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Erol Munuz: Actor Turned Corporate Marketing, PR, And Communications Executive

Many of us have worked through multiple jobs before finally ending up in our dream situation. Erol Munuz has a journey that provided him with hard-won wisdom he has utilized for the rest of his life. In this episode, he shares how he went from being an actor in New York to working in corporate marketing, PR, and communications. Erol is currently the Senior Vice President for Content, Programs, and Events at State Street. He talks to J.R. Lowry about the events across his career path, highlighting how pursuing a dream has, in many ways, benefitted him. Join this conversation and hear his lessons about career transitions and growth.

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Erol Munuz: Actor Turned Corporate Marketing, PR, And Communications Executive

On Pursuing A Dream And The Many Ways It Has Benefited Him Since

My guest today is Erol Munuz, whom I first met when we both worked at Fidelity back in 2008. Erol is Senior Vice President for Content, Programs and Events at State Street Corporation. He started his career as an actor, performing in a variety of television, movie and stage roles over the years. He then made the shift into the corporate world, playing several roles in public relations and communications for PR firms, Boston Consulting Group, Fidelity and Bain & Company, before moving to State Street in 2021.

Along the way, he also co-wrote a book called Mediterranean Summer with David Shalleck who spent a summer as an executive chef on the luxury yacht of an Italian couple. Erol earned his Bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University and his Master’s degree from the Kennedy School of Government. He and his wife have two children and live outside of Boston.

Erol, you grew up in Chicago. As a kid, what did you think you would be doing when you were grown up?

Two paths interested me as a kid from the moment I can remember. One was that I wanted to be a musician. I wanted to be a guitar player and make my career there.

Did you play guitar at that point?

I did. I started when I was young. I played in high school bands and through college. The other path, which is diametrically opposed, is that I wanted to be a naval officer and drive ships. These were the competing interests of mine all growing up. I ended up doing neither.

What was your first job as a kid?

My first job was a paper route. Right before I moved to Chicago, I grew up in South Jersey and it was for the Philadelphia Bulletin. I was 10 or 11. It was the first time I have ever heard the word escrow. I could not grasp the concept to save my life. The first job where I was on a real payroll was when I was fourteen. I somehow got a job at a gas station which was also the first job where I flat out got fired for cause because I could not drive. It took them about 3 or 4 months to realize that to work at a gas station, being able to drive a car was a prerequisite. It was a good experience. It got me started. I went through the litany of working in grocery stores and then moving on to working at restaurants and all that. I have had a job in some form or fashion since I was about fourteen.

There's some irony in the fact that you did not understand the concept of escrow and you now work for a custody bank. How did you end up at Syracuse?

In my last two years of high school, I went to a school called Interlochen Arts Academy which was a school with these incredible artists and prodigies. I tried to go there for guitar. At the time, they did not have a dedicated guitar program. I was like, “What else do you have?” They said, “Acting.” I got into the school as an actor. Interlochen is in Northern Michigan and things were different back then. I did not visit any of the [universities] I applied to. I applied to 8 or 9 schools, all of them sight unseen.

[bctt tweet="It is an enormously high mountain to climb when breaking into the acting industry. It's tough and teaches you resiliency." via="no"]

I was fortunate enough to get into a number of them, some of which my mother wished I had chosen over Syracuse. I ended up going to Syracuse [based on] the brochure. I thought it looked gorgeous. The program was a theater program, a very respected and good program to get into. I went there sight unseen and it worked out well for me.

At what point did you decide that you wanted to give acting as a career a try?

It started at Interlochen when I decided to study acting. I was surrounded by good people and teachers at both Interlochen and Syracuse. I approached acting very much like a real craft, something you would have to work on. I took pride in trying to become very technically proficient. I would work on my voice, movement, dialects and being able to do Shakespeare as easily as I could do some modern piece. That is what hooked me in. I have tried things [over they years]. I have been somewhat of a risk-taker in terms of not taking what I would think is a safe path. I went through Syracuse. I then went over and studied a little bit more in London following Syracuse, working as a stagehand to make money.

