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Member Spotlight

Melanie Damian, IWF Florida President

Full Name: Melanie E. Damian

Hometown: Greendale, Wisconsin

Title: Partner & Co-founder Damian & Valori, LLP

President IWF Florida

Tell us about our yourself and your background: I am a complex business litigation attorney.

What do you do in your role?

I represent public and private companies and individuals in a variety of complex business and securities litigation. I regularly serve as court-appointed Federal Equity Receiver, Special Monitor, and distribution Agent, and serve as Receiver and Monitor in state court matters. I counsel companies on corporate governance matters and serve as counsel to special litigation committees performing internal investigations in response to shareholder derivative demands. I also represent officers and directors in corporate and securities litigation matters, and various partners or members in closely held “business divorce” matters.

I am also active in child advocacy and am a founder of the non-profit Educate Tomorrow. I am also the founding and current Chair of the Board of the SEED School of Miami, a public urban boarding school for underserved youth.

As President of IWF Florida, I have the privilege of stewarding the organization and working to ensure that our members have a platform to share knowledge and exchange ideas, even and especially through this global pandemic.

What is your favorite part of IWF? I love the IWF International Conferences. The women I have met from around the world are amazing. Every conference leaves me inspired.

What projects or cases you are working on? I am currently working on raising money for the capital campaign of The Seed School of Miami.

Why did you choose to become an attorney? To help people who need legal counseling and advocacy.

What do you like most about your job? The most rewarding aspect of my work is when we can recover funds for victims of fraud. As a Court Appointed Receiver, I often am appointed when things look the direst for investors, creditors of consumer victims of ponzi schemes. I have received so many telephone calls from people who believe they have lost their business or life savings and through diligence, creativity, and advocacy we are able to make them whole. I am always working for that day when we can get money back to people who had thought they lost everything. That is the reward of this work.

What do you like most about working with IWF members? I have made great friendships with women all over the world. What always impresses me is the sisterhood. I feel like I can call on any of the members and each will support me in any way they are able, and vice versa.

Word that describes you: Persistent and resilient

What’s on your Netflix list: My recent favorite is “Queen’s Gambit.” I also watch “West Wing” repeatedly—but it moved to HBO Max.

First paying job: Paper Route.

Your proudest accomplishment: Every successful successive receivership is a moment of pride as each is different and more complex. Being able to provide recovery for victims is always rewarding. In my other passion, philanthropy, the opening of The SEED School of Miami's dormitories this year was monumental because of the many obstacles we overcame. It took us 10 years from passing the legislation to opening the permanent campus and it was a jagged road at that.

What do you do when you are not working? Pre-Covid, I loved to go to dinner and have a glass of wine with friends. Now it is the same, only socially distanced, or virtual. I also love running and do yoga.

Recommend an article or a book: I just finished President Barrack Obama’s “A Promised Land.” I highly recommend it.

Melanie Damian, IWF Florida President
Melanie Damian, IWF Florida President

Black History Month Leaders in Aviation: Loretta McNeir

Member Spotlight


It only seems fitting we might kick off our new Member Spotlight by showcasing our talented and hard working Administrator, Lea Cerdido.


Meet Lea M. Cerdido


Since 2019, Lea M. Cerdido has served International Women’s Forum Florida Chapter Administrator. In this role Lea is the lead contact for our all our chapter members, manages our website, and coordinates all of IWF Florida events.  A key resource for many of the women in the Florida Chapter, we wanted to recognize Lea and all the work she does for our members as our inaugural IWF Florida Member Spotlight. Moving forward, our chapter will work on spotlighting one of our amazing members every month.


Learn more about Lea, and her accomplishments below.


Full Name: Lea M. Cerdido


Hometown: Originally, I am from La Habana, Cuba, and arrived to Miami when I was 14 years old.  I have lived here most of my life except for a short time in Washington, DC and Guadalajara, Mexico 


Title: VP of National Accounts and Founder of Cor-Events, Inc. 


Tell us about our yourself and your background:  I was born in Havana Cuba to an Italian mother and a Cuban/Spanish father, and l lived there until 1973 when we left via Spain to reach our final destination, Miami, Florida. My family arrived here in 1974 as a Cuban refugees. 


What do you do in your role?  I wear many hats; I do sales of our services whether it is face to face event planning or association management. I prepare proposals and negotiate contracts with venues and vendors, I do event planning for events from registration to bill reconciliation for corporate and association clients and work as administrator for some of the Association clients. 


When did you begin working with IWF?  I began working with IWF Florida in June of 2019! 


What projects or cases you are working on?  Besides IWF, I also plan the events CREW Miami (Commercial Real Estate Women) and we are planning an in-person convention for one of our oldest clients, LAAIA, which will be in August.


Why did you choose this profession?  I love to help people. At the start of my career, I worked for one of the top accounting firms in the early 80s, Laventhol & Horwath as their Admin in their Management Advisory Services Division and was considering the Accounting field. However, my bosses, pushed me to go into Hospitality because they said I had too much personality and should not be sitting behind a desk crunching numbers!


I had learned to be hospitable from my Italian mother, so from there on, they made sure I could take two classes per semester while continuing at my full-time job with them until I was able to finish my studies. I knew I was in the right place when I sat in my first Hotel Law class at with Dean Marshall, the Dean of the School of Hospitality Management. 


What do you like most about your job?  Making things happen from nothing and helping people.


What do you like most about working with IWF members?  They are outstanding women full of incredible experiences and knowledge.  I only wish I had become part of it earlier in my lifetime to have them as mentors.  It is difficult to have a full time job, and also be a small business owner!  


What describes you: A bit bossy but with a huge heart.



First paying job:  My first paying job was when I was 16 years old and worked in a lens factory in Hialeah 37 hours a week while in High School to support my home.   


Your proudest accomplishment: Here are a few:

  • Completing my bachelor’s in science degree. I worked full time since I was 16 and continued my entire college career.
  • Buying my parents, a home when I was 25 years old. 
  • Once joined the Hospitality Industry without prior experience other than the degree, I was hired by Marriott International and was quickly promoted to a position without even completing their six-month training program that was required. 
  • My business which is still growing now that I am working in it full time. 
  • Maintaining a friendship with all my College best friends to this day; 30 years later.  


What do you do when you are not working?  Exercising, spinning, Zumba and I love the outdoors.   


Recommend an article or a book:  Creating Excellence and The Woman I Wanted To Be by Diane Von Furstenberg.





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