As an entrepreneur she built resilience, endurance and strength of character.
I had the pleasure of meeting Aileen Hernandez Morales, Humana Process Improvement Professional and Communications Co-Chair in Unidos, Hispanic NRG, during the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility (HACR) Conference this past Spring.
We immediately connected after sharing career paths and our admiration for our‘Mamas Bravas’ – our agency’s social media campaign recognizing the courageous plight of immigrant mothers.
Aileen considers herself 100% Boricua. One of nine siblings, she was born and raised in Puerto Rico until the age of seven and then lived in California until her teenage years.
Her single mom taught her to value the essential things in life –family bonds, kindness and hard work. Having older sisters and brothers pushed her to never conform, overcoming challenges and defying the odds to pave her way.
She spent most of her adult life in Puerto Rico and returned to the states after remarrying to provide a better quality of life for her son.
Empowered by a career across multiple industries, Aileen attributes her relentless determination and strategic plotting of key goals for shaping her career and business aspirations.
She considers herself a risk-taker and problem solver by nature – always in search of a solution. “Because of my upbringing – I always wanted something different than what I was exposed to growing up.”
The Importance of mentors in business
Finding mentors and sponsors was vital to her career development, as they embraced her core qualities and took a chance on her by expanding her role in key initiatives.
One such mentor, was the Spanish owner of Madrid Travel wholesaler in Puerto Rico, Hilario Soriano, where she worked for a decade. His unconventional ways and vastly different experience and background took her out of her comfort zone. “He always said ‘there’s a business beyond the glamourous side of the travel industry,” she recalls.
They shared a love for travelwhich was defined by a curiosity of meeting new people and discovering their cultures. “I grew personally, well beyond my professional scope – becoming a world citizen,” said Aileen. Traveling the world added value to her daily interactions and the importance of trying to make a difference.
Her relentless determination drove her to seek a new career path in the retail finance industry leading her to a job in General Electric’s Collections Department.
Her exposure to leadership programs and training prepared her to better navigate corporate America and advance her management role. After five years with GE, Aileen continued striving to achieve her goals and landed a job with Humana, where she could make a difference on healthcare issues affecting members and providers, alike. A problem-solver at heart, Aileen believed her ability to pinpoint issues, add value in business processes and seek solutions would help better the lives of her community in Puerto Rico, where Humana was starting to expand their efforts.
As an entrepreneur
Although most of her life was spent in corporate America, she decided to create a baking business while her son was a toddler. As an entrepreneur she built resilience, endurance and strength of character. All core skills that made her more well-rounded and helped her understand both sides of the business world. “Being an entrepreneur helps you respond better to change – become more adaptable and effective,” she said. “But, at the end of the day, no matter if we’re corporate and/or small business leaders, we need to make an impact in someone’s life.”
Giving back to the community comes natural to Aileen – it energizes her, like the volunteer work she does on behalf of Humana. As a communication co-chair, Aileen is responsible for implementing an Inclusion and Diversity strategy across a resource group of likeminded individuals to help support one another and the business.
Tasks include implementing a year-long communications plan, organizing volunteer events, and training co-workers to help them reach their full potential and grow professionally. “I see myself as a mentor in this role – I lead a group of 10 to 12 engaged volunteers that look to me for guidance – every interaction is strategically focused – allowing them to learn from my experience. It allows the professional growth and is personally rewarding.”
Mentoring younger generations of Hispanics is critical to personal and professional growth – especially in the healthcare industry,
Aileen points out. It’s a win-win situation when Latina leaders help increase visibility of issues impacting the health of our Latinx communities – “you are improving the health of the communities and ultimately, it trickles down from these volunteers.”
Empowering younger generations of Hispanics by challenging the status quo through mentoring, sharing knowledge and expertise gives them the ability to address critical issues more efficiently.
As we end our interview, Aileen inspires Latinas with these words of encouragement. ‘Embrace your diversity – be in charge of your goals and don’t shy away from challenges.
Be relentless – raise your hand – search for opportunity. You add value to your position and our businesses. And remember throughout your journey, to pay it forward. Together, we help our Latino communities’.