Born in Lima, Peru and raised in Toronto, Luis Montero completed international affairs graduate work at Columbia and then “bounced around,” working for Jeffrey Sachs’ UN Millennium Project and then managing European communications with the Open Society Foundations before coming to the Gates Foundation. As senior communications officer, part of Luis’ role is to keep a close eye on the media, looking for global trends to make “connections” with the foundation’s health and development work. Luis talks about old-time editors, why Nigeria is important to keep an eye on, and the connection between soccer and polio awareness.
The foundation has seen an incredible amount of growth in a short time. It has gone from a Seattle organization to a global one, with incredibly smart people working here. We’re trying to move the needle on some of the most pressing issues affecting the world’s poor. And I think that we’re still experiencing growing pains and coming to grips with the amazing potential we have to make a positive difference.
New hires will be overwhelmed by their colleagues’ level of competency.
As the organization changes, so does the kind of communications person we hire. The old-timey editor yelling “Get me that story!” is long gone. The line between digital and traditional media should be blurred. In fact, it should be erased.
Who succeeds here? People who can see the big picture, connect dots across, and can spot a good idea and run with it. On the other hand, quiet, unassuming people who have good ideas but won't voice them in meetings don’t last either.
We’re looking for people who look at communications through both a local and a global lens, and for utility players with a good instinct for gathering and processing information that cuts across issues and mediums.
Nigeria is where the rubber hits the road on all of the foundation’s issues. It is one of three countries where polio remains. It has immense agricultural potential. And they now have solid political leadership. We see it all through one lens.
I consume a lot of news. But I sleep well at night.
I'm a big football—well, soccer—fan. I love it not only as a sport but also as a way to connect people. I follow FC Barcelona. They’re my team. And the foundation’s polio team partners with them to raise the polio awareness of millions of soccer fans around the world. It also educates people about the foundation’s work. The combined reach is incredible.
If you’re a new hire, listen actively for the first few months. Just listen. You’ll learn so much. Then connect and talk to the right people.
It fills me with enormous pride when I go home to Peru and talk to my family about what I do here. The Gates Foundation name has an incredible amount of prestige attached to it. But more importantly, after a day's work, it’s work that you can feel good about.