Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month, from Sept. 15 to Oct.15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of Americans whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. During this time they seek to publicize and learn even more about the talents and contributions of Hispanics.
Allow me to begin this celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month with relevant information that captured my attention.
CNET Spanish magazine recently published a list of the 20 most influential Hispanics in the technology sector, which includes six women among a constellation of Spaniards, Mexicans, Argentines, Brazilians and Americans of Hispanic origin.
“It’s not easy to find Latinos in the technology industry in the United States, but after some hard work we gathered for the third consecutive year to celebrate a list of 20 Hispanic professionals who represent the best in the industry thanks to intelligence, perseverance, creativity and leadership,” said Gabriel Sama, director of CNET in Spanish.
The honorees represent companies ranging from AT&T, Oculus, Microsoft and Sprint to the NASA space agency and the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They include Pilar Manchón and Silvia Vásquez-Lavado, whom the publication considered “excellent examples of the effort, dedication and talent” of this select group.
Manchón, born in Seville (Spain), founded a successful virtual assistant firm that was acquired by the microprocessor giant Intel, where she now works as director of intelligent assistance and voice. Vásquez-Lavado, from Peru, overcame a childhood marked by sexual abuse and become a successful PayPal executive.
Among the names on the list is Alicia Abella, assistant vice president of services and technology in the cloud of AT&T. Of Cuban descent, the engineering graduate of Columbia University (New York) wants to use her leadership position to increase diversity in the technology sector.
There’s also Cindy Alvarez, an American of Mexican origin. She graduated from Harvard and is director of user experience on Yammer, the social network for companies acquired by Microsoft. She did not buy her first computer until she started college and had to borrow to do so.
Not everyone on the list is female. Thaddeus Arroyo, a veteran of the communications industry, faced the challenge of improving the wireless infrastructure in Mexico and expanding the number of subscribers to AT&T in that country.
Mexican engineer Alfredo Ayala, who some consider the “Latino Steve Jobs,” is leading the research and development teams at Walt Disney Imagineering, the scientific arm of the entertainment company. Brazilian engineer Hugo Barra is a key player in the global expansion of the Chinese company Xiaomi, which already dominates the mobile phone market there. Barra told CNET that growing up in Brazil has given him an enormous ability to adapt to any situation.
Also selected was Arturo Bejar, former director of engineering of Facebook, whom The New York Times has dubbed “Mr. Nice.” He recently left the social network to focus on projects related to promoting empathy, compassion and good manners in digital communications.
Rafael Camargo, an Andalusian engineer who worked 51 years for the iconic Razr, StarTAC and Droid phones, now seeks to revolutionize the cellular industry with the Project Ara modular phone from Google. Marcelo Claure, a Bolivian engineer and CEO of Sprint, is determined to change the course of the wireless telephone.
For his part, Leandro Graciá Gil was responsible for coordinating and directing 20 engineers from around the world to develop the final version of the Google Cardboard virtual reality glasses. Similarly, Alex Kipman, an engineer born in Curitiba (Brazil), is the brain behind Kinect and, more recently, Microsoft HoloLens glasses.
The list also includes Ramiro López Dau, an Argentine who runs 33 virtual reality movies for Oculus, and Andrés Martinez, a Mexican engineer who oversees several projects for NASA. A colleague was also honored: Evelyn Miralles, born in Venezuela, is lead engineer of the virtual reality lab at NASA facilities at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Jordi Muñoz is a young Mexican who founded 3D Robotics and runs a successful drones business in Berkeley, Calif. Rafael Reif, of Venezuela, is president of the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the most important academic institutions in the world especially in the fields of technology, science and innovation.
Ileana Rivera, from Puerto Rico, is senior director of IT for Cisco and is in charge of choosing phones, computers and software used by workers at the communications networking giant.
Rounding out the list are Luis Sosa, a Venezuelan executive at the helm of DDM Brands, which is working on the ambitious Project Ara at Google, and Marcos Weskamp, Argentine, design director and co-founder of Flipboard and now Uber’s new head of product design.
Together, these 20 individuals are sharing their talents with the world of technology and enriching the cultural diversity of the United States.