Intern Profiles: Lucero the Fearless Leader

It’s summertime and that means we had some amazing interns join our Uncorked team. Over the last few weeks, we’ve been sharing the stories of the amazing folks working with us this summer. This is the fourth profile in our series.

Name: Lucero Cortez
Education: Portland State University
Degree Program: Film
Hometown: Woodburn, OR

When spring blooms in Portland, our search for interns commences—and just like our other projects at the studio, our method tends to work a little differently than most. In our intern searches, we plunge deeper, beyond educational and extracurricular accomplishments. We love interns that are genuinely well-rounded individuals as much as we love hyper-focused brainiacs. Lucero Cortez just happens to be both.

Lucero, a recent Portland State University graduate, joins us this summer as a production intern. In addition to her solid education in the craft of film, she brought with her a fierce commitment to increasing the representation of marginalized individuals and communities.

When Lucero enrolled at PSU, she became the first person in her family to go to college. “I went through a really tough time in my first two years,” she says. “I reclused into things I felt comfortable with then one day I realized I wasn’t doing anything with my college years.” She didn’t have a lot of meaningful family guidance about how to navigate her new environment, which stranded her in a sea of peers.

After this realization, Lucero soon began searching for ways to find a place, and make a meaningful contribution to the university community. She needed a support system, a group of friends at school, and an outlet to make a difference.

That’s when she discovered Las Mujeres. Las Mujeres is a Latina and women’s empowerment organization founded 25 years ago at Portland State. The group is a Latina segment of an established Latinx club, by the women who felt they increasingly had more pressing and separate needs.

With the rhythm of bachata keeping time and the smell of chilaquiles wafting out of the Las Mujeres office, Lucero had finally found her place. Las Mujeres is a vibrant, head-strong haven, or as Lucero describes it, “a place for a legacy of like-minded women.”

Las Mujeres became a space for Lucero to support herself and other women, while fighting to create opportunities for the advancement of her peers in places that are typically dominated by other genders and races.

Her drive to create opportunities only became stronger after experiencing subtle discriminatory nuances in her classrooms. “I was one of three women in my department at school, and one of those three was my sister,” Lucero says. She began to notice when peers allocated trivial jobs to her, like wrapping cords or organizing camera equipment. She frequently had to force herself into positions of influence to gain recognition from the class. “I had to put myself in uncharacteristic positions to avoid slipping into the background.”

After two years in the Las Mujeres program, Lucero became the co-director and finally began thriving in the space she carved for herself at Portland State. “It taught me how to manage myself and how to do things on my own terms.” As part of her co-directorship, she helped to advance hundreds of students, hosted dozens of events, and created programming to engage and educate her peers.

Lucero’s interests have changed over time, from beauty to technology to media, but there’s one thing that has always been constant: the urge to make other people feel comfortable in places that don’t feel like home.

The tech industry has a reputation for having diversity issues similar to those she experienced at school, but Lucero felt at home when she walked into Uncorked on her first day and found a near-even representation of gender. “Many companies claim to hire a workforce representative of the communities they serve, and I saw Uncorked actually doing it,” Lucero says.

With her tendency to go after experiences that are bold and challenging, Lucero fit right in at UCS, and her studio time threaded seamlessly into her portfolio of other pursuits.

At Uncorked, she’s collaborating with our team of producers to guide projects and initiatives across the studio. Her goal is to make measurable advances in her own management style to become a more influential and effective leader. “It is incredible that I’m able to practice leadership in an internship,” says Lucero. “Typically internships have a heavy observational element, but [at Uncorked] I’ve been empowered to practice firsthand.”

Her advice to next year’s interns? “Put yourself out there.”

“Take ownership of your goals and self-start to make them happen; aim to be an asset, not an assistant.”

Final thought: As a self-identified introvert, Lucero knows it can be challenging to represent herself in the workplace. Although she relishes in her reflective mindset, she wants her colleagues to know that she learns, first, by studying: “People tend to think that I’m a shy or quiet person but it’s just my work style― I watch something happen from the outside first, before fully diving in.” 

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