Carlos Orta, president of the association, points out, "If you look at the CEO of a Fortune 500 or 1000 company, it took 25 to 30 years for that person to get to that point. If you go back 25 to 30 years in our community, we didn't have a lot of folks in corporate America."
Dr. Louis Olivas characterizes it as a "leveraged position to empower others." A business professor at Arizona State University and publisher of DATOS, a database focused on the Hispanic market, he adds, "When you have someone like Alvarez [chief operating officer of McDonald's Corp.], he has the ability to hire vice-presidents that can be in line to be the next CEO."
In 2008, corporate America will face a challenging environment. The economy seems to be tilting toward recession, and further declines in hiring and consumer spending could push the dominos. The weak U.S. dollar, which has foreign investors nervous about investing in the U.S. bond markets, is another worry.
"The macro economy is always a factor, of course," Mr. de la Vega observes. "But we have not changed our expectations. Sustained top-line and bottom-line growth is our objective – and we fully expect to achieve it."
Ms. Hassler, head of NSHMBA, predicts that 2008 "will require more creativity from the standpoint of having to leverage all the resources you have to reach expected goals." "It's imperative," she says, "that companies continue to focus on the pipeline. Those that don't will wake up and say, 'Where have we missed the boat?'"
Missing the boat is something Maria Alvarez Mann doesn't appear to have ever done, at least professionally. The 45-year-old first-generation American is chief technology officer for JPMorgan Chase's Retirement Plan Services, a position she moved into in 2007. Previously, she worked in Chase Card Services, where she handled assignments such as launching the bank's credit cards in China and selecting IT processes for the post-merger organization.
But she credits much of her success to her 10 years as a co-owner of an IT consulting company. While the first five years went smoothly enough, providing services to privately held companies, the 1990 recession almost put her company out of business.
"In about two months, we went from thriving to barely hanging on," she recalls. Faced with this daunting reality, she and her partner devised a new business plan that emphasized going after government contracts.
It worked and it turned out to be one of her proudest accomplishments. In 1995, she and her partner sold the company, and she moved back into the corporate world, working for Vlasic Foods Company. In 1999, she joined Bank One, which eventually merged with JPMorgan. Several successful assignments there led to her current role.
"One of the things that has been part of my success in the corporate world is that I think like an owner," says Ms. Mann, who oversees a team of about 150 IT professionals. "I think in efficiencies. There are no sacred cows for me. When you are a business owner, you are always thinking about how to do it quicker, faster, cheaper. Those same attributes are needed in corporate America."
She'll need those attributes as JPMorgan Chase vies with such major companies as Fidelity to provide retirement services.
"I'm in a business that's going from medium-size to going against large competitors like Fidelity," she says. "More discipline and more subject matter expertise will be required."
Subject matter expertise is something Mr. David M. Velazquez has spent a career building in the energy business. As president and CEO of Conectiv Energy, he oversees a company with 400 employees and $1.3 billion in plant assets.
In fact, the company, which sells energy wholesale, announced plans in December to build a new $470 million power plant in Pennsylvania that uses natural gas and fuel oil.
It was one of Mr. Velazquez's biggest career accomplishments.
"It took people involved from the environment, real estate, engineering, accounting, and legal," he says. "To see how the team pulled together and how efficiently and quickly they worked was very rewarding."
The son of a Puerto Rican career military man and an Austrian mother, Mr. Velazquez, 48, has spent most of his career in the energy business.
"There's real value of having been around a long time," he says. "It's not just the contacts but the intimate knowledge of the different facets, from generation to the retail side to training and development." Indeed, Mr. Velazquez notes, "If you are not learning something every day, then something is wrong."
>>View the list of the 2008 Hispanic Business Corporate Elite.
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