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Hispanic Heritage Month at HERE: "Our strength is in our unity."

During Hispanic Heritage Month, we celebrate the work of Vamos, HERE's ERG for Hispanic/Latinx employees.

Inclusion, diversity and belonging are fundamental to our culture, core values and approach to innovation as a company.

Part of creating an inclusive workplace is recognizing the individual talents and contributions of people from diverse backgrounds.

One of the groups which does just that at HERE Technologies is Vamos.

The group, which has been operating for a year now, is open to everyone who supports its mission and goals. That includes allies, who are invited to support, proactively speak up, and model an inclusive culture.

Vamos has been set up to foster a culture of belonging by committing to the representation and advancement of LatinX/Hispanic heritage, communities and talent. They do this by promoting inclusion, giving back to local communities, enriching LatinX/Hispanic talent, connecting HERE solutions to the LatinX/Hispanic market and establishing partnerships with allies to empower the LatinX/Hispanic population.

We spoke to some Vamos members about what Hispanic Heritage Month means to them, and how Vamos is helping to honor the history, culture and achievements of Hispanic Americans and the LatinX community.

"At the core of all allyship is friendship." - Olga Selina, VP, Vamos Executive Sponsor

Hispanic Heritage  Month 2020 at HERE Technologies

Olga Selina, VP, Vamos Executive Sponsor

What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?

"When I first heard of Hispanic Heritage Month, I thought it was unusual that it wasn't a single calendar month. When I learned that the date range from September to October was chosen to include the Independence Day celebrations of Latin American countries, I thought it was a terrific way to highlight the varied and diverse nature of the LatinX community, and more importantly, demonstrate that this cultural group is not a monolith."*

What made you decide to join the Employee Resource Group Vamos?

"My last name sounds Spanish, but I'm 100% Russian. I read a great quote recently: "At the core of all allyship is friendship." I was always a friend of the Vamos ERG – they put on great events (always educational – and the great food and wonderful dancing were great bonuses). Like any good friendship, we share the same passion and interest in core values. I was extremely delighted, not to mentioned honored when the Vamos leaders (Angel and Sophia) approached me to be their executive sponsor."

How does the group help attract and retain Latinx/Hispanic employees?

"We try and take advantage of as many channels as we can to attract LatinX/Hispanic recruits – ranging from putting on workshops and demos that target Latinx students, industry organizations, cultural groups and academic institutions to being guest speakers at allyship and cultural awareness events. We also work closely with our fellow HERE ERGs – WIN, Unity & Power, and Pride – to have crossover events and initiatives to maximize our outreach.

"For example, last year I was a panelist on behalf of WIN at a Chicago Chamber of Commerce Inclusion, Diversity, and Belonging event (Digital Empowers), but the core message was how HERE valued and promoted diversity. We also encourage our LatinX/Hispanic employees to reach out to their alumni and schools to spread the word about HERE.

"From a retention point of view, Vamos is developing and promoting internal events to recognize, support, and inspire their Latinx/Hispanic co-workers, and provide them with opportunities to celebrate their cultural heritage within the workplace."

How does Vamos help give back to the community? If you have had any experiences with this, tell us about them, and what the opportunity achieved.

"Over the last few years, I've worked with an army of volunteers to help clear and prepare housing for Hispanic families in need. It was a great experience to see how the organization supports their community with practical programs that deliver immediate help."

“It is important that we bring our authentic self to work so we can innovate and problem-solve without inhibitions." – Sophia Ramirez-Saenz, Project Coordinator, Co-Founder of Vamos

Hispanic Heritage  Month 2020

Sophia Ramirez-Saenz, Project Coordinator, Co-Founder of Vamos

Why does HERE celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month and what does it mean to you?

"The workplace is evolving. Solving for creative solutions and consistently putting forth your best effort requires authenticity. It is important that we bring our authentic self to work so we can innovate and problem-solve without inhibitions.

"To me, the month's purpose is to share the complexity and diversity within our Latinx community, tell our stories, and learn alongside our allies. By doing so, we focus on breaking down the misconceptions/stereotypes around our cultures and we honor who we are as individuals."*

What made you decide to join the Employee Resource Group Vamos?

