ALPFA CEO Damian Rivera: Latino leader committed to making a positive impact in the world
As the leader of the first and longest-standing national Latino professional association in the U.S., Rivera hopes to utilize his platform to create positive change.
When asked the question, ‘Who is Damian Rivera?’ his response was short and succinct, yet also very powerful.
“I am someone that is looking for opportunities to make an impact in the world,” Rivera said during a conversation with AL DÍA CEO Hernán Guaracao on Sept. 25.
In his current role as CEO of the ALPFA, he has the opportunity to lead the charge of the country’s first and oldest national Latino professional association efforts to empower and develop Latino men and women as leaders.
Prior to fulfilling his role at ALPFA CEO, Rivera spent 21 years with Accenture, a multinational professional services company that provides services in strategy, consulting, digital, technology and operations. Many of those years were spent managing the company’s resources utilities practice. He also worked on its Hispanic American employee resource group.
However, his involvement with ALPFA started only a handful of years ago.
In 2014, a gas explosion in East Harlem, NY, destroyed the church Rivera often attended as a child. With family living in the area, he was deeply impacted. He took time off from his work and began reflecting.
“I realized that as much as I thought I was doing in the community, I wasn’t doing enough,” he said. “And I started just asking more questions to people that were more involved with impact in communities, [and asked] what I can do?”
After reaching out to the former CEO of ALPFA, his predecessor Charles P. Garcia, Rivera took on Garcia’s recommendations to attend more board meetings and school meetings. Shortly thereafter, he was asked to give a speech at Lehman College.
Initially believing it would be a short speech, he ended up spending hours speaking to individuals at the college about life, hurdles to jump over, and more.
“When I left there, I said, ‘There’s something special about this organization. I need to really understand how I can get involved with it more,’” he said.
Rivera saw the passion with which members of the organization engaged in different initiatives, and wanted to become a part of the community.
When founded, the original name of the organization was the Association of Hispanic Certified Public Accountants, later becoming the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting.
It wasn’t until 2010 that the organization picked up its current name, the Association of Latino Professionals For America.
Rivera started getting more involved with the professional chapter, went to a variety of events, and became hooked. The more thought he gave to it, the more he believed he needed to be a part of it.
“As you can imagine, it’s hard to leave a career you’ve been in for 21 years,” he recalled.
However, after speaking with a few folks, he received the support he needed. He was told that he would be given a year leave of absence at Accenture to give it a try, and his place would remain secure in the event he decided he wanted to return.
“It gave me the courage to take the risk of jumping into a world that I didn’t really know a lot about,” said Rivera.
“And it has been everything I could ever hope for,” he added.
Rivera officially took on the role of CEO of ALPFA in Aug. 2018.
When thinking of his predecessors, Rivera said he hopes to be able to live up to the expectations of the community, and continue to move the organization forward.
With his leadership, the organization implemented a new platform called LEAD, which stands for Leadership, Engagement, Advancement, and Development.
The platform has six areas of focus: domain competency; social engagement; wealth creation; health & wellness; community engagement; entrepreneurship & intrapreneurship.
“We’re leveraging that platform to be able to… make an impact in people’s lives, not just company-wide, but from a personal standpoint,” said Rivera.
He hopes to continue having conversations with chapter leaders, members, students, and professionals to keep them engaged and support them in bringing new ideas to the table that can help advance ALPFA’s mission to connect and inspire the next generation of Latino leaders.