Leadership Series: Crashing Through the Silicon Ceiling

00B1A9AE00000578-2861607-image-m-358_1417739645548
Image by dailymail.co.uk

Last summer, the Washington Post printed an article to confirm what Latinos in Silicon Valley already knew to be true – Latinos and other people of color are grossly underrepresented in the valley’s workforce, especially in management. The numbers are abysmal.

Intel leads the pack of tech giants where only 8% of its employees are Latino. That’s double the percentage of other major high-tech firms. Twitter is in the basement with only 2% of its workforce identifying as Latino. These statistics include all employees: tech, non-tech, management, etc. Latino managers, directors, and executives represent just a fraction of those employees.

The Post article goes on to describe how management points to the lack of qualified Latino candidates and an education system that isn’t providing a pipeline of talented people of color. This is a common response for organizations and institutions that claim that the problem exists with the talent pool, not hiring practices. Although still woefully inadequate, the rate of Latino college graduates is twice the percentage of employees in Silicon Valley.

So what gives?

According to the Washington Post, Valley executives are beginning to listen to the notion that there are “unconscious biases that have given preference to white men.” This is a great start. Along with those revelations, HR teams are well aware of the challenges to change the mindset of large institutions. As Latino college admission and graduation rates rise over time, there may be someday in the future when this isn’t an issue. It could be decades before the bias demons are exorcised

Unfortunately, today, it’s a major problem and current Latino professionals can’t afford to wait for society to catch up with the reality that there is a large pool of candidates already in the pipeline. The National Society of Hispanic MBAs alone has over 30,000 members in 40 chapters across the country, including Silicon Valley.

The good news is that Silicon Valley seems to be responding to the Washington Post article. Over the past year, companies like Facebook and LinkedIn have hosted events targeted at Latino professionals. The bad news is twofold. First, HR professionals have already said that tackling bias will take a long time. Second, these companies don’t know how to attract Latino talent. I’ll leave that issue for another blog post.

In the meantime, what are smart, talented, and ambitious Latino professionals to do?  Here are few tips that will get you started on your leadership journey:

  1. Work Hard

I’m not going to sugarcoat this. Getting ahead takes an enormous amount of effort, commitment, and perseverance. There’s no other way around it. All of the successful people I’ve ever encountered were passionate and dedicated to their craft. This can take a million hours a week or far less, it just depends how you manage your time. Just make sure to give it your all. A college education gets you to the front door. Hard work gets you to the corner office.

As I made my way up the corporate org chart, I was the first to raise my hand when upper management was looking for someone to take on an extra project. When the corporate office executives needed support for an initiative, I packed my bags and traveled throughout the country to lend a helping hand. Soon, I was on the radar for promotion from manager to director to vice president.

This strategy seems to fly in the face of corporate America’s newfound philosophy on work/home balance. Let me just say this: the hardest working employees get first crack at promotion. There are ways to balance family life and an ambitious career. My wife Sandra worked her way up the education administrator ranks while I moved toward the executive suite. Yet, we always made time for our family (I’ll leave that for another blog post too).

  1. Find a Mentor

Learning to master a craft from a successful person is the best education you’ll ever get. Former U.S. Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice once said that aspiring leaders should, “search for role models you can look up to and people who take an interest in your career.” In my career, the best mentors have been people who truly cared about my future. I’ve been blessed to have five men in my professional life that fulfilled that role.

Bob Williams, Percy Carr, Navarra Williams, Dave Walton, and Johnnie Giles have made an indelible imprint on my career. Bob, the manager at my first part-time job, was a master at team-building. Coach Carr is a hall-of-fame college basketball coach. I worked as his assistant in the late 80s and early 90s. He taught me the value of preparation and developing talent. Navarra, Dave, and Johnnie helped me understand the intense, yet delicate world of corporate politics.

The most valuable asset each of these men brought to me was a sincere interest in my growth and development as a leader. There are people like this in everyone’s life. You need to identify them and seek their guidance. One more piece of advice from Secretary Rice, “you don’t have to have mentors who look like you.” Just make sure that they genuinely care about your potential as a leader.

  1. Keep Learning

According to Pulitzer Prize historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, this concept is one of the ten qualities that made President Abraham Lincoln a great leader. Lincoln spent countless hours with generals in the White House and on the front lines of battle to better understand the science of warfare and the causes and effects of his decisions. He’s perhaps our nation’s greatest wartime president.

Make your personal development a priority. As a student of Goodwin’s theory, I’ve never hesitated at an opportunity to take advantage of leadership development. Among the many programs available to me, I studied community leadership as a senior fellow with the American Leadership Forum of Silicon Valley and corporate leadership with the Comcast Executive Leadership Forum. Today, I continue to learn from the talented people I encounter in my role as a leadership coach.

The most exciting thing about the Latino future is that it’s happening right now. There are many talented professionals in the pipeline today. While it appears that institutions are warming up to the facts about Latino talent, we need to take matters into our own hands until they catch up. Start your leadership journey by taking positive steps toward crashing through the Silicon ceiling!

*****************

Are you ready to make your next career move?