"Tech companies have continued to grow in parallel to the growing Latinx population in the United States, [but] this rapid growth is not reflected in tech hiring practices. *The U.S. Latinx/Hispanic population is the largest minority group with 18% of the total workforce; however, LatinX/Hispanics comprise less than 7% of all Tech professions and 2% for Latinas alone. I quickly recognized that I am a part of that 2%. After transitioning from an intern to a full-time position in 2019, I set out to establish and lead our first Latinx/Hispanic employee resource group. My personal goals were to enrich and advance our current community of Latinx/Hispanic employees, and work with my colleagues to attract talent from underrepresented groups. Ultimately, I strive to see more Latinx/Hispanic and Black individuals in technology at all job-levels. The number of people of color in tech drop the higher you move towards strategic careers (e.g. Director, VP level and up).

"I founded Vamos with my co-lead, Angel Nieves, in September 2019. [Our mission is]: to promote inclusion, give back to local communities, enrich LatinX/Hispanic talent, connect HERE solutions to the LatinX/Hispanic market, and establish partnerships with allies to empower the LatinX/Hispanic population."

In what way has Vamos helped you in your career?

"Vamos has helped shape my voice within the company and develop my leadership [skills]. I have met incredible colleagues who share my passion and ambition. Feeling supported and heard at work has provided space to focus on achieving my personal goals and it brings me joy."

How does Vamos help to recognize and celebrate their contributions?

"We kicked off this year's Vamos Heritage Month 2020 with a panel discussion Latinx in the USA: Generational Differences. The moderator and panelists were HERE employees. They all are from different generations (1st generation, 2nd/3rd generation/born in the US or moved to the US later in life.) They provided insight to their background so our attendees learned more about our colleagues' achievements.

"Our most recent event focused on an employee's extensive travels in Latin America. He busted travel myths and misconceptions while teaching us more about various sights and experiences in Colombia, Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico and Nicaragua.

"Our upcoming events include two discussion sessions, Unidos: Afro-Latinx Everywhere, which we have partnered with our Unity & Power ERG and Esri's Latinx and Black/African employee resource groups. It is a panel conversation between HERE and Esri colleagues sharing personal experiences regarding Afro-LatinX cultural contributions, social impact, and innovation. We will focus on what Latinx/Afro-Latinx/Black employees are doing to uplift and empower our communities.

What do you hope Vamos can achieve in the future?

"I hope we maintain our current partnerships while working with new organizations at a nation-wide and global scale. Also, I hope we continue to strengthen and amplify our Latinx/Hispanic community at the company and in technology [generally].

"I hope we continue working towards creating an actionable plan to recruit from Historically Black Colleges and Hispanic-Serving Institutions. Most large, US-based tech companies focus on hiring from the same pool of colleges. It's time to change this narrative and find talent where they are — at universities with a diverse student body."

“We constantly tell each other within Vamos: En la unión está la fuerza: Our strength is in our unity." – Angel Nieves, Global Business Planning Manager, Co-Founder of Vamos. 

Angel Niever, Co-Founder of Vamos

Angel Nieves, Global Business Planning Manager, Co-Founder of Vamos

Why does HERE celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month?

"At HERE we celebrate Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month to honor the cultures and contributions of Hispanic and Latin Americans. We elevate the advances being made in this thriving demographic, from business to arts, tech to politics. Through Vamos, we aim to give the Latinx community at HERE a platform to elevate their voices through various channels such as panel discussions, community-building activities, and grassroots leadership opportunities."*

What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?

"I use the month as a platform to remind everyone that investing in Latinx is not only a social issue but an economic directive. Latinx buying power is huge, so companies (including HERE) should seize this lucrative financial opportunity now! As a father to three young, Latino boys, I aim to uplift our culture and educate my sons how our Puerto Rican background is interwoven with Latinx people across the globe."

What made you decide to join the Employee Resource Group Vamos?

"I was approached by our former COO to lead Vamos, which was such a motivating factor and a testament to how empowering young talent can energize them to do great things. It also helps that I was surrounded by an all-star cast of colleagues. As we constantly tell each other within Vamos: En la unión está la fuerza...Our strength is in our unity."

How does the group help attract and retain Latinx/Hispanic employees?

