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Full Circle of Leadership: by Antonio Tijerino, HHF CEO

President and CEO

As Emanuel Pleitez navigated his way to the podium through the traffic of college students during the Hispanic Heritage Foundation’s (HHF) Coder Summit in Palo Alto, CA, I heard one of the students in our network murmuring to another, “he’s one of us.”

Indeed, he is.

From the moment Emanuel Pleitez received our Los Angeles Regional Youth Award and then the National Youth Award as a high school senior from el barrio, he has always been a part of our mission.  An embodiment of our mission actually – we strive to identify, prepare and position a Latino leader to impact hundreds or thousands of others in various “tracks” or fields through our award-winning LOFT (Latinos On Fast Track) program – Emanuel’s impact has been felt as a student, as a professional and now as the Chairman of HHF’s Board of Directors.  He’s always been focused on shining a light on various paths for young Latinos and even an old Latino like me.

As a college student at Stanford, Emanuel worked tirelessly to organize the Latino student body in various areas including community service, voter registration and leadership.  He also mentored, connected and mobilized thousands of fellow HHF Youth Awardees to create a support system for each other and younger Latinos.  Another area of focus was finance after getting an internship with Goldman Sachs through various support systems including LOFT’s Workforce Initiative.  By leveraging LOFT’s infrastructure, he developed Finance Boot Camps at Stanford and other universities in an effort to expose, connect and prepare Latinos to the financial services industry. Upon graduation from Stanford, he worked for Goldman Sachs in San Francisco and then joined US Department of the Treasury for the Obama administration in Washington, DC.  During this time, he exposed thousands of young Latinos to public policy careers in addition to financial services. Some of the efforts he created during this time continue today such as the Bay Area Latinos in Finance and the Latino Legacy Weekend which takes annually during Memorial Day weekend.

Emanuel then went on to work at McKinsey & Co. followed by stints at a couple of start-ups as Chief Strategy Officer and now he’s an investor at Sunstone Partners while serving as only the 4th Chair of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation and his shared vision with the team has moved us into interesting directions.  But always moving …

Whether he was a teenager, young professional or more seasoned influencer, he has always challenged me, our staff and the entire Latino community to be more innovative.  For instance, several years ago he called me randomly and said, “hey, we really need to think about getting our kids into coding, job opportunities are projected to be a million by 2020 and there’s a shortage.”  Pow!  Next moment there’s a brainstorming with HHF Advisor Eliana Murillo and Code as a Second Language (CSL) was born in East LA.  CSL is now in over 20 regions across the United States led by Emanuel’s protégé Alberto Avalos, also from East Los.  But it doesn’t stop there, when Emanuel was visiting my home, I asked him to watch my then 5-year-old son for a few minutes.  When I returned, Emanuel was teaching him how to code while my son thought he was playing a video game.  He doesn’t know how to stop.  And neither do I.

Which is why as HHF’s leadership, we have to deal with the concern/criticism that we “try to do too much.”  We do.  Yes it’s a problem in terms of communicating our brand.  But it’s also an interesting concept in a world of linear thinkers and doers.

We are scattered, but so it our impact.  When one is constantly creating, challenging, taking risks, impetuously executing, yes it’s maddening but our philosophy is that every issue should be approached with a simple concept, “this is possible.” The rest is a bundle of details.  But the concept has to be simple and focused on what’s possible.  That’s Emanuel.  That’s me.  That’s HHF.

That’s the philosophy that makes not only CSL go from idea to action but also LAtinas, Investor’s Forum, Charlas, LOFT Lab, Video Gaming Innovation Summit, Tech Entrepreneur exchange with Israel,  LOFT Network, and so many other initiatives that are influencing tens of thousands of young Latinos across the country.

As a hush settles over the hundreds of Latino programmers and developers attending the Coder Summit, the HHF Chair at his Alma Mater at Stanford, the energy in the room focused was on Emanuel Pleitez who was at the podium.

His words resonated with the audience in a way the other influential speakers that afternoon including Members of Congress, Fortune 100 leadership and entrepreneurs did not.  “I was where you are not too long ago and took my role as an innovative Latino leader very seriously.  We hope to not only give you a voice but the infrastructure for your ideas to become a reality.  The time is now to change how we think, how we do, how we want the world to look.  So let’s get to work.”

Yes, Emanuel, let’s get to work.

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