News Column

2007 Hispanic Business Corporate Elite

January/February 2007, HISPANIC BUSINESS Magazine

Maria Azua
Title: VP, IBM Technology & Innovation, CIO office & IBM distinguished engineer
Company: IBM
Currently: A University of Miami graduate, Ms. Azua has been with IBM since 1989 and has earned the Distinguished Engineer and Master Inventor title with 45 approved patents and 43 more pending approval. No glass ceiling has gotten in the way of her climb up the corporate ladder and she says it shouldn't stop other professionals from making it to the top. "Don't play somebody else's game and focus on creating new business opportunities for the corporation you work for," she advises workers. "Corporate America values productivity and if you can increase revenue that will take you through any glass ceiling."

Ophelia B. Basgal
Title: VP Civic Partnership & Community Initiatives
Company: PG&E
Currently: Since taking the position in September 2005, Ms. Basgal has been directly responsible for managing the California power company's $18 million charitable contributions program, which includes the Solar Schools Education Program and several other signature programs, such as Solar for Habitat Housing. With energy issues in the news, she says it's an exciting time to be a part of PG&E. "We focus on customer service, and have a clear line of sight for environmental issues and policies," Ms. Basgal says. "We're the first to have environmental initiatives to promote the reduction of greenhouse gases both for our corporate clients and residential customers."

Jorge A. Bermudez
Title: Executive Vice-President, Citibank/Citigroup; CEO, Commercial Business Group in North America and CEO, Citibank Texas
Currently: The Texas A&M graduate has a prolific career as an international banking leader who has worked in various positions in North America and Latin America. Mr. Bermudez started Citibank's e-Business, winner of Global Finance's Best Internet Bank in 2002, 2003, and 2004. He suggests that aspiring execs should broaden their corporate experience. "Too many people wouldn't consider a lateral move to a new geography, or a move from a line job to a staff job because they don't realize that by broadening themselves, they become more capable of taking on new assignments," he says.

Michael J. Cave
Title: VP of Business Strategy & Marketing, Boeing Commercial Airplanes
Company: The Boeing Company
Currently: Newly appointed as Boeing's vice-president of business strategy and marketing, Mr. Cave comes into the position with various leadership positions in the aviation industry. Before the promotion, he was vice president/general manager of Airplane Programs for Commercial Airplanes and oversaw the 737, 747, 767, and 777 airplane models with a focus on strategy, product development, and business results, with overall profit and loss responsibility for those models. Mr. Cave is a fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and in 2004, the Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Corporation gave him the award for Executive Excellence.

R. Martin Chavez
Title: Managing director
Company: IBD Strategies, Goldman Sachs
Currently: Mr. Chavez, who holds a Ph.D. in medical information sciences from Stanford University, became a managing director IBD Strategies in 2005, then assumed the role of partner in 2006. He joined Goldman Sachs as a senior energy strategist in 1993. Mr. Chavez left the company after a four-year run and later served as co-founder and CEO of Kiodex Inc. from 2000-04. Mr. Chavez serves on the board of directors of the Santa Fe Opera, the board of trustees for the American Foundation for AIDS Research, and the advisory board of the Columbia University Center for Advanced Technology.

Francisco N. Codina
Title: Group VP, North America Marketing, Sales & Service
Company: Ford Motor Co.
Currently: The Cuba native his family emigrated in 1965 -- has worked for Ford since 1977 and has since served as president of Ford of Argentina and vice-president of the Ford Customer Service Division. During his career with the company, Mr. Codina worked in two international assignments in 1995 as marketing and customer service director, Ford of Mexico and managing director, Ford of Argentina in 1998 before being named president of that operation in 1999. He holds a bachelor's degree in marketing and business administration from the University of Alabama.

Hector Cuellar
Title: President
Company: RSM EquiCo
Currently: With more than 25 years of experience in corporate and investment banking, Mr. Cuellar has led RSM EquiCo Capital Markets to become the third-largest M&A adviser for transactions reaching up to $100 million. Mr. Cuellar says there are two keys to climbing the corporate ladder. "It's basic: you have to deliver results," he says. "People take notice when you deliver. Another [tip] is understanding how corporate decisions are made. If you understand the politics, you can manage through landmines and not only get your agenda promoted, but help shareholders. If you understand that process, then I believe that is a good way to maneuver through corporate landmines."

Julio A. de Quesada
Title: Head, Mexico, Corporate and Investment Banking
Company: Citigroup Inc.
Currently: CEO of Mexico's Grupo Financiero Citibank since 1994, Mr. de Quesada's international leadership experience during his 30-year career at Citibank extends to Central America, Greece, and Saudi Arabia. The University of Pennsylvania grad is a board member of the California Commerce Bank in Los Angeles, president of the Consejo Ejecutivo de Empresas Globales (an organization of the 30 largest multinational companies located in Mexico), and treasurer of the Mexican Foreign Trade Organization. Mr. de Quesada says his ability to say "yes" proved valuable in his rise to the top. "I was very enthusiastic about accepting jobs that maybe were not that appealing to others, like postings in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan," he says. "I never says 'no' to a position no matter how difficult or challenging or 'risky' it may have seemed, and my approach to new responsibilities was always positive, proactive, and energetic."

Marlene Dooner
Title: VP, Investor Relations
Company: Comcast
Currently: The Drexel University graduate is now responsible for developing and managing Comcast's relationships with the investment community and shareholders. Before arriving at Comcast in 1995, Ms. Dooner was vice-president at PNC Bank's Communications Lending Group. In 2005, she received the Woman to Watch Accolade from Women in Cable and Telecommunications Foundation. She holds a bachelor's degree from St. Joseph's University and a master's degree from Drexel. Ms. Dooner also serves on the board of trustees and managers of Moore College of Art and Design, and is on the board of directors of Philadelphia Hospitality.

Ana Duarte McCarthy
Title: Chief Diversity Officer
Company: Citigroup
Currently: Responsible for the development of diversity strategy for Citigroup since 2002, Ms. McCarthy was awarded Citigroup's Hispanic Corporate Achiever in 2001. She chaired the Corporate Advisory Board from 1998 to 2000 and was also named to the YWCA-NYCA Academy of Women Leaders. Ms. McCarthy notes that she began in the public sector, then moved into the private sector 10 years into her career. She says it was a tough transition, but it paid off. "I was offered a good opportunity, but the change required that I step down to a more junior level to enter the new emerging space of diversity," she says. "While I thought it would be relatively easy, it was frankly quite difficult to become the 'junior' person on the team after having been a leader for several years. It's an experience I value as it reinforces my personal objective to lead without fostering hierarchies."

Laurene Gandolfo
Title: SVP, GMM Home Store; Macy's Merchandising Group Federated Department Stores
Currently: Senior vice-president since April 2006, Ms. Gandolfo began the transition to her new position on August 1. Ms. Gandolfo says she has never looked at herself as a minority, and Federated Department Stores has never made her feel different than her peers. "I think a lot of a person's success is also in the attitude he or she exhibits in his or her job," she says. "If you take the position that in every job you do you'll give it your best shot and lead by example … people will notice and will want you when they need people on their teams." She adds: "Be a self-starter and continue raising the bar for yourself as you reach your goals."

Rafaela Herrera
Title: Corporate VP of Compliance
Company: New York Life Insurance Co.
Currently: With a career in the insurance and financial service compliance industry that started in the 1980s, Ms. Herrera oversees a team of insurance and securities industry compliance professionals who work in advertising compliance. Before New York Life, she was a vice-president at Royal Alliance Associates. Ms. Herrera attributes her success to a positive attitude. "I had a solid foundation a good education and excellent work ethics," she says. "I worked hard, always pushed myself to do the best job possible, and always gave 100 percent or more. I believed in myself and my superiors always recognized my excellent work ethic and competence."

Maria Louise (Marisa) Lago
Title: Global Head of Compliance Corp. & Investment Banking
Company: Citigroup
Currently: A Harvard Law School cum laude graduate, Ms. Lago oversees compliance matters for Citigroup's Capital Markets, Global Banking and Global Transaction Services businesses operating in over 90 countries worldwide. Her diverse career includes work with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission as director of the Office of International Affairs as well as the chief economic development officer of the city of Boston and general counsel of the New York City Economic Development Corporation. Ms. Lago offers the following tip to those who are searching for success in the corporate world: "Seize opportunities, take risks, and make it evident how much you enjoy life professionally and personally."

Maria Elena Lagomasino
Title: CEO
Company: Asset Management Advisors, LLC subsidiary of SunTrust Banks
Currently: Beginning at Citibank in 1977, Ms. Lagomasino worked her way up to become a leader in the wealth management industry, with positions as head of Chase Manhattan Private Bank, and most recently as chairman and CEO of JP Morgan Private Bank. She says the obstacles she faced on her way to the top were a case of mind over matter. "My obstacles are no different than anyone else's but whatever they are, they are much easier to overcome if you love what you do. I love what I do." The Columbia University graduate was hand picked last year by President Bush to lead an effort to secure private sector funds to help disaster victims in Central America.

Victor Lopez
Title: SVP of Development
Company: Hyatt
Currently: Mr. Lopez gained his promotion to senior vice-president in December 2005. The 30-year veteran in the hotel industry is responsible for the chain's international acquisition and development primarily in Latin America and Caribbean. He began at Hyatt as the restaurant manager at Hyatt Los Angeles. "I decided from the first day on the job that I was going to set high goals and not let the fact that I was an immigrant hinder my progress," Mr. Lopez says. "That attitude and the fact that I was fortunate enough to start with a company that gives [opportunities] to those who have a desire to work hard and advance contributed to my success at Hyatt."

Carlos M. Morales
Title: SVP& Associate General Counsel
Company: Merrill Lynch & Co.
Currently: A Merrill Lynch leader since joining in1986, Mr. Morales works as senior vice-president and director of Merrill Lynch International and is the chief legal officer and director for Merrill Lynch Pierce, Fenner & Smith. He helped found the Merrill Lynch Hispanic Employee Network. Before Merrill Lynch, he worked with the Securities and Exchange Commission's Division of Market Regulation. Mr. Morales has common-sense advice for advancement: "One has to be oneself. Try to be the best at your job. Don't wait for official mentoring programs. Unofficial mentoring is as impactful as anything."

Edwin Negron
Title: SVP of Finance, School Services Division
Company: Sodexho
Currently: Responsible for the financial operations for the school services division, Mr. Negron also has experience at other well-known consumer goods companies such as Frito Lay and Energizer. He is also a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Mr. Negron says working in the international arena has been both demanding and challenging. "Despite numerous obstacles and the very dynamic environments of these economies, we are expected to perform and deliver the same or even higher results/growth as in the stable U.S. market," he says. "Given the complexity of these markets and the few resources provided, managers in Latin America need to be much better professionals in all aspects of their fields based on the inequities and difficult environments under which we operate."

Luis Nieto
Title: President, Refrigerated Foods Group
Company: ConAgra Foods Inc.
Currently: Mr. Nieto's latest promotion makes him responsible for the profitability of the Refrigerated Foods group. He was previously in charge of ConAgra's packaged meats and deli business including Armour, Butterball, and Healthy Choice. The Harvard graduate's experience in the consumer packaged goods industry includes leadership positions at Federated, National Refrigerated Group, Kraft Foods, and Quaker Oats. Mr. Nieto says 2007 will be a challenging year for the consumer food products industry. "There is significant raw material inflationary pressure across many key product categories," he says. "The competitive environment and retail customer strategies will make it difficult to recoup these inflationary effects." Mr. Nieto adds, "Hispanic consumers will remain a major growth opportunity for most consumer food companies."

Patrick T. Ortiz
Title: SVP and General Counsel
Company: PNM Resources
Currently: Responsible for legal services to all areas of the company, Mr. Ortiz's career includes leadership positions in many New Mexico organizations. Previously, he was the chief counsel for U.S. West Communications, the New Mexico public service commissioner, chief counsel to the NMPSC and general counsel to the New Mexico State Corporation Commission. In searching for promotions, Mr. Ortiz says there's no substitute for hard work and preparation. "Be vocal in sharing credit for successes. You can't do it alone and there's always enough credit to go around. I don't believe you succeed on the backs of others. Be flexible in working with people and through various situations, but, above all, do what you know is right."

Frank J. Quevedo
Title: VP of Equal Opportunity
Company: Southern California Edison
Currently: A veteran Edison employee, Mr. Quevedo was an appointee of President Nixon and served as chief of staff to Commissioner Tony Gallegos at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission during the Reagan administration. His tips for advancement include being prepared for any assignment and having a clear set of expectations. "Throughout my professional career, no matter the uncomfortable circumstances, I've been able to persevere by never being hesitant to push myself and others around me to work hard, take risks and meet the challenges before us," Mr. Quevedo says. He has served as chairman of the board of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund for three terms.

Alice Rodriguez
Title: SVP and the Region Branch Executive for Texas
Company: JPMorgan Chase
Currently: With 18 years under her belt with JPMorgan Chase, Ms. Rodriguez is responsible for the branch network that includes 350 branches in Texas and more than 4,200 employees. She manages a $600 million budget and $30 billion in retail, small business, and investment deposits. Ms. Rodriguez notes that having more than just a mentor in your corner, such as a sponsor, can help an employee. "A sponsor is a little different from a mentor," she says. "A sponsor can actually speak about your ability and potential from having worked with you. A good mentor with candid feedback will also help along the way."

Frances Aldrich Sevilla-Sacasa
Title: President of U.S. Trust Corporation
Company: Charles Schwab Corporation
Currently: As president, Ms. Sevilla-Sacasa oversees the wealth management business in its more than 30 client offices nationwide. Prior to joining U.S. Trust in 2005, Ms. Sevilla-Sacasa most recently served as president of Latin America Private Banking and headed the Global Wealth Structuring business at The Citigroup Private Bank. At Citigroup, Sevilla-Sacasa also ran the Europe Region Private Bank for two years. Her career in international corporate banking includes leadership managing director of Deutsche Bank's Latin American Private Banking group, and president of Bankers Trust International Private Banking Corporation.

J.P. Suarez
Title: SVP & Chief Compliance Officer, U.S. operations
Company: Wal-Mart Inc.
Currently: A University of Pennsylvania Law School graduate, Mr. Suarez will lead a team that centralizes Wal-Mart's environmental, privacy, immigration, and operational compliance functions. He also worked as senior vice-president of asset protection and compliance for Wal-Mart Stores Division. He says that building relationships is the key to climbing the corporate ladder. "In real estate they say location matters. Well, in business, relationships matter," he says. "And that doesn't mean it's all about who you know, it's about how you nurture relationships in an organization. You can have determination, hard work and interest on your side, but if you can't work co-operatively, you will not succeed beyond where your talent can bring you."

Conrad Vasquez
Title: SVP, Retail Operations
Company: Washington Mutual
Currently: The Cal-Poly Pomona alumnus is the head of operations for WaMu's Retail Banking Products & Services department, and he's responsible for all productivity and customer experience. He has compiled 25 years of experience in the field and has held key roles at WaMu. Mr. Vasquez previously served as senior vice-president and head of operations for Advanta Bank Corp.'s Business Credit Card. Showing an employer that you can be a "true value to the company will lead to promotions," Mr. Vasquez says. "You need to focus on getting things done, working hard and becoming a subject-material expert," he says. "Whenever you're called upon, you should be able to describe the functions of your specific activities. And you should be able to do it in any kind of setting."

David Velazquez
Title: President and COO, Conectiv Energy
Company: Pepco Holdings
Currently: A Widener University graduate, Mr. Velazquez joined Pepco in 1981 and has worked primarily in the competitive wholesale energy business. He was previously vice-president of strategic planning and chief risk officer. Mr. Velazquez says he and his brothers were the first generation of his family to go to college, which made it difficult to find guidance or a quality mentor. Mr. Velazquez says that people need to change employers when they discover a company's glass ceiling. "You need to find more than a mentor to help you," he says. "You need an advocate; someone who will help navigate through mine fields you can't see, or someone who will make sure you won't get overlooked if the talent is there."

Source: HISPANIC BUSINESS Magazine and, Copyright (c) 2006 All Rights Reserved.

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