Senior Insights Director at NBCUniversal Anna Rios ’01 could never have imagined what Wellesley had in store for her when she wrote her college application essays on a desktop computer that was given to her in lieu of a quinceañera. As a first-generation Latinx student born and raised in East Los Angeles, Rios’ transition to Wellesley was not the easiest.
At Wellesley, there were many firsts for Rios: she was away from her family for the first time, saw snow for the first time and got her first C.
“During my first couple of months at Wellesley, I wanted to come home. I hated Wellesley. I hated tea time. I hated the bland food. I hated the Senate Bus. I hated the weather,” she said.
Rios missed her friends and family back home, finding that it was much harder to get in contact with them since FaceTime and Skype did not exist at the time. Luckily, she came to Wellesley with three other girls from her high school and she became more comfortable after she got involved in Mezcla, the Latinx organization on campus. Still, she wanted to go home. Her mother, however, told Rios to wait at least until Wintersession. Wintersession came and went, and Rios decided to stay at Wellesley.
“I owe all of my success to that conversation; ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ was what she was really telling me,” she said.
From that point on, Rios found her niche at Wellesley. She visited New York with her friends from Mezcla, took classes at MIT and decided to double major in religion and Spanish literature, which taught her “how to analyze, think critically, how to write and more importantly empathize.”
The summer following her junior year, Rios had an internship at Morgan Stanley on Wall Street. It was unlike anything she had ever experienced.
“That summer I made more than my family made in a little under a year. I flew in a private jet, rode in town cars and in typical Wellesley fashion, I thought I had [everything] figured out. JP Morgan even offered me an investment banking analyst role in New York upon graduation,” Rios explained.
However, after the 9/11 attack, Rios decided to move back to Los Angeles. She took a job as an assistant at Univision, where she ended up taking a 70 percent pay cut and she began to see herself as a failure.
“But I took that large dose of humble pie and worked my way up in entertainment the way my mom raised me: to feel that fear and do it anyway,” she said.
Rios now serves as the senior insights director at NBCUniversal and has previously worked at the Walt Disney Company and Univision in similar positions.
“As a senior insights director, my job is to represent the ‘voice of the consumer.’ The data and insights I help provide play a critical role in high stakes decisions concerning programming content, marketing, branding and the overall strategic direction of the network,” said Rios. “Every day, I connect with viewers all around the country to better understand their entertainment needs, preferences, attitudes and behaviors.”
Although her current role does not explicitly deal with her degree in religion, Rios says that she could not imagine her career without it, as it has provided her with a unique perspective in the workplace.
“A degree in religion helps me find clarity where others might find frustration in these situations, and thus helps me perform at a much higher level than peers with more ‘typical’ degrees,” she explained. “I found that having a unique degree in a highly competitive industry is an asset in and of itself. On almost every job interview I had, the decision-maker noted my degree and asked me about it.”
In her free time, she enjoys traveling, eating and cooking. When asked about advice she would give to current Wellesley students, Rios said that it’s important to network, speak up, ask questions, be kind, give back, do things that might scare you and be kinder to yourself. She explained that she will always have a special place in her heart for Wellesley.
“Wellesley is a support system that lasts well beyond the four years you spend in it,” Rios said.