Everyday People, Make the World Go Round – Meet Angeles Valenciano, CEO, National Diversity Council

Everyday People, Make the World Go Round – Meet Angeles Valenciano

Angeles Valenciano, CEO, National Diversity Council


Name: Angeles Valenciano

Title: Chief Executive Officer

Company: The National Diversity Council

Major City Where You Work: Houston, Texas

City Where You Live: San Antonio, Texas


Please, share your personal and cultural background with our readers. 

I grew up in the town of San Luis Potosí, a city in Mexico. After I finished college in 1993, I immigrated to the United States where I have lived ever since.

In terms of my cultural background, I strongly identify as Mexican. People always ask me if I identify as Mexican or American.  I personally do not feel that I had to arrive in this country to be American. North America does not just belong to one country, it is a continent. The traditions of my Mexican heritage, my faith, and my upbringing has shaped me into the woman that I am today.

I identify as a global citizen and do not feel that who I am as an individual is tied down to one specific geographical area. Living and working in several other countries has provided me with a variety of different perspectives, lifestyles, and cultures. Where I grew up, you honor other people’s culture and heritage – if you expect the same in return.


Please share with us a current typical day or week in your everyday personal life.

As a working single mother, I am very intentional and disciplined with my routine. I am an early riser and start my days at five in the morning. I wake up, meditate, pray, exercise and walk my two dogs. I also love to cook for my family that is an everyday occurrence, when I am home and not traveling. I maintain an extensive social and professional schedule that entails traveling, meetings, conferences, and events. I really enjoy meeting and spending time with others. The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted my daily routine, as well as many others that have been affected over the course of the past couple of weeks. I like to find ways to ensure that I am connecting with my loved ones virtually while maintaining the tight-knit professional and personal relationships I have cultivated over the years.



Please share with us a current typical day or week in your everyday professional life.

I am responsible for managing the operations for the National Diversity Council (NDC), a non-profit organization that serves as a resource and an advocate for the value of diversity and inclusion. I work alongside our 25+ state chapters to host numerous diversity and inclusion events for companies and individuals throughout the year including our LGBTQ+ Summits, Women in Leadership Symposiums, and the National Diversity and Leadership Conference, where we had the honor of hosting President Barack Obama in an intimate keynote.

I believe that it is critical to contribute to and support other organizations. Over the years, organizations that I have collaborated with have invited me to sit on panels and serve as a keynote speaker for initiatives related to the diversity and inclusion space. As a leader, I also ensure that my staff is supported and make it my mission to be present and engaged with my team. I balance my daily commitment to my staff along with travel, which up until recently, I traveled about 35 weeks out of the year supporting the mission and work of the National Diversity Council, across the country and internationally as well.

As COVID-19 has changed the way our communities interact and engage with others, the National Diversity Council has been mindful of following stay-at-home guidelines, while supporting our staff, corporate partners and board of directors virtually. Over the past couple of weeks, my agenda has been quite busy filled with virtual team calls and online meetings with our board members and corporate partners, as we continue to promote inclusive workplaces and provide resources for employers to support their staff during this time.

Tell us why you do, what you do, for a living.

I arrived in this country not speaking English very well at all. As a Latina, there were a lot of barriers when I first arrived. My experiences when I first lived in the United States propelled me to find my calling and passion for the value of diversity and inclusion. As a woman of color, I do not choose how I present myself externally. This is who I am. I have to live in this reality as many others follow in my footsteps as well, navigating the space between their cultural and professional identities. Despite the struggles presented to me, I have adapted to a culture and country that has not always been so welcoming to foreigners or people that have come from other countries. My own experiences have led me to want to be an advocate for others that have been marginalized.

Tell us about the factors that shaped your career and business aspirations.

I came from humble beginnings and was very fortunate to put myself through college by working full-time while attending school. In my hometown, there was an organization that was a subsidiary of General Electric (GE) where I worked as a receptionist during my college years. While I was pursuing a degree in business and computer information systems, I met my first mentor who was an information technology (IT), engineer. He was a very inclusive leader whose team was made up of people from different backgrounds and communities across the world. He exposed me early on to what it means to be an inclusive leader and showed me the importance of diversity in workplaces.

I worked in his office for four years while I was in college, which ultimately led me to receive a scholarship in the United States. I have modeled a lot of my principles for how I engage with our various communities through his style of leadership that I witnessed over the years. I find that every person has a unique story and background that can help propel a company forward and expand diversity in thought and leadership.

How did you end up in your line of work?  Was it accidental or were you strategic about it?

I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. I was at the right place at the right time. I was always able to identify opportunities through learning the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, in the late 1990s. In some ways, I was put on the path towards this career trajectory and took advantage of it. I was very driven to learn more about the power of diversity and inclusion and how it could shape and add value to the work I was doing. I am proud of the journey I took to reach this space, as I am now able to be in the position to impact others and help them to understand how they can create more equitable workplaces.

Share how you balance the work-life challenges…what have been the rewards.

