Desiree Perez, CEO of Roc Nation, has revolutionized the worlds of entertainment, sports, and music. As the leader of the global entertainment company, she oversees a dizzyingly complex business that includes artist and athlete representation, a music label, and event and tour management.
The entertainment company, which she established with longtime collaborator Jay-Z, has taken on new directions in the past year alone – including the creation of a cannabis company and the establishment of the Roc Nation School of Music, Sports & Entertainment at Long Island University.
It’s a heady array of responsibilities that Desiree Perez manages with poise.

A Career Journey Focused on Opportunity

For Perez, creating the school is a powerful opportunity for the daughter of Cuban immigrants, who got her start managing various nightclubs in New York City. It’s in that work that she first met Jay-Z and created the foundation that has become a multi-decade partnership.
Prior to becoming CEO in 2019, Desiree Perez served as chief operating officer of Roc Nation for 12 years. She had oversight of all critical areas, including philanthropy and social justice initiatives that have long been important to Perez.
The development of the school in Brooklyn, as part of a well-established university, is the latest in a string of acts Perez has started to uplift underrepresented people. Part of her goal in launching the school was to provide opportunities for local, homegrown talent that can become future visionaries and leaders in the entertainment industry.
That’s one of the reasons that Roc Nation is providing 25 percent of the entering class with full, four-year scholarships. The initiative means to provide a leg up for academically gifted students from New York, all of whom will graduate debt-free.

Teaching the Next Generation of Entertainment Leaders

The school, which launches in the fall of 2021, features undergraduate programs in music, production, entrepreneurship, music technology, and sports management.
One of the guiding principles at Roc Nation is to pass on knowledge to the younger generation of leadership, Perez has said.
It’s a way to develop new leaders and demonstrate that Perez and her fellow employees are invested in their success.
She sees the school as a natural progression of that work, showing others what’s possible from the next generation and seeing how the company can advance important causes.
“Education is the solution to all of our nation's problems, and our goal since day one has been to provide a pathway for young people,” Perez said in a recent interview.
The school includes not only courses taught by talented faculty with practical experience, but also internship opportunities that will immerse students in real-world situations and provide valuable job experience.
Perez sees the school as a powerful way for young people to grow their knowledge base, make the transition from child to young adult, and unlock their hidden potential.

Leadership Lessons from Desiree Perez

As a leader of one of the most influential entertainment companies in the world, Desiree Perez understands the value of perseverance, hard work, and seizing opportunities. Her day is a dizzying array of meetings and sessions with athletes, artists, their representatives, and other company executives.
As someone whose day typically begins at 5 a.m. and often does not end until 11 p.m., she instills that maxim of hard work in others. She holds with herself to this day sage advice she received: Work harder than the next person while staying true to yourself and never compromising your values.
She draws inspiration from Jay-Z, who embodies that same work ethic, and the strong women she surrounds herself with at Roc Nation.
As a leader, Desiree Perez prides herself on setting a good example. There is not a task she asks someone else at Roc Nation to do that she wouldn’t do herself or hasn’t done in the past.
She aspires to provide a steady approach to her work; that steadiness is, according to her, “the essence of leadership,” and includes both commitment and discipline.  
For other aspiring leaders, she says that learning and listening are critical. She encourages others to listen more than they speak and understand the whys of a decision. That comprehension leads to leadership growth, but it means asking many questions and truly hearing the answers.
Active listening, truly being present for the person with whom you are talking, is key. It means being hyper-focused on the individual and not a smartphone or tablet that may be buzzing.
Perez also encourages rising leaders to fully learn their business and their industry. Like her own journey, that patience and learning will, in the end, pay off.


Desiree Perez