Ruth Vaca (she/her)
Co-founder of TrueStories.us & Admin Generalist Coordinator at La Casa
Ruth Vaca (she/her)
"In my academic journey at IU, I immersed myself in Telecommunication and Spanish, driven by a fervor for the multifaceted world of entertainment. Despite initial uncertainty about my career path, I was certain about my passion for film, television, and radio, with a focus on production, acting, writing, and directing. The prospect of attending culinary school in New York briefly tempted me, but my older siblings, champions of a 'traditional liberal arts' education, convinced me of its merits. The diverse array of courses, from audio production to fencing, expanded my horizons. Linguistics, especially German and Italian, intrigued me, reflecting my commitment to improving my Spanish and staying connected to the Latinx community in entertainment.
"Life's unpredictable nature led me away from a direct leap into production post-college. Instead, I found myself navigating the landscape of marketing within publishing in New York City. This unexpected detour allowed me to straddle both Spanish-speaking and English-speaking markets, a fulfilling and eye-opening experience. While I loved my work in publishing, my heart remained steadfastly drawn to the allure of microphones and cameras. The entertainment industry, I soon realized, lacked a predefined path akin to fields like medicine or law. Crafting one's trajectory in entertainment required a blend of perseverance, adaptability, and the willingness to explore unconventional opportunities. Initially grappling with issues of identity in the workplace and the industry's superficial ideals, I gradually learned to embrace and express my varied interests. This led me to not only experience these diverse passions but also to monetize and forge careers from them.
"Over the past 15 years, I've independently consulted and worked on productions, specializing in marketing and branding development for independent artists and small businesses within the entertainment sphere. Sometimes this is a side hustle; at other times, it constitutes my full-time focus. Working extensively with Latinx artists and their stories has been particularly gratifying. The foundation laid at IU, with its multitude of clubs and groups, honed my ability to balance academic pursuits with a vibrant social life. Time management, a skill cultivated during my student years, continues to be a cornerstone of my success. For students navigating their own career choices, I advocate for seeking internships or mentors to refine their focus. I emphasize starting with one thing, excelling at it, and then gradually expanding their scope. The job search process, I acknowledge, can be akin to the challenge of finding a first job as a server — a seemingly impossible task until that pivotal 'yes' opens the door.
"Looking back on my career journey, I wish I had been better prepared for the interpersonal challenges. Navigating relationships with friends, partners, or co-workers who don't always have your best interests at heart due to their insecurities was a lesson learned through experience. Belonging in the workplace, to me, is about celebrating and respecting the unique talents, skills, backgrounds, and cultures of every individual. Feeling safe, supported, and having a robust HR department further contribute to a sense of belonging. As a Latina, my identity has played a profound role in my career choices. Experiencing micro-aggressions and navigating the complexities of being white-passing have been ongoing challenges. Yet, I've learned to uphold my pride and dignity, not just for myself but also for the companies I contribute to or lead. This commitment has sometimes led me to make tough decisions, such as leaving high-profile positions when faced with a toxic work environment. Through it all, my resilience has been shaped by both successes and failures, each contributing to my growth and wisdom."
What did you study, and what has your career journey looked like?
"I studied Telecommunication and Spanish. I think telecommunications is now media studies. I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do in entertainment, but I knew that I wanted to have a career in entertainment, whether it was film, television, or radio. My interests were in production, acting, writing, and directing. In addition, I considered going to culinary school in New York instead or film school, but my older siblings had shown me the upsides of getting what we referred to as a 'traditional liberal arts' education. They were right. I loved taking an array of classes, from audio production to fencing. I enjoy linguistics and took several German and Italian courses. As a Latina, I also wanted to improve my Spanish and stay close to working in the Latine community within entertainment.
"Life has a way of surprising you and opening opportunities that you never expect. My parents had no idea how to navigate higher education and even less about the entertainment industry. The thing about the entertainment business is that there is no set path, like there is in let’s say, for medical or law careers. You make your own path in entertainment. I learned that along my way. At first, I struggled with identity in the workplace and the superficial ideals of the entertainment industry. With time, I learned that I could allow myself to express and experience most of my curiosities, and eventually learned how to make a profit and career(s) from them. Instead of going straight into production post college, I ended up working in marketing within publishing in New York City. I did manage to also work within both the Spanish-speaking market and English-speaking markets within my job, and that was extremely satisfying and eye-opening. I loved working in publishing, but my heart always belonged near mics and cameras. Since then, I have had the privilege to work as talent in front of a camera and behind the scenes in collaboration with independent artists and businesses as well as some Big 500 companies across the nation. I’ve independently consulted and worked on productions for over 15 years. I specialize in marketing/ branding development and production for independent artists and small businesses within entertainment. Sometimes it’s my 'side-hustle.' Sometimes it’s my full-time job. I especially enjoy working with Latine artists and their stories.