I balance these challenges by ensuring that I have a great work-life blend.  As a woman, I believe that we can do, have and go for it all at the same time. As a Latina, family is important to me and I prioritize being around my children. Being a part of the National Diversity Council afforded me the opportunity to balance my professional career with my personal commitment as a mother. I worked in corporate for 10+ years and found it sometimes challenging to manage my expectations of work-life balance, with the reality of demanding work schedules, global travel and long hours in the office. Being able to work from home with the National Diversity Council allowed my priorities of work and family to co-exist.

 Did your ethnicity create any obstacles for you?  Any advantages?  How so?

Unfortunately, my ethnicity created more obstacles than advantages. When I arrived in the United States, I had very little knowledge of the English language which created a big barrier when it came to communication. Due to my speech and coming from another country, I was not accepted by many. I was told on numerous occasions to “go back home”; “you don’t belong here”; “you have an accent” and many other horrible things.

I learned to work around those obstacles. Being able to deal with all of those obstacles and challenges built my resilience and I became very aware of who I was, what I looked like and sounded like. This made me assert my position and tell myself that I am not going anywhere. Every time my culture or my heritage is brought up, it gives me even more of an opportunity to prove who we are and what we are able to do and accomplish. Who would have known that an immigrant from an unknown town would end up being the CEO of the National Diversity Council? Being in this position has provided me with the opportunity to lead, explore and share my experiences with others so that they can speak up when their identities are questioned as well. My story is the story of so many of us that are here and are doing extraordinary things for our communities and workplaces.

What advice would you have for other Latinos in the business sector trying to make it day after day?

Regardless of background, for women, it is always harder to make it work. When I arrived in the United States, I worked for multiple companies where I never saw a Latina in a position of leadership. I did not have a corporate role model to look up to or identify with. That really stuck with me. As the CEO of the National Diversity Council, I like to bring in thought leaders across multiple backgrounds to showcase diversity in leadership and provide information for professionals to excel in the workplace.

I also focus my time on building the next generation of Latina leaders and I have a sense of responsibility to provide mentorship and advice about opportunities that were not always presented to me during my corporate career.  The advice I would give Latinas growing up today is that being Latina is a superpower that we should be proud of.  It is imperative to take all of the things that come with our heritage and translate it into the workplace to develop and grow.

When I look back on the journey that the founder of the National Diversity Council, Dennis Kennedy and I embarked on, I am proud of the movement we have created to empower individuals to prioritize the importance of equity, inclusion, and diversity in and outside of the workplace. I want all women of color to realize the value of not being afraid to fail. You ask, why me? You are worthy, you deserve it and you earned it.

What inspires you in your work life?  What turns you off?

Diversity has been a subject under attack for the past couple of years. My team does the important work needed to be done every day and it inspires me to continue to advocate for inclusion in and outside of the workplace. In this climate where xenophobia is present due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I very much dislike to hear how a specific segment of the population has been unfairly targeted. As an organization, we released a statement denouncing the discrimination and misinformation targeted towards the Asian community. I will continue to speak up and empower others to have the courage to use their voice for acceptance and inclusion.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I would tell my younger self to not be afraid to be yourself or share parts of your identity. Be proud of your heritage, pronounce your name in Spanish and do not be afraid to advocate for yourself. Fear holds back a lot of women. I think back on all of the opportunities I was afraid to accept or did not go after due to imposter syndrome. I would tell myself and all women to go after those opportunities, do not be afraid and be certain of who you are. And if opportunities are not given to you, then you go out and create them for yourself and others – always bring others along with you. I did just that, six years ago when I launched and led the National Latino Leadership Conference. It is my mission to seek and find all of the stories no one talks about our community and exemplary leaders. Every year we rotate this conference to a different city where we recognize those Latinos doing extraordinary things all over the country. If all goes well or as I usually say “Si Dios Quiere,” we will be in Miami at the 2020 The Rise, Power and Influence of Latino Leaders.

Do you think you have ever truly “made it” in life?

At this stage of my life, there is still so much I want to contribute, accomplish and do. I want to attain my Ph.D. and I believe that education is power. As one of my favorite leaders, Dr. Héctor P. García said, “education is our freedom.” I will always constantly strive to evolve, grow and understand that I will sometimes make mistakes while choosing to pick myself up again.

If you could have dinner with any Latinx person—living or dead–who would it be? Why?

If he were alive today, I would have dinner with Dr. Héctor P. García, a Mexican American physician, surgeon, World War II veteran, civil rights advocate and founder of the American G.I. Forum, which was a congressionally chartered Hispanic veterans and civil rights organization founded in 1948. He was also the first Mexican American to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. I admire him greatly for his commitment to advancing the rights of Mexican Americans and I would ask him how he overcame his own struggles. It would be an honor to converse with him.

What is your favorite quote/saying? Give us your own personal quote to commemorate at LBT.

“Por muy alta que sea la montaña, siempre habrá manera de llegar a la cima” -Unknown.


