The rise of the Latino corporate leader in Philadelphia
Every year the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibilty (HACR) releases a Corporate Inclusion Index that analyzes corporate America’s inclusion of Latinos along four axes: employment, procurement, philanthropy and leadership. The 2014 shows significant gains in employment (Latinos “comprise an average of nearly 14 percent of the total reported employee base in corporate America”) and procurement, while philanthropic “gives” to the Latino community have nearly doubled nationwide.
Leadership has always been the sticky wicket, and the HACR report notes that Latinos held "just over 6 percent of board seats amongst the participating companies" and "only 137 executive officer positions out of over 4,000” at the corporations included in the index.
Back in 2010, Forbes magazine was writing about the phenomenon of Latino managers rising faster than average to middle-management positions, but then stalling out there. They attributed it to a Latino cultural reluctance to “disagree with their supervisors or to speak up in meetings full of higher-status individuals. That might be perfectly fine for an employee progressing toward mid-level management, for whom agreement or silence can mean being a good soldier, a team player. But most organizations looking for executive talent want people who stand out, go out on a limb and express a well-defined point of view. In other words, a leader.”
In Philadelphia we see a number of Latino executives rising in the corporate world who precisely display the type of talent that makes them stand out and embody the qualities of corporate leaders. We have singled out four of them — Nick Jimenez of Comcast, Juan López of Independence Blue Cross, Anthony Rosado of Wells Fargo, and Natily Santos of Aramark — whose stories and qualities highlight the trend.
It is important to note that two of the corporations represented by these Latino leaders participate in the HACR corporate index mentioned at the beginning: Comcast and Wells Fargo. Both of these corporations scored 85 points out of the possible 100 in the indexing schema outlined in the report (Procurement was outlined in a separate report), which reinforces what each of the leaders themselves says: that their own commitment to serving and representing the Latino community from the executive suite echoes their company’s commitment.
Anthony Rosado: Mentorship is key for professional development
Anthony Rosado attributes his strong work ethic to his Puerto Rican and Italian heritage in North Philly, the neighborhood where he grew up.
“My mentor was my grandfather, he taught me a lot of life lessons. While other kids were playing on the weekends and enjoying kid time, I spent a lot of time working with him,” Rosado said. “To this day I believe that anyone can do anything they want as long as they really want it and as long as they don’t give up.”
As the Wells Fargo area president for Montgomery County, Rosado supervises four district managers and 40 store managers.
“The business practice that I implement and that I expect from my managers is having a diverse panel when selecting a new leader,” Rosado said. “What I have changed is let’s not interview for a job until you have a diverse pool of both men, women and diverse race.”
As the first member of his family to enter the corporate world, the lack of minority representation
really hits home for him.
“While hard work was instilled in me there wasn’t a whole lot on education. Growing up I was not exposed to the corporate world, for me it was self discovered,” he said
Rosado recognized that because he later had the opportunity to have a mentor, he realized education and exposure are key elements in professional development.
“I feel responsible to change that so personally I give back a lot and professionally I believe in mentors,” Rosado said.
An example of this is his collaboration with the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (GPHCC), where he currently serves in the board of directors as vice president. Rosado first got involved with GPHCC through the Professional Mentoring Network, a program created to connect professionals with executives and with Latino high school youth to receive and provide mentoring activities.
For Wells Fargo he is also the local chair of Latin Connection Team Member Networks, a strategy network with about 200 members, created for professional growth and education, community outreach, recruiting and retention for minority groups in the company.
“Latin Connection was a legacy of Wells Fargo in the East Coast and in 2011 I was the founding chapter president locally. The most rewarding part of this program is being able to create those mentorships synergies across the region. This is really a unique platform where hierarchy doesn’t matter or jobs lines and personally I built a lot of great relationships through that network,” Rosado said.
He also highlighted that he feels an emotional connection with his job. “There are a lot of companies that have a great speech and have a great talk and then there are other companies that actually live it.”
