Her Father’s Daughter: Turner ‘Dreamer’ Learns ‘No’ Isn’t the Final Answer

15 Oct 2018 - This post originally appeared on the Turner Blog.

If Liz Randall had listened to a high school counselor instead of believing in herself, the second-generation Mexican-American immigrant may have ended up on a completely different path than what she’s on today. 

Liz's father with her son, Henry, in Mexico.

Liz’s father – once a high-ranking official within the Mexican government – moved their family to the U.S. in 1998. Liz says he was a “scrappy” individual who essentially started over from scratch in America – opening a construction business with a family member. Back then, Liz didn’t speak a word of English and neither did many of the students in her class in Clarkston, Ga., the self-proclaimed “Ellis Island of the South.” This small Atlanta suburb was identified as an ideal place to resettle new immigrants to the U.S. in the 1990s.

“It was a huge melting pot. I was going to school with kids from countries I didn’t even know existed,” she recalled. “Although we were all very different, we were very much the same – worried about things like whether or not we were going to pass the test or whether our crush was going to talk to us.”

A dedicated student, Liz made it a priority to master the English language, even watching cartoons like “Blue’s Clues” and Cartoon Network’s “Dexter’s Laboratory” to help her with some of the basics. Eventually, her stellar grades earned her a spot among the top ten in her high school class.

That’s why being told she didn’t have options when it came to her future didn’t sit well with her – or her father.

“He told me our family’s current situation didn’t define me,” she remembered. “He took a day off work and told me not to worry – we were going to figure this out. And – you have to understand – at the time, him taking a day off work was a big hit financially. It could have put his livelihood – and our family – in jeopardy.”

“[The counselor] told me, 'People like you don't go to college.'”

The tenacious father-daughter duo spent the day visiting Atlanta-area colleges, ultimately ending up at Georgia State University (GSU), which gave them that stamp of approval they knew they had all along. Liz had all the qualifications required for college – but now the next stumbling block – how to pay for it.

Liz (pictured in red) in her English as a Second Language (ESL) class.

Their next step forged a lifelong connection to an organization now dear to Liz’s heart: The Latin American Association (LAA).The group advised Liz to apply for scholarships. She filled out application after application until that life-changing letter came in the mail – a full ride to GSU. All these years later, Liz now sits on the LAA board and says her involvement is her way of paying it forward to other “Dreamers” like her.

“I made a promise to myself when they helped me that I was going to find a way to pay them back,” she said. “The Latin American Association is helping students – ‘Dreamers’ like me – get an education. As a former ‘Dreamer,’ I’m not scared to start over. I’m not afraid of losing it all. I know how much of a difference it makes to have someone say, ‘I get it. I’ve got you.’”

Today, Liz is the director of corporate strategy & innovation at Turner. In her current role, she develops the company’s innovation portfolio, as well as contributes to the development of strategies that extend the company’s competitive position and evaluates new business opportunities. Speaking of innovation, Turner’s TED Now Innovation Contest – the first-ever for the company – was Liz’s first project. She is also involved with Turner’s NextGen Business Resource Group (BRG), where she started the highly-successful Reverse Mentoring program. The program basically turns the tables on the traditional mentor-mentee relationship, with senior leaders being guided by the next generation of leaders at the company. 

"My dad taught me ‘No’ is not the final answer. You have to keep trying. Success is not a linear road."

Her childhood in Mexico is now a distant – but treasured – memory. As a tribute to her family heritage this National Hispanic Heritage Month, Liz says the wise words of her father – and his life lessons – will always be there to remind her of how far she’s come.

“My dad taught me ‘No’ is not the final answer. You have to keep trying. Success is not a linear road. Those ‘no’s’ make you stronger, and they shape you into who you're supposed to be,” she stated with pride. “That’s the kind of grit that runs through my veins.”  

Turner Tidbits: More about Liz Randall…

How long have you have been with Turner?
Seven years.

What’s the most interesting part of your job?
My mind is constantly being blown by new technology and things I have never heard of. I love the opportunity to be creative and come up with solutions or ways to move our company forward into the future.

Because of what I do, Turner…
… will be better positioned to continue to delight audiences in coming years.

What does innovation mean to you and how do you incorporate it into your role?
There are so many different definitions for innovation. To me, innovation is really charting the future. Taking the best of our capabilities and talent and channeling it into various product offerings or services to attract new audiences.

What is the most memorable moment you’ve had working at Turner?
Getting the call from Doug Shapiro with him asking me to be on his team. You don't expect someone so senior to value your contribution as a junior-level employee the way he did. Hopefully he still thinks that was a good idea.

Liz and her mentor, Rick McMurtry.

Which Turner colleague has been your greatest mentor or had the biggest influence on your career?
Rick McMurtry. Sometimes you look for a mentor that looks just like you, and it's not necessarily the best for you. Rick is the opposite from me. I'm this loud, obnoxious Latin girl. He’s a white, Southern gay man. But, we both have an incredible work ethic (we hustle a lot!) and love to laugh. That’s what bonds us.

What is your favorite Turner show and why? 
Equal parts “Check It Out! with Dr. Steve Brule” and “Anderson Cooper 360.”

Tell us about something interesting you do in your free time.
I just got certified to teach yoga, and I’m also taking an art history class right now in Renaissance and 20th century art.

What is the best thing about working at Turner?
That you get to be yourself. That you get to bring your whole self to work. I can say what I think and how I feel, and I don't have to hide parts of myself. I truly belong here.