I worked on Cats for a while and was [working illegally]. I had to choose a name. Tom Watson was a golfer at a golf tournament on the crew room TV so that was the name I used. I was a stagehand there and worked in some other smaller theaters around London. I was part of that community and studied with a renowned British teacher from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, who was retired but would take people on a recommendation. It was liked a finishing school. I knew I was in the right place. After six months of working on one monologue in an opening course, she said to me, “If you are going to find your brilliance in your acting, you must help as well.” She pushed me to make myself much better.

Did you do any acting itself over in London or just the training and the stagehand work?

Just the training and stagehand work. I tried every way to get myself into something and it was not happening. That was okay. I was over there for a year abroad when I was at Syracuse and made all these contacts. I started working, went back once I graduated from Syracuse, was there for 6 or 8 months and then finally, came back to officially start my career in New York.

It's entirely possible that you were working as a stagehand on Cats [when] my family and I made a trip to London when I was eighteen [and saw the show].

I worked on it for [about a] year in total but it was still a very new show. It was happening and I felt very privileged to be part of that. I worked at this place called Riverside Studios, which was in Hammersmith. It was an amazing hotbed of great artists coming in. A lot of people that came out of Riverside did amazingly well in the industry. It was a great experience. It opened my eyes to possibilities.

You came back to New York and then what?

As any good starting actor, I got jobs in the restaurant business. My first job was at Studio 54 for six months. I landed in New York and became nocturnal immediately. I realized it was very tough to go to auditions in the morning when you get out of work at 10:00 AM. I ended up getting a job in a restaurant and worked in a succession of restaurant jobs while I was doing off- Broadway showcases, still taking classes, desperately trying to find an agent, and all the things that young actors do.

CSCL 15 | Corporate Marketing

Erol Munuz: When you're working in a customer service job, people are not always fair. But then you find those who are wonderful, and you eventually learn how to deal with the unmanageable ones in an elegant way.

 

I realized it is an enormously high mountain to climb when you are breaking in. It is tough and teaches you resiliency. People always say you have to have thick skin. I never particularly had thick skin, but I would acknowledge yet another rejection or something that I thought I had a shot at that did not go my way, and I would look at it and say, “If anything, what could I have done differently? Was I prepared enough?”

Sometimes you walk in and you either "Mr. Burger King" or you're not or you are just right. I have had that happen to me where I have walked in and gotten roles, but back then, you were fueled by the passion to do it. You are in a community of fellow young struggling artists/restaurant workers. You're all in the same boat. I have heard so many people say that you look back and say that it was a happy time even though it was a struggle. This was in the ‘80s so what was funny in New York was getting a good bar job had status because you made a lot of money. Back then, getting into a hot place was almost like getting a movie role.

I ended up getting some good jobs as a bartender, which put me on the scene. I was very plugged into what was happening in the city and the nightlife. I'm sure I have wasted countless hours because of it, but the restaurant experience and bartending in particular, because you have to deal with so many different customers, [provided some] of the greatest lessons I have had in life in how to manage both people, my time and stress.

In one of my first big restaurant jobs in New York, I was an expediter. They gave me that role because all the junior waiters thought I was calm. An expediter is the one that runs and coordinates all the food coming out of the kitchen. It is the most stressful job I have had in my life. I did that for two years before I was able to break in as a bartender. All of that collective experience was central to how I approach work, manage teams and deal with crises. None of it is wasted.

A lot of the people that I have talked to have talked about how the jobs they did as a kid, in college or that they first started when they finished school, like those tough customer-facing jobs, have taught them a lot and carried them through the rest of their careers.

It becomes a proving ground because, first of all, when you are working in any customer service job, people are not always fair and nice but then you find wonderful people. You learn how to deal with the unmanageable ones elegantly or you try to. You get a very good sense of what battles to fight and not. It is high-paced. They are enormously stressful jobs. When I interview and hire people, I always probe early jobs. I am curious about people. If I find out somebody came up through restaurants or something, that gives them an edge in my book because I'm like, “You've seen some things.”

Have you seen the movie Boiling Point?

No.

