2013 Corporate Elite

2013 Corporate Elite:
Defining the New Normal

January 4, 2013

Staff — HispanicBusiness.com

Say what you will about the dysfunctional nature of Washington, D.C., but the diverse men and women who run corporate America are in demand.

In some respects it is the best of times to be a senior-level executive. Whether running a Fortune 500 company, serving on a board of directors or navigating the corridors between conference rooms, over the years Hispanic Corporate Elites have balanced personal ambition and business success with community participation and a commitment to diversity.

They are the HispanicBusiness.com Top 25 Corporate Elites for 2013. They planned their careers early and they sought advice from mentors. They got where they are because of times like these, not in spite of them.

These captains of industry implement the nitty-gritty details of the recovery at each private company, government agency, public and entrepreneurial enterprise for whom they work. They carry out the daily tasks necessary to revitalize the economy and achieve recoveries within their respective organizations and industries. They manage costs and maximize productivity, organize staffs and reorganize departments, lead divisions and engage employees.

In selecting the Top 25 Corporate Elites for 2013 and interviewing key executives, HispanicBusiness.com discovered some remarkable similarities. To begin with, they are extremely busy. Just as mid-level managers and support staff have been required to assume increasing responsibilities in a rope-tight job market, executives have assumed ever-increasing leadership functions and metrics-reporting duties.

Keys to Success in Diversity Markets

Jose Nido, vice president of Global Supplier Diversity with Wyndham Worldwide, brings a vast range of supply-management knowledge to the hotel, resorts and leisure-properties company, having worked in diversity business development for a marketing solutions firm in Commerce, Calif., and supplier diversity management with The Walt Disney World Company in Orlando, Fla.

"I think 2013 will be more positive and friendlier than previous years.  We're talking about controlling spending and revenue." - Jose NidoMr. Nido also spent 20 years in the U.S. Air Force and retired as a lieutenant colonel. “Discipline,” he says, “helps you prepare for the challenges of today, whether it’s within your own corporation or with suppliers. Understanding and developing relationships with stakeholders at all levels is critical.”

Mr. Nido explains that one of his most important responsibilities within Wyndham’s “strategic and sourcing group” is to develop and maintain community relations and increase commodities-and-services contracts with minority-owned suppliers.

“The most important part of what we’re looking for is national and sometimes global outreach,” Mr. Nido explains. This translates into having an impeccable reputation in the local business and diversity community and being creditworthy.

“Financial stability is key,” he adds. “Hospitality experience is key. Competitive pricing is key.”

Looking forward to 2013, Mr. Nido reflects on the basic business principles that exist in a structured, highly competitive environment.

“I think 2013 will be more positive and friendlier than previous years,” he says. “We’re talking about controlling spending and revenue.”

Mr. Nido says he was drawn to diversity procurement as a vocation largely because he was persuaded by a mentor in the Air Force that he would be good at it. He still recalls fondly the officer that pointed his career in the right direction.

He advises aspiring young Hispanics to find as many mentors as possible and to take full advantage of corporate mentorship programs and community-based programs such as the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility (HACR) and Hispanic chambers of commerce throughout the U.S.

Stay focused, “have a positive outlook and make sure you have a good plan,” he says.

Framework Models in Technology and Marketing

Fernando J. Hernandez, director of supplier diversity at Microsoft, wasn’t sure what he wanted to do in his early 20s. Like all of the Corporate Elites this year, however, Mr. Hernandez knew he wanted to become successful and he understood at an early age what he had to do in order to achieve that singular goal. He calls it “over-aspiring.”

"You have to understand that in a business environment you have to move your agenda forward." - Fernando J. HernandezMr. Hernandez assists Microsoft in finding and developing technologies from innovative diversity businesses, including startups. As might be expected of a Microsoft employee, Mr. Hernandez is ultra-passionate about technology. He also likes people, and is candid in his assessment of that trait as both strength and weakness.

“Hispanics are very social people,” Mr. Hernandez says, noting that this can become a hindrance in business. “Hispanics are very good cultural beings, but the whole concept of engaging with others in a business context is considered rude. You have to understand that in a business environment you have to move your agenda forward.”

Mr. Hernandez learned that mentors are critical to achieving success in corporate boardrooms. “I learned, only later on, after I was in corporate America for a time, mentors would take me aside and tell me how to follow up.”

Before launching a successful sales-and-marketing career with AT&T in the early ’90s — where he eventually became executive director of supplier diversity — Mr. Hernandez recalls how he used to dress in bright suits that were more appropriate for the New York City club scene than an office on Wall Street or Madison Avenue.

One day, an elderly gentleman in the commercial real-estate business took him aside and told him, “You need to shop at Brooks Brothers.”

“It was an epiphany for me,” Mr. Hernandez says.

His advice to young Hispanics is to put both their best feet forward. Dress for success. Get business cards. Gather phone numbers or email addresses and follow through with questions. Be persistent, but don’t be rude.

“People bond with people they feel comfortable with,” Mr. Hernandez says.

He speaks frequently of “shared visions,” and one of those visions was for “multicultural marketing” in the early ’90s, when he met the editor of HispanicBusiness magazine, Jesus Chavarria, whom he regards as an early mentor and visionary. Both men were among the first in corporate America to mass-market products and services specifically to ethnic minorities.

At AT&T, Mr. Hernandez was given a startup budget to market from businesses to other businesses, before it was known as B2B. He developed a wide range of contacts and built a diversity small-business base across the country.

