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How my Latinx upbringing made me a better leader

Chief people officer at Intel Sandra Rivera reflects on growing up Hispanic and what that taught her about business success.

How my Latinx upbringing made me a better leader
Sandra Rivera [Photo: courtes of Intel]

My parents came to the U.S. from Colombia with $100 in their pockets, 100 English words in their vocabulary, and the dream of a better life for their family. I was fortunate to have a happy and rich childhood–not in money but rich in more important things. I had a loving and supportive family and a sense of optimism and hope. My parents instilled integrity and a strong work ethic in me, and I credit them with laying the foundation for my personal and professional success. Today, as a mother of four, I am working to instill those same values in my own children.

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My Latinx beliefs and upbringing have proved essential to my career, which has taken me from working at startups to leading Intel’s network business to today serving as Intel’s chief people officer (CPO). This was not the most traditional career path, but sometimes great opportunities present themselves at the most unexpected times.

As CPO, I am leveraging my background and strength in running businesses and growing high-performance teams, while learning how to lead an entirely different part of our company. My professional path and the values I learned from my family help me to advocate for 110,000 diverse and innovative employees across the world.

Here are some of the key lessons I’ve learned along the way that I try to apply every day.

Be fearless

My parents were brave enough to leave the country and life they knew and set off toward an uncertain future. It was a risk but one they took thoughtfully, with the goal of creating something better for themselves. I encourage our employees to be more open to risk-taking, as long as it is done thoughtfully and in pursuit of something that supports the business and helps our customers succeed. It’s easy to stay comfortable, but evolving the company, giving life to groundbreaking new technologies, and growing in your career takes fearlessness.

Stay curious

When you grow up in the U. S. with a family that’s from another country, you get the best of both worlds. You’re constantly learning new and different things and asking question after question. You see every day how different backgrounds contribute to peoples’ perspectives. Because of that, you can better adapt to different circumstances while being open-minded and prepared for the challenges at hand. I believe this has helped me to work and lead people in fast-moving industries in both startup environments and large corporations. I strive to be a lifelong learner.

Lead with trust

Latinx culture is centered around relationships. Strong relationships have trust built on a shared set of values and a sense of responsibility toward a common goal. These are essential to building cohesion in a company. Creating an environment where every individual can be heard, contribute, and feel accountable for their work is key. That’s why we’ve been focusing on inclusion so heavily at Intel and why I strive to be an inclusive leader.

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Put people at the heart of the business

Employees are our greatest asset and the source of our innovation. We work best when we work as a team. We bridge gaps, break down silos, and collaborate with colleagues around the world to understand challenges, solve problems, and help our customers succeed. I believe I have an opportunity to reinforce that across our entire company. Our people are at the center of everything we do, and I believe that if we empower them, they will exponentially power our company and drive positive impact in the world.

 Sandra Rivera is Intel’s chief people officer.

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