You should watch it. It's about a restaurant that is opening during the Christmas season. It's going to be crazy busy. It's a 90-minute movie shot in 1 take. From a technical perspective, when you realize that the entire movie is going to be shot [in a single take], and everybody is coming in and out of the scene in this crowded bustling restaurant with all these different situations playing out during the movie, it is amazing. It only took them three takes to get it right. You have to check it out. You were living in New York and auditioning. How dire were your living arrangements at the time?

My first apartment, where I was for 6 or 7 years, was a studio about the size of what a corporate office would be. It had a bathroom in the hallway I shared with 3 people in 3 other apartments. At the time, it was in the Upper West Side, which was a little bit of checkerboard. It was a very different New York back then. I had a pullout sofa bed. That is what slept on. It was not pretty. I got robbed in the first six months I lived there. One of the cops that came in, did a perfunctory [assessment], and was like, “Bad luck, kid. Move.”

[bctt tweet="What gets you through the night and the day is your tribe of people in exactly the same boat." via="no"]

[Joking about the size of the place], he was like, “Do you need to walk outside to change your mind? Why do you not move into the boroughs? You're going to get a lot more room out there.” I wanted the 212 area code and to be one of those New York actors. I moved in 1984 in November. Back in the ‘80s, when I first got to New York, the city had a different complexion. There was a vibrant arts community downtown. People like me could still come in and find something to allow them to live [in Manhattan]. A lot of that is priced out now, but what gets you through the night and the day is your tribe of people in the same boat. You're happy for them when they get these little breaks [but also] get a little jealous of it. There were such great lessons.

Some of the most fascinating people I have met in my life came from that period, whether they’d be painters, writers, artists, actors or musicians. I was part of that group of people. It was exciting. Even though I was starving, there was still a little bit of glamour around it. We were all striving for something. The aspirations I had when I was in my twenties were very different than the aspirations I had as I got older.

Even if nobody wanted to admit it, we all wanted to get a break and get famous. The group that I was connected with cared about the work, which is why we started in New York, not in LA. Back then, we felt that New York was a proving ground. If you could cut it in theater, you had the chops to do it. That's why I went there.

What were your early paid acting jobs?

My first one was to be a hand model. The only reason I got that was that my friend was the art director in the ad agency, so I did it. I was working in a restaurant so I was expediting. I had burns and cuts. He said, “We spent so much time touching up your hands. It cost double what we paid you.” That was my first paying job. I did a lot of off-Broadway plays. It was this tribe of people. We would do it because we would want to get an agent to come. The job that got me my Screen Actors Guild card was a Campbell's Soup commercial. In New York, the whole commercial circuit was a way to make money.

The entertainment business as an actor is set up as a catch-22. You cannot get your union card until you have a union job. Nobody wants to hire you for a union job if you don't have a union card. I caught a break and booked this commercial. It got me my SAG card and then I did a voiceover and I got the AFTRA card, which was the radio and television voiceover card. A little bit later on, I did a play and got my Actors’ Equity card. It all happened very slowly for me.

What soup were you selling?

All I know is I was using a table saw in the commercial. The problem is I was worried I was going to cut my fingers off. The director was like, “He'll be fine.” I don't think I have ever used a table saw in my life. The whole time when we were shooting, I was like, “I hope that I don't cut my fingers off here.”

You had some notable roles along the way or at least ones that we have certainly talked about over the years.

It took about seven years after I started working. I did 1 play, and it was a 2-man play. The director was a woman, Charlotte Moore, who was terrific. She was a real theater professional and director. We got a lot of nice notice on that. I got signed by an agent from that. That started the next level of being an actor. It went from pure wannabe and trying to do any play that would have me, to going to real auditions with real casting directors. I started picking up some work there.

CSCL 15 | Corporate Marketing

Erol Munuz: Acting helped train me to be a very good listener.

 

In 1990, I went out to LA and ended up getting picked up for TV work on some shows. It was an interesting phenomenon because the fact that I did a little bit of TV when I went back to New York, because I would go back and forth, somehow made me more legitimate in the eyes of the casting directors in New York. In that business, unless you are stunningly beautiful and you get a break, or you are hired through nepotism, or you are grandfathered in the business, or your work is so exceptional that they cannot deny your talent, you are going to have to build a career. Not many people get the one-shot break.