Angeles Valenciano, CEO, and Dennis Kennedy, Founder and Chair, National Diversity Council

The National Diversity Council

A non-profit organization committed to fostering a learning environment for organizations to grow in their knowledge of diversity. The council affords opportunities for organizations to share best practices and learn from top corporate leaders in the areas of diversity and inclusion.  More information about the National Diversity Council is available at www.nationaldiversitycouncil.org.

National Diversity Council

Related Links:

Facebook:   @nationaldiversitycouncil
Twitter:        @NDC_Diversity
LinkedIn:     @nationaldiversitycouncil
Instagram:  @nationaldiversitycouncil
Michelle Martinez Reyeshttps://www.linkedin.com/in/michellemartinezreyes
Michelle Martinez Reyes has over 20 years of experience as a trusted business advisor in the field of marketing and public relations. She has earned a proven national reputation as a key brand builder, network bridge and catalyst to growth. Ms. Martinez Reyes previously served as the Chief Marketing Officer for Greenspoon Marder, leading the firm’s marketing strategy and brand development and growth focusing on the firm’s business development, client relations, media and public relations, philanthropic efforts and community service throughout the U.S. She also worked as part of the marketing and business development teams for Hunton and Williams, Akerman Senterfitt, Holland & Knight, Greenberg Traurig, and Esslinger Wooten Maxwell. Fluent in English and Spanish, she holds an MBA from Nova Southeastern University with a specialty in global management and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Florida International University.



Santiago brings a of depth of experience in as a digital strategist, SEO expert. He has honed his skills and knowledge working with companies in the U.S. and internationally. Santiago is also Partner & New Business Director at Punto Rojo. Santiago is an Argentinian- American.



Tina is also the President of Tocaya brand clothing line, formerly Senior Design Director of KBL Group Intl. Ltd. in NYC, managing the large creative design team. As an industry veteran , her capabilities go beyond style to include sourcing, fitting, production and merchandising. Tina is a Mexican-American.



Fernando is currently head of Aspen Institute education program in Mexico and Partner at Global Impact Edtech Alliance. He was formerly President McGraw-Hill Education, Latin America. He is a recognized senior executive, entrepreneur, speaker and board level leader with international background. He has founded and led successful enterprises in Latin America for over 25 years. Fernando hails from Mexico City.



Tara is a coach, trainer, consultant and writer who applies her insights into people. She has a Masters degree in psychology to facilitate performance improvements, relationships and communication for people and businesses.



Barry previously worked in publishing as well as positions in communications, competitive marketing, and sales leadership at IBM, Prodigy, CMP, Cox Interactive, PGA of America, and Deloitte.



Richie, son of Dr. Les “Coach” Fernandez, served as an instructor at “EduCage” charter school where is father Les was founder/executive director. Richie then spent the next 20 years as a White Plains, N.Y. police officer, president of the White Plains PBA and a Detective 2nd grade. He currently runs a construction business. Richie is a Spanish-American.



With nearly twenty years in the industry, Don has achieved success with a number of Fortune 500 companies as well as small businesses, leading innovative digital transformation and user experience initiatives.



Robert serves as Latin Business Today Legal Counsel and Legal Editor for International and Domestic Commercial Law. Robert also provides general counsel services to entrepreneurs and start-up businesses.



Miriam is a partner in Dystel, Goderich & Bourret LLC, a well respected, New York based literary agency with an impressive client list. She is involved in developing new projects and taking them from the conceptual stage to publication and her areas of interest include literary and commercial fiction as well as some genre fiction, narrative nonfiction, pop culture, psychology, history, science, art, business books, and biography/memoir. Miriam is a Cuban-American.



Claudia founded Wenbrands Consulting, also lead multi-market teams and client work for companies such as Ford, Intel, HP, Nestle, Unilever, Danone, Sony, Accenture, Goodyear, HBO and FedEx among others. Claudia is an Argentinian-American.

Tony Jimenez

President and CEO MicroTech

Tony’s personal story is as dynamic and inspiring as his achievements. Since founding MicroTech more than 10 years ago he has grown MicroTech into a multimillion dollar company with more than 100 contracts supporting Federal, State, and Local Governments and Fortune 500 companies. Several national organizations have paid tribute to MicroTech including Inc Magazine, Digital Software Magazine, Deloitte, Washington Technology, SmartCEO, Washington Business Journal, and National Veteran-Owned Business Association. Tony’s been named “Entrepreneur of the Year,” “Small Business Person of the Year,” “Executive of the Year,” and “CEO of the Year” by several national organizations. He’s also been named to the list of “Most Influential Hispanics in the Nation” by the Hispanic Business Magazine, “50 Most Influential Virginians” by Virginia Business and “Veteran of the Year” by Veterepreneur Magazine.

Jimenez is the award-winning Founder, President, and CEO of MicroTech, a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB), His company is an industry leading prime contractor on over 100 Federal projects and holds more than 25 procurement vehicles, offering access to 2500 vendors and over a million technology products and services. The nationally recognized company is also certified by the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC). MicroTech offers Technology Integration, Telecom & Cloud, and Product Solutions commercial enterprises, as well as the public sector — managing over half-a-million tech users daily.

