Mike Fernandez, U.S. CEO of LLORENTE & CUENCA, is one of 40 extraordinary communicators featured in the new book Diverse Voices. He spoke with Doug Simon, CEO at D S Simon Media, about achieving career success while bringing diversity to an organization. The interview took place during the New York book launch of Diverse Voices which was held at Twitter. The new book from the PRSA Foundation is designed to help communication leaders and professionals better understand the challenges faced by emerging majorities in the field. Mike cites his grandfather’s timeless advice as keys to his success. To purchase Diverse Voices, visit www.diverseleadership.net.”
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DOUG: Hi I’m Doug Simon from D S Simon Media. I’m with Mike Fernandez, U.S. CEO of LLORENTE & CUENCA. Congratulations and thanks for joining us.
MIKE: Glad to be here.
DOUG: That’s right. Now this very special night it’s the New York book launch for Diverse Voices, featuring 40 of the top communications leaders who bring diversity to their organizations. Obviously wouldn’t have been right if Mike Fernandez wasn’t part of that. And you’ve had this issue of diversity and inclusion on your agenda in the industry for quite some time.
MIKE: Well you know part of it is what I lived with. You know, I was the result of two different families who came here from elsewhere and there weren’t a lot of people in the profession with ‘Z’s at the end of their name when I started out.
DOUG: Yeah. So tell us about some of the points you talked about in the book about some of the obstacles you faced in the path that led you to be successful.
MIKE: Yeah I don’t know. You know in many ways I think we’re kind of in the Golden Age today in the sense that the numbers have changed so dramatically, that there are many more opportunities for young people who are diverse than maybe were back then. And so you’d hear things and you’d respond to things and sometimes well and sometimes not so well. But what really speared me along was my grandfather, you know, who had come to this country and believe that you got ahead by really knowing who you were as well as asking good questions and trying to get smarter. And those two elements are what really fueled me.
DOUG: And I think for those who are out there if you want to get smarter definitely read the book diverse voices that really cuts across every profession.
MIKE: Oh absolutely.
DOUG: So many takeaways.
MIKE: Well you know I think the two biggest takeaways are that oftentimes young people don’t necessarily have that role model that looks like them or has lived a story that’s kind of like them. And the book has that for people. And they also has it for others who are managing diverse teams who want to know how do they really instigate and act on their good intentions around diversity and inclusion. And this is a great book.
DOUG: Yeah. And it’s important point you raise about ok maybe you’ve improved on recruiting diverse talent but how do you create an environment where diverse talent can succeed.
MIKE: Yeah you really want to create an environment where everybody can thrive where everybody can bring their whole selves to the office and be all they can be. And the only way that that’s going to happen is when there is a clear message from the top, and there are ways in which people can feel as though they belong to that location and they belong in that career.
DOUG: One interesting thing that I’ve seen that troubles me both ways is the idea of multicultural agency. Is that almost pigeonholing, clearly you need people of diversity, but you need diversity for all communications. Would it be better if we just had agencies rather than this sort of separate viewed as smaller piece of the pie that’s multi-cultural.
MIKE: Well I think that’s true even on the client side. Right. Because also what has tended to happen is when people approach things as a multicultural challenge, they created a separate budget a separate small team. And when times got tight, guess what got cut? So I think that the it’s an interesting thought but I think fundamentally what we need to realize is that times have changed. And you know when I was coming along as a baby boomer we were, you know, people who are racially or ethnically diverse only accounted for about a quarter of the population. My kids who are millennials account you know their generation about 40 percent racially and ethnically diverse. And the Gen Zs were in my classroom at Boston University, now they’re part of a generation that’s right at 50 percent. And so it’s important for agencies, it’s important for clients, to think about how do you create communications that’s culturally relevant? And that should come out of almost any agency any company.
DOUG: Right. Interesting. Any final thoughts advice for people who were you know starting their career as diverse talent to help them succeed?
MIKE: I think it’s going back to what my grandfather told me. You know it’s “don’t forget where you came from” and “never stop learning.”
DOUG: That’s great. And I guess having good parents and grandparents and advice growing up it’s part of the process and continuing that in your career.
DOUG: Thanks so much for spending time with us. Congratulations.
MIKE: Thank you.
D S Simon Media is proud to donate its services in support of the Diverse Voices Initiative.