I went back to New York to do some TV back there like Law & Order. I would go back and forth and slowly built up a resume. I got to the point, which is not uncommon when you are in the body of actors that are going on auditions, where there are a couple of times I got close to what I would consider a life-changing job. [There were] two in particular, which I will not name, but I ended up coming in second on both of them.

In those days, TV money was good. When you get to that point, the contracts are worked out prior to your getting the job. You know how much you would be making should you get the job. Neither of them went my way. It's tough to get out of bed sometimes with that, but I built what I would call a blue-collar acting career. I was technically a decent actor. When I would go do a job, I would know how to go in and do it.

I started picking up a lot of voiceover work, which became a money stream for me. I continued to do plays and did some Movies of the Week and mini-series but never the lead. It was always enough of a role where I would make some decent money for a while. I enjoyed it and was working but two things happened. This was right when I was around my early 30s.

The first thing that happened is that some of my peers started breaking through. It was funny. The one thing that saved me as an actor, except for rare occasions, was I was very happy when other people got work. Even if I lost it and it would make me feel bad for a little bit, I was always rooting for my colleagues. It is a brutal industry. When I would get a job because I [had worked] the casting director, I would always feel a little bit bad [because I didn't get] it "pure."

The other thing that happened - the closest analog is youth sports when your kid is a great player and then gets to high school. All of a sudden, a couple of people start emerging who are extraordinarily talented. I worked with a couple of people where I looked at them and was like, “You are amazing. On my best day, it is going to be very difficult to reach what you do every day.”

For the wonderful actors out there, it truly is about being an artist. When you run into that and work with someone like that, it's mind-blowing. I touched the top of my potential a handful of times. When I did, it felt right like, “This is where I belong and what I need to be doing.” It was not always like that. I did not have the natural talent where I was going to walk into a room, light it up, and they were going to say, “We can't not cast him.” At some point, you realize, “I can make a living as an actor. I am making a living as an actor," but it would be a reasonably small and a medium career at best.

When did you decide to walk away?

That was a funny process and accidental because I was a very committed actor. Even in the back of my head, realizing this, it was the ‘92 election year. Half of my life [has been] accidental. It's been exploring, taking a risk and doing something. I had some friends that worked at NBC News in the political unit. I had met them when I was bartending. I asked if I could come and observe. I was always fascinated by politics and public policy. It was one of the primary [election] nights. They let me come and watch. I was fascinated.

They were staffing up for the campaign coverage [that year]. I got hired on as a freelancer to be a researcher and that parlayed into my going to both conventions doing some work for the news wire. It was out walking the floor, walking around the convention and looking for various kinds of stories.

[bctt tweet="When you stop learning, you kind of climb into the velvet coffin." via="no"]

I would get a lot of the Hollywood folks. I was always "one degree of separation." I would go up and say, “I am friends with X" and they would talk to me. It was little wire stories. I was a glorified researcher. It was a magical year for me because I would work a stint of primaries, there would be a break, I would go off and do a Movie of the Week or some mini-series. There would be another break so I would do a short run of a play.

I remember on [election] night when I was in DC. I made it onto the NBC stage. I was reading results from the gubernatorial campaigns coming in and writing little stories that they would feed into Tom Brokaw. It was accidental and people were nice to let me do that. There were a lot of talented people there that were all working crazy hard.

On inauguration night, we were in the control room down in DC. There was a bank of twelve televisions and the mini-series or the movie I had done aired that night. All of a sudden, my face came up on twelve screens. The producer I was working for said, “What are you doing up on my screens?” It was this weird and funny convergence. It was a world that I was potentially moving into and a world that I was moving away from.

That year was magical and started my shift out. I overheard a conversation with the executive producer. He was talking about the Kennedy School at Harvard. I was like, “That sounds fascinating.” I tucked it into the back of my mind. I decided I was not done acting. I acted for about 3 or 4 more years. One day on a lark, I decided to apply, frankly, not expecting to get in but there was an angel there in Admissions, and she was like “The application does not entirely make sense but some of it does. We think you might be a good candidate.”

