Twelve Who Are Leading The Way
We celebrate a dozen top Latino executives who have reached the corporate suite
At work, he has been just as motivated. As COO, Muñoz has helped boost transportation supplier CSX's market cap from $6 billion in 2003 to almost $24 billion today. "It's one of the more significant turnarounds of not just a company, but an entire industry," Muñoz says. "It was a strategic focus on making railroad stocks sexy again. We have an incredible ability to really support the American economy."
Banking and insurance giant USAA has been ranked tops in the country for customer loyalty by many groups. Owning or managing assets of $182 billion, the company, founded in San Antonio in 1922, has served military families for nearly a century and is best known for its excellent service. In fact, its motto is "Service to the Services." It has 9.4 million members, which includes 96 percent of active duty officers. Josue Robles was one of those officers.
He was born in Puerto Rico, was the eldest of nine children and served in the U.S. Army for 28 years, in active duty posts in Germany, Korea, Vietnam and in Operation Desert Storm. He has received numerous medals and honors, including the Christian Science Monitor’s “No. 1 Veteran in Business.” Robles, 66, wears several hats as well: he’s chairman of the Christus Santa Rose Health System, and serves on the boards of the American Red Cross and the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, San Antonio branch. And he did all this without the family precedent of higher education. His father quit school in the 4th grade to help support his family, while his mother stopped after the 9th grade.
Express Scripts CEO
George Paz leads Express Scripts, a company that manages the pharmacy benefits for health plans for more than 100 million Americans and helps keep down the cost of prescription drugs.
Paz, 57, is a presence to those in the sector. Ranked number 24 in the Fortune 500 in 2013, Express Scripts became the largest company in its industry measured by retail prescription claims when it bought Medco Health Solutions last year.
Express Scripts stock rose 21 percent in 2012, and Paz’s compensation rose 50 percent in value that year, according to the Wall Street Journal. Paz comes from humble beginnings: he grew up in a rural, farming community and was attracted to business because it seemed to offer a different kind of life. “I remember seeing people like Ward Cleaver on television coming home from jobs in business and leading a different kind of life, and it looked very attractive to me,” Paz told PODER earlier this year.
Paz has been with the company since 1998 and was named CEO in 2005 after serving as senior vice president and chief financial officer. He’s also on the board of directors for Honeywell and has a bachelor’s in business from the University of Missouri—St. Louis.
7-Eleven Executive Vice President & CoO
As COO of the world's largest convenience store chain, Darren Rebelez is a crucial component of 7-Eleven's aggressive growth plan. He oversees the company's strategy to add new stores to the around 7,600 it already had in 2011 in the U.S. and Canada. He also manages the company's facilities, construction and maintenance programs, as well as being responsible for the company's gasoline business, asset protection and business transformation projects. He's also in charge of a plan to franchise the some 1,000 U.S. stores that are still company-operated.
Previously, Rebelez, 47, was in charge of ExxonMobil's distributor fuels pricing program and franchising for its convenience operation called On the Run. He was also vice president of merchandising for Thornton Oil Corp., leading the company's strategic planning, marketing and category management. Rebelez is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, has an MBA from the University of Houston and a bachelor's degree in engineering. Most recently, Rebelez has called on thousands of franchises to review their hiring practices after nine 7-Eleven franchise owners and managers were indicted by federal authorities for alleged identity theft and immigrant exploitation.
Ralph de la Vega
AT&T Mobility President & CEO
Many people shy away from facing obstacles. Not Ralph de la Vega. The Cuban-born CEO of AT&T Mobility relishes challenges because they’ve been his keys to success. When de la Vega was little and his family decided to leave Cuba after Castro took power, the authorities would only let Ralph depart, making his parents remain. He spent four years in the United States without his parents or much money. “Going through that ordeal was one of the most challenging things I had to overcome,” he says.
He learned persistence. In high school he wanted to become an engineer, but a counselor told him he should instead become a mechanic. His grandmother inspired him to stick to his guns. “Don’t let anybody put limitations on what you can achieve,” de la Vega says. That philosophy translated to his job. It was a challenge to be president of Bell South Latin America during upheavals such as the Argentine economic crisis, guerrilla warfare in Colombia and a coup in Venezuela. But de la Vega saw it as an opportunity. And as COO of Cingular Wireless, many people thought his company’s purchase of AT&T Wireless would be a losing bet. They said it again when AT&T lost exclusivity of the iPhone. But they were wrong. De la Vega, 61, faced the challenges and won. It’s no surprise that he wrote a book titled Obstacles Welcome.
Deloitte LLP CEO
For Joe Echevarria, 56, nothing came easy in life. Echevarria grew up without many resources in a single-parent home in the South Bronx. Fast-forward to the present and he’s responsible for some 60,000 professionals in 90 U.S. cities and India, he often speaks to top media outlets like CNBC and the Wall Street Journal, and is an active panelist in Washington.
To find out how he got there, one can look at the advice he wrote his daughter Nicole one Father’s Day, later posted on the Lean In blog, the site run in conjunction with Facebook executive Sherly Sandberg's book of the same name.
“Regardless of what profession you choose or how you spend your life—do it with a sense of purpose and design, or risk cheating yourself,” he writes. Second, he advised his daughter to be flexible amid life’s many twists and turns. “When you see something that you know is right, pursue it too,” he said. “Even if it means a change in direction.” And lastly, Echevarria told her it was important not to compare her life with those of others, but rather to recognize she controls her own life. One of his favorite sayings says it all: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”
CityView, Founder & Chairman
When Henry Cisneros, 64, was mayor of San Antonio in the 80s, he realized that what he enjoyed more than anything was "watching progress for the city come out of the ground in the form of physical development." It's no surprise that Cisneros later became Bill Clinton's Secretary of Housing and Urban Development where his work on public housing issues drew wide acclaim. In 2000 he founded a company called American City Vista, now called CityView. With main offices in Los Angeles, CityView describes itself as one of the nation's top institutional investment firms focused on urban real estate. It is responsible for billions of dollars in urban investment in 60 communities across 12 states. Targeting housing that middle-class families can afford, the company provides homes for firefighters, teachers, civil service workers and artists. Investors include banks, private corporations and funds.
Cisneros, who lives in San Antonio, doesn't expect to retire.
"I concluded that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life," he says. "The highlight of my life these days are those Saturday mornings when we open a new development and I'm able to see families get housing they'd never imagine they would."