Since founding MicroTech in 2004, Jimenez has grown the business into a profitable multi-million dollar company with highly skilled professionals across the U.S. MicroTech supporting over 100 prime contracts with civilian and defense agencies of the Federal government and providing IT and network support to numerous Fortune 500 companies around the globe. MicroTech’s suite of services and solutions has ensured that clients in government, education, and the technology industry accomplish their mission while simultaneously maximizing their return on investment (ROI) and lowering their total cost of ownership (TCO). As a result, customers continuously realize the business advantage of utilizing MicroTech and its innovative and reliable solutions and processes.

Ross M. Weale


Ross M. Weale is an Assistant District Director for SCORE (Counselors to America’s Small Business) serving the Chapters in the Hudson Valley. He retired just last year as President of The Putnam County Economic Development Corporation, Carmel, New York, after serving in this capacity for 7 years.

Mr. Weale, prior to his Putnam County assignment, successfully co-founded Country Bank in Carmel, New York in 1988 and managed its growth to a level of $75MM in assets. As President & CEO of Country Bank, Mr. Weale served the needs and financial requirements of small business and entrepreneurial ventures in the Putnam/Westchester marketplace. During his tenure with Country Bank, he successfully co-founded and chaired the Putnam Business Connection, a 2-day economic development conference for small businesses focusing on business retention issues in Putnam County. Prior to the successful start-up of the new commercial bank venture, Mr. Weale had been associated with The Bank of New York for 23 years serving in a number of senior level positions, including the Presidency of the Bank’s Westchester/Putnam Division.

Mr. Weale maintains numerous Directorships on Boards, including ReliaStar Life Insurance Company of New York, and had served 10 years as Chairman of New York State’s Small Business Advisory Board within the Pataki Administration. He currently serves on the boards of The Hudson Valley Cerebral Palsy Association and is the immediate past President of The Westchester-Putnam Boy Scout Council.

Mr. Weale holds a B.S. in Finance from Nichols College and completed The Advanced Management Program, Harvard University Graduate School of Business Administration.

Daniel O. Vargas


Daniel O. Vargas is CEO and President of Vargas&Amigos, based in Atlanta. His experience in advertising started on Madison Avenue, New York as an Art Director at William Douglas McAdams, Shaller Ruben, Avon Products, and Wells Rich & Greene. Vargas became Executive Art Director at BBDO Atlanta, Georgia where he was brought in to work on the Delta Airlines account. Dan later became a principal in Rafshoon, Shivers, Vargas, Tolpin, the agency that put President Jimmy Carter in office and where he designed the Georgia Peach logo. Known for opening the first Latino advertising agency in Georgia, serving accounts as HUD, the CDC, the National Arthritis Foundation, AMI Hospitals, Tobacco Use and Prevention, The Army, The Marines, Pizza Hut, General Mills and has just added to the list the Atlanta Visitors and Convention Bureau. Dan’s work can be viewed at the Pentagon, hanging in the Hall of Heroes, a painting honoring Hispanics in Americas Defense created for the Coca-Cola Company. He’s earned national and international creative awards including Se Habla Español, Clio’s and National Addy’s. Mr. Vargas was honored last year in Washington D.C. by the head of the FBI, Robert S. Mueller, who presented him with the Director’s Award for Community Leadership. His most recent accolade is being profiled on the American Express Open Forum.

Miles A. Slater


Miles A. Slater is a former President and CEO of Salomon Brothers International, Ltd. and also served as a member of Salomon Brothers’Brothers’ Board of Directors. Mr. Slater began his career in investment banking working at the Federal Open Market Committee Trading Desk and held senior executive and board positions with several Wall Street firms globally. He also has been Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Swiss private bank Julius Baer. Since his retirement from Salomon Brothers, Mr. Slater has served on numerous private-company and not-for-profit boards and has taught leadership at the graduate level. Mr. Slater holds a degree in Finance from New York University.

Mara Perez, PhD


Mara Perez Is Founder and Principal of Mara Perez, Fund Development and Planning Services. Mara provides fundraising and strategic planning services to non-profits and educational institutions. She has helped nearly eighty organizations obtain millions of dollars in funding, design innovative work strategies, establish high-impact visions and missions, and execute growth plans. Mara holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Chicago.

Mara writes for Latin Business Today, and has published for other entities, including Stanford Social Innovation Review and Grassroots Fundraising Journal. She has also written articles, book reviews and contributed to chapters in books in academic publications. Her writings are about immigration, social change, fundraising, the Latino population in the U.S., the non-profit sector and philanthropy. She has also conducted fundraising workshops in the U.S. and abroad.

Community service includes: 2010-present Board Member of Marin General Hospital (Greenbrae, CA); 2002-2012 Board Member Canal Alliance, and twice Board President (San Rafael, CA). Mara has been serving on Boards since 1995. In 2005 she received the Spirit of Marin Award and was named Business Person of the Year by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Marin. In addition, Mara was a Coro Leadership Community Fellow in San Francisco. Born in Argentina, she resides in Northern California.