It was convergence the day they called me to say I got in. On that call, I knew my life [had] changed. That evening, I was doing a commercial with Chris Rock on an overnight shoot. It was an out-of-body experience. The pivot for me was going to the Kennedy School. I was a little bit older. I went in there knowing, “This is an inflection point. I've got to pay attention.” I worked hard.

I remember when I graduated, I was like, “This is going to be my new life.” I was interviewing for a ton of jobs. It was like auditioning. People could not quite make the leap. I got close to several jobs, and I would get excited. The first job I got after Kennedy School was I got offered a play in New York, which I went down and did for about four months. It ended up being my last play and then shortly after, I landed a job in Washington. He was a Kennedy School grad as well. He was like, “We'll take the risk on you. Come on down.” That got me started.

What were you doing in that job?

It was public affairs in a small consultancy. We are doing a lot of work around energy, environmental policy and economics. I got a job in a small think tank carve-out of the company. That was my main job but then I started doing account work, which was more public affairs. I had an automaker as a client. I was there for about two years and that got me started.

I had a succession of people, which was nice, recruiting me out. I had successively bigger jobs. I then went to a large PR firm, one of the global ones. I had incredible mentors. The power of mentorship made all the difference for me. I went to a firm called Hill+Knowlton. The CEO at the time was a gentleman named Howard Paster, who was a real Washington heavyweight.

Almost accidentally, I was in the office on a holiday because whatever I was supposed to get done during the normal workweek, I ended up not getting done. Some crisis broke with one of Howard’s clients. He had his client list. I was the only person in the office so he grabbed me and I went with him. It ended up from that time forth, 80% of my work was working with him on his clients. It was learning at the feet of the master.

CSCL 15 | Corporate Marketing

He taught me a lot. He was very good, smart and demanding, which was good for me at the time because you have to remember, I was learning how to work. It was different than where I had come from. I was learning what it meant to show up at an office for 8 or 10 hours a day. I was learning the norms and expectations. From my first 4 or 5 years out, it was a dual track. It was both filling my toolkit with capabilities and learning what the norms and expectations were. I had to learn that. In my [prior] world, after six months, the job is over and you move on. [By] year two in a job [since then], I am like, “Is it always like this?”

At that point, you were in your late 30s.

Yes, I started very late. From there, I was recruited by BCG. The power of mentorship. The guy that hired me was a gentleman named Bill Matassoni, who was instrumental. He was a twenty-year McKinsey partner. He is legendary and one of the most genius marketing people I have ever encountered. They had to rebuild and professionalize a function in PR. He brought me up to do that and work with him. He was the one that taught me professional services marketing and what it means to work in that environment. First, it was a partnership but also a fairly well-regarded premium company. The intellectual demands were enormous on me. I was [working hard] to get up to speed.

Bill asked a lot of me and I was glad he did. Like Howard, more than Bill realizes, I sponged from him. I will [still] be talking to my team, channeling Bill on something. His words will come through me. One of the things that made a difference for me was being fortunate enough to find these two people, both very different, but top of the class as mentors. My side of the bargain was that I had to show up and deliver.

I am curious about people’s stories and perspectives. I was always a good listener and acting helped train me to be. I learned from so many people, not just people above me but people that would report to me. One of the most rewarding things about a career, and it is so cliché, is when you stop learning, you climb into the velvet coffin and [start going] through the motions. I am [still] learning every day.

You started writing back in that ‘92 election year when you were writing wire stories. Writing became a bigger part of your roles as you were progressing through these PR and public affairs jobs. When did you start to see yourself as a writer?

It was after [my time at the] Kennedy School. I remember the first week there, we had to do ice-breaking exercises and [write] 1-year, 3-year and 10-year goals. One of the goals I had is I wanted to write a book. This has carried through. I self-identify as an artist who is working in a corporate setting. My entire life has had some form of art going. It's what I was trained in. It's my sensibilities. It was music then acting.

