News Column

2008 Hispanic Business Corporate Elite

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Ralph de la Vega
President and CEO
•Company: AT&T Mobility
•Currently: A well-regarded leader in the wireless industry, Mr. de la Vega oversees all aspects of AT&T's wireless operations, including sales and marketing at the nation's leading carrier. He possesses a wealth of international experience, having served as president of Bell South Latin America before joining Cingular Wireless in 2004. As Cingular Wireless' COO, Mr. de la Vega was responsible for technology planning, network operations, marketing and sales. He started his career in 1974 with BellSouth as a management assistant. He holds a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering from Florida Atlantic University and an MBA from Northern Illinois University.

Deirdre P. Connelly
•Company: Lilly USA
•Currently: Ms. Connelly worked her way up the corporate ladder and was named president of Lilly USA, a division of Eli Lilly & Co., in 2005. She started with the company as a sales rep in 1983 and moved to her native San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1984 as a marketing associate. One year later, she was named general manager of Eli Lilly Puerto Rico. Ms. Connelly returned to the company's Indianapolis headquarters in 1997 and held such positions as regional sales director and executive director of global marketing for Evista. She earned a bachelor's degree in economics and marketing at Lycoming College and completed Harvard University's advanced management program.

Ralph Alvarez
President and COO
•Company: McDonald's Corp.
•Currently: Prior to his most recent role as president and chief operating officer, Mr. Alvarez served as president of McDonald's North America, as well as president of McDonald's USA, with management responsibility for the country's more than 13,700 restaurants. Before joining McDonald's USA, he served as president of McDonald's Mexico. He is an active member of the Ronald McDonald House Charities and has also served as president of Ronald McDonald House Charities in Mexico. In addition, Mr. Alvarez serves on the president's council and the International School of Business Committee, both at the University of Miami, where he earned his bachelor's degree in business administration.

David M. Velazquez
President and CEO
•Company: Conectiv Energy
•Currently: As president and CEO of Conectiv Energy, a wholly owned subsidiary of Pepco Holdings, Inc., Mr. Velazquez oversees more than 400 employees and $1.3 billion in plant assets in four states, with sales exceeding $2 billion. He first joined Conectiv Energy in 1981 and successfully advanced through management positions in engineering, operations, and planning, culminating in his prior assignment as vice-president of strategic planning & chief risk officer of Pepco Holdings. Mr. Velazquez has made nature preservation a prime concern of Conectiv Energy and serves as a trustee of the Delaware Nature Conservancy.

Lisa Baltazar
International VP and Deputy General Counsel
•Company: New York Life International
•Currently: In the four years since she left her private law practice, Ms. Baltazar has moved up the corporate ranks from assistant general counsel to international vice-president and deputy general counsel at one of the world's largest insurance companies. At New York Life International, Ms. Baltazar advises management on transactions, contracts, and compliance matters, and she provides oversight support to the insurance giant's Asian and Latin American subsidiaries and partners. She also serves as a leader for the firm's Hispanic employee networking group.

Jorge A. Bermudez
Chief Risk Officer, Global Risk and Compliance Operations
•Company: Citigroup
•Currently: Mr. Bermudez enters his 33rd year with Citigroup in a new role as chief risk officer. He served the past three years as CEO and president of Citigroup's commercial business group in North America and Citibank Texas. Mr. Bermudez joined Citigroup in 1975, working in Citibank's national banking group in New York and Houston before being promoted to vice-president. Focusing on Latin America, he served as corporate bank head in Venezuela, president of Citibank Argentina, head of the South America division, and CEO of Citibank Latin America.

Gilbert F. Casellas
VP of Corporate Responsibility
•Company: Dell
•Currently: With his 2007 appointment to head their Corporate Responsibility division, Dell entrusted Mr. Casellas with responsibility for making the corporation a world leader in social and environmental responsibility and ensuring diversity among Dell's employees, customers, and partners. Mr. Casellas spearheads the company's global engagements with diversity-related organizations and socially responsible investment groups. Before joining Dell, Mr. Casellas served as chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission from 1994 to 1997. He was also general counsel of the U.S. Department of the Air Force and co-chair of the U.S. Census Monitoring Board.

Rick J. Echevarria
VP of Software and Solutions Group, General Manager of Enterprise Solution Sales
•Company: Intel Corporation
•Currently: At Enterprise Solution Sales, a global professional services organization, Mr. Echevarria helps businesses capitalize on the full value of Intel architecture. Before stepping into his position, he spent two years as director of product marketing for Intel's Communication Products Group and as director of Internet marketing for the Enterprise Server Group. Prior to joining Intel in 1994, Mr. Echevarria was a software developer for IBM Corporation in Austin, Texas. He holds a BS degree in Industrial Engineering from Purdue University and an MS degree in Computer Systems Management from Union College.