Adam Padilla


Adam Padilla is the Co-Founder of BrandFire and Chief Creative Officer. A celebrated branding expert, Adam lends his insight, tactical intelligence and abundant creative talents to his clients. He has been working with his partner Jesse Itzler since 2007, directing projects for ZICO, NetJets, Pretzel Crisps, Tom Brady and RUNDMC.

Padilla has been working with his partner, Jesse Itzler, since 2007. He has directed projects for ZICO, NetJets, Pretzel Crisps, Tom Brady and RUNDMC. His expertise in branding and popular culture has led him to appear on programs WPIX, FOX Nightly News, Bravo and CNBC. He is also a regular contributor to Adweek, The Wall Street Journal and Fast Company.  Adam is frequently called on to comment on branding and popular culture on WPIX, FOX Nightly News, Bravo and CNBC. He is also a regular contributor to AdWeek, the Wall Street Journal and Fast Company.

Aside from his professional accomplishments, Adam is also a celebrated illustrator and content creator.

Kiki Melendez


Kiki Melendez is an award-winning comedienne, actress, writer, and producer Kiki Melendez grew up in New York City of Dominicandescent. She spent her childhood watching classic televisions shows such as The Brady Bunch and Bewitched during the day and Spanish telenovelas at night. As a teenager Melendez’s family moved to Miami. She went back to New York to get training in the performing arts. She studied at the Lee Strasberg Theater, The New York Film Institute and TheHerbert Berghof Studio.

She started her career in show business as a morning radio host for stations such as La Nueva FM, 105.9 in New York and KRLA, Groove 103.1 in Los Angeles.

In 1998, Melendez successfully transitioned from radio to television. Her first pilot, Salsa desde Hollywood was acquired by Galavision Network. Following its success, Melendez went on to create America’s first bilingual variety show Kiki desde Hollywood, which became the highest rated entertainment show on the Galavision Network. Melendez has also been an entertainment reporter the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) and other international media outlets.

Maria Hernandez


Maria Hernandez is Chief Innovation Officer for IBM- Latin America, where she’s a visionary leader and evangelist in driving innovation with IBM’s largest Strategic Outsourcing clients in Latin America, opening doors to new business and increasing client satisfaction through innovative technologies and solutions. Prior to this role, IBM was spearheading the strategy and transformation of IBM’s Business Partners in North America around key growth initiatives such as Cloud Computing, Business Analytics, and Smarter Cities. She has also been a worldwide leader for IBM’s Corporate Strategy team responsible for business development initiatives in the emerging markets. In her 20+ years in the IT industry, Maria has demonstrated her leadership and technical knowledge in a broad spectrum of experiences ranging from sales, marketing, growth businesses, technology research and development.

She has expanded her leadership into the entrepreneurial space by launching StartupFlorida as one of the first States to be part of the StartupAmerica initiative bringing together the private sector, incubators, investors, and other organizations to support entrepreneurs who leverage technology to drive innovation. She was also the thought leader and catalyst within the So. Florida entrepreneurial ecosystem to conduct the first IBM Smart Camp event for Healthcare in Miami aimed at identifying early stage entrepreneurs who align to IBM’s Smarter Healthcare vision. Given her entrepreneurial accomplishments, Maria was selected as a core team member of IBM’s Smarter Cities Challenge team in Malaga, Spain working with the City government and other key stakeholders to recommend best practices and ideas to drive economic development and job growth through entrepreneurship. Maria’s entrepreneurial ability coupled with her cross-IBM experience have given her the experience to lead teams and organizations to develop breakthrough ideas, solutions, and technologies across global markets.

Maria is the founder of Madrinas, a first of its kind virtual network and non-profit organization for Corporate Latina leaders with a track record of accomplishments in networking and mentoring. Maria has received recognition for being a Latina role model and is a frequent speaker at women conferences and university events.

Luis Gallardo


Luis Gallardo is a global brand and marketing leader and expert in the areas of strategic brand management, brand engagement, brand expression, marketing, communications, business development, and reputation management. Former managing director of global brand & marketing at Deloitte, Luis provided leadership to Deloitte’s member firm network of more than three thousand marketing and communications professionals. Author of the book: Brands & Rousers, The Holistic System to Foster High-Performing Businesses, Brands and Careers. Luis is the founder of Thap Group, a multinational consultancy focused on brand, marketing and communications strategy, and he sits on the advisory board of several high-growth organizations.

Bob Dorf


Bob Dorf is among the most knowledgeable Lean Innovation and Customer Development experts on the planet, second only to Steve Blank, who developed the methodology and spent a decade extending and refining it. Together with Steve Blank, Bob published The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-by-Step Guide for Building a Great Company, the seminal text outlining every step of the lean customer development process. After two years of near-fulltime research and writing, it became Amazon.com’s #1 Business/Entrepreneurship bestseller, with some 400,000+ copies in circulation in more than 17 languages worldwide.