"I come from a place of yes. I come from a place of always looking into new opportunities and exploring all the interests within you that make you smile from within. I come from a place of making time and space to partake in two careers at the same time. This comes with practice, sacrifices, determination, discipline, and experience. We are all multi-faceted. Why not learn how to balance growing and nourishing your multiple interests, in a very real and professional way? And with time, you can switch off your priorities of interests. Students already do this. They have multiple majors, minors, extracurricular activities, they study abroad, they have internships, they already have the basic skills to excel at living a diverse life of interest. Eventually, they learn how to navigate themselves professionally and gross income out of their hard work and interests. And for those who feel hyper-focused in an area, I encourage them to stay focused but never lose sight of unconventional opportunities that may lead to diversifying their goals.
"From publishing to fine arts, to culinary arts, podcasts, Off-Broadway productions, commercials, and films, I truly have allowed myself to work within most of my interests. Today, I am the co-founder of TrueStories.us, with my husband, who is a filmmaker, writer, director, and producer. We started our own company during the pandemic and combined our skills to create content that includes those who may not have a platform to amplify their voice. The pandemic made it possible for us to think outside of LA/NY or other major cities as a hub to flourish our careers. Why not make it happen in the Midwest? Near family? In an idyllic city? I also have the wonderful opportunity to now work at La Casa, a place that gave me a home away from home on campus. It’s a full circle moment and I am so happy to connect with Latine students who will continue to open doors and break ceilings for those of us who are often made to feel as if we’re only allowed to look in from the outside."
What IU experiences do you feel contributed to your success, both inside and outside the classroom?
"I was always impressed and eventually overwhelmed by the number of groups and clubs on campus. At some point, for an extrovert and social butterfly like me, I had to learn how to balance my studies with my work and extracurricular activities as a student. That is something you continue to sharpen throughout your career and further studies. Time management is a huge asset in success."
What advice would you give to a student navigating their career choices?
"If you feel like you don’t have focus or a path, find an internship or mentor to connect with and explore your focus. You’d be surprised how many professionals are eager to help others succeed. I put together an internship program for True Stories, and I absolutely love hooking up students with experience in the entertainment industry outside of LA or NYC. Also, start with one thing, excel at that one thing first, and then stack on another. We all want to be successful and think big, and sometimes that means simplifying things and finding your core or focus to weed through what you really enjoy doing daily. If you feel that it is hard to break ground in your career, apply to every single internship or entry job that you can take on. It’s a little bit like finding a job as a server when you are in high school and reading that servers must have experience, but then you wonder, how am I supposed to have experience if no one will hire me to get experience? It’ll feel that way sometimes. Just keep applying. Keep networking. Do internships. All it takes is one yes, and then you take it from there. If you’re impatient and feel confident in your entrepreneurial spirit, get started, be positive, and be prepared to become resilient through the ebbs and flows. Success and failures go together. Both allow for wisdom and experience."
What is one thing you wish you would have known beginning your career journey?
"I wish I would have known how to come to terms with friends, partners, or co-workers who don’t always want the best for you due to their own insecurities."
What does belonging look like for you in the workplace?
"Celebrating and respecting everyone’s unique talents, skills, backgrounds, and cultures. Feeling safe and having a strong and diverse HR department is also helpful."
How has your identity impacted your career choices?
"As a Latina, I have experienced many micro-aggressions from well-meaning people. I’m white passing, so I have also experienced catching people say all sorts of unprofessional things in my presence about Latinos or other minorities. At first it can be difficult to know how or when to speak up. I remind myself to keep my head up. Have pride and dignity in not just myself but also in the company I am contributing to or leading. I have left high profile positions due to feeling misunderstood, disrespected, or recognizing that it is a toxic work environment."Back to Resources for Latinx Students