NextGen Collective recently spotlighted Luis Polanco Rodriguez. Read about his mission to end homelessness and poverty, how his parents have inspired him and his career, and more.
Where are you from?
I am a native of Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic but have been living in Chicago since I was seven years old.
What do you do today and where do you want to go in your career?
As of May 2, 2022, I began my employment as senior corporate counsel – compliance for dormakaba, one of the top three companies for access control and security solutions in the global market. In that role, I lead the efforts to create, maintain, and monitor the company’s ethics and compliance program. Eventually, I will like to be general counsel in a global company.
What are some of the biggest challenges you see for Latinx professionals early in their careers?
Lack of mentoring and isolation are the two biggest challenges for Latinx professionals. They go hand in hand: if you don’t mentor or seek mentoring you likely will create isolation for yourself in your profession. Corporate America has changed a lot, but there is still a ton of work to do to ensure there is equitable opportunity for Latinx professionals.
To help our Latinx community succeed in our professions, first we must mentor one another and those who are in earlier stages of their lives who may also, because of our mentoring, become professionals. We often believe that we can’t help other Latinx because of our lack of experience in the profession. Understandably, because we’re often the first in our families to become professionals, we focus on self-development and self-focus. However, we must purposely create time to mentor others who, without us, probably won’t become the first because they don’t have the resources to succeed. Mentoring doesn’t have to be a formal relationship—just being a presence in someone’s life can impact them greatly.
When you get a new idea what’s the first thing you do with it?
When I get a new idea, I almost always put the idea through a mental scenario: will it work? How will it work? What do I need to make it work? Once I complete the mental scenario, I decide whether the idea is of use to put into practice. I’m an analytical thinker. Being an analytical thinker has its pros and cons, though. The main pro is that you don’t jump into irrational decisions. The main con is that while you’re analyzing the idea, the opportunity may slowly begin to disappear.
What behavior or personality traits do you attribute to your success?
I wasn’t always this way, but I am not afraid to ask questions and challenge the status quo. Over the years, I have sharpened that ability to ask questions and kindly challenge the status quo. The reason I believe that behavior has attributed to my success is because I have found that challenging the status quo has made my employers more compliant with applicable laws, regulations, and best practices.
Which causes are you passionate about?
Ending homelessness and poverty are the two causes that I am very passionate about. With so much money moving around the world, there is no reason why our society can’t end homelessness and poverty.
To fight the issues of homelessness and poverty, I volunteer my time and skills to several non-profit organizations. Namely, Casa Central, the largest Hispanic social service agency in the Midwest offering programs for children, adults, and seniors, and Franciscan Outreach, the leading provider of homeless services in Chicago, are the two organizations I volunteer my time and skills. I encourage all, especially individuals of color, to volunteer their time and skills to organizations that are making a social impact.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Currently, the most rewarding part of my job is the ability to be the first to lead creation of certain compliance programs in our company. What makes the task of creation more rewarding is that my team is empowering me to create.
What podcast or lifehack can you not live without?
My favorite podcast is NPR’s Code Switch. Race is often a topic not discussed in the workplace, but now the trend is changing to allow amicable and informative conversations to take place. The host of Code Switch explore how race affects every party of society—from politics and pop culture to history, food, and everything in between. What I enjoy most about the podcast is that different perspectives are welcome.
What are you most excited for in 2022?
I’m excited about many things: my wife will become a US citizen, I started a new job with dormakaba, and my sister started a new job. All blessings.
Whose career really inspires you?
My parents are both small business owners. They both created opportunities for themselves while having to go through many hurdles. English is not their first language but they found the way to operate in their respective business. They also handled every aspect of their business, accounting, legal, etc., on their own with no prior experience. That career trajectory is very inspiring to me, because there is great hope for my sister and I to persevere through our own obstacles.