The countdown is on to the ON Leadership Conference, designed to empower attendees with the frameworks and perspective to handle profound moments of change with greater confidence. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been spending time introducing you to our speakers, from our keynoters to our Lightning Talk speakers. Today, I am excited to introduce you to my good friend Ray Nuñez, a creative storyteller, community convener and brand builder.

I first met Ray a few years ago through a student leadership development program and was immediately struck by his magnetism and charisma. Ray is modeling the way for next-gen leadership and making his impact each and every day, and I am so excited that he will be joining the big stage for our Lightning Talk round. You are in for a treat!

Learn more about Ray in our quick catch-up below!

To begin, can you tell our readers a little bit about your career pathway so far and how it led you to today?

I’ve always had a passion and fascination for art, communication, and the way that people engage with each other and brands. Naturally, I gravitated towards a career path in Graphic Design. The opportunity to combine language with art in one enticing package was a dream role for me! I attended a technical high school in northwestern New Jersey and then went on to attain my bachelor’s degree at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.

My career path has allowed me to lead as a print manager, shipping coordinator, owner of a creative agency, nonprofit fundraiser, communications specialist, and most recently into the world of media, working as a digital community builder. Each of these career opportunities were a result of building relationships, taking risks, and wanting to marry my passions with projects I cared deeply about.


You have been a pioneer for new-age leadership and community models and breaking down systematic leadership issues. What are some of the biggest changes you wish to see in the business world?

I love this question! I wish more people, especially those in positions of power and influence, would ask this question to their constituents/teams; and take notes. One of the greatest changes I’d like to see in the business world is a full appreciation for the “whole-person.” That means seeing employees, customers, board members, and all stakeholders for more than their job descriptions or title. It means valuing them as whole-people with specific strengths and life perspectives that enhance the culture of an organization.  You see cultures, societies, and organizations shift dramatically when all stakeholders feel like they are valued and have the ability to vulnerably be their full authentic selves.


You have shared your story of overcoming adversity; what advice would you give to others who are facing adversity right now?

Those moments where you feel alone, where you feel down, where you feel like you don’t belong; those moments will pass. I found solace in my personal adversity by investing in myself and finding connections to people, no matter how different we appeared to be. Those people I was building connections with were always genuine and positive. When I surrounded myself with positive people my outlook become more positive, my views on my future became more positive, and my reflection on myself and my value certainly became more positive. Lastly, I’d encourage anyone facing adversity to harness the emotion and frustration and turn that into motivation for self-investment. Becoming the best version of yourself, owning your strengths, and turning the negative into positive is the ultimate way to use your adversity as a fuel for greatness.


How do you define leadership?

Leadership is a responsibility. It’s not a title, a designation, or a position limited to a specific type of “leader.” Leadership is an action, it’s a way of living, it’s a service, it’s a responsibility that we hold to ensure opportunities for future leaders. In my experiences, leadership isn’t a direct path, a safe action, or a comfortable position; it’s the unknown, the risk, the ownership and embracing of change that defines a leader.


What’s one thing you are most excited about right now as it connects to your work?

It’s tough to narrow down to just ONE thing, but I’m mostly excited about the range of projects I get to work on and where they take me. As a digital nomad, I have the beautiful flexibility of working from anywhere with anyone.  Right now, my projects allow me to relaunch a commercial architecture magazine, develop a marketing strategy for a biotech-manufacturing startup, create branding assets for socially responsible cannabis companies, and continue to support non-profit and community efforts I’m passionate about right here in Rhode Island. This diverse workload is so exciting and so dynamic, that it no longer feels like work. I love it!


Catch up on the other speakers by checking out: