October 3, 2012

Staff — HispanicBusiness.com

Influentials Q&A: Dino Barajas

Dino Barajas is a partner with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, where his clients include commercial lenders, institutional investors, investment funds, and public and private companies.

A typical day for Mr. Barajas is spent structuring acquisitions or financing for clients in the U.S., Latin America, and the Caribbean, among other locations. Deal sizes can range from $40 million to $1 billion.

In 2011, he was recognized as one of 16 National Law Firm Rainmakers by Diversity and the Bar, a publication of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association.

He said the driving force behind his success is to be an example for others, and adds that his goal is to achieve the highest level of success so that it inspires others.

"Then sit back and watch them surpass my achievements," he said.

HispanicBusiness also asked Mr. Barajas about the challenges he has experienced, and to talk about working with international Hispanics.

HispanicBusiness: Briefly share your upbringing, and tell about your place of origin.

Dino Barajas: I was born in Laredo, Texas, but my mom and I moved to San Jose, Calif., when I was 6 months old and I grew up there. We traveled back to Texas and Mexico every year (three-and-a-half-day Greyhound trip), so I stayed in touch with my Tex-Mex border culture.

HB: What has been your proudest accomplishment?

DB: Graduation from Harvard Law School, especially since my mom had raised me as a single parent with solely a third-grade education and only spoke Spanish. It allowed me to show her that all her sacrifices for me were worth it. Also, receiving a recognition by the Financial Times as "1 of 10 Innovative Lawyers in the U.S." I had been the only minority attorney on the list, so I was proud to be a representative of the Hispanic community who was being recognized.

HB: What has been your biggest challenge in your professional career and how did you overcome this challenge?

DB: My biggest professional challenge was trying to get an idea of how to succeed in an unfamiliar professional environment. My mother had supported us by working long hours in canneries and convalescent homes, so stepping into a professional environment was foreign to me. Thankfully, Hispanic lawyers I met have mentored me throughout my career.

HB: What impact is the U.S. Hispanic community making on the business world?

DB: Hispanics have been critical in the globalization of the business world. Latin America has been a critical part of the expansion plans for numerous U.S. corporations, and Hispanics within those entities have provided them with the gateway into those markets. Latin America has become the focal point for a number of European and Asian countries, but the U.S., with its vast Spanish-speaking community, is poised to be in a pole position to quickly explore market opportunities.

HB: What do you admire most about the entrepreneurial spirit?

DB: The entrepreneurial spirit and the Hispanic mentality are one and the same. My mother instilled in me the view that with a strong education and ganas (or motivation), nothing is beyond my reach. Given my humble beginnings, life has always been an all-in proposition. Without a safety net to rely on, young Hispanics have to challenge themselves without the fear of failure. The rewards are great but you must believe in yourself and rely on the moral support of those who believe in you.

HB: You have worked with clients throughout Latin America. Although Hispanics share many similarities, they also have many different interests and values. This is especially coming to light as the presidential election approaches. What are your thoughts on this?

DB: Hispanics are definitely a multifaceted community. I quickly learned when I started Harvard Law School that the familiar Mexican-American community that I had seen in California and Texas was solely a part of a larger Hispanic community. On the East Coast, Mexican-Americans were a minority among Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Cubans, Central Americans and South Americans. We all co-existed and supported each other as a tight-knit community without the luxury of being able to exist in solos. It gave me the opportunity to more fully appreciate the differences and strengths we all brought to our shared Hispanic experience in the U.S.

HB: Our readers like to know more about social media and technology. How do you use social media on a personal or professional level? Please explain.

DB: LinkedIn has been important to maintaining professional relationships and keeping abreast of job changes by peers within my professional network. In my opinion, other social media networks seem too time-consuming for effective utilization within a professional setting.

HB: What advice do you have for young Hispanics going into your field?

DB: Young Hispanics considering a career in law should begin networking as soon as possible within the legal field. Even high school students can benefit from meeting lawyers, law students and college pre-law students. The network helps strengthen your resolve to continue reaching for your goal to become a lawyer and helps provide the support as one advances to the next level.

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