Bob has trained and coached scores of established companies, and literally more than 1000 startups. He’s worked with GE, Merck, NewsCorp, and Carvajal SA; and intimately with six established, growing Latin American Companies in the ECLA program at Columbia Business School, where he’s an Entrepreneur in Residence. In his world travels, he’s coached scores more on behalf of the governments of Colombia, Mexico, Russia and the Global Entrepreneurship Congress, which he’s keynoted four times. His coaching focus centers around refining and optimizing business models(often with “pivoting”) and particularly on scaling sales and marketing activities(which has been the heart of his 40-plus year startup career).

Entrepreneurial from the age of 12, Bob received his last W-2 some 40 years ago, when he left a great news editor’s job at WINS Radio in New York to launch his first startup. Since then, he has personally founded seven companies, including—as he puts it—“two homeruns, two base hits, and three solid tax losses.” His 27 personal investments included 7 IPO’s, six colossal failures, and–­as he puts it—“everything imaginable in between.” here’s shorter. edit as needed…

Bob Dorf is among the most knowledgeable Lean Innovation and Customer Development experts on the planet, second only to Steve Blank, who developed the methodology and spent a decade extending and refining it. Together with Steve Blank, Bob published The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-by-Step Guide for Building a Great Company, the seminal text outlining every step of the lean customer development process. After two years of near-fulltime research and writing, it became Amazon.com’s #1 Business/Entrepreneurship bestseller, with some 400,000+ copies in circulation in more than 17 languages worldwide.

Bob has trained and coached scores of established companies, and literally more than 1000 startups. He’s worked with GE, Merck, NewsCorp, and Carvajal SA; and intimately with six established, growing Latin American Companies in the ECLA program at Columbia Business School, where he’s an Entrepreneur in Residence. In his world travels, he’s coached scores more on behalf of the governments of Colombia, Mexico, Russia and the Global Entrepreneurship Congress.

Debra Cruz


Debra Cruz is a VP in Global Brand & Marketing at MetLife. She has over 20 years of experience in Customer Experience Designwith a focus on Digital. She joined MetLife in 2000 where she led a major redesign for MetLife’s Corporate website, formed their first User Experience team (which included a strong qualitative research function) and eventually acquired and led the full digital team as Director of eBusiness.

Debra was part of the original innovation team that created the US Direct Distribution business at MetLife, and in 2010, she launched a Global Social Media Program at MetLife. Today she is focused on rolling out a framework to support a consistent Global Digital Brand for MetLife. In 2014, she took on a temporary assignment in Japan to support the local market with a rebrand effort and Digital Strategy.

She has a professional and personal interest in supporting her global partners with Digital Marketing best practices as well as motivating, educating and building the next generation of leaders at MetLife. She is an Advisor to the Global Multicultural Professionals Network, which helps to foster awareness, respect and inclusion, and was a member of the MetLife US Diversity and Inclusion task force.

Debra started her career at Prodigy Services Company – where she designed digital experiences to generate leads and sales across industry verticals from Travel to Entertainment and Finance to Real Estate. She then moved on to IBM Global Services where she was responsible for one of the largest global content databases designed to enable IBM Global Business Partners to access the information needed achieve and maintain success.

Carola Otero Bracco


During Carola’s tenure at Neighbors Link, the number of programs offered and individuals served has more than doubled. She is now focused on strategically replicating the Neighbors Link programs and model in interested communities to further our mission of healthy integration of the whole community.

She serves as a Trustee on the Board of Directors of Northern Westchester Hospital and is a board member of Non Profit Westchester and the Emergency Shelter Partnership.

Her awards include the 2007 “Woman of the Year” Award from the Westchester Community Federation of Women’s Clubs and the 2009 “Circle of Giving” Award from the Westchester Community Foundation. She was an Honoree at the 2009 Westchester Hispanic Chamber of Commerce 20th Anniversary Awards Gala. In 2014, Carola was named by Westchester Magazine as one of the top Women in Business.

Brenda Bazan


Brenda Bazan is an experienced CEO and Founder with deep corporate operational experience. She is a proven international sales and marketing strategist in multi-national corporations, social enterprises and tech startups. She is also an experienced innovator responsible for company-wide business transformations, executing large scale marketing projects and leading cross-discipline teams.

Ms. Bazan presently serves as President of EPSoft Technologies, a Dallas-based company specializing in Big Data Management and Robotic Process Automation. Additionally, Brenda serves on the board of a cybersecurity technology company and is the operating director of a private equity fund, TWV Capital, that invests in high-growth, women-led businesses.

Ms. Bazan has held CEO positions in technology companies in the cybersecurity and telecommunications industries. Additionally, she has consulted in turnaround engagements for companies to identify strategic opportunities to protect, grow and expand their brand influence in the market.

Ms. Bazan previously served in a marketing and development position in an international microfinance non-profit organization where she launched educational programs and raised funds to start hundreds of women’s businesses in Africa and the Middle East. Later, she worked as a consultant to women business owners in the U.S. and founded a crowdfunding platform focused on women-owned small business.

