Everyday People, Make the World Go Round – Meet Maria Hernandez

Everyday People, Make the World Go Round – Meet Maria Hernandez

Maria Hernandez

Name: Maria Hernandez

Title: Chief Program Officer

Company: United Way Broward County

Major City Where You Work: Fort Lauderdale, Florida in Broward County

City Where You Live: Miramar, Florida in Broward County

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

I am a  Latina and first-generation Dominican. I immigrated to the United States when I was a teenager, and grew up in New York City.

I was born in the Dominican Republic and raised there until the age of seventeen. I used to live in Santiago, a very beautiful place with many family members that cared for me. We then moved to New York. I spent my college years there. After I finished my Master’s degree in Social Work, we moved down to Florida. I consider myself of intersectional cultures. I’m a little bit of everything. I would say I am a super Dominican, especially when it comes to dancing, food, and many other things, I identify more with  American culture because I have assimilated and embraced many aspects of it. Thus, I call New York, the Dominican Republic, and Florida my home.

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

I am the proud mother of two teenagers, a 17-year-old daughter, and an 18-year-old son. I also care for my widowed mother. As a result, a typical day and week is hectic with various responsibilities.

I am usually up by 6:00 A.M. I get ready for work, make breakfast with my daughter, and drive her to school. Around mid-day, while at work, I check in via phone with my mom to ensure she is doing okay. After work, my evenings are usually packed.  I drive my daughter to her dance classes, my mother to the pharmacy, and prepare dinner. While my daughter is in her dance classes, I use the time to call my friends and relatives. After my daughter is done, I pick her up and we have dinner as a family. This is the time where the three of us: Mom, Vanessa and I, get to talk about our day.

My son is in college. I make it a priority to speak with him every single day. He knows that my day is not complete without hearing from him. Although sometimes there isn’t enough time, due to our many after-hours work commitments, I try to spend as much time with my family as possible. My mom, my daughter, and I are like – The Three Musketeers. We do everything together and my weekends are all about them. We love going shopping, watching movies and sightseeing. When my son is back at home, the dynamic changes a little bit because he does not enjoy so many shopping sprees and outings. Thus, when he is home we tend to spend more time at home.

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

A typical work day for me starts early in the morning and usually slows down by 5:30 P.M. Then, before I go to bed, I spend some time responding to work emails and doing some planning for the next day. My position as the Chief Program Officer for United Way Broward County keeps me super busy. In all my years working for such an amazing company, I have to say that no week looks the same. I am always on the move and interacting with my community and our donors!

As the person responsible for overseeing our community investments, initiatives and programs, one of my main responsibilities is to ensure we are addressing the needs of our Broward community. And we know that in our community there is always something to be working toward, so we stay busy! My  week is packed with community meetings, engaging with human service agency providers, staff supervisions sessions, strategic planning and brainstorming operation meetings. I love spending time learning about our community needs and planning on how United Way efforts could make a greater impact and bring strategic solutions to our community’s problems. Because of the love I have for this type of work I make it a top priority on my schedule to do these things.

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

I have the best job ever! I do it because every day I get the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life…be part of solutions to assist our community. I believe in goodness and in the possibilities of life transformation. I also believe that every human being is responsible for making our planet better each day. Through the programs I get to create, the programs we fund, and the many lives we get to touch, I get to practice my beliefs. For example, I get to assist a single mother getting food for her children, a veteran connecting and assessing services he/she is in need of, a homeless individual getting housed, a child being taught to read, and so many other rewarding opportunities.

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

I started my career as a clinical social worker, providing therapy to substance-abusing mothers who had lost their maternal rights. I helped several mothers regain custody of their children, and start a new life for themselves and their families. However, after a couple of years of working there, I noticed that many of them relapsed and their children went back into the child welfare system. This was something that hit me hard. My heart hurt so much for these families. So, I started doing research on substance abuse and the dependency system. Then I understood that there are many economical, racial and psychological conditions that have caused many parents to be consumed by addiction. Therefore, I decided to change my focus to macro level work and pursue a career as an administrator creating and directing human services programs.

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

I would say that my Latinx culture, gender, family and the social economic conditions impacting our Latinx communities are some of the main factors that shape my career and my business aspirations. I believe as Latina women, we are professional, we are mothers, daughters, caretakers, business owners, advocates, wives, teachers, and we are also huge economic engines in our communities. However, the positive economic impact that we bring is so often overlooked. I understand the daily difficulties and the racial disparities that so many Latinas face in their everyday lives. Therefore, since I am a female who is part of a minority group, and a mother, I feel a debt to clear a path for other women like me to follow. This is so that they have less obstacles to overcome to move ahead in life and in society.

