In 2006, four high-ranking Hispanic executives who were members of the National Society of Hispanic MBAs (NSHMBA) came together, realizing that though NSHMBA was doing good work, there was a gap in its focus: Hispanics in IT. Frank DeArmas, David Segura, David Olivencia, and Jose Guerra decided to fill this gap by creating an organization of their own: the Hispanic IT Executive Council (HITEC), which aimed to cultivate stronger leaders and role models within the IT field. In the summer of 2007, Hispanic IT professionals from across the country converged in New York City for HITEC’s inaugural meeting. According to Andre Arbelaez, current HITEC president and honorary “fifth founder” who was with the organization from the very beginning, the passion was palpable.
Though a lot has changed for the organization in the five years since its first meeting, one goal remains the same—something Arbelaez calls “the push up and pull up.” “We’ve grown in size and scope, but our mission is the same. We want to push up mid-level Hispanics in IT to the upper ranks and we want to pull up young stars and provide them with the visibility they need to get to the next level,” Arbelaez says.
In other words, HITEC is all about paying it forward. The group also helps large IT corporations realize the benefits of having an executive staff that is representative of the community it serves. This has become especially important as the demographics of the country continue to shift. In 2011, the Pew Research Center reported that the Hispanic population accounted for most of the nation’s growth—56 percent—from 2000 to 2010.
As IT executives climb the ladder, they feel somewhat secluded because of the lack of diversity in their field. Finding out about an affinity group like HITEC can really change their careers. Not only will they encounter a built-in community of people they can relate to, but they will also have access to information and networking opportunities they wouldn’t have otherwise.”
HITEC is committed to shining a spotlight on talented Hispanics in IT and providing them with the visibility they need to succeed, which is why the organization releases its annual list (see p. 92) of the 100 Most Influential Hispanics in IT. Arbelaez makes it very clear, however, that what they’re doing is about more than simply showcasing Hispanics in the industry; it’s about showcasing the best in the industry who happen to be Hispanic. “All of our members take pride in being good technology leaders who happen to be Hispanic. We have all grown up in a culture where people want to be judged on their competence and nothing else, but as a minority you get to a certain level and it’s difficult to move up,” he explains. “We want to change that. We want Hispanic leaders to have the positions they deserve and to inspire others to keep reaching.”
Read below for an insightful and no-holds-barred discussion about the challenges and opportunities for Latinos in the high-demand field of IT, from the unique perspectives of three HITEC members.