Get to know HACE: The Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement

HACE president Patricia Mota (left) and chairman Juan Carlos Avila (right). Photo by Sheila Barabad.

En sus Propias Palabras | Patricia Mota (President, HACE)

“The Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement has been a national nonprofit for thirty-three years, providing insight, access, and professional development for our members across the country. We also provide this access to partner employers looking to recruit, engage, and retain Latino talent. We’ve come a long way in this nation, but there’s more work to do, and that’s why I’m excited about the organization’s future as its interim president.

One in four kids growing up in America is a Latino. It’s our job—our responsibility—to give them the tools they need to grow into leading professionals and public servants to represent our growing demographic in this country. We need to continue to contribute in meaningful ways to the workforce and economy around us.

If you look at the numbers and trends today, it’s sad to see that we only have about 10 Latino CEOs in major companies. We make up 17 percent of this nation, and we have growing purchasing power. We have to demand that companies make a real effort to hire and advance Latinos and not just swoop in to reap the advantages of marketing and selling to us. If they want us to buy their products, they can include us in leadership positions.

This background is why I’m so excited about HACE. We are developing a 2020 plan that will guide us over the next five years, and we’re working with focus groups made up of professionals, corporate partners, and students. Through these groups, we’ll find out what we’ve done well and what we can improve. Then, we’ll build a new strategic plan. Right now, we’ve got Latino talent in the door, but we want to help our corporate clients engage and retain that talent. That’s why we’ve developed our high school program and our leadership academy—so employers can send us the people they’ve recruited, and we can provide meaningful training.

We’re also revamping our website, which we’ll use as a platform for members to connect virtually. They can meet other Latino professionals when traveling and network even more. The portal will also help us take our programs online. We have our programs boxed up and ready to go, so we can easily expand to other markets as funding becomes available through corporate partners and donors. We’re mobilizing local employers and leaders to run these programs we’ve already created.

We track the results of everything we do. 90 percent of students in our high school program graduate, and 89 percent go on to pursue further training or education. That’s way above national averages for minorities. 30 percent of those in our leadership programs receive a promotion or raise after six months, and that number climbs by another 40 percent in six more months. People in our programs are actually advancing in their careers.

I just met with a young man who started our program in 2006 as a junior in high school. He earned a scholarship to attend a summer architecture program at Cornell and later earned his degree. Now, he’s a designer at a national architecture firm. He recently committed to mentoring some of our students. We help create this call of action to pay it forward. People that have gone through our organization want to return and give something back so others can do the same. I love seeing that happen because that is why we exist.”

Bio: Patricia Mota decided in high school that she wanted to help minorities get access to opportunities like higher education and having mentors who are leaders, and she’s spent her entire career doing just that. While studying at Indiana University, she helped start a nonprofit organization that offered education programs on immigration, predatory lending, job opportunities, and other issues to the area’s growing Latino community. She held membership and served on boards for various community-facing organizations before joining HACE in 2010. In her role as senior director of strategic initiatives, she has increased the organization’s corporate partnerships by 60 percent and revamped and expanded the women’s leadership program, Mujeres de HACE. In early 2015, Mota became HACE’s president.

Desde su Perspectiva | Juan Carlos Avila (Chairman, HACE)

“Not all Latinos grow up knowing they’re headed to college. I know so many who are the first in their family to go to college. That’s a huge accomplishment. But what happens many times is that person then gets a job in corporate America and then sees their career plateau because they don’t have the resources or connections to reach their potential. They know their boss loves them, they know their clients love them, but they’ve been stuck in the same position for five years or more.

This is often the reality, but it gets even more interesting when you look at the other side. Our corporate partners say they hire Latinos, but half leave and others level out. What’s missing? There’s a disconnect, and one of our jobs at HACE is to connect these two groups.
At HACE, though, it’s not just about conferences and connecting our Latino professionals with employers and corporations. That’s important, but in the last decade we’ve developed intensive professional development programs. It’s great to have conferences and to connect people, but what will really help Latinos become the leaders they can become and the leaders corporate America needs is the right training and resources. With the right training and the right resources, they can go back into their jobs and succeed. After they come through our programs, they go back, they’re killing it, they get compensated, they get promoted, and they can support each other. In doing so, they demonstrate the true return on investment of hiring Latino talent, and their companies win, too.

We all know about the need for Latinos to be better represented in corporate America, but as Latinos, we have a role to play in that. The leaders at HACE are working to educate our members and encouraging them to understand the value they offer and how to use it properly. They need to speak up, have a plan, and recognize chances that come along.

2015 will be a big year for us. We’re looking forward to the continued national expansion of our programs and are developing new strategies to strengthen our members and our partners at the same time. We’re also monitoring our impact because each region has its nuances. We wanted to find out if our program would have the same impact on women in Washington, DC, as it does on women in Chicago and Houston. All of these Mujeres de HACE alumnae are on fire, though, and that goes back to our local leadership and the work that we’ve done to listen to our members as we develop these programs.

I remember a couple of years ago when I attended a graduation at one of our programs. We got to hear member stories and understand the true impact HACE had on one group of aspiring Latina women. They had come a long way, and we were very proud of them. But that was a group of 30 women. There are thousands and thousands of others out there that need better access to resources, mentors, and opportunities. That graduation was a great night, but for me, it was the motivation I needed to keep growing these programs so we can reach and empower even more Latinos across the country.”

Bio: Unlike many Latinos of his generation growing up in America, Juan Carlos Avila was fortunate to come from a middle-class family that taught him the value of education. From an early age, the self-proclaimed “army brat” from Colombia knew he would attend college, but he says that after earning an MBA and landing a job in corporate America, he fell into a trap: Avila was letting his career happen to him instead of taking the reins. He first made a connection with HACE when selecting his MBA program and later used the organization to acquire new skills, relationships, and experiences that have helped him leverage his career in the financial services sector. Now, Avila is Chairman of HACE’s board and a managing partner at Toroso Investments. He’s dedicated to providing the tools and resources to equip the next generation of Latino leaders.