John A. Garcia
SVP of Product Management & Development
•Company: Sprint Nextel Corporation
•Currently: Leading Sprint Nextel's efforts to bring useful, innovative products to market, Mr. Garcia's responsibilities include product strategy, conceptualization, and rollout, as well as vendor management, product performance, and life-cycle management. Before his current position, Mr. Garcia was president of Sprint's breakthrough joint venture with four media giants. The venture offered consumers information, entertainment, and voice on a single wireless device. Prior to joining Sprint in 1995, Mr. Garcia was regional president for GTE Mobilnet, where he led the company in a variety of performance metrics. Earlier in his career, he held a variety of management positions within AT&T's Consumer Products Group.

Alfred J. Griffin, Jr.
Texas Instruments Fellow and Co-chair Quality Technical Council
•Company: Texas Instruments
•Currently: An engineer by training, Mr. Griffin works in the Worldwide Semiconductor Quality division of Texas Instruments (TI) and in the Quality and Reliability Infrastructure group. He also co-chairs the Quality Technical Council. During 1996-2006, he worked in the TI's Silicon Technology Development, where his innovations earned an estimated $500 million in profits. Before joining TI, Mr. Griffin worked for IBM as a reliability engineer during 1986-1991, and during 1994-1996, he assisted in the creation of the NanoIndenter™ lab at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Ivan Gutierrez
VP of Supply Management
•Company: Sodexho USA
•Currently: Born in Nicaragua, Mr. Gutierrez is an experienced supply chain professional who began his career as an engineer at such companies as Northrop Grumman and Textron. After earning his law degree, Mr. Gutierrez joined the ranks of purchasing professionals as a corporate purchasing manager for Tyco International-Raychem Corp. He worked his way up the corporate ladder, taking on increasingly greater responsibilities at various companies. Mr. Gutierrez's most recent position was Executive Director of Purchasing, GAF Materials Corporation, the largest roofing manufacturer in North America.

Louis Laguardia
SVP, Human Resources and Diversity
•Company: Denny's Corp.
•Currently: Since joining the company in 2006 as senior vice-president, Mr. Laguardia has been responsible for all aspects of human resources and promotion of diversity efforts to ensure that Denny's attracts and retains diverse talent. He previously served as vice-president of staffing and diversity for Frito-Lay North America. The Cuban native also held senior leadership positions at American Express Consumer Card Group and Blockbuster. He holds a master's degree in industrial psychology from Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey and a doctorate in research and measurement from New York University.

Gerardo Lopez
SVP and President of Global Consumer Products
•Company: Starbucks Coffee Co.
•Currently: With extensive domestic and international experience in the food and consumer goods industries, Mr. Lopez was the perfect choice in 2004 to guide Starbucks in its cascading line of consumer products. He leads Starbucks' innovative efforts to capture the global consumer outside its traditional retail outlets. Prior to joining the marquee coffee chain, Mr. Lopez was president of the Handleman Entertainment Resources division of Handleman Company from 2001 to 2004 and senior vice-president and general manager from 2000 to 2001. Previously, he held a variety of executive management positions with such brand name manufacturers as Frito-Lay, Inc., Pepsi-Cola Co., and Procter & Gamble.

Maria Alvarez Mann
CTO for Retirement Plan Services
•Company: JPMorgan Chase
•Currently: In and out of the corporate hallways, Ms. Mann has been an early leader in IT management. She started in 1984 as a computer programmer at DuPont. By 1989, she was the owner and president of Innovative Business Concepts, an IT consulting company. After a decade, Ms. Mann sold her company and joined Bank One to head the new Information Management division. She led the Data Management Council, which was critical to the success of the firm's credit card replatforming initiative. As a result, she was asked to join the executive leadership team during Bank One's merger with JPMorgan.

Fernando Palacios
•Company: Land O'Lakes Purina Feed
•Currently: With over 18-years experience in the food and packaging industry, Mr. Palacios joined Land O'Lakes in 2000 as vice-president of operations and supply chain. At the $6 billion national food and agricultural cooperative, Mr. Palacios is known for his innovative use of information technology to handle supply chain problems, along with his great rapport with his staff. Before joining Land O'Lakes, he served as director of food and beverage consulting at KPMG, where he played a key role in the company's consulting practices for supply chain management and e-business. He holds a master's in dairy science from Mississippi State University and an MBA from the University of Minnesota.

Pete Perez
SVP, Human Resources
•Company: ConAgra Foods
•Currently: Since 2003, Mr. Perez has directed ConAgra Foods' human resources functions, including compensation, benefits, recruiting, development, and workforce effectiveness. Under his leadership, the company adopted a "one-company" approach to performance and incentives, made headway toward developing a more diverse and inclusive culture, and worked to deliver more effectively on its core principles of simplicity, accountability, and collaboration. Mr. Perez, who earned a Masters of Business Administration from Northwestern University, previously held a similar position with W.W. Grainger and served as senior HR officer with Alliant Foodservice and Pepsi-Cola General Bottlers.

Grace Puma
SVP of Strategic Sourcing and CPO
•Company: United Airlines
•Currently: In September, Ms. Puma took over strategic sourcing and procurement for one of the country's largest air carriers. At United Airlines, Ms. Puma leads the global procurement team in the negotiating and contracting of products and services. Her duties include developing innovative sourcing strategies and technologies to find quality products and services at the best prices. Prior to joining United, Ms. Puma led a global sourcing team for several corporate, regional, and operational buying services at Kraft Foods. She also held leadership roles in procurement at Gillette and BASF Corp.

Paul Raines
EVP of U.S. Stores
•Company: The Home Depot
•Currently: Mr. Raines first joined The Home Depot in 2000 and is responsible for driving alignment and execution across the company's retail divisions and overseeing all store operations. He previously served as president of Home Depot's southern division, which encompasses 740 stores. Born in Costa Rica, Mr. Raines was formerly director of global sourcing for LL Bean for five years and a principal in the consulting firm of Kurt Salmon Associates for 10. He is president of The Homer Fund, Inc. and serves on the advisory boards for the National Society of Hispanic MBAs and The Children's Hospital Costa Rica Foundation.

Julio Ramirez
EVP of Global Operations
•Company: Burger King Corporation
•Currently: Mr. Ramirez's career at Burger King Corporation has spanned the globe. He joined the restaurant chain in 1984 and subsequently directed company operations in Southeast United States, the Caribbean, Canada, and Latin America. Currently, Mr. Ramirez is in charge of global operations. He focuses on global operating platforms, restaurant technology, and measurement systems to ensure that every Burger King franchise meets the corporation's standards of excellence.

Mario Rivas
EVP, Computing Products Group
•Company: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (AMD)
•Currently: Combining technical know-how with business savvy, Mr. Rivas drives the strategic planning, development, and management of AMD's expanding portfolio of consumer and commercial microprocessor solutions. Prior to joining AMD in 2005, he managed the communication business of Philips Semiconductor. During his first two years at Philips, he directed operations, assembly, and testing, in addition to purchasing. Before Philips, Mr. Rivas spent 19 years at Motorola, Inc., with responsibilities in both the semiconductor and communication sectors.

David A. Rodriguez
EVP, Human Resources
•Company: Marriott International
•Currently: Mr. Rodriguez assumed the role of executive vice-president of human resources for Marriott International in 2006. He was appointed a corporate officer in 2000 and in 2004 joined the board of directors' committee for excellence. The New York University graduate joined Marriott International in 1998 as senior vice-president of staffing and development. In 2003, he became executive vice-president of human resources for Marriott Lodging. His previous experience includes senior roles in human resources at Citicorp [now Citigroup] during 1989-1998.

Edward A. Salas
SVP of Engineering and Operations
•Company: Pacific Gas and Electric Company
•Currently: As senior vice-president of engineering and operations, Mr. Salas oversees gas and electric strategy, engineering and operations for both the transmission and distribution systems of California's largest utility. Before entering the power grid, the Harvard Business School grad spent 28 years as a rising star in the telecom industry, where he most recently served as vice-president of network strategy and planning for Verizon Wireless. Earlier, Mr. Salas was vice-president of network engineering and planning for Vodafone in Europe.

Vilma Salaverria
VP, Multicultural Marketing
•Company: Aflac Inc.
•Currently: Ms. Salaverria joined Aflac in 1992 and has held various positions, including administrator for the Caribbean Territory and Hispanic marketing coordinator. In her current role, she is responsible for Aflac's Hispanic marketing initiative, which ensures that its corporate messages are aligned with Hispanic-owned businesses in order to increase product recognition. She previously served as Aflac's vice-president of client services. Aside from the business world, Ms. Salaverria serves on the Diversity Advisory Board for the Columbus, Georgia Museum.

Robert E. Sanchez
•Company: Ryder System Inc.
•Currently: Mr. Sanchez is responsible for Ryder System's financial management functions, including audits, strategic sourcing, investor relations, and public relations, among others. He previously served as executive vice-president of operations of U.S. fleet management solutions. Mr. Sanchez is a member of the United Way Leadership Circle, as well as a board member of the Miami-Dade Beacon Council and the Association of Cuban Engineers.

Myrna Soto
VP of IT Governance & Chief Information Security Officer
•Company: MGM Mirage
•Currently: A 2007 promotion has allowed Ms. Soto to focus on information security, IT compliance, and business analysis for one of the world's largest hotel and gaming companies. She joined MGM Mirage in 2004 as the corporate director of solutions with the Mandalay Resort Group. A year later, she moved up to vice-president of business solutions and project management office (PMO), a position she held until her promotion last year.

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