The Next Generation of Líderes Spotlight: Bay Area

In June 2016, Hispanic Executive hosted a NextGen Líderes dinner, sponsored by Northwestern Mutual. Attendees were millennial Hispanic professionals living and working in the Bay Area. Hispanic Executive took the opportunity to catch up with two stand-out young líderes we met to get to know them better and get their fresh insights and perspectives on topics surrounding emerging leadership and what it’s really like to work and live in Silicon Valley.


Walter Rodriguez
Legal Investigation Specialist, Google

HE: Where are you from?

WR: I was born in New Jersey, but grew up in Salinas [located in the Central Coast], California. Salinas is considered the “Salad Bowl of the World” and home to John Steinbeck, author of East of Eden and Of Mice and Men.

HE: What do you consider your hometown?

WR: I consider Salinas my hometown, because it’s where I lived through those formative experiences that shaped who I am as a man.

HE: Where did you go to college? What did you study?

WR: I started at community college in Salinas, but eventually transferred to UC–Berkeley, where I majored in political science and minored in public policy.

HE: What do you do? 

WR: I work as a legal investigation specialist for a legal operations team at Google, where I handle an array of legal requests, manage internal tools, and work on hiring initiatives.

HE: At one of the most iconic tech companies in the world, has your interest in technology grown? 

WR: Working at Google has definitely made me more interested in technology and how it can help people to get around their city, learn a new skill, collaborate, and/or share information. My manager, Julianne, recently introduced me to a new app called Flipboard, which keeps me up to date on new tech products and services.

HE: What factors led to your decision to join Google?

WR: I decided to join Google because I was excited by the opportunity to work for a company who values privacy, user trust, and is building amazing services and products.

HE: What is your favorite thing about working and living in the Bay Area?

WR: My favorite thing about living in San Francisco is that you can go to different neighborhoods and be immersed with the different food, art, and people in each neighborhood that you visit. And as an avid coffee drinker, I enjoy visiting different coffee shops. I mainly work in Google’s Sunnyvale campus but when I get a chance to work from the San Francisco office, I enjoy drinking coffee or tea outside on a patio where I can get a great view of the Bay Bridge.

HE: What would you say to the generation behind you about working at Google?

WR: I would say that if you enjoy technology and want to have an impact while working with amazing people, then start looking for roles at Google. If possible, try to connect with people who are working at Google to have a better understanding of the team structure. The next step is to ensure that you have the relevant work, volunteer, or internship experience that will make you stand out from the crowd, as well as having a solid academic record.

HE: Name a career or life goal in the next three to five years.

WR: I’m planning on obtaining an MBA.

HE: What is a Bay Area gem that you think is underrated?

WR: Going for a run around Lake Merced, which is located on the southwest side of San Francisco, is underrated. Right after you finish your run, there’s a slew of surrounding restaurants, bakeries, and coffee shops you can visit.   


Maria Gianotti
President, ALPFA San Francisco

HE: Where are you from?

MG: I was born in Chile but immigrated with my mom to Norway at the age of six.  All-in-all, I have lived in Chile, Norway, Spain, Hawaii, and now, San Francisco. I have learned that adaptability and flexibility are key elements to thrive in any environment.

HE: What do you do?

MG: I’m a marketing professional with over ten years of experience. I’ve worked in technology and financial services sectors most of my career, from start-ups to enterprise-level companies.

I am in the process of pursuing my next challenge and my current aspiration is to work within the emerging diversity and inclusion field. Driving program development initiatives that increase brand presence is something that I’m very passionate about in my involvement with the Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA).

HE: What led you to become a part of ALPFA?

MG: I became part of ALPFA because I wanted to connect with other professional Latinos in the community. At the same time, I was looking for a group of people that served with purpose and were passionate about transforming the lives of others.

While other organizations may have a similar mission, the sense of community—and family—is what really drew me into ALPFA.  It does not matter if you are an ALPFA member, student, corporate partner, or board member—we are all family. It’s truly powerful to have a diverse group of people from all over the nation that you can call family.

HE: How has the organization shaped your own career?

MG: Being involved with ALPFA has given me opportunities to develop my leadership skills that transcend both at the board level and in my professional life. I started as director of marketing on the San Francisco board of directors three years ago, and quickly moved my way up to vice president of external affairs, and now to president of the chapter. I have had the opportunity to manage both small and large teams during my time on the board and that has increased my self-awareness, leadership competencies and vocation.

HE: What are your career or even just life goals for the next three to five years?

MG: My life goals consist of constantly learning and paying it forward by creating opportunities for myself and others. I want to keep achieving success in my career; however, I want to get better at living life how I want and deserve, and not just the life I settle for. In Arianna Huffington’s book Thrive, she speaks about the third measure of success that goes beyond the two metrics of money and power. The four pillars of the third metric—well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving—really resonate with me as this is the type of success that I believe will add true meaning to my career and life.

HE: What is a San Francisco gem you think is underrated?

MG: Many people don’t know this, but San Francisco is the home of three breathtaking Diego Rivera murals. One of them, my favorite, Pan American Unity, is his first mural and the largest significant piece of work he did in the United States. This piece can be found in the Diego Rivera Theater on the campus of the City College of San Francisco. It’s such a hidden gem that most students that go to school there don’t even know it’s there.