Ask Frank Carbajal about his roots, and he’ll tell you the story of his mother and father. Carbajal’s parents immigrated to the United States from Mexico in the 1960s under the Bracero Program, through which they became agricultural laborers in California. By the seventies, they had found jobs in canneries in the Santa Clara Valley, but at the time of Carbajal’s birth, they were still out in the fields.
“Growing up, my mom always reminded me that I was born with resiliency,” Carbajal says. “When I got older, I asked her why. It’s because she literally worked up until her third trimester, in the hot, blistering sun.”
With his mother’s resiliency and his father’s blue-collar networking skills as inspiration, Carbajal became a first-generation college graduate and first-generation professional. He founded EsTiempo LLC in 2008, and by 2010, he had organized the inaugural Silicon Valley Latino Leadership Summit (SVLLS), which brought together business leaders dedicated to empowering professionals across the Latino community and beyond.
Carbajal has also dipped his toes into the creative world, and now considers himself to be an author first. But his books––including the recently published Latinx Business Success: How Latinx Ingenuity, Innovation, and Tenacity are Driving Some of the World’s Biggest Companies––speak to the same mission that has driven him all along.
When he began writing in the early 2000s, Carbajal reflected on the inequities he had witnessed in the barrios of his youth––and the way those inequities continued to manifest in the professional world he had since entered. “I didn’t have imposter syndrome,” he says. “I had confidence because of the way my parents raised me. But I realized that, as a community, we needed more. And what we needed was positive stories.”
Carbajal knew that he could find those stories and share them with his community. The result was Building the Latino Future: Success Stories for the Next Generation, published in 2008, just before the Great Recession.
The recession motivated Carbajal to look for additional ways to spread the stories he had gathered. His mentor Dick W. Gonzales, a former executive at supermarket chain Safeway, encouraged him to organize an in-person event and offered to serve as a speaker. “His executive leadership and credibility provided me with the excitement and the access to ask others in my book to be speakers as well,” Carbajal says. Thus, SVLLS was born.
Although Carbajal has had to postpone the eleventh annual Latino Leadership Summit due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he took those very circumstances as the impetus for his 2021 book, Latinx Business Success. While watching his three daughters use the internet to learn remotely, he started thinking about students in areas without universal Wi-Fi or broadband access. “I went back to my own humble beginnings growing up in East San Jose and wondered what would have happened if I had been in high school there during this time. If I didn’t have enough hope and courage, I would have dropped out,” he notes.
This realization pushed Carbajal to reach out to Dr. José Morey, the STEM expert who would become his coauthor. Together, Carbajal and Morey developed the DIGITAL (Decision, Intelligence, Game Plan, Insight, Technology, Abundance, and Leverage) framework that they present in the book.
“We already know our kids have access to the intelligence of the digital industry, but there is a lack of access to digital tools,” Carbajal explains. “We have to show how we can evolve together by providing a framework for this brand-new era of digital leadership.”
Carbajal wants to give hope to up-and-coming business leaders at any age by showcasing the success stories of trailblazers across a wide range of industries. “Many of the folks in the book faced struggles early on in their careers. What makes a person much more resilient or tenacious is the understanding that we have one another,” he says. “For me, it’s important to emphasize that we need to elevate, embrace, and unify. The Latinx Business Success model really is inclusive.”
That inclusivity is at the front and center of the book––literally. The book cover depicts a globe and a duct tape X that together represent the intersectionality of the term “Latinx.” And, with the book an Amazon best seller in the economics, business, and entrepreneurship categories, Carbajal’s themes appear to be resonating with his audience.
Still, Carbajal has his eyes on the future. He plans next to highlight blue-collar business leaders through the lens of digitalization and emerging technologies. Even so, his goal hasn’t changed since his very first book.
“I want to inspire folks. English is my second language, and I wasn’t a strong student in English classes. But we all have a secret sauce within us,” he says. “Having a book is like bringing up another child. You’re sharing your experience with others, and they’re sharing their experiences with you.”