The entrepreneur begun his career as a banker in 2003. This was followed by an opportunity as a sales coach and a promotion as a district manager in Chester County, supervising 11 branches for Wachovia Bank, just before it merged to Wells Fargo.
“Then I became the regional marketing manager and I was responsible for all the rebranding of the company in Philadelphia and all the counties before taking my current position,” Rosado said.
In retrospect, he believes first-generation professionals coming into the workforce can find an easier pathway than he did. “I feel like today versus when I started 15 years ago ...it’s much better. I don’t recall any of the resources there, at least in my experience, than there are today,” Rosado said. “In the last 8 to 10 years those programs have sharpened their focus on professional development for Latina and Latino professionals.”
But for Rosado, the professional platform for minorities has expanded only if one is accountable.
“There is a lot of people who expect things because of their background or who they are. I believe you need to earn and be accountable for your own career path,” Rosado said. “I am not asking for anything special for Latinos or for the Hispanic culture, all I am asking is that the opportunity is even.”
In terms of diversity he believes there are great things happening in companies that are giving the opportunity, “it’s just going to take time to eventually get there.”
“I see great possibilities and I think the future is optimistic for Latinos. It’s the fastest growing population locally and nationally,” Rosado said. “I think it’s gonna take the new generation of Latinos to play a big role in that.”
Natily Santos: Good work leaves a lasting impression
Santos is a first generation American, her parents (Hector and Rita Santos) emigrated from the Dominican Republic, with Santos says, “hope of a better future and opportunity for their family.” The oldest of five, Santos grew up in the Washington Heights and Yonkers areas of New York.
Her father worked in a variety of roles in the restaurant and hospitality industry. “There were days he left before we got up, and by the time he came home we were sleeping,” she says. “He taught me to respect myself and how I should expect to be treated in any environment, personally or professionally.” In fact, one of the deep lessons she carries with her as she makes her ascent in the corporate world was one her father taught her by deed rather than by words: Never underestimate the value of good work.
“I had to interview a hotel manager for a project in a hotel management class. My father worked in hotels and restaurants for more than 30 years, but I don’t remember asking for his help for this assignment,” she recounts.”I had found a hotel manager on my own and set up an interview. The day before (the interview) he canceled on me, and I was devastated. My father, later in the day told me he had an interview for me and we were going midtown. I was very doubtful but desperate.”
“I walked into the Omni Midtown and had a priority appointment with the general manager of the hotel. My father had been a waiter there 10 years before, and the general manager was delighted to reconnect with him and to meet his daughter. From this I learned never to be too proud to ask for help and that the value of hard work is that it can leave a lasting impression,” Santos says.
As part of the Aramark Global Supply Chain and Procurement Group. Santos works mostly with small to medium vendors that support their operations. “I develop and execute regional supplier programs that provide comprehensive sourcing solutions that involve addressing supplier diversity needs, and support our local and environmental sustainability efforts,” she explains.
The procurement and supply chain is critical part the business, she tells us, and then gives a shout out to “a great team with a significant amount of experience,” as well as to the diverse business community with which she partners in her work.
“One of the challenges I face in one of my roles is that supplier diversity, sustainability, local sourcing and related food trends are constantly evolving,” she says, “so finding proactive sourcing solutions or communicating value for such program can be difficult at times.” Her approach to meeting that challenge is to remain willing to learn new things, and to collaborate with those who offer her a fresh perspective.
Has it been tough as a Latina to climb the corporate ladder? She says she realized she had an affinity for business based on her ear corporate experiences working in internships and summer jobs. “I thought to myself, ‘why are there no managers that look like me?’ This began my journey into corporate America,” she says. “At the beginning of my career I was very much aware of the ‘Latina’ stereotypes ... I never let any of that hinder my progress or affect my confidence. I focus on my work and expect my colleagues to care about my contributions versus the color of my lipstick or if I am wearing my hair naturally curly or straight.”