When I came out of the Kennedy School, I started working on a book. It was a cold war story. I had some great resources and got a good agent for it. Harvard sent me to Japan to work on a case study. I was invited to The University of Virginia as a writer in residence for a semester. I did not know how to do it but I had people around me [who were helping me]. I was doing an enormous amount of source research. It was about a naval squadron. I loved this story and I got very close to the families, but I was slow because I did not know what I was doing.

After 9/11, my agent called me and she was like, “There's no market for this.” I was frankly struggling to make it a good book. My agent was very demanding and she was like, “You've got to give me more than an article.” She was pushing me. 9/11 happened and the market fell out for it. There was not going to be a market. I was crestfallen because it was 2.5 or 3 years of work, hundreds of pages of detailed outlines, and it ended right there.

Almost serendipitously, a friend of mine, my old college roommate, called me. He is an incredibly talented chef. He was trying to get a book off the ground. He was getting rejected in all of it. I had the agent. At this point, I was so upset about my book getting shelved, I was like, “Let me do this.” His idea for a book was a chef’s memoir. I was like, “That sounds like it will not be that hard. It will be a little bit of a balm on the open wound of this [earlier book] dream of mine getting crushed."

[bctt tweet="Paying attention, learning, and not shutting off that learning bulb is really important." via="no"]

We started working together on it and sold it to an imprint of Random House. I am effectively the writer on it. It is [David's] story. We worked for several years. I underestimated, when you are doing someone’s memoir, it is their personal story and you've got to respect that. I was learning what it means to be a collaborating writer.

My first book was mine and I now I was an observer to his story. I learned a lot about that. The book came out. It did fairly well. It's still in print and is called Mediterranean Summer. The New York Times named us a Top 10 Summer Book in 2007. That gave it a lift. It was a great experience for me. It was labor. I did not fully appreciate how hard finishing a book is but we got it finished. That was something I got to check off from my goal list.

You have had a succession of roles. You worked at Fidelity, which is where we met, went to work for Bain and joined State Street. You have had this very non-traditional career. You made a run at a dream career and gave it fifteen-ish years after college. If you look back, what would you tell your 22-year-old self? Would you say, “Do it again,” or would you tell him to go a more traditional route?

With the way I am wired, I would say, “Do it again.” With the richness I had from that period and some of the people I still know from that period, I would not trade that for the world. Where I am and where my career has gone have been nice. My expertise, if you had to peg it, is building high-performing teams, standing up functions and creating something that does not exist or improving something that does exist. I am at a wonderful point where I am not building a career anymore. My entire focus is only on people and mission. It is a little bit of paying it back.

A lot of people helped me. I have had these angels throughout my life, deserved or not, but I have been fortunate enough that these people have helped me and taught me. I feel it is my responsibility to do the same for others. If somebody comes to me and says, “Would you speak to somebody?” I will always take that call to try to connect with people and give time. It has become much more of service orientation for me, which makes me very happy.

In the role at State Street, I am putting together a new function and building a new team. It is the 4th or 5th that I have built. That is the thing that gives me the single most satisfaction professionally aside from achieving our goals and putting out good work. I always tell my team, “I do not have that many principles but the ones I have, I stick to.” One is quality, which is on two dimensions. It is the work we produce and holding ourselves to a bar that even others are not holding us to, not tipping that bar to accommodate, but trying to reach it even if we do not get it all the time. Keep that bar high. The other vector of it is how we show up and how are we as colleagues.

When I talk about collaboration, it is not waiting for somebody to say, “Can you help us?” It is almost being a diplomatic corps, going out saying, “What can we do to help this?” I try to instill that ethos. A Matassoni lesson that I have always remembered is I am trying to build a culture of contribution, not a culture of credit. As a leader, I'll make it my business that the people doing the work get the proper credit. I don't want them to spend time on that. I want them to think about how they contribute both with their efforts and how they help and augment other people’s efforts. In that sense, I am at a happy point in my career.

Do you feel like your time as an actor helped you with that team-building component of your current work or roles before?

