have to seek out. Women often fall into the trap of letting insecurities prevent their professional growth. Just as she tells her three daughters, Bernadette advised us to find our inner confidence and ask for what we want.