Hometown; Miami, FL.
Jose, 25, a Cuban-American attorney from a top law firm in Miami, and former Florida College Student of the Year, is the first Hispanic to receive that distinction. Pepi was president of both his high school student body and the University of Miami's student government. He graduated from Columbia Law School where he received several honors including the American Bar Association's Law Student Division Silver Key. Pepi has traveled extensively throughout the world, including study trips abroad in France, Greece, and Argentina. In his spare time, he donates his efforts to help build homes for Habitat for Humanity and assists his community through various pro bono endeavors.
What was your very first job?
At the age of 15, my father asked me to work as a laborer for his construction company. He wanted me to learn the value of money and to this day I thank him for teaching how important each and every dollar is. Today, I have worked in all sorts of jobs; as a bouncer in a night club in Argentina, in a pharmaceutical company working on insurance and risk management, doing research on Parkinson's disease, and working as an attorney. I have worked on cases for multi-million dollar clients and I have volunteered my time helping individuals that have cried to me because they did not have enough money to pay next month's rent. I fight for what I believe and I thank my father for instilling that sense of purpose in my life.
Who convinced you to try out for the Apprentice?
I was actually nominated to be on the Apprentice by the University of Miami. I received a letter in the mail and I thought it might be worth looking into. Two people did indeed influence my decision greatly. First, my mother told me from the second that she heard about the possibility, she knew I would make it on the show. You could call it mother's intuition, or just pure faith in her son's ability, but my mother has always been my number one fan. She is my confidant and one of the true driving forces in my life. She keeps repeating to me in her unique Spanish accent, "Pepi, you are going to be the Apprentice." Second, I approached one of my mentors, Dr. Donna Shalala, the President of the University of Miami and she thought that I would be perfect for the show. In life, you need mentors, they inspire you to be a better person. I have always had, and I will continue to have, mentors for the rest of my life.
What did you quit/leave/sacrifice to join The Apprentice?
I have been blessed with a truly inspirational and supporting law firm. Their corporate philosophy revolves around treating each client and attorney as family, and they have been completely supportive of my decision to interview for this job of a lifetime. I can't speak enough about how wonderful the firm is and how important their support is to me. It was difficult leaving such a great work environment, but they know that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Why do you want to work for Mr. Trump?
To be the best, you have to work with the best. Mr. Trump is one of those truly lucky individuals that truly loves what he does. It resonates in everything that he accomplishes. I want to work as his Apprentice because I believe that I have the raw skill and necessary dedication to make a significant difference in the Trump Organization. I am a bi-lingual, Ivy-League educated attorney that has had the savvy to be elected to several political positions, served on countless boards and committees, and given counsel to some of the most important companies in South Florida. Mr. Trump always mentions that he is looking for someone with a "big brain," and I certainly come equipped with one. In fact, as a senior at the University of Miami, I was the first Hispanic named as the Florida College Student of the Year. In a state that has millions of college students, I was humbled and honored by that distinction. I work hard, I always have, and every organization that I have led has prospered. I am looking forward to bringing that Midas touch to the Trump Organization and learning from the master of the deal, Mr. Donald Trump.
What have you learned from watching previous seasons of The Apprentice? Have any previous candidates motivated or inspired you?
I am looking forward to the challenges that this job interview will present, especially the boardrooms. I am well-versed in the art of the adamant discussion, but this time it will be in front of millions of people. At the end of the day, I have learned that the most important lesson is that you must always be yourself. I got on the show because Donald Trump and Mark Burnett felt I was qualified and unique. My family, my heritage, my education, and my involvements have all had a distinct role in forging my personality, and I just have to let that come across naturally.
As far as past contestants go, I think I have taken a page from the leadership styles of each one of them. Whether its Troy's charm, Kendra's strategy, Alex's calm demeanor, or Bill's intuition, I have really paid attention to the past contestants on The Apprentice. Ultimately, I think I really do appreciate Kwame Jackon's leadership style. We both come from similar education backgrounds, but we do not rely on the Ivy League degree as a crutch. Instead, we use what we learned in school to help better our organizations. I think that the way that Kwame handled tough situations was exceptional. I strongly believe that the leader of a team has to be respectful to everyone around him. Business, like life, is about people. In order to connect and motivate people, you have to put yourself in their shoes. Kwame always did that and I think that is why he made it as far as he did. With that said, I believe that I am completely different from previous contestants. My passion for life and for success will surely take me to the top of the Trump Organization.
What's your definition of success?
To me, success is being able to sleep at night without regretting the decisions that you have made. As cliché as it sounds, the most important factor in my view of success is the role that my family plays in my life. The love and support of my family and loved ones is what motivates me to keep reaching new levels of success. I have always been a big believer in maintaining a healthy balance in my life between my mental, physical, emotional and spiritual self. At the end of the day, I do want to make a lot of money in my life so that I can give my family everything that they want; and so that I can give back to my community.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I have always been an inspiring and empowering leader as opposed to a micromanager. Managing is crucial, and it usually deals with coordinating individuals, something that I can certainly do, but the real challenge lies in getting people invested in a common goal. In order for a team to succeed, it must achieve synergy, which means that the whole group is greater than the sum of its individual parts. As a child, I was the biggest nerd in the world. I quickly learned that in life, you have to stand up for yourself. Today, I lead by example and challenge my teammates to believe in their abilities to succeed, just as my family and teachers believed in me as a child. Mr. Trump says that perseverance is the difference between success and failure. I firmly believe that I have the perseverance and tenacity to survive in any competition, especially this one.
