News Column

In the High-Tech Executive Suite

November 2003, HISPANIC BUSINESS Magazine
Maria Martinez
Maria Martinez

She may not be a CEO now, but Maria Martinez once was, and she has plenty to say of interest to chief executives in high technology and other industries.

Before recently being named corporate vice-president of the Communications and Mobile Solutions Unit at Microsoft Corp., Ms. Martinez served as CEO of the software vendor Embrace Networks.

Previously, she was a vice-president and general manager at Motorola, where she ran the Internet Connectivity Solutions Division and the Digital Cellular Infrastructure Division. Ms. Martinez also spent 12 years at Bell Laboratories in a variety of management and engineering roles.

The first Hispanic female to be named a corporate vice-president at Microsoft, Ms. Martinez recently discussed her new position and her career with Abel Magaña, director of online content at Hispanic Business Inc.

Q: What are some of your priorities and opportunities?

My priority is to accelerate the growth of Microsoft business in the communications sector. There's going to be a big turnaround in communications over the next two years. Things like the Internet and voice calls over the phone are just the beginning. We are committed to delivering new applications and services - things like video on demand, music downloads, things you see on your smart phones - on Microsoft platforms, but in partnership with our customers so that they're available to consumers.

Q: As a Latina in a traditionally male-dominated business, have you ever encountered the proverbial glass ceiling? How did you deal with it?

Absolutely. Those issues are real. They exist in every company, though they're often an unintended aspect of the prevailing culture. My approach has always been to stay focused on what I do and not let the culture get in my way.

Q: Do you feel your cultural background, growing up in Latin America and working in the United States, has prepared you for success in a global marketplace?

I did my undergraduate work in engineering at the University of Puerto Rico, which is an outstanding school. I then went to Bell Labs and was able to compete with everyone else and succeed. My upbringing and my studies in Puerto Rico were more than adequate to prepare me for success here.

Q: Do you feel a responsibility or desire to be a role model to other young women and Hispanics?

The first time I became a manager, 20 years ago, I felt a responsibility to be a role model. Every time I'm promoted or given more responsibility I feel the same way. I feel strongly that it is very important that we carve that path for others. I haven't looked at the numbers, but I don't know of many Hispanic vice-presidents at high-tech companies. I personally haven't met any.

Q: What general advice do you have for young women interested in technology careers?

My advice is always to set very good goals for yourself and never give up. Unfortunately, this culture has very low expectations for women and Hispanics and other minorities. If you agree with that, you're never going to get anywhere. Telling myself that I am going to get where I want to go and never give up, no matter how many people are in the way telling me I can't do it - that has always been the light that guides me. I know that I want to do something. I want to make a difference in the world. I just go and remove the roadblocks, and if I take a wrong turn I correct it.

Q: How has your coming from a technical discipline helped you in dealing with business management issues?

When I left school and went to Bell Labs, it was the premier technology company in the world, and I thought I was going to be a technical person for the rest of my life. But at some point the challenge became how to deal with people. After a couple of years practicing engineering at Bell Labs I began to realize that group dynamics and putting teams together was an issue, so I started to develop an interest in management. I then made it a priority to seek the training to follow that career path.

Source: HISPANIC BUSINESS Magazine, 21st Century CEO

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