Thursday, October 3, 2019
Workforce Logiq’s Chief Information Officer, Francisco “Frank” DeArmas, was recently recognized by the Hispanic Information Technology Executive Council (HITEC) for his positive impact on the technology industry and commitment to lifting up the next generation of minority leaders.
We sat down with Frank to discuss this exciting accomplishment and get this take on the importance of diversity within the field.
Q: Congratulations, Frank! What does being recognized as a tech industry trailblazer by HITEC mean to you?
A: For me, this is really a recognition of a lifetime of working in the technology industry, which has evolved drastically. When I first started out in tech, there wasn’t even an Internet. And now, we are actively deploying artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, blockchain, and more. As an industry, we have come a long way – both from a culture and product standpoint – and I’m proud to say I’ve been involved in every stage. I’ve had a very long, exciting, and satisfying career and being celebrated along with so many other influential Hispanic leaders is truly humbling.
Q: What role do you see organizations like HITEC playing within the larger business community?
A: HITEC was founded to overcome a lack of diversity in the tech industry, especially in senior leadership and executive positions. While the industry is becoming more inclusive, we still have a long way to go. Organizations like HITEC will continue to lead the charge by helping the next generation of Hispanic leaders obtain the skills and confidence they need to secure their first executive role or c-suite position – ultimately increasing the representation of Hispanics in the c-suite.
Q: What do you see as the biggest issue or challenge facing minority businesspeople and leaders today, especially in tech?
A: It’s the lack of diversity. When you look across the industry, there are very few people of color breaking into top-tier jobs. Even when a candidate has all the skillsets necessary for a certain role, it can be very difficult to break through culturally in a traditionally white-male dominated field. This hurts employers because new ideas and perspectives aren’t always heard or represented.
We can counteract this lack of diversity with education, coaching, and mentoring – and the key is to start early. The HITEC foundation provides scholarships to Latino children to study STEM, which is an area that traditionally wasn’t even on a young adult’s radar once they graduated from high school. Encouraging young adults of all backgrounds to think about technology and STEM careers early on, providing mentorship once they graduate college, and introducing them to a community that fosters professional growth, will nurture them into the minority business leaders of tomorrow and make them more marketable for competitive top-tier roles.
Q: Reflecting on your career, what has been your biggest milestone? What about the biggest challenge?
A: When I scored my first executive role at a bank, I led the charge of launching one of the first ever banking websites – before online banking existed. This is the first time I remember really standing out for my accomplishments. From there I was chosen to be one of the ten executives that got to craft the e-banking policy and run the e-banking business, including everything from debit cards to online banking.
As with any career, there have been many challenges, including facing stereotypes and prejudice. At one point I realized I could cave to the pressure and try to be like everyone else, or I could be myself and let those who accept me do so — and not care about those who didn’t. That was a pivotal point for me: I learned to be my own person, not compromise myself, and to respect and value what I brought to the table – a friendly reminder for all minority leaders.
Q: Ideal hard skills continually shift, but which soft skillsets do you feel are most important in tech today that helped get you to where you are?
A: People skills couldn’t be more important – especially for a field that attracts introverts. The ability to read a room is really a gift, whether you’re a data junkie that does hardcore algorithms, or the CEO. You need to be able to feel what’s important to another person and put yourself in their shoes. Also, if you get to know your colleagues and coworkers and understand what is making them get up and come to work, both of you will be more successful. I can’t stress enough the importance of listening, understanding and feeling. Look at someone in the eye when you talk to them. Really listen and echo back what you’re hearing so they can correct it if you got it wrong. It will go a long way in building relationships.
Q: What tip/advice would you give rising minority business professionals looking to kickstart or grow their career in tech?
A: Reach out to someone who can mentor you. I’ve always been fortunate that at every step in my career there’s been someone that has taken the time to help me through and coach me, and this has helped me become successful and even fast-tracked my career at times. Find someone that can relate to where you’re at in your career and reach out to them. Say, “I want to be successful in my career. I see you as successful and I respect you. Will you take me under your wing?” Then, pay it forward.