HispanicBusiness Influentials


October 3, 2012

Staff — HispanicBusiness.com

In life, as in business and in court, the sequence of events of things can mean the difference between arriving early, closing a big deal and winning a landmark case.

As the U.S. Supreme Court tackles a historically important affirmative-action case on its docket this session, HispanicBusiness Inc. celebrates more than three decades in multimedia publishing with its online feature of 50 Influential U.S. Hispanics.

Some HispanicBusiness Influentials are enterprising business leaders, admired by colleagues and feared by adversaries. Many are policymakers or government officials, respected even by political opponents. All reside and work within the four corners of the United States. By design in 2012, most are concentrated in Texas and California, or throughout the Southwest.

Some of the highly regarded individuals among this year’s HispanicBusiness Influentials soared to the apex of their respective careers because of affirmative action, which has existed in the United States since 1964, when Congress and President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act that ultimately enabled U.S. Hispanics to procure entry into esteemed colleges and gain access to equal opportunities in the workplace.

Even as we recognize the crème de la crème of today’s U.S. Hispanic leaders, the very laws that gave many of these individuals opportunities to succeed and improve society are being challenged in district courts, state houses and the U.S. Supreme Court.

HispanicBusiness cannot ignore the irony of the moment, as nine U.S. Supreme Court justices will soon decide the fate of affirmative-action laws across the land in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin.

HispanicBusiness Influentials arrives at a crucial time for U.S. Hispanics, historically and symbolically.

President Obama recently signed into law an executive order that lifts the automatic deportation of an estimated 1.7 million qualified U.S.-born persons under the age of 31 whose parents are “illegal” immigrants.

Clearly, the nation continues to revisit equal opportunity policies and laws in the land. Conservatives seek to limit special programs for minorities that have lifted Hispanic-Americans to prominence over the past 40-plus years, while progressives step up efforts to expand, or at least protect, social programs to which many Influentials, recognized by HispanicBusiness over the years, are beneficiaries.


Who’s Prominent This Year?

As in past years, the 2012 HispanicBusiness Influentials comprises lawmakers and educators, top-ranking military officers and high-level government officials, corporate executives and marketing directors.

The 2012 Influentials gives emphasis to the state of Texas. This year’s HispanicBusiness Influentials include a photographer and a chef; a Dept. of Homeland Security chief management officer and a talent management executive; a private banker and a state auditor; an international division head for FedEx and a human-resources executive with State Farm; a director of “Global Inclusion and Diversity” at Accenture and the under secretary of state for International Trade with the White House; a vice president at Educational Testing Services of Princeton, N.J., and an assistant vice president with the Dallas Federal Reserve Board; the mayor of San Antonio and numerous U.S. lawmakers who commute to Washington, D.C., from their respective districts, all of which incorporate a sizeable number of Hispanic-American voters with growing needs and booming voices.

As readers cull the list and read the stories of this year’s HispanicBusiness Influentials, several distinctions are apparent. There is a preponderance of leaders from Texas, and there are several ranking military officers, homeland security officials and Obama administration personnel. There are numerous politically active executives directly involved in causes that impact Hispanic-American voters. Many of the individuals have legal training and several are noted scholars. Finally, a sizeable number of U.S. Hispanic women are among the 2012 Influentials.

As HispanicBusiness staff selected the nominees, these common threads and characteristics became evident. Rather than attempting to “balance” the nominees with selections from different vocations and states, however, the decision was made to allow the 50 individuals to stand on their merits.

Like diversity in college admissions policies and the crucial decision facing today’s Supreme Court, this year’s HispanicBusiness Influentials list is a sign of the times. It reflects an increasingly hostile domestic environment and a dangerous world that requires extraordinarily capable leaders with forward-thinking ideas. In that regard, 2012 is a watershed year for all prominent U.S. Hispanics.


Homeland Security Decision Maker

Rafael Borras, under secretary for Management at the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS), reflects the growing prominence of Hispanics in key, decision-making positions across public sectors.

Mr. Borras, who has more than 30 years of management experience in both private enterprise and government, is responsible for overseeing DHS personnel management, financial investments and acquisitions programs. His role is comparable to a chief operating officer for a Fortune 500 company.

