With over 13 + years at as Microsoft’s, Supplier Diversity and Sustainability Director, Fernando Hernandez has set his sights on ensuring that the next generation of Latinos, carve their path in Microsoft’s mission for technology for generations to come.
As part of the tech giant’s leadership team, Hernandez is responsible for supplier diversity and leading efforts around sustainability for the company’s indirect supply chain; environmental and social sustainability. Hernandez says, “How can you have a positive impact with the dollars you spend on giving to communities around the world? Be thoughtful, educate people and help people obtain a living wage.”
So, what does this say about Microsoft and Latinos in business? As a company, Hernandez sees the company take a leading position with its diversity efforts that will have a real effect on future generations. After all, according to Hernandez, Latinos have been on the forefront of many significant movements in entertainment, global business, and politics. Hernandez also says that he firmly believes that Microsoft has become a touchstone and that CEO, Satya Narayana Nadella is behind the refreshed reality of diversity. “In who we are, what we are and how we interact with each other. So, it’s a new day and it’s real at Microsoft, I’m really glad to be a part of it,” said Hernandez of the tech giant.
Gratitude and giving back to the Latino community are also part of Hernandez’s plan as one of the top Latino leaders at Microsoft, he admits that being a part of a global organization and such a great leadership team is a true blessing. As an influencer in the industry, Hernandez shares his passion, “I grew up humble so in turn, I get real value for the impact that companies can create in society. I feel I’m in the perfect place to drive some real change into the world.”
Small businesses also play a part in supplier diversity’s plan at Microsoft. The company is working directly with all types of businesses to support and promote Latinos and all other types of diverse businesses, large and small, in a variety of different ways, a fact that makes Hernandez proud. He believes it is a major pivot for the computer and technology giant who has spent well over 3.2 billion dollars with diverse-owned firms in the past year and that’s just within the US alone.
Microsoft also has supplier diversity initiatives at work in South Africa, Australia, Canada and many other parts of the world. Hernandez explains that the mission to expand Microsoft’s programs all over the world to get more and more people involved and to also get more organizations to have a desire to get involved and put the same message out there.
Another piece of Hernandez’s mission is to spread knowledge of Artificial Intelligence (AI). “It is so important to be able to explain (AI) to business owners, to be able to inform and educate them and also be able to provide a case study of where AI is going next. To simply create a notion for Latino business owners to start thinking about connected intelligence is a top priority,” Hernandez said.
While he believes that the Latino community embraces new technology, Hernandez says it still takes time to introduce owners to AI and then he does his best to demystify the technology for them. “I talk about AI in terms of connected intelligence. I feel most people are open to the facts that it’s information whether it’s a machine learning, information gathering, IOT, AI, blockchain or any of these other technologies that are out there.” But what does that mean? “There are millions of examples that can help people in business and that’s what needs to be explained,” he explained.
Hernandez filled us in on a project he’s working on, along with Zoe Saldana, via her digital news platform BESE and the USHCC (United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce) to participate in bringing some of these concepts to life, in a way that’s interesting on a Latino platform.
Hernandez believes the best way for Latino businesses to continue to keep up with the quickly changing technology sphere, is to go to forums that give information and describe the subject of information business leaders seek. He says owners need to get the right defense when it comes to technology. He wants businesses to be prepared and get the information before the dive in.
Latinos are not new to innovation, according to Hernandez, “Don’t forget, Latinos have been on the cutting edge of technology many times. We over-index on the usage of cell phones since the beginning. I know because I was at AT&T when we did all those studies on Latina women!” Even though Latinos come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, there still exists the exclusion of recognizing Latinos in many realms but especially technology. Chris Espinosa was a pioneer at Apple when it began as well as Eduardo Saverin, one of Mark Zuckerberg’s original partners at Facebook, was a Latino. “We Latinos were already at this table from the beginning but when the party starts getting good, we get excluded so we need that to change,” he said. Latinos have contributed to technology and entertainment for decades and Hernandez feels he is part of the growth and sees himself reflected in all that is to come by way of technology.
It would seem that Hernandez has his hands full with all Microsoft’s initiatives but he still finds time to mentor youth and wants to help assure that they find their place in the technology industry. He feels that since young people getting into the technology industry are fearless because they haven’t had to deal with the same baggage that we carried from our day. The issues of diversity and discrimination aren’t gone but the next generation of