Yes, 100%. Even though in acting it is brutally competitive to get the job, when you are in a job, it becomes a very collaborative process. You need your fellow actors to be the best they can be to bring out the best in you as an actor. You are often operating in close quarters. I did a movie in Texas in the middle of summer. It was 2 months with the same group of people, 6 days a week for 14-16 hours a day. You need to work collaboratively. You are inevitably going to have minor vibrations or dustups with people. You've have got to move on very quickly, though, because the production company, unless you are a huge star, isn't going to tolerate you sulking in your trailer because you didn't get your way.

In theater, it is even more vital because it is live. There is no safety net. You rely on your fellow actors to bring the play to life and help you in your performance. You need to hit your cues on time. If you stumble, a good actor will be able to pick it up. When you audition, quite often, you've got to bring a partner into your audition. Sometimes [a young actor] will bring someone they think is not that good because they think it will make them look better, but it has the opposite effect.

CSCL 15 | Corporate Marketing

Erol Munuz: Even though acting is brutally competitive, it becomes a very collaborative process once you're in a job.

 

Whenever I auditioned for a part and I had to bring a partner, I would try to find the single best actor I could find. It always made me better. My team makes me better. There are things that I used to be able to do that they can do better than me. It is recognizing that, taking friction out and letting them do their work.

Do you have other final thoughts to share?

This is one person’s opinion. My career has been non-traditional. Part of me would say, “Whatever I do, do the opposite.” What fueled me and continues to fuel me is being curious about others. In this concept of universal singularity, everybody has their story but there is [also the] universality around it of shared experiences.

When you listen and find it, you learn from [others] and you see how it relates to your experience. You find ways to make better whatever you are doing. When I was younger, I had a very high tolerance for risk. I consciously thought that. I would make these sweeping moves and have faith I would land on my feet and it would work out.

I had a couple of miscues along the way, but invariably my life became fuller and richer because of it. It is what they say about fear. Fear is much worse before you walk through that door. Once you walk through it...it is the anticipation of it that stops people. Once you go through it, you are like, “We are operating. This is good. We will figure this out.” I don't know if there is a true career path anymore.

I've heard people describe a career as all sorts of different things, certainly not a path, a ladder, or anything as linear as that anymore. The beauty of it is that you can have different careers throughout your life. It is easier than ever to make those shifts because there is no expectation socially that you stay in one thing your entire life. It opens up a lot of possibilities. You have had the fortune of pursuing some of those things. As you say, some of them have worked out and some of them have not worked out. but you can at least look back on all those things and say, “I went and did it.”

Whenever I write that last page, there is not a lot of looking back for me and seeing regrets because I stopped myself from doing something. I explored. I look at people that are in the same company for 25 years. I have enormous respect for them. There is no shame in that. It is a testament in many ways. I took a different model with a different group.

There is something you can do to help yourself, at least in my experience. It is the guidance I have gotten from other people. Paying attention, learning, and not shutting off that learning valve is critically important. It keeps things interesting and vibrant, no matter what level you're at.  When people see that you are curious - you want to be coachable and have an interest in getting yourself better - then people will give of themselves to do that for you, not everyone but most.

You've talked a few times in the interview about being a sponge and your curiosity. Both of those things have served you well.

It's what keeps me interested in life. I always keep an artistic [view] because, at my core, ultimately, that is what I am.

Erol, thank you for your time. It's very good to speak to you. You filled in some things I did not know before. That has been nice for me as well. I appreciate your time.

I appreciate you having me. This was wonderful. Thank you for this.

 

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About Erol Munuz

CSCL 15 | Corporate MarketingErol Munuz is currently the Senior Vice President for Content, Programs, and Events at State Street Corporation. Erol started his career as an actor, performing in a variety of stage, television, movie, and other roles over the years. He then made the shift into the corporate world, playing a number of roles in public relations and communications at Boston Consulting Group, Truman Company, Fidelity, and Bain & Company, before moving to State Street in 2021.

Along the way, he also co-wrote a book called Mediterranean Summer with David Shalleck, which told of David’s time spent as an executive chef on the luxury yacht of an Italian couple. Erol earned his Bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University and his Master’s degree from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. He and his wife have two children and live outside of Boston.

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