Hector Garcia knows what it’s like to be a minority in his field. Here, the Cognizant Technology Solutions director of human resources shares how he’s trying to diversify the IT field by creating a welcoming environment and mentorship opportunities for women, Latinos, and veterans.
What was your first experience with the HR function?
My father had a propane gas retail and delivery business in Puerto Rico where I grew up. The business became part of the family. When you were old enough to drive, it was time to learn the family trade. Dad was a people person, highly skilled with customers. I learned from him how to listen and engage with people, what it means to provide customer service, and how to grow the business. His model was, “The customer comes first,” which was a great foundation for me as a business professional.
What made him successful with customers that you have been able to emulate?
My father had great understanding and compassion. I remember once as a young man I made a mistake with one of the customers and was really worried about how my dad would react. When he found out, he just looked at me and said, “Things happen, but when they do, you have to take ownership and focus on the solution.” I was expecting this harsh reprimand, and it was more of an understanding that I got from him.
Trading words with
All decisions must be aligned with our core values. Any decisions or actions that are contrary to any of the core values are not good decisions. Never compromise on your values..
Stepping out of your comfort zone and trying a different approach to achieve a better outcome. It’s difficult to think out of the box if you are in the box.
Family, friends, and the colleagues that stand by you when times are tough.
Why was it important for Cognizant to create the Women Empowered affinity group?
A female leader from one of our client companies commented that most of the staff members at our meetings were men. We committed to her and to our other customers that we’d develop a program to enable females. Cognizant has a great story to tell when it comes to empowering women, and we wanted women to have a resource that reinforced their ability to lead. The IT field tends to have low female participation, so it’s tough to attract women and retain them. We [Cognizant] are now partnered with our customers to host sessions where our female customer leaders engage our female employees for cross mentoring.
Do you have plans to create similar affinity group projects for other minority groups for Cognizant?
Yes. I’m working on groups for Latinos and veterans next, and we hope to replicate the success we’ve had with the Women Empowered group.
Has your background in the military or your heritage as a Latino helped you in connecting with these groups? Yes, yet on the Latino front it’s been tough. Just as it is for women, there are not many Latinos in IT. We’ve been partnering with campuses for recruiting, and have a good footprint at the University of Arizona where we’ve been hosting diversity engagement sessions with students for the last three years. From a veteran standpoint, it’s been a little easier. Because I know how critical it was for me as a veteran, we’re trying to create a buddy program to help them transition, especially during those critical first 90 days of the on-boarding process.
What is one thing you would do differently in your career if you could go back in time?
In the beginning of my career, I felt very self-conscious about my accent and my Latino heritage. I tried not to stand out, and as a consequence, I missed out on opportunities. In retrospect, if I could do it again I would seek out the opportunities that would capitalize on my individuality, my bilingual skills, and Hispanic heritage being central to who I am as a person. Today, I’m the colead for Cognizant’s veteran and Latinos affinity groups and a member of the diversity council. Also, I have been appointed to lead the HR function for Latin America. These are new areas for me and offer opportunities to enhance and develop my career.