Latina IT Executive Maria Hernandez Is All About Innovation

She left Cuba with her family as a child trading possessions and a middle class life for freedom

LBT: Maria, thank you so much for doing this with us! You are an Inspirational Latina. You’ve had an interesting upbringing…Not your average childhood by any means. Please tell us more about it.

Maria Hernandez in Cuba

Maria Hernandez visits her childhood home in Cuba

Maria: I was born in Cuba during full-blown communism, and my family left to live in Spain before settling in New York. I experienced being an immigrant in both Spain and the US, having little but the clothes on my back.

LBT: You’ve held quite a few senior innovation positions in your career. Can you tell us what sparked your personal career path?

Maria: Curiosity for how problems can be solved using technology, and being a life-long learner in an industry where new trends are always emerging.

LBT: None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Maria: It took a “village” of people behind my success along the way. I would like to highlight my parents, who sacrificed their lives to give me the opportunity to be in a free country where there’s opportunity to reach your highest potential with hard work and perseverance.

LBT: Did you find any challenges growing up as a Latina through your formative years and in business? If so, how did you handle them?

Maria: Finding my voice and expressing ideas were challenges, but with encouragement and coaching from managers and mentors, I haven’t stopped expressing ideas ever since!

LBT: Are there any anecdotes you like to share about your career in innovation?

Maria: I was leading a first-of-its-kind smarter cities digital surveillance pilot, installing cameras at major street intersections. A week later, all the cameras were gone. Citizens climbed light poles thinking the cameras could be used as camcorders for taking home movies.

LBT: What advice would you like give to Latino business owners?

Maria: Keep an eye on innovation and key technology trends in your industry to find opportunities for growth. Listen intently to new ideas being suggested by your customers, employees, or partners, as that could be the key to differentiating your business.

LBT: How do you define “Leadership?”

Maria: Inspiring and mentoring others to reach their highest potential.

LBT: Name 5 things you need to thrive.

Maria: Strategic/creative thinking, team collaboration, results/impact, mentoring, an inclusive culture.

LBT: Please state your favorite “Life Lesson Quote.” How was it relevant to you in your life?

Maria: “Siempre para arriba.” The translation is, “Always up.” It’s my dad’s favorite quote to encourage me to look up and keep going.

LBT would like to thank Maria for joining us. We hope you’ve learned something about what it takes to start a business, grow a passion, or simply to live well. See you next time!

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