Ms. Bazan’s career started at IBM, where she held many executive positions in the U.S. and Europe focused on the small business sector. She received multiple marketing industry awards for her innovative programs and has been featured for her marketing leadership in Time Magazine, Forbes and Business Week. She was responsible for the global marketing strategy for IBM’s small business sector which has been a consistent growth engine for the company.

Brenda has six children and a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University in Art History.

Marjorie Weber


Marjorie Weber has been educating entrepreneurs and guiding them in their search for capital for the past 16 years: combining business training programs with one-on-one mentoring. She was Chair of SCORE Miami Dade from 2010 to 2014 and is currently a financial advisor for SBDC/FIU. She also serves as an advisor to the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Program and the SBA Emerging Leaders Program and provides training for Veterans seeking an entrepreneurial path upon retirement from the service. She has been facilitating workshops under the auspices of Miami Bayside Foundation for the past 3 years.

She commenced her career as a real estate investment banker in New York and Miami.She uses these long term relationships to assist her clients in accessing capital. She knows both the process and the people and has assisted in providing financing for hundreds of businesses in Miami Dade.

Gabrielle Y. Vázquez


Gabrielle Y. Vázquez has mediated a variety of commercial disputes and has experience mediating those involving breach of contract, unjust enrichment, fraud, real estate, licensing, construction, discrimination, harassment, and wrongful termination.  While she is flexible, Gabrielle’s preferred approach as a mediator is facilitative.  She sees her role as a mediator as that of a third-party facilitator in a negotiation between the participants rather than a decision-maker or evaluator of the parties’ positions.  Gabrielle brings a decade of commercial litigation experience to the mediation table, including as an advocate in several mediations.  In addition to her own mediation experience, Gabrielle has shadowed over a dozen top mediators in New York and attends continuing education courses on commercial mediation on a regular basis.  Her mediation clients have described Gabrielle as an excellent listener who is light-handed and uniquely adept at guiding participants to their own best-negotiated resolutions.

Elaine M. Vasquez


Elaine M Vasquez is the owner of Broward’s first bilingual newspaper, El Heraldo de Broward, publishing since 1974.. She is a seasoned public relations and marketing executive who pioneered the cable television industry in Broward County from 1970 to 1985 having co-owned a company that eventually became Comcast Communications.

She previously owned a multicultural communications company, Latin Power, Inc. and presently owns a special events company, We Do Events, Inc. which produces the annual Hispanic Women of Distinction charity luncheon, Fiesta! Fort Lauderdale, Viva Broward! Calendar of Events for Hispanic Heritage Month and over 200 galas, outdoor fairs and festivals, private fundraisers and political activities. Elaine’s pioneering ventures inspired her to develop a unique set of skills that formed the backbone of her story and still makes an impact on her business and social life today.

Elaine has been active on numerous non-profit boards, some of which have included: Fort Lauderdale Historical Society, Community Foundation of Broward, March of Dimes, United Way, Broward Sheriff’s Explorers, Boys & Girls Club, Florida Humanities Council, Broward Library Foundation, Broward College Community Board, Communities in Schools, Broward Center for the Homeless, Broward Education Foundation, Governor’s Mansion Foundation, Diversity Committee of Broward County Schools, Girl Scouts of Broward, Meals on Wheels, Foundation for Florida’s Future, First Call for Help,(211 Broward) the Riverwalk Trust and Light of the World Clinic.

Elaine’s achievements have not rested here. She continues to work to combat stereotypes, empower minorities, mentor young students and educate the public for better access to education, healthcare, business and services. Her greatest gift and joy of all is – her 3 daughters, 4 granddaughters and grandson – her family is woven into every aspect of her life.

Fernando Valenzuela


Fernando Valenzuela is recognized as one of Latin America’s most capable digital transformation catalyst with direct influence over hundreds of institutions and thousands of solutions, that have impacted millions of users in over 25 countries Trilingual senior executive, entrepreneur, consultant, speaker, with Global multi-industry and multi-cultural capabilities. Expert in Latin America and Hispanic content markets. Able to work in the US, Europe & Mexico. Lived in Miami, Sao Paulo, Medellin, Mexico.

Has decisively accelerated digital transformation, with deep understanding of the needs of new generation digital natives, by re-envisioning seemingly disconnected delivery models, designing data driven engaging experiences, capitalizing diverse formats-devices-digital assets. Brings broad perspective and inspirational leadership skills, a culture of global high performance executive teams within complex environments, dealing equitably with people.
Track-record of setting & implementing breakthrough strategic agenda both for creating and growing new businesses as well as for transforming under-performing organizations into collaborative environments.

Successfully delivering profitable multi-million, complex projects in high profile situations of multiple stakeholders, broad segments and diverse portfolios.

Strategic thinker able to drive change with creative ideas implemented in efficient ways. Possesses a strong personal drive, integrity and focus. Sustains a valuable global network of high level contacts. Gifted communicator, receiving recognition as featured on media, from his speeches and publications, on such topics as: Learning Experiences, Future of Education, Technological Innovation, Education for Sustainability, Gamification, Global EdTech. Ex-professional soccer player and Professional Soccer coach creatively uses competitive leadership lessons from the sport world to motivate and develop talent.

