Having a Place

I consider myself to be a self-sufficient person, someone who prides herself in carrying her own weight. Had someone suggested a few years ago that I consider an Employee Resource Organization (ERO) to advance my career, I would’ve responded, “I’m doing just fine on my own. Thanks anyway.”

Suggest it now and I would enthusiastically respond, “I have. Let me tell you how it has helped me…”

My change of heart didn’t happen overnight, but I remember my “aha” moment very clearly. It was August 2012 and I had recently joined Conexión, Cisco Systems’ Latino ERO. The group invited members to participate at an event where high school students met with local professionals or “heroes” in speed-mentoring sessions. I didn’t consider myself a “heroine” by any means. I was more interested in giving back to the community and doing so without my manager noticing a negative impact on my work.

The others were very similar to me. There were Latino accountants, engineers, marketing managers, and the like. I had no idea so many highly educated Latino professionals existed in Silicon Valley. Elsewhere these people would be the rare exception, but at this event, people who looked and talked like me were everywhere. I was shocked but inspired at the same time. I was inspired because they were role models who had the power to positively influence a new generation of Latino leaders. The very same reason I was there. And that’s when it began; the feeling of having a place.

Up to that point, I had spent my career in the male-dominated technology field trying to blend in, pretending not to notice that I was usually the only female. As for being Latina, it was the last thing I wanted to call attention to. In my own neighborhood, I’ve been confused for my children’s nanny—by other Latinos. Like those who thought I was a nanny, I was accustomed to finding that people who looked like us worked in restaurants, took care of other people’s children, or did the cleaning.

But I was aware that while we shared a common culture, a language, and history, something was a little different. This event, the beginning of my involvement with Conexión, was the inflection point for me. It opened my eyes to a completely new world of possibilities.

By design, Cisco EROs are global, virtual organizations that leverage diverse employee communities to create value for the company. Well-managed EROs align employees who are passionate about their communities to the company’s strategic objectives. They go beyond the “food, fun and famous people” approach and create true value for the sponsoring company and its members in several ways.

Through Conexión, I’ve had the opportunity to meet Latino influencers who have inspired me to achieve more. So much so, that I took on the role of Conexión Co-President in July 2013. In this role, I’ve developed leadership skills and a sense of confidence. It’s a confidence acquired from not feeling like “the only one” anymore. As the saying goes, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” Conexión has helped me see the success that I and others like me can achieve.

Unlike that first day, my ERO involvement is no longer a volunteer activity or something that I hide from my manager. It’s a critical component of my professional development plan that carves out a safe place for me to flex my management muscles, develop global strategies, and practice managing priorities. These skills are relevant in any business context.

While I attribute much of my growth to my involvement with Conexión, the real success is that I’m not alone. Countless ERO members have shared their stories—a board member who found the courage to take on a new challenge or a newcomer who found friendly faces in a new location. It’s difficult to say for sure, but without the ERO connection, these talented people might have been lost in a company of 75,000 employees. Worse, the company could have lost out on their contribution altogether. These are the same people who raise their hand and say, “How can I help? What can I do?” They are fully invested in Cisco’s success.

Business leaders may wonder if an ERO strategy makes sense for their company or question their impact to the bottom line. The truth is that you may never know when an ERO connection will make a difference, especially for people like me who didn’t initially understand their value. In an increasingly competitive corporate environment, an ERO strategy may be just the thing your company can’t do without.

Beatriz Medina Pratt, Program Manager, Cisco Systems is the Co-President of Conexión.

Advocates for Innovation

According to the U.S. Census, by 2020, the Hispanic population will reach 60 million, or almost 18 percent of the total U.S. America’s technology sector is up for a much-needed makeover, and one group that has taken advantage of this evolution is The Hispanic Information Technology Executive Council or “HITEC”. While educating and training tomorrow’s (or even today’s) next bright stars in various aspects of great business, the organization provides a family of mentors and friends whose only goal is to raise each other up.

The Hispanic Information Technology Executive Council (HITEC) is focused on building stronger technology and executive leaders, leadership teams, corporations, and role models in today’s rapidly changing and information technology centric world on a national scale. The global leaders that call HITEC home include executives leading Global 1000 corporations while others lead some of the largest Hispanic-owned IT firms across the Americas. HITEC enables business and professional growth for its members, but at the end of the day, any member will tell you HITEC is home.

“If you think about where we were, February 2009, it was just a small gathering in Dallas,” says Ramon Baez, CIO at HP, “and to see how far we’ve grown. Its not just about the numbers, it’s about the quality of the membership.”

HITEC’s members take pride in the fact that their organization stands by the traditional values of family, and the fact that at HITEC, wonderful opportunities are available around every corner. They meet on a quarterly basis, nationwide, to provide executive development to all of it’s members throughout America. These summits provide HITEC members with engaging topics presented by leading experts. Topics include discussions on globalization, IT technologies, understanding Hispanic population growth in the U.S., IT skill set trends, leadership, and more!

On March 20-21, members convened here, in Dallas, for HITEC’s Leadership Summit where the hot topic was Disruptive Technologies & Disruptive Leadership Shifting Corporate America. Speakers included Dr. Goutam Challaga, Associate Professor of Marketing from Georgia Tech, Ralph De la Vega, President and CEO at AT&T Mobility, and Thaddeus Arroyo from HITEC’s own Board of Directors and AT&T’s CIO. The summit welcomed six total speakers from various perspectives and expertise throughout the industry. As one could conclude from such a star line-up, events like these provided outstanding networking opportunities that included meeting with Fortune 500 senior executives!

HITEC continues to evolve, providing personal development and growth to all of its members. A critical component of that success is the Emerging Executive Program (EEP), which is a cornerstone of HITEC’s core mission---to develop future Hispanic IT and business leaders; through a direct mentorship with senior HITEC executives. Due to the desirable nature and limited availability of senior HITEC executives, entry into the EEP is very selective, admitting only 15 throughout the U.S. each year. Being able to participate in great programs like EEP gives HITEC’s members the best chance at advancing in today’s technological and leadership driven industry.

One of HITEC’s Board of Directors and a 100 Most Influential and Notable Hispanic Professionals in IT is AT&T’s CIO, Thaddeus Arroyo, responsible for AT&T’s global information technology organization.  Arroyo has been instrumental in accelerating innovation at AT&T by harnessing technology to transform business processes, change market offerings and, most importantly, improve the customer experience.  Throughout a career spanning multiple industries, and interacting with many more as a technology service provider, Arroyo has become an advocate for IT Transformation and raised the bar for the CIO profession nationwide.

The AT&T IT organization has been guided by Thaddeus’s philosophy that you cannot let your own sense of what’s possible place limits on others. As a result, AT&T has been recognized by Computerworld as one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For in IT for 2012 and 2013 and by the American Business Awards as the 2009 IT Department of the Year for Innovation and Contribution to AT&T’s business goals.

HITEC Directors like Thaddeus Arroyo bring a strong foundation of experience, expertise, and leadership to the HITEC brand and its organization. In this present day and age, organizations like The Hispanic Information Technology Executive Council and all the hard working individuals who treasure their membership within its folds, prove that a professional, yet family-like organization that stand together, excel together! If you’re reading this and know you could be HITEC’s next 100 Most Influential Hispanics in Technology, visit the Hispanic Information Technology Executive Council’s official website (www.hitecglobal.org) and apply for the one membership you’ll sincerely treasure.

By Justine Tripp