REGISTER TODAY for the July 16th  ESEReport.com Leadership Series “Foundations of Leadership Workshop.” Please contact Eddie directly with any questions at eddie.m.garcia@comcast.net. This will be an inspiring day of learning!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/foundations-of-leadership-workshop-tickets-24943731372

To read the full Washington Post article, click here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/silicon-valley-struggles-to-hack-its-diversity-problem/2015/07/16/0b0144be-2053-11e5-84d5-eb37ee8eaa61_story.html

Advertisements

Leadership Series: Just Believe!

Sticky Believe In Yourself
Image by performersheart.com

Last month at Modesto Junior College, I addressed over 100 Latina college administrators, educators, and students as the opening keynote speaker for the 29th Annual Latina Leadership Network of the California Community Colleges. As I prepared for the speech, butterflies fluttered in my stomach.  I always get nervous before stepping out of my comfort zone. I had never spoken to a group made up exclusively of women.

In the days leading up to the conference, my usual “pre-game” nerves evolved into outright self-doubt. All kinds of questions swirled in my mind, slowing down my preparation process. What did I have to offer to smart and ambitious women? Why did the organizers invite me to open this prestigious event? Was I even qualified to speak at an academic gathering?

Does this sound familiar?

It’s natural for anyone to be a little anxious prior to making a big presentation at work or preparing for something new. Adrenalin generated by those feelings usually helps people focus on getting the job done. We Latinos have an additional burden layered on top of the normal sensation of excitement. The crippling effect of self-doubt leads to questioning our worth, which ultimately can keep us from taking chances.

Why does this happen? The answer is surely complex. Part of it might be our own cultural aversion to taking professional risks. George Lopez describes this phenomenon in his hilarious “Team Leader” bit. Society also has a way of making Latinos, even those in leadership positions, appear a cut below non-Latino colleagues.

The good news is that this sense of inadequacy can be overcome. The solution is for you to just believe in yourself. Sounds easy, huh? Unfortunately, confronting the fear of taking risks and fighting negative stereotypes can be discouraging and tiring. Thus, implementation of the remedy can be challenging due to these hurdles.

I don’t mean the “fake it ‘til you make it” philosophy that seems to be all the rage today. That doesn’t work. You should never fake it! By definition, that means that you’re not qualified for the position you seek. I’m talking about taking stock of your successes and confirming that you’re the real (not fake) deal.

I’m currently working with a Latina mid-level executive who’s contemplating a career change. She has extensive experience in her field and has progressively advanced to higher leadership roles in the organization. Her teams have earned several industry awards in addition to the individual recognition mementos that gather on her desk.

She has three options in front of her: (1) make a lateral move into management at her organization’s headquarters, (2) seek advancement opportunities within the industry, or (3) stay in her current role. I’ve advised her to take a serious look at options #2 and #1, in that order. Her initial response was to question her own qualifications and preparedness.

Seriously…

We did a simple exercise to get that absurd notion out of her mind. She dusted off her resume (which was a decade old) and started listing her professional accomplishments and accolades. When the dust settled, she had an amazing resume that impressed even herself! She had been so busy being successful that she didn’t realize the extent of her experience and preparation.

Once it was on paper, I could see in her eyes that she truly believed in herself. She’s still nervous about the possibility of taking a leap. The natural sense of anxiety that comes with stretching one’s boundaries will still linger as she thinks about her next move. At least she now believes that she has what it takes to achieve her goals.

The moral of this story is to block out influences that are barriers to your success, obstacles like fear of taking professional risks and the negative effect society has on our tendency toward self-doubt. These are powerful forces in keeping Latinas and Latinos from striving to occupy the corner office.

As Latino professionals, we’ve educated ourselves and work hard. We need to learn how to take stock of accomplishments to remind ourselves that we have professional value and worth. This will give us the confidence needed to make the next career move.

Back at Modesto Junior College, as the conference chair introduced me, I reflected on three decades of leadership experience. I had once spoken to over 1,500 politicians at the National Association of Latino Elected Officials in Dallas, Texas, and addressed thousands of people at San Jose State University Chicano Commencement and high school graduation ceremonies.

Stepping up to the podium, I started out by talking about how proud I was of my wife Sandra, an outstanding elementary school principal, and my two daughters in college. Since they’re strong women, I assured the audience, I was totally comfortable in a room of talented and successful Latinas. When the room erupted in applause, I settled down. It was an inspiring evening for me.

Following my own advice, I overcame the self-doubt that had consumed me earlier in the week. Once I took stock of my career, I was able to believe in myself again. You can do this too.

***************

Are you thinking about the next move in your career? You should attend my workshop this summer:

ESEReport.com Leadership Series presents

Foundations of Leadership Workshop

Saturday, July 16, 2016

By sharing engaging stories and colorful anecdotes from 30 years of leadership experience in business, politics, education, and community service, my fast-paced and interactive workshop will help you achieve your professional goals!

 Workshop participants will learn how to:

  • Become a Leader, Not Just a Manager
  • Harness the Power of Productive Relationships
  • Communicate for Success

Click here for tickets and more information: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/foundations-of-leadership-workshop-tickets-24943731372