AT&T’s HACEMOS Employee Resource Group Celebrates 30 Years of Empowering Latinos
By Lola Arellano-Fryer
Since its beginning, HACEMOS has supported the personal and professional successes of AT&T’s Hispanic employees through mentorship, volunteerism, and philanthropy. Today, thirty years since its inception, HACEMOS comprises 11,000 members in 42 local chapters. As of 2018, HACEMOS has awarded more than $3.5 million in scholarship awards to Hispanic students.
According to HACEMOS president Yovany Jerez, who was elected in July 2018, HACEMOS’s core strength is its members’ willingness to give generously of their time and talent. HACEMOS members are “committed to having an impact, to a vision that’s bigger than themselves, and they’ve sustained that vision for the past 30 years,” he says.
Listen, Learn, and then Lead
According to Yovany Jerez, leadership requires due diligence. It’s essential to ask questions, then listen to the answers. Likewise, leaders must learn from the past, examining what worked and what didn’t. Only after listening and learning can a leader move forward and make informed decisions.
Jerez has had a passion for championing Latinos from early in his career. AT&T’s demonstrated commitment to Hispanic employees, through initiatives such as HACEMOS, was a primary reason he chose to join the company. Jerez became involved with HACEMOS immediately, rising through local and national leadership positions before taking the lead as president. He is driven by a strong personal belief that leadership roles come with a responsibility to work even harder, and this drive is shaping Jerez’s approach to his new role.
Jerez steps into the large shoes left by former HACEMOS president Cynthia Allen, who likewise began her journey with HACEMOS as an active member of her local, Oklahoma City chapter. Allen’s commitment to HACEMOS is rooted in her belief that ERGs both support employees and represent a high level of value for the company. Building connections between employees fosters the cooperative spirit required to realize audacious visions and accomplish long-term missions. HACEMOS, in particular, provides an important insight into the growing, lucrative market of Hispanic customers. By utilizing the expertise of HACEMOS members, customers receive service tailored to their needs, while AT&T becomes better positioned to grow their Hispanic customer base.
One of Allen’s initial reasons for joining HACEMOS was its ability to connect her family life to her work life. Through bringing her daughters to volunteer events, she was able to provide them a glimpse into their mother’s role as a working professional. Looking back on her experiences with HACEMOS, the most rewarding aspect of her work has been the chance to forge interpersonal connections, such as nurturing relationships and creating opportunities for others to succeed.
Proof of HACEMOS’s power to open doors can be found in software engineer Emely Villeda-Principe, who joined AT&T as a full-time employee in 2017. Villeda-Principe was as a HACEMOS scholarship recipient, and the connections she made through that opportunity led to intern with AT&T, and then to accept a full-time position. Her scholarship, beyond helping pay her tuition – she graduated from Southern Methodist University in 2017 – also gave her the opportunities she needed to launch her career.
Interning at AT&T equipped Villeda-Principe with the crucial skills needed to succeed in the workplace. “You need soft skills in addition to traditional STEM skills,” she says, but for a STEM major, those supplementary skills aren’t covered in the classroom. The mentorship and support she gained through HACEMOS filled in these vital gaps. Villeda-Principe represents HACEMOS working at its best: supporting Hispanic students in achieving their education while preparing them for distinguished careers. Villeda-Principe is excited to mentor the next generation of students like herself, and to serve as a role model as a Latina working in STEM.
Emely’s Advice to Early Career Latinos in STEM:
For fellow Latinos aspiring to a career in STEM, Emely recommends seizing every opportunity to develop professional skills, like internships. It can be difficult to transition from college to working world, so before you graduate, take every chance you get to acclimate to corporate culture.
A cornerstone of HACEMOS’s commitment to promoting STEM is their annual High Tech Day. For this event, local HACEMOS chapters invite students to visit the AT&T offices in order to discover career possibilities. The event is spearheaded entirely by employees and happens simultaneously in cities throughout the United States. High Tech Day, with its focus on the future minds in STEM, provides HACEMOS members an opportunity to lead with a high level of creativity and innovation.
An example of this innovation began with the idea of incorporating IoT (Internet of Things) technology into Atlanta’s High Tech Day. A small team of volunteers took the idea and ran with it, developing the curriculum, securing funding, and piloting the program. It was so successful that 19 other chapters followed suit, eventually creating the IOT Academy.
Along the way, Ahmet Ustunel, a teacher who works with students with disabilities, and who is himself blind, learned about the initiative. He came with an ambitious proposal. His dream was to kayak across Istanbul’s Bosphorus Strait, a tricky feat even for a sighted person. Through collaboration between HACEMOS and the AT&T Foundry Innovation Center, they were able to create a GPS-powered device that enabled Ahmet to navigate the strait, which he successfully crossed this past July. While HACEMOS remains focused on its local chapters, its impact can be seen resonating even across oceans.
Looking back on the 30-year history of HACEMOS, Allen seems in awe of all that the ERG has accomplished. Established in an era before the internet, without any of the communication tools on which we rely today, HACEMOS’s nascent years depended upon incredible vision and leadership to build something at such a scale. It required individuals to “be daring to execute it for others,”’ Allen says. Jerez, for his part, is quick to highlight the power of HACEMOS’s decades-long institutional knowledge and the best practices that have grown out of the experience. (He’s also eager to share this knowledge with emerging ERGs – just ask.)
On Creating Opportunity
When considering the future impact of HACEMOS, former president Cynthia Allen says that it’s essential to “infuse the pipeline, not just create it.” Blazing paths to success is not enough; the work remains to mentor potential leaders so that they can utilize that path.
This rich heritage gives Jerez a deep sense of responsibility as HACEMOS’s new president, but he also has a clear vision for where HACEMOS is headed next. Jerez’s first priority is to raise HACEMOS’s digital profile, by creating a website that better facilitates information sharing and communication. He plans to create a platform that will celebrate the accomplishments of scholarship winners and better connect HACEMOS with local communities. By creating new pathways for a digital connection, Jerez envisions that better community collaboration and a strengthened scholarship program will result.
HACEMOS was built over three decades through the hard work of Latinos who were driven to strengthen their personal and professional community. The future of the ERG is certain to honor that hard work while continuing to positively impact in the lives of Latino employees and the future of STEM.