Mr. Borras says one of his most crucial responsibilities is maintaining a good working relationship with Congress.

“The (DHS) has a lot of congressional oversight,” Mr. Borras explains. “We maintain constant contact with the Hill. The key to success is to make sure you have good open communications with congressional staff on the Hill.”

Mr. Borras, who grew up several blocks from where Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor lived as a child, says his own upbringing in New York City contributes to his ability to manage a large and diverse staff.

“I grew up in the Bronx in a fairly diverse neighborhood, both ethnically and socially,” he says.

“Definitely, when you grow up in a very ethnically and socially diverse neighborhood, you learn to communicate well and get along with people,” he continues. “What I do at the Department of Homeland Security requires communications skills. This is really the key in a big-organizational setting, learning how to understand the needs of people.”

Mr. Borras prefaces that he grew up in a relatively middle-class environment; but he notes that the diversity of New York City was critical in preparing for his current role as a communicator.

“For me, that’s a trait that began growing up in the streets,” he says.

Mr. Borras stands out as one of this year’s key Hispanic Influentials in part because he spent a decade in the private sector in between roles in government. He attributes much of his success in his current role to his experience in the world of profit and loss statements.

“The fundamental difference,” he says, “between the public and private sector is the bottom-line orientation of the private sector. It’s given me the skill set to understand what is important in the private sector and to know how to measure and react quickly to changes that will affect your bottom line.”

Today, Mr. Borras makes bottom-line decisions involving U.S. borders, aviation and maritime security, responses to natural disasters, and a host of other mission-critical areas. The key, he says, harkening back to his private-sector days, is understanding and communicating with people.

“It’s a very holistic, end-to-end process,” Mr. Borras explains. “It starts out with thinking about what you need. The biggest challenge I have is making sure I have sufficient information that allows decision-makers to make better, informed decisions. The marriage between my private-sector and public experience distills down to receiving essential information.”

In addition to making critical decisions about U.S. homeland security investments, acquisitions and personnel, Mr. Borras reveals his personal passion is photography; and he loves the analogy. Gaining access to essential information, he says, boils down to “minimizing noise.”

Mr. Borras explains that “in a composition shot or scene, organizing and managing the elements around you” is vital to creating “balance, contrast and depth.”

Mr. Borras, who administers oversight of billions of dollars in procurement funds, easily ranks as one of the most influential U.S. Hispanics in the nation today.

If timing is everything in life, the time has come for Mr. Borras and U.S. Hispanics like him to be recognized among this year’s group of HispanicBusiness Influentials for their enormous commitments to excellence and diversity in the workplace.


2012 Methodology for HispanicBusiness Influentials

HispanTelligence, the research arm of HispanicBusiness Inc., chose the 2012 HispanicBusiness Influentials finalists based on the following criteria:

Influentials must be Hispanics of U.S. citizenship who have recently had a national impact, and whose achievements inspire other Hispanics to similar endeavors.

Candidates were selected from a variety of fields, including but not limited to Entertainment, Performing Arts, Media and Journalism, Literature, Sports, Science and Academia, Entrepreneurship, Government and Corporate.

HispanicBusiness focused on qualified individuals who have promoted the advancement of Hispanics in the United States through their leadership, community involvement and/or professional achievements.

Nominations are accepted year-round by HispanicBusiness.com and obtained from public relations offices, contributing editors and writers, and from staff.

The increasing number of U.S. Hispanics in positions of influence inspired HispanicBusiness to compile its listing in recognition of those individuals who have had recent national impact. Therefore, many distinguished Hispanic-Americans are not included this year. However, many have appeared among the top Influentials in previous years and we encourage HispanicBusiness.com readers to view our online Archives to review their bios and achievements.

Finally, over the years HispanicBusiness has given special emphasis to key professions, employment trends, business sectors, regions and states. This year’s Influentials include a significant number of prominent Hispanics from the state of Texas.

2012 HispanicBusiness Influentials List

Influentials Q&A

Source: HispanicBusiness.com (c) 2012. All rights reserved.

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