How do you deal with challenges within a group dynamic?
If there is one thing I am good at, it is adjusting to challenges, no matter what they are. One of my greatest talents is my flexibility. This means that I am always ready to meet a new challenge, head on. If one of my team members is being disruptive or malicious, I need to confront him/her immediately. A bad attitude is contagious and the only way to get rid of it is to get people to believe that they can make a positive difference. I have been in many situations where fellow team members acted up in a negative way. It turns out that most of these behaviors are the direct results of misunderstandings and these individuals just want to be heard. My first reaction is to handle the situation immediately and see if we can make strides that will better our group. If the individual is just being difficult for the sake of being difficult, well, then it is time to send them home.
How do you balance creativity and business?
Creativity is a totally right-brain oriented function, while business is often the result of logical thinking, a creature of the left-brain. I have maintained an amazing balance between both forms of thinking. Clearly, as a trained lawyer, I am well-versed in analyzing contracts and situations. But, I am also a published poet, a proficient sketch artist, and an "out-of-the-box" thinker. This means that I incorporate both perspectives whenever I take on a new task. At this point in my life, I have been the president of various organizations and it has allowed me to learn how to make the big decisions that a business needs to make in order to survive. I have sat on the boards of non-profit organizations, major private universities, and local city councils, and every one of these groups has benefited from my counsel. More importantly, I have remained a creative force and I truly believe that my quick-wits will give me an edge in this job interview.
What is your philosophy on business?
Having seen my dad, a master negotiator, since an early age, has allowed me to develop keen business skills. I believe that leadership in business is a talent. Some people are just born with it, and I thank God that I am the product of a family that has been very successful in business. My grandparents came to this country with nothing, absolutely nothing, not even a college education. They did not know the language, and they were escaping a very scary place, communist Cuba. Immediately, they applied themselves and started working in industrial factories outside of Chicago, Illinois. They saved and invested their money in a way that allowed them to buy their own business. And for the past 25 years they owned one of the most successful glass and mirror companies in Miami. My father did not study business either and today he is the owner and president of a mega-successful construction company with business throughout the whole state of Florida. I took the legal route, and I am proud to be the first lawyer in my family. But, like my grandparents and parents, I know that true business know-how cannot be taught in a school. It is something that runs in your blood, and I live and breathe that same entrepreneurial spirit.
Your favorite (famous) quote?
"Never, never, never give up." - Winston Churchill
Why should you be the next Apprentice?
Like I said, I think that I will be a unique asset to the Trump Organization. As an Ivy-League educated lawyer, I have the ability to think quickly and plan effectively while running a major branch of Mr. Trump's empire. As a former student body president of my high school and college, I have continued to be elected into numerous national offices, and today, I have already represented over half-a-million constituents. So, managing a major organization will not be something new for me. As a lobbyist, I have had a major role in changing the corporate structure of some very large institutions, and that has allowed me to realize that new blood is always needed, even in the most successful organizations. I have a talent for business and for inspiring people to do their best. I come from a long-line of outstanding business leaders that learned their lessons outside the classroom. I believe in mentorship and my dream of dreams is to work for the best, and everyone knows that when it comes to business, Donald Trump is the best. I will be the Apprentice because I am intelligent, energetic, loyal, courageous and full of potential, everything that an apprentice should be.
Favorite Music /Artists
Dave Matthews Band, U2, Josh Groban, Mana (Spanish Rock), and Green Day
Favorite Books /Authors
Art of the Deal (Donald Trump), 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Stephen R. Covey), Never Eat Alone (Keith Ferrazzi), Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad), and How to Win Friends and Influence People (Dale Carnegie)
Favorite TV Shows
The Apprentice, 24, Family Guy, The Sopranos, and Nip/Tuck
Godfather (love Pacino) and Scarface (Pacino as a Cuban, enough said)
Favorite Sports/Sports Teams
Miami Hurricanes, Miami Dolphins, Miami Heat and Florida Marlins. I grew up a Yankees fan, but the Marlins are winners. I am obsessed with winning, and I always follow the teams that continue to be victorious.
I have two dogs. Nala, a black pug and Baloo, a Pomeranian puppy.
Cuban food (full of calories, but to me, it is the best food in the world)
Favorite Former Candidate of The Apprentice
Current hobbies/recreational activities
Traveling abroad, playing and following sports, politics, reading biographies and leadership books, watching movies, & participating in outdoor activities
Top travel destinations
I have studied in France, Greece and Argentina and I am fascinated by every one of those countries and their histories. In the United States, my favorite places are Kuai'i, Hawaii, and San Francisco, California. But, if you have never been there before, you have to go to Miami. It is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The people are wonderful and the nightlife is unbeatable.
Highest Level of Education
University of Miami (B.A.), Columbia School of Law (J.D.)