You can’t be what you can’t see and Social Capital

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Staring at my screen and glancing at the clock, I once again realized that I’m under pressure to meet my column deadline.  What to write, what to write?  Reviewing my calendar, the news, social feeds and of course, it’s a hodge podge ranging from meeting the King of Spain, San Antonio, family separations at the border, US News and World Report and ALPFA. 

Looking at the puzzle of words and events, themes start to swirl together and to the top rises the intertwining concepts of Social Capital and You Can’t be What You Can See. 

Allow me to work backwards on my chronology- US News and World Report contacts me to learn how the changing demographics particular the growth of Latinos, is impacting hiring and marketing practices.  The journalist mentions that they’ve covered the border and the impact to families but are looking for other angles- I dive into it gleefully, “Organizations are seeing a decline in participation at recruitment events because the environment is threatening.  The Influencer model is very powerful with our communities and unless you build trust, over the long-haul, we don’t come.”  This is where advertising and, effective, culturally-appropriate messaging is leveraged- and potentially, in-language (Spanish or Spanglish).   I threw stats and figures, especially the dollars, $1.7 trillion in annual purchasing power, and that Latinos will fill over 50% of all open positions.   

But the fact arises that the pipeline of talented Latinos, despite the huge population, is woefully thin, especially in professional and specialized fields like nursing, pharmacy, and c-suite roles.  To quote Sheryl Sandberg “You can’t be what you can’t see,” without motivational, supportive and influential mentors (and some key sponsors) a young Latino (or, in fact, any young person) will not connect with these opportunities.   

Notre Dame School of Pharmacy, under the leadership of Dr Anne Lin, addressed the issue head-on and rolled out a pharmacy camp for high school students and intentionally sought diverse candidates – due to our collaborative efforts, we have 2 Latino students participating! There are far reaching repercussions.  Outside of the fact that these teenagers are learning how to make Benadryl and screen for hypertension, they are now going back home and counseling the families on “you shouldn’t fry that,” “let’s go walking” or “let’s get that checked out.”  These kids now know they belong in that camp, in that school and in that career while improving the health of their community. With this “simple” summer camp concept, Dr. Lin and Notre Dame School of Pharmacy have created a future that was never even imaginable to them.  

But, then I look around and see that, still, there are such few people of color in high-ranking positions, or positions of influence and gladly partner with Constellation, and its sister company, BGE, Under Armour, Johns Hopkins and Domino Sugar (huge players in Maryland, right?) to launch the Baltimore Chapter of the Association of Latino Professionals of America (ALPFA.)  I met Rolando Batista, the Sr Director for Supply Chain Strategy & Analytics for Domino Sugar- He’s Dominican as well and has been in Baltimore for over 20 years.  I didn’t know him. 

I also met Gabriel Rodriguez, Cuban-American, Director of Apparel for Under Armour.  In this market for over 8 years and I didn’t know him either. 

We hosted the ALPFA summer event and had a powerful panel, where Rolando, Gabriel and myself discussed how to leverage the economic opportunities stemming from Latin American trade and shifting Latino demographics.  The main piece of advice to the rising Latino professionals in the audience: Manage your career, seek a mentor and manage that relationship to your benefit. Building your social capital with these contacts is how exponential career growth takes place.   

Not knowing Rolando or Gabriel just emphasizes how few of us there are, and that sometimes we get lost in our everyday life.  Our opportunities and impact are a direct multiplier of our efforts and influence. In this case, 1+1+1, actually equaled 65.  The panel of 3 Latinos, connected with 65+ audience members, emphasizing their influence, power, and potential.   

And now we have new friends. More importantly, we have an incremental number of Latinos in influential roles that are now visible to the next generation.  They can see what they can become. 


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