Santos had an early role model in her mother. “(She) was a Mary Kay consultant most of my life and reached Senior Sales Director status…Pink Cadillac and all,” Santos says. “She took me to meetings with her often. I saw how she motivated and encouraged people. Her leadership was driven by care and appreciation, which made people work harder to be better. She is the most beautiful most sophisticated woman in my life. My mother helped me gain confidence to persevere and accomplish anything I set my mind to.”
“My parents tried to take us out to restaurants, beaches, sightseeing, etc., outside our immediate community as much as they could,” she adds. “We lived in NYC and as children it was a fun adventure visiting places in Long Island, New Jersey and Connecticut, but my parents’ intent was different. They never wanted us to feel like we didn’t belong or were limited to anything or any place.”
Santos says she has benefited from the support of mentors and advocates throughout her career and she in turn mentors students and younger professionals. She is involved in a mentoring program at a predominantly Latino school in North Philadelphia. “I am very passionate about community service,” she says, “and am grateful to be a part of a company that shares that same commitment.”
She is also involved with Aramark’s Hispanic Employee Resource Group Impacto.“The goal of the group is to be a support network for the rising Latino managers in our corporate structure.” Santos says, “as well as serving as a resource to our business for workplace and marketplace solutions for the Hispanic Market.”
She acknowledges that while Latinos have become more visible at the upper reaches of corporations across the nation, there is still work to be done.
Juan Lopez: The finance man
Juan Lopez’ traces his work ethic back to a young age. His father was a career mailman and his mother worked three jobs. When they pushed him to get a job as a paperboy, Lopez didn’t know that, over 30 years later, he would become one of the highest ranking Latinos in corporate Philadelphia.
Due credit also goes to his uncle, a public accountant in Camden who later got him hooked on numbers.
Lopez, 48, has held financial positions at five Fortune 500 companies, climbing his way up the corporate ladder here in Philadelphia — CoreStates, GE Capital, Aramark, Cigna. For the last five years he has been with Independence Blue Cross (IBX), where he now serves as the vice president of investments and treasury services.
But it wasn’t always easy, especially for a Latino.
“Because of my name, I maybe wasn’t getting the same respect that some of my peers would get. At the same point, I kept my head down and did what I needed to do.”
In college, Lopez learned the importance of networking. He rallied behind diversity initiatives, and has carried them at companies throughout his career. Lopez can’t say he had a “big break,” but rather had a series of smart decisions guided by his “personal board of directors.”
“For me, from a career progression perspective, I wasn’t afraid to take lateral moves,” Lopez told AL DÍA. “Moving vertically through an organization I think is extremely hard to do nowadays.”
He describes his method as “gathering tools for the toolbox,” leveraging his a versatile college degree (accounting, in his case) across a number of departments throughout his career. But diversity has been at the heart of a lot of Lopez’s work throughout the years. IBX won him over for its commitment to outreach. It’s a company, he says, that “puts its money where its mouth is in terms of community presence.”
“A big thing for me is how am I giving back. It’s too hard of a journey for a lot of people,” he said. “I’m always asking myself, how do I get the next Juan Lopez?”
Throughout his career, Lopez’s says his work ethic has often been his “biggest asset and biggest weakness.” In the demanding corporate world, he says it can be hard to juggle a family and a career. Ambition comes at a cost. Lopez says it wasn’t something he was good at early on, but soon enough he had to find his own balance.
Today, Lopez oversees almost 98 employees, and he’s helping pull other Latinos up the ranks at IBX. His 39th-floor office has a panoramic view of the Schuylkill River. In his free time, Lopez spends time with family and volunteers at dog rescue group that works with English Springer Spaniels. What’s next?
“There’s still a few more floors above me,” Lopez jokes. “I feel like I’ve been blessed coming here to Independence.”
Nick Jimenez: Bridging the digital divide
According to Jimenez, over 25 percent of our nation’s population doesn’t have access to the internet at home, and the disparity is even worse among minorities.
“When our kids that don’t have internet at home try and do their homework they face unfair obstacles,” Jimenez said. “Some kids are doing research and writing essays on smartphones or taking a bus and waiting in line at the library to get internet access.”
