The Greater Pittsburgh ATHENA Award recognizes exceptional women who demonstrate excellence in their profession, contribute to their community, and help other women and/or girls to succeed through mentorship.
Luz Esneda Blandon Gonzalez is happily married with two gorgeous children and resides in the Brookline neighborhood in Pittsburgh. Her oldest son, Elijah, studies piano at CAPA, and her younger son, Federico, is just starting 2nd grade! Currently, she is the Executive Vice President of Immigrant Children Services for Holy Family Institute.
Born in Colombia to a large, supportive, and loving family of agriculturists and ranchers, Luz has been most influenced by her grandmother and namesake, Esneda, who survived great hardship and trauma during La Violencia, a period of civil war in Colombia that lasted 50 years. La Violencia claimed her first husband’s life, leaving her destitute with three children. Despite this picked herself up and thrived as a single woman with young kids. All six of her children have become highly successful and Luz attributes that to her grandmother’s resilience. Esneda created a school for poor children in the surrounding villages and to this day continues to support numerous children in need, another reason why she continues to be an inspiration to Luz.
Luz has two brothers who both live and work in Australia while her parents continue to live in Colombia. Luz was born in a church in a remote village, Riomanza, in the mountains of Colombia. Her first job was as a child, selling lemons in the street from the tree that grew in her backyard. She owned her first business at the age of 17, later earned a BA in Business from the University of Bucaramanga, and is currently finishing her MBA at Penn State University. In 2005, Luz left Colombia with her husband and worked in international education as an educator and administrator. Along with her husband and oldest son, Luz did this for 10 years which took them to Ecuador, Tanzania, Kuwait, Guatemala, and Venezuela.
In today’s society, there is a great deal of pessimism. People may see good reasons to think that way considering the many serious problems we face. However, Luz looks at adversity as opportunity: another opportunity to work and solve problems. She is optimistic about the future. She has an amazing family and friends, she loves her neighbors, and she is grateful for the community she has become a part of in Pittsburgh.
The Greater Pittsburgh ATHENA Young Professional Award recognizes an emerging leader age 35 or younger who demonstrates excellence in her profession and who dedicates her time and talent to helping other women and/or girls thrive.
Aleta Heard is an award-winning leader in the community and in her technical profession. She has been recognized as a Woman of Excellence by the Pittsburgh Courier in 2018, 30 under 30 by Pittsburgh Business Times in 2020, nominated for the Pittsburgh ATHENA Young Professional Award in 2018 and Tomorrow’s Promise – PA Bankers Award in 2022.
Aleta received a Business Management certificate and Associate of Science degree in Business from Community College of Allegheny County, a Bachelor of Science degree in Healthcare Administration and Management with an Information Systems minor graduating Summa Cum Laude from Slippery Rock University, and a Master’s degree in Information Systems from Duquesne University. Aleta’s education empowered her to pursue a technical career, beginning in 2016. She initially started out in Human Resources, hiring employees to fill technical roles then transitioned into a more technology driven career, configuring and concatenating networks and switches. Shortly after, Aleta migrated into a global technical support engineer role where she created and implemented new processes for an online ticketing system and published knowledge articles for users and clients, and she onboarded new employees. Aleta then accelerated her career by moving into a Field Technician role repairing computer software and hardware issues. Not long after being promoted into a Software Developer and Senior Systems Analyst role, she became a certified agile Product Owner and developed skills creating microservices, APIs, and working in iterative development and design. She transferred her skills from a national fintech company to a global investments bank where she is currently a VP, working in Asset Services and Digital as a Regulatory Business Solutions Product Owner over the United States and Canadian Custody territory. As an early careerist, Aleta is focused on mastering the regulatory innovation space and building her leadership skills.
Along with being a notable employee of BNY Mellon, she is also CEO and Founder of Masters of Maternity, a dual sided platform for moms to build their birth team and journey using modern technology. She created this platform in effort to reshape the trajectory of maternal care and to decrease the maternal and infant mortality and morbidity rates among women—especially Black women, as they are 2-3 times more likely to die from preventable causes during birth.
Aleta is also a founding mother of the PA Doula Commission and serves as Vice President on the Board of Directors. In her work with the PA Doula Commission, she strives to bring promotion, protection, and recognition to the doula profession.
Although Aleta has always been a champion for women, being in love with the maternal space started when she became a mother in 2018—arguably her most favorite role, in addition to being a devoted wife. In hindsight and from a full circle perspective, her expertise in technology and innovation, and her passion for women empowerment and community all align with her educational background. She is truly walking in her purpose. Outside the office, Aleta is passionate about family and friends, traveling, and she enjoys reading. Fun fact: Aleta was a skilled ballerina for about 20 years prior to her technical career. She gives her dancing career credit for her grit and competitive edge. When asked what is the one thing she is extremely good at, Aleta responds with “learning.” She defines success as a journey and measures it by the impact on the lives of people, inspiring them to think and act in ways that they may not have considered before.