By Lauren Comander
As a tomboy and passionate baseball fan growing up in Miami, Barbara Pestana-Cartaya would have loved to join a Little League team. Instead, she took piano lessons and became a majorette in her school band. Today, she has found a new passion in her personal and professional calling: doling out skincare advice.
"For anyone looking for fulfillment in a role, having a passion for what you represent is extremely important," said Pestana-Cartaya (BBA '02), who rose through multiple roles in the beauty industry to head Johnson & Johnson's professional sales for Consumer Skin health brands. "I found I have a significant passion for helping people achieve healthy skin!"
Pestana-Cartaya's road to sales executive wasn't always smooth. Like many first-generation Cuban Americans, her path to success required both a great deal of hard work and outside support. She juggled undergraduate work at FIU with the demands of single motherhood and her role as Eastman Kodak's sales representative for Latin America and the Caribbean. She did her homework between meetings and on the airplane returning from international business trips, often heading straight from the airport to class while her parents watched her daughter.
"It was a lot of work on a very tight schedule," she recalled.
The hard work paid off and her career soared. Though she loved her job at Eastman Kodak, she switched gears after co-workers were affected by express kidnappings in Central America, taking a position as a pharmaceutical rep in the field of dermatology. Two years later, L'Oreal called, and Pestana-Cartaya rose from South Florida sales rep to vice president of national field sales for one of its skincare brands.
In 2018, after 13 years at L'Oreal, Pestana- Cartaya joined Johnson & Johnson as the head of sales and marketing for Neostrata, a professional skincare brand within the company's Consumer Health Skin Health portfolio. In September 2020, she took on additional responsibilities as the head of professional sales for the total Skin Health business unit that includes Neutrogena, Aveeno, Neostrata and Johnson's Baby. In this role, she provides education to health care professionals across the country, with the goal of supporting patient care.
She credits the support she received at FIU, as well as the mentors who guided her along the way, for much of her accomplishments. "Mentors have had significant impact in my personal growth, from nominating me for tuition reimbursement to helping with communication skills, learning new industries and helping me navigate complex situations," said Pestana-Cartaya, who mentors both FIU students and those within her company. She, along with her husband Charles, also established a scholarship for first-generation FIU Business students. "I pay this forward and consider it a privilege to be able to do so."