"Our members are our main catalysts. They desire and strive to boost Latinx presence at HERE and in tech in general, shouldering the responsibility of recruiting from Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI), hosting and facilitating career fairs, working with Talent Acquisition on hiring strategies, and pushing for visibility into data such as Latinx workforce percentages, by job grade, etc."

How does Vamos help give back to the community? If you have had any experiences with this, tell us about them, and what the opportunity achieved.

"In just one year of existence, we have made solid contributions to the Latinx community. We have partnered with Casa Central, a Chicago non-profit that provides housing, elderly care, and early childhood education to [underprivileged] Latinx communities. We have worked with National Louis University, a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI), to mentor students and give them guidance while they pursue STEM careers. We have also hosted and participated in career fairs."

Tell us about Vamos' work to uplift HERE's presence in the Latinx/Hispanic marketplace.

"As we initially built out the strategic pillars, vision and mission for Vamos, one of our priorities was to incorporate an element of business development to really accentuate the notion that we are more than just a social group. The pandemic threw a wrench in some of those efforts, but in a short amount of time we have made strides in forging internal partnerships with colleagues from the customers' organization, namely with account executives and leaders from LATAM Sales. We have also extended our networks to work with Latinx ERGs from outside companies, such as Facebook, Accenture, Groupon, Microsoft and Esri, to name a few."

Why is inclusion so important in the workplace?

"It gives employees the opportunity to be their true selves. True inclusion promotes people to embrace the backgrounds of their peers, allowing their voices and ideas to be heard and acted upon. Companies with diverse and inclusive leadership exceed industry earnings and outperform their peers across the board."

What do you hope Vamos can achieve in the future?

"Let's continue promoting, recruiting, and retaining Latinx talent. Let's leverage Vamos to lift HERE's presence in the Latinx marketplace and capitalize on business opportunities. Let's continue to give back efforts to make a positive impact on the local, Latinx communities we serve."

 

Maria Guerrero, Senior Account Executive

Maria Guerrero, Senior Account Executive

What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?

"It gives me an opportunity to reflect on my parent's accomplishments, from migrating to the US at an early age to sending my siblings and I to college. This is a great accomplishment [considering their] humble beginnings. Both parents have 12 siblings each, and there were many times where one meal is all that was available while living in Mexico. They migrated to the US seeking a better life for those back in Mexico. Not knowing the language and with a low Latinx population in the 1970s, they were driven [by] one goal: changing the lives of their siblings and for the next generations to come."*

What made you decide to join the Employee Resource Group Vamos?

"Being new to the tech industry, I wanted to meet other Latinxs at HERE. Most importantly, I wanted to meet colleagues that had similar upbringings, goals and aspirations as [me].

"I am looking forward to the community outreach that'll be organized by Vamos. It's important to mentor the next generation since Latinx are extremely underrepresented in the tech industry."

Why is inclusion so important in the workplace?

"Inclusion is important in the workplace as it drives diversity. Diversity brings a different view, perspective and opinion to the business overall."

What do you hope Vamos can achieve in the future?

"I hope we can make a difference in our community by educating and motivating the next generation of the opportunities in STEM while increasing our representation at HERE."

 

Raul Fernandez, Director, Customer Advocacy and Continuous Improvement, Vamos Steering Committee Memberundefined

Raul Fernandez, Director, Customer Advocacy and Continuous Improvement, Vamos Steering Committee Member

Why does HERE celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month?

"To foster an environment where everyone feels welcome and value and to celebrate our rich diversity, which is the fiber of our culture."*

What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?

"It is a celebration of our many contributions and it is also an opportunity to reflect and recharge, to do more."

What made you decide to join the Employee Resource Group Vamos?

"We all have full-time jobs and it literally takes a village. All contributions count, no matter the size. In Vamos, I have found a place where I can meet smart and talented individuals with whom I share many similar experiences. Plus, we like to have fun!"

Why is inclusion so important in the workplace?

"We need to create an environment of psychological safety where we all feel valued and belong. This creates a commitment to do whatever it takes to make the company successful."

*Olga Selina. Sophia Ramirez-Saenz, Raul Fernandez, Angel Nieves and Maria Guerrero were interviewed via email in September 2020.

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