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Damian Rivera inspiring Fox Business students and ALPFA members during event on Sept. 28. Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA.
Damian Rivera inspiring Fox Business students and ALPFA members during event on Sept. 28. Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA.

“Latinos are making the impossible possible everyday,” says ALPFA CEO Damian Rivera

Rivera was the special guest speaker during ALPFA Philadelphia’s recent event at Temple University’s Fox School of Business.

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Damian Rivera, CEO of ALPFA, stopped by Temple University’s Fox School of Business on Wednesday, September 28.

It was during the school’s first event in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, where Rivera served as the special guest speaker.

He spoke with Fox students, members of ALPFA’s Temple chapter, along with ALPFA Philadelphia’s chapter members about why investing in Latinos in business matters, as well as the future of Latino professionals. 

Prior to his presentation, he made a statement that he emphasized that he truly believes.

“Every single person individually can change the world,” said Rivera. 

“And whether or not it changes the world as a whole or changes the world for yourself or changes the world for somebody that you connect with, everybody can change the world,” he added. 

Why Investing in Latinos Matters

When answering the aforementioned question, Rivera noted that there are two pieces to the conversation.

“One is the data… the second is what our responsibility is with respect to doing something about that data,” he said. 

The data about the Latino population in the United States is quite glaring. For example: 

  • Latinos are 18% of the population, but only 4% of Executive positions. 
  • 0% Latino representation on 365 Fortune 500 Boards
  • Latinos make up less than 8% of Finance, Accounting or STEM workforce
  • Latinos receive 1% VC funding, while Latinas receive less than 1%
  • Latinas earn $0.55 for every dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic men.
  • Less than 1.3% of philanthropic funding goes toward Latino focused initiatives. 

Rivera noted that these glaring statistics are a result of systemic inequities in education and information access, which often leads to income inequality and health risks. 

When analyzing these particular stats, Rivera thinks back to when he was growing up in Harlem during the 1980s, and seeing the negative portrayals of Latinos on TV.

Despite often seeing those portrayals, his focus was always what he saw in his community.

“I saw a community that loved each other, that made sure we were taking care of each other,” said Rivera. 

He saw support, advocacy, and access. Rather than focusing on the challenges, Rivera prefers to focus on the opportunities.

Rivera prefers to highlight this set of data:

  • Latinos see 4x faster growth in college enrollment compared to the general population.
  • Latinos represent $1.6 trillion in buying power
  • Latinas are the fastest growing entrepreneurship group in the U.S. 
  • 98% of Latino households are smartphone enables
  • Latinos spend 30 hours per week on smartphones networking
  • Average age of US Latino is 29.8 years, compared to the white population’s 43 years.

“We have significant power,” said Rivera. “It is important for us to understand the truth about the data.”

He added that when it comes to breaking the systemic issues of our society, the most important thing to do individually and as a community is to maximize every opportunity and continue to chip away at those issues, rather than just simply waiting for them to just go away. 

Understanding Your Personal Journey

Despite being a successful executive, a biochemical engineer, and holder of a Columbia Business School degree, Rivera admits that he sometimes experiences imposter syndrome. 

While it’s a challenge he often faces, what helps him get through are the people he credits for making him who he is.

These people include his grandmothers, parents, wife, and children. 

Rivera recalled a particular instance during his grandfather’s funeral. His father pointed out a man to Rivera who was an engineer, whom Rivera recalls “didn’t look any different than my dad.”

From that moment, Rivera felt he, too, could grow up to become an engineer.

“The whole thing of, ‘if you can see it, you could be it,’ is a very powerful thing,” said Rivera. 

As a piece of advice to the students and ALPFA members in attendance, Rivera encouraged everything to put together “a personal board of directions.”

“It is a group of people that you surround yourself with, and you can trust to have conversations that will help you get through things,” he added. 

ALPFA CEO Damian Rivera with students at Temple's Fox School of Business. Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.
ALPFA CEO Damian Rivera with students at Temple's Fox School of Business. Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.

Rivera closed by sharing seven foundational principles that make him who he is:

  • Never EVER Give Up!!!
  • The best perform their best under pressure
  • You play to win the game…
  • A goal without a plan is a wish
  • If you are gonna be there… BE THERE
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff
  • LEAVE NO DOUBT

Lastly, he encouraged everyone to become a member of ALPFA, which has over 95,000 active members nationwide. 

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