One of his clients included a group that catered to Japanese businessmen, for whom AT&T developed “welcome kits” that included an AT&T calling card, a popular item with Japanese expatriates anxious to call home at the end of a long day. By packaging these calling cards with groups of clients, AT&T was able to sell them in bulk and thereby reduce costs.

Mr. Hernandez’s nascent diversity marketing program became a $2 billion business for AT&T, and his career was launched, earning him a reputation as an innovator.

Mr. Hernandez isn’t just lucky; he’s a visionary. Quoting NHL great Wayne Gretzky, he says: “I skate where the puck is going to be.”

Clear Communications in a Smartphone World

Gabriel Torres, vice president and general manager for T-Mobile’s Southeast region, covers a wide and increasingly important footprint — from Florida and Louisiana to Arkansas and Tennessee.

"In short, the Hispanic community is a significant contributor to business growth." - Gabriele TorresHispanicBusiness.com reached out to Mr. Torres through email to learn how his U.S. Hispanic background helped shape his ideals for personal success and to gain his perspective on business.

“With Hispanics in the U.S. representing the fastest-growing demographic and economic segment,” Mr. Torres explains, “how companies and business markets sell or talk to our community will continue to be of growing importance. This will incrementally drive more jobs for Hispanics.”

Mr. Torres’ background includes positions with Sprint Nextel, RadioShack and Microsoft, where he helped spearhead the latter company’s Mexico and Pan-Latin American distribution efforts. He says diversity and “cultural relevance” play an important role in how Americans perceive themselves.

“Language and cultural diversity will extend across the country to communities that historically were not considered Hispanic,” he writes. “In short, the Hispanic community is a significant contributor to business growth.”

With more than two decades of marketing and business-development experience in the mobile phone space, Mr. Torres doesn’t hesitate to offer aspiring young Hispanics advice about achieving success in the business world.

“Setting high goals and working relentlessly to exceed them” is crucial, he notes, confirming that building and maintaining diverse, strong professional networks is a key to success.

A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor’s degree in engineering, Mr. Torres is fluent in both Spanish and Portuguese and he encourages foreign-language accessibility.

“Candidates with multilingual skills and culturally diverse backgrounds will continue to be strong assets for companies.”

His advice for young Hispanics who aspire to become professionals is to get a quality education and to reinvest in their communities.

“Give back to diverse and ethnic communities that will provide the leaders of the future,” the T-Mobile executive writes. “Businesses will increasingly need to hire highly skilled bilingual personnel in geographic locations not typically identified with large Hispanic populations. Demand for Hispanics with postgraduate degrees such as MBAs and MFAs will increase.”

Big Data, Cloud Computing, Social Media and Learning

Prior to being recruited by Microsoft in 2006, Mr. Hernandez worked for Washington Mutual in Seattle, where he learned about multicultural marketing in the housing market.

After his mentor was passed over for promotion and left WaMu, Mr. Hernandez was told to “wait.” After 18 months of waiting, he finally approached management about an amicable departure.

“I was like a Ferrari in neutral,” he recalls. “At that point, I was in Seattle, and there were two places I wanted to work — Microsoft and Starbucks.”

Under the mentorship of his current boss at Microsoft, Mr. Hernandez helped lead the supplier diversity group from $600 million to $1 billion in sales in two years — a year earlier than planned. Today, Microsoft’s diversity supplier group joins the ranks of Wal-Mart, Kroger’s and AT&T in the Billion Dollar Roundtable group.

The diversity supplier group Mr. Hernandez directs has keyed on cloud computing as one of its major categories for growth.

In addition to cloud computing, there are "enormous opportunities" in security, construction and building, agriculture, nanotechnology, medicine and DNA sequencing, says Fernando J. HernandezThere are currently 1.7 million jobs in cloud computing, Mr. Hernandez relays, and that is expected to grow to 7 million jobs soon. Microsoft, he reports, is searching for established businesses that can scale — grow bigger, faster, more economically — as well as smaller enterprises run by high-achieving entrepreneurs.

“If it’s a company that’s small, but has great technology,” Mr. Hernandez says, “we’re interested.”

In addition to cloud computing, he says, there are “enormous opportunities” in security, construction and building, agriculture, nanotechnology, medicine and DNA sequencing. “Where my heart breaks is when I see Hispanic kids who are not engaged in math and science.”

Mr. Hernandez says mentoring starts at home, with parents, and in communities, where role models exist — or should. He adds that “you can learn from anybody, even ‘bad’ managers.” He prefaces that it’s far more productive to learn from good managers.

“Observe how these people are running their divisions,” Mr. Hernandez advises. “Understand what’s working today. It’s all about being informed. You can’t emulate anybody until you’re informed.”

A New Year Is Upon US

The formula for success of future diversity Corporate Elites — getting college degrees, finding mentors and embracing science, math and emerging technologies — is currently under siege by federal and state budget cuts.

The “fiscal cliff” deal reached on New Year’s Day is only a stopgap measure. The squabble over the debt ceiling is scheduled to resume two months down the line.

To put a historic literary spin on today’s fiscal troubles, all “normal” economic setbacks are alike. The ongoing fiscal crisis has its own, uniquely dysfunctional framework.

As we enter 2013, it will be up to America’s senior executives — like those featured in this year’s Corporate Elite — to make sense of the new laws and navigate the U.S. back on a course of fiscal responsibility and economic prosperity.

As always, Corporate Elites are in demand.

Research by HispanTelligence.

Source: HispanicBusiness.com (c) 2013. All rights reserved.

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