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

I don’t think there is such a thing as work-life balance. It is more like juggling! I believe in life we learn to juggle, managing all of our responsibilities, obligations and doing the things we love. And at times, we have to sacrifice time with our families to work on a project or meet a deadline. At other times we sacrifice work when a family member is ill or our own health needs attention. I see work-life challenges as finding the time to do the things we love and to do it well, while meeting our obligations.

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

My humble advice to other Latinos in the business sector is to continue their hard work and to never give up. There will be times when they will have to work twice as hard, times when they will have to be patient, and times they will have to fight for their convictions in order to achieve their goals. One thing that I always recommend for any business person is to engage in networking. I see this as a key component for business success in any industry. I make it a point to purposefully practice networking and to make it a priority as I work with my community. I suggest to make time for networking and building relationships as you attend meetings and events in your field.

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

I would say that my ethnicity, at times, has been an obstacle in my career,  and at other times, a great advantage. Systematic discrimination is not something of the past. It is manifested on an ongoing basis in environments, processes, and interactions that usually create opportunities for those in the majority group. As an immigrant and Latina, I have, on several occasions, felt I didn’t fit the “right” profile. Being a Latina has also been an advantage for me. When at the table, I bring a diverse perspective to issues and matters. I get to advocate for other Latinx members. Also, I have been able to take advantage of opportunities designed for women of my culture and background.

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

I am inspired by my culture, heritage and family. The values those three things bring to my life propel me to continue trying harder.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Do not get distracted! Stay focused, work hard, and do everything with passion and dedication. Never let your shortcomings or what others think of you determine your possibilities. That’s what I would say if I could go back and talk to my younger self.

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

No. Never. I see life fulfillment as the accomplishments we enjoy on our journey in life, but never as our final destination. I am always thinking about areas I want to improve, things I want to learn, places I want to visit and people I want to meet. As time goes by, my list keeps growing. Right now, I want to see my children graduate from college. I am very excited to see them build their own career paths. I am always focusing on what I can do now, but also planning and hoping for the future.

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

If I could have dinner with a Latinx person, my choice would be the Honorable Sonia Sotomayor. She comes from humble beginnings in New York City. Her father passed when she was 9 years old and her mother worked two jobs to pay for her education. Regardless of her challenging family dynamic, low economic conditions, and growing up in a distressed neighborhood, she worked hard and did not get distracted with life’s challenges. That little girl from the Bronx ended up attending Princeton University and Yale Law School. Today, she is the first Latina Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, and her work impacts the entire nation. This honorable judge is a vivid example of what perseverance, hard work, and dedication can do in America.

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

I love the quote by Abraham Lincoln, when he said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” I use this quote to remind me that the best way to achieve my goals or complete a project is by working hard, and by taking action steps today, so tomorrow I can see it come true. It does not matter how big our dreams and goals, we can take small steps today to create a better life and future.

Anything else you would like to share.

I would like to remind LBT readers to never give up on their dreams, even if takes a long while. It is important for us to keep going after our dreams, and make them come true. And it is equally important to be a role model and mentor to other Latinx members. We have a responsibility to look back and pull others to join us.

For 80 years, United Way of Broward County has united the community to tackle the most complex, critical challenges and create long-lasting positive change. United, we stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves, united we confront those who are working hard and falling short and united we fight for the health, education and financial stability of every person in our community. For more information, please visit www.unitedwaybroward.org.

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.

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

LOREM IPSUM

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

LOREM IPSUM

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

LOREM IPSUM

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

LOREM IPSUM

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

LOREM IPSUM

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

LOREM IPSUM

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

LOREM IPSUM

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

LOREM IPSUM

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

LOREM IPSUM

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

LOREM IPSUM

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

LOREM IPSUM

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

LOREM IPSUM

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

LOREM IPSUM

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

LOREM IPSUM

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

LOREM IPSUM

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

ED TECH, CORPORATE BOARD MEMBER

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

LOREM IPSUM

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

STRATEGY LEAD, CORPORATE BOARD MEMBER

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

LOREM IPSUM

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

LOREM IPSUM

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

LOREM IPSUM

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.