To bridge the digital divide, Comcast is addressing the main barriers to broadband adoption at home. For low-income families, the cost of the service and a computer can be a determining factor.
Through the Internet Essentials Program, Comcast offers discounted high speed internet service, including a wifi router, for only $9.95 a month, without credit check, installation fees, monthly maintenance fees, or rental equipment fees. It also offers the option to purchase a subsidized desktop or laptop for $150. To be eligible, families must have at least one child who qualifies for the National School Lunch Program, among other requirements.
But the main challenge, according to Jimenez, isn’t whether low-income families can afford to have a computer and internet at home.
“Some folks think the internet is not for them, they think they don’t need it, maybe they feel unsafe sharing information through the internet, or maybe they just don’t know how to use it,” he said.
Jimenez’s role is not only to spread the word about Internet Essentials but also to identify partners that can help the company do that and and to get more folks connected.
“A trusted voice is necessary to reach these folks, train them on how to use the internet, and explain to them the relevance of the internet at home”.
The Internet Essentials program also offers free digital literacy training in partnership with organizations including nonprofits and schools.
“The training isn’t just available to Internet Essentials customers,” Jimenez said. “Anybody in the community can sign up for free.”
For Jimenez, the program he promotes hits really close to home. Customer surveys show that over 50 percent of Internet Essentials customers identify as Hispanic or Latino. “For me to be able to have a job that reflects my cultural background and allows me to use my language skills is extremely rewarding,” said Jimenez, who was born and raised in Puerto Rico.
He started studying business administration at the Universidad del Sagrado Corazón in San Juan and then transferred 10 years ago to Temple University, where he graduated with a concentration in business and law. While he was in college, he ran a commercial painting business — Nick’s Handyman & Painting — for a couple of years. His sister who had then started working at Comcast and still does, encouraged him to seek out an internship at the company. In 2007 he applied and accepted an internship in the company’s external affairs department, and he put his business on hold.
“Until I got to Comcast I really saw myself as an entrepreneur and somebody who wanted to be their own boss. I never really considered working at a big corporation,” Jimenez said. “But I really loved the work, the people, the culture at Comcast. It felt like a family and I wanted to stick around.”
After graduating from college, he accepted a full time position in the external affairs department where he grew his career. Eventually the department evolved and Jimenez continued under the political affairs department working in that job function around campaign finance and political activity for Comcast.
It 2011, when the Internet Essentials program was launched, Jimenez knew he wanted to be a part of it. Soon after, Comcast launched an ambassador program for employees to spread the word in their communities, and Jimenez volunteered for it.
“I thought it was something that was really good for my community,” Jimenez said. “I had the opportunity to visit schools and nonprofit organizations in North Philadelphia, where I could speak to families in Spanish about the importance of having internet at home for our kids’ future.”
Earlier this year Jimenez was named Senior Manager of Outreach & Partnerships for the Internet Essentials program, which he described as a dream come true. Up to date, the program has connected more than 500,000 families or over 2 million low income Americans to the internet, and Jimenez is determined to grow this number as he grows his career.
“In the short term, I want to do my best to connect more low income families to the internet,” said the 31 year-old. “In the long term, like many other young Latino professionals, I'd like to see myself in a position of leadership where I can represent our people and our culture, and contribute in a meaningful way to the success of a great company like Comcast.”
Four years ago, Jimenez was the founding lead for Unidos, Comcast’s Hispanic and Latino Employee Resource Group. He has also lead four Comcast Cares Day — a day in which Comcast employees all across the nation volunteer to make a change in local communities — in the Philadelphia region, including in Olney Charter High School and Congreso de Latinos Unidos. Additionally, he is part of Comcast’s Beyond School Walls partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeastern Pennsylvania, where he he served as founding chair of the regional board and he is currently a member. Also, he is a board member of Pan American Academy Charter School, and as if it wasn’t enough, he serves as co-chair of the professional mentoring network at the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (GPHCC) — which fosters leadership and opportunities among Latino professionals and youth.