Joe Steranka


Following a 34-year career in professional sports, the final seven as the PGA of America’s Chief Executive Officer, Joe Steranka is enjoying a much earned sabbatical from the corporate world. The 55-year-old SOJ graduate continues to give back through his involvement with numerous philanthropic organizations including Children’s Healthcare Charities of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla, and the Folds of Honor Foundation of Owasso, Okla, for whom he chairs the Board of Directors.

During his 25 years with The PGA, Steranka guided the world’s largest working sports organization’s efforts to grow the game of golf and its biggest professional tournaments domestically and around the world. In addition to his duties as PGA CEO, he served as Chair of the World Golf Foundation and as a member of the leadership teams for the World PGA Alliance and the International Golf Federation’s work to return golf to the Olympic Games. More recently, Steranka steered a new industry government relations program We Are Golf, designed to achieve legislative and public affairs goals on behalf of the $68 billion a year golf industry.
His stewardship produced long standing broadcasting agreements with CBS, NBC Universal, Turner Broadcasting and others to distribute the PGA’s premier events including the Ryder Cup and PGA Championship to record worldwide audiences. He also cultivated a relationship with Leo Burnett, leading to popular public service announcements for PGA members and steered an unprecedented new media alliance with Time Warner establishing PGA.com as a leading golf destination on the Web.

A 1979 graduate of West Virginia University with a B.S. in journalism, he and his wife, Joann, live in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

Elias Mendoza


Elias Mendoza is a  Senior Managing Director at Siris Capital, LLC.  He is a  global leader with a strong technology background and experience in global strategy, business development, and all aspects of M&A execution. He defined, built, and managed successful business efforts globally within large multinational companies, as well as in smaller, entrepreneurial settings. Specialties: Global Strategy and Business Development, Global Mergers and Acquisitions, Technology Sector Mergers, Acquisitions, and Integration, Worldwide Operational Excellence, Teambuilding and Leadership, Global Corporate Finance and Capital Markets and Entrepreneurship.

Teresa Hernandez


Teresa Hernandez is a proud, third generation Boricua from the Bronx. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from Marymount Manhattan College with a major in English Literature and Secondary Education where she graduated with honors. Teresa later pursued a career in healthcare management. She went on to complete her MBA at Mercy College and ranked top in her class graduating with honors. Teresa is currently a Quality & Safety Administrator at NYU Langone Health. In 2019, Teresa was the Executive Vice President of Prospanica New York. Along with the New York Chapter President and board members, she helped lead the way for the chapter to be recognized and earn the 2019 Chapter of the Year Award. In 2020, Teresa became the President of the New York Chapter. Teresa is also a fellow with Leaders of Color Initiative (LOCI) Education Reform Now. The vision and commitment of LOCI is for the Black and Latino communities to have representation by elected officials who not only look like them but are tireless advocates for quality education. In November 2020, Teresa was asked to join the Board of Advisors with The American Dream School. Their mission is to develop academic excellence for grades 6-12 in both Spanish and English and prepare them for college.

Oscar Hernandez


4X Grammy Award Winner Oscar Hernández has long been considered one of the most gifted and prominent pianist/ arrangers on the contemporary Latin, Latin-jazz and salsa music scene. He has achieved legendary status for his prolific career spanning now over 40 years. Oscar’s career as a professional began in the 70’s performing and recording with such seminal artists as Ismael Miranda, Ray Barreto, Celia Cruz, Conjunto Libre, Pete “El Conde” Rodriguez & Grupo Folklorico. Oscar was responsible for charting the musical course of the Rubén Blades Band. “Seis Del Solar”. Increasingly in demand as a pianist, arranger and producer, the Bronx native has produced such artists as Ruben Blades, Paul Simon, Willie Colón “Carabali”, Daniel Ponce, Rafael Dejesus, Eddie Torres, Phil Hernandez, Steve Kroon, Juan Luis Guerra, etc. and than made a more personal statement with the debut CD’s “Decision” and “Alternate Roots” by his band Seis Del Solar the Rubén Blades Band sans Rubén, and now with his 3X Grammy Award winning band, Spanish Harlem Orchestra.

Chuck Garcia


Chuck Garcia is an author, executive coach, keynote speaker, and CEO of Climb Leadership International. He coaches executives on public speaking and leadership communication. A 25-year veteran of Wall Street, he spent several of those in leadership positions at Bloomberg, BlackRock, and Citadel. He is also adjunct associate professor at Columbia University where he teaches leadership communication in The Fu Foundation Graduate School of Engineering and Applied Science. He leverages his business leadership experience, as well as his hobby of mountain climbing, to provide an effective teaching narrative for professionals applying his tools and techniques. In his book A Climb to the Top, an Amazon best seller, draws on years of coaching and consulting experience to explain how you can become a powerful and persuasive communicator. Chuck is a graduate of Syracuse University and has a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership.