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Category: Podcast Episodes

Leadership at Scale: Amir Abou Baker, Head of Global Markets @ WhatsApp

In this episode, Hugo welcomes Amir Abou Baker, an American Lebanese-Puerto Rican Industrial Engineer with a masters in Engineering Management and Business Strategy working at WhatsApp Inc., as the Head of Global Markets. He is a technology and operations executive with skills in retail, operational transformations and scaling strategy for global operations that has travelled a lot and worked and led teams overseas. Amir shares his exceptional labour journey at Accenture, GE, Google, Oscar Insurance, TaskRabbit and Whatsapp, transitioning from one to another into different fields. Tune in as they talk about his reason for this transitioning from one field to another, the GE’s OMLP rotational program Amir went through to build leadership and functional skills and focus on operations in Media & Entertainment for NBCUniversal where his first project was managing Highlights at the Beijing Olympics Highlights Factory, his operation management and retail skills at Google, his member services at Oscar Insurance, directing Global Operations at TaskRabbit and what they are, and his role at Whatsapp.

Show notes:

  • 01:15 – Welcoming Amir
  • 01:26 – About Amir
  • 02:16 – Why Industrial Engineering
  • 02:57 – “Engineers make things, industrial engineers make things better” Operation mentality leading into personal life
  • 05:35 – About GE and why operations
  • 07:12 – Work at NBCUniversal – First project Highlights at the Beijing Olympics Highlights Factory
SETTING A PROCESS FOR HIGHLIGHT CLIPS AT BEIJING OLYMPICS Universal has between 2 and 5 OMLPs, so the projects they worked on were the most strategic in the company. Amir’s first project was the Beijing Olympics managing the highlights factory, where he would get a request from the director, give it to the shot pickers that would put together and edit highlight clips, and then ship them off to the different work stream. The Olympics lasted 16 days and on the first day they set a process of seven steps to cut a clip and get it to the profit partner. They started making daily improvements, and the process evolved taking every day less time to develop a clip. First day they took 1 hour, and by the end of day 14, it took them only 20 minutes to get a request, cut a clip and get it to the profit partner
  • 09:37 – Feeling about making decisions on highlights
  • 10:22 – GE’s OMLP Rotation program – Process to ramp-up quickly
  • 12:09 – Same process for Google and WhatsApp?
  • 13:04 – When leading, meeting every single team member across different geographies?
  • 15:26 – Transition between industries – From GE to Google
TRANSITION FROM ENTERTAINMENT TO TECH, A NEW FRONTIER While  finishing GE rotational program and being the manager of strategy and operations at Universal Studios Sound Department in Los Angeles, everybody was starting to talk about a fast growing Google in Bay Area of San Francisco. Went online and randomly applied for a job in strategy operations in Google with success. A new frontier in Tech.
  • 16:51 – Work at Google
  • 20:30 – Amir’s management style
  • 24:22 – From entertainment industry to Tech, and now insurance. Why?
  • 27:03 – About TaskRabbit and how he got there
  • 28:37 – Meaning of Global operations
  • 29:49 – Stories from TaskRabbit
  • 32:46 – About his role at WhatsApp and getting there
GETTING TO WHATSAPP AND A NEW ROLE Missing the scaling and operating level at Google, Amir was reached out by Facebook and started having interviews. In the meantime, a job popped up online at Whatsapp that fitted his background. He spoke to the team, started the interview process and got the job as Head of Markets for Whatsapp, a growing team that is made up to support all of the local markets and deep market insights
  • 35:42 – Size of team
  • 36:21 – Opportunity for somebody who wants to start working in Operations
HOW TO HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO WORK IN OPERATIONS Operations depends on the interest of a person and has a different meaning in different fields. About having a process, setting it up and going through it. A mindset of being an engineer that can be applied to a lot of different areas within operations. “Have a hard look at your skill set, take stock, go for the operation you like and specialize”
  • 42:18 – Amir’s last words to Latinos in Technology

Key Takeaways:

  • Before coming into a new project that is not familiar, read and look for resources around with people you work with, and on the web
  • “Learning by doing and being on the sharp floor” “Observing and learning first hand”
  • The more the magnitude in decisions, the more time it takes to ramp-up
  • Always take time to put thoughts together before making recommendations or changes
  • A leader should make everyone be included and heard
  • View points will change overtime, so the more you talk to people, the more you will see these processes unfold
  • When working with teams communication and collaboration are tools that help keep people engaged
  • Rigorous process improvement day by day can reach effective results
  • Set up goals at the beginning to work aligned
  • Set clear expectations and let the team role with the projects
  • When leading understand people on a personal level and do one on one checkpoints
  • Have a look at skill set and then see what is open when seeing into operations
  • Speaking up and having conversations with managers when moving on
  • Stay focussed and learn to say no
  • As latinos, always stay involved and engaged

Mentioned resources:

  • OMLP – Operations Management Leadership Program at GE

Connect with him via linkedin:

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Who is Hugo Castellanos? Find out about him on linkedinThanks so much for listening to the show! If you want to know more about this or comment on the show, please join us on LatinosWhoTech or go to Conexiones Leave a Comment

Living For The Mission: Rocio Mendez, Industrial Engineer @ Tesla

In this episode, Hugo welcomes Rocio Mendez, a Mexican American industrial engineer at Tesla. Rocio was fascinated by engineering early on and earned both undergraduate and graduate degrees in Industrial Engineering from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. #GoMustangs! Rocio shares her journey from her first job at Covidien, a medical device company that was acquired by Medtronic in 2015, to her current role at Tesla as an Industrial Engineering Manager. Join in as they talk about the Tesla culture, the importance of building relationships with cross functional teams, the challenge of being a woman in manufacturing engineering and what it’s like to work with Elon.

Show notes:

  • 01:15 – Welcoming Rocio Mendez
  • 02:16 – About Rocio
  • 06:17 – What it is like working in an operations team
  • 08:06 – How Rocio got to Tesla: First time at the factory floor
  • 12:33 – What makes Tesla a great choice for an industrial or mechanical engineer
  • 15:30 – Rocio’s day to day, previous role and how she got prepared to do what she is doing now at Tesla
  • 21:32 – Strategies Rocio uses when developing her team
  • 25:30 – Meeting and working with Elon Musk
  • 27:53 – The Mission; Rocio’s favorite part of working at Tesla
  • 30:33 – Challenge of being a woman in a manufacturing environment
  • 34:13 – Rocio’s feeling about engineering mentality leading into personal life
  • 43:11 – Rocio’s parting words to latinos in STEM

Key Takeaways:

  • “Coming down to common ground with people who have different mindsets is very important in any management”
  • “Important to market yourself and tell people what you are all about”
  • “Manufacturing experience is a plus when looking for a job at Tesla”
  • “To be an engineer you have to be on the sharp floor to understand what it is all about”
  • Need to be aligned in order to go the same direction; building relationships with cross functional teams
  • “What do you need from me, and what do I need from you”
  • Be straightforward when something is not working out right to find a solution
  • “You need to be empathetic to be a leader”
  • Having a mentor during your career is important when taking on new roles

Mentioned resources:

Connect with her via linkedin:

Want to help us grow? You can:

Who is Hugo Castellanos? Find out about him on linkedin Thanks so much for listening to the show! If you want to know more about this or comment on the show, please join us on LatinosWhoTech or go to Conexiones
Leave a Comment

Latina at a Silicon Valley Unicorn: Frances Coronel, Software Engineer @ Slack

In this episode, Hugo welcomes Frances Coronel, a Peruvian-American software engineer for the Customer Acquisition Team at Slack, a collaboration hub that brings the right people, information, and tools together to get work done; connects teams and unifies systems to make businesses go forward. Frances was born and raised in Norfolk Virginia, and studied in New York City and California. Join in as they talk about France’s journey into computer science, her motivation to earn a master’s degree, her experience being a female Latina software engineer, and her role in Slack and the company’s growth.
Latina at a Silicon Valley Unicorn: Frances Coronel,  Software Engineer @ Slack

Show notes:

  • 00:20 – Welcoming Frances Coronel
  • 00:26 – About Frances
  • 01:36 – Using the word Latinx
  • 05:45 – France’s first interest in computer science
  • 10:02 – Discovering Meetups and other engineers
  • 11:37 – Motivation in getting a masters degree
  • 15:33 – Frances’s opinion about short, intensive and rigorous courses “Bootcamps”
  • 19:59 – What makes a successful Coding Bootcamp
  • 24:28 – Linkedin Nextplay
  • 26:22 – France’s current role in Slack
  • 27:38 – About Techqueria
  • 28:39 – How Frances got to Slack
  • 32:18 – The thing Frances likes the most about Slack
  • 35:50 – What Frances looks forward to everyday
  • 41:49 – Influencers, forums and sites frequented by Frances either for programming or because of interest
  • 50:24 – France’s parting words to audience curious about STEM and software engineering

Key Takeaways:

  • “You don’t need a computer science degree to be a successful software engineer”
  • Look for actual data on linkedin and program graduates when choosing a coding bootcamp
  • Coding bootcamps are much more accessible to break into tech industry
  • There are lots of alternative paths breaking into tech, You don’t have to be an engineer to be in the tech industry
  • “It is very important to bring your true self to work”
  • Diversity is very important when working in the tech industry

Mentioned resources:

  • Meetup NorfolkJs
  • Nextplay Events – Events where students and professionals of color connect to opportunities in tech
  • Hack Reactor – Software Engineering Program and Coding Bootcamp
  • Galvanize – Urban campuses where people can access the skills and network they need in-person or online to level up in tech
  • Techqueria – A non profit representing one of the largest communities for Latinx professionals in the tech industry
Connect with her via linkedin:Frances Coronel

Want to help us grow? You can:

Who is Hugo Castellanos? Find out about him on linkedinThanks so much for listening to the show! If you want to know more about this or comment on the show, please join us on LatinosWhoTech or go to Conexiones Leave a Comment

To MBA or NOT to MBA: Roxana Ruvalcaba, Operations Finance Specialist @ Intel Corporation

In this episode, Hugo welcomes Roxana Ruvalcaba, a Mexican-American industrial engineer born in LA, working as an operations finance specialist at Intel Corporation. Roxana went to Berkeley University to study industry engineering and operations research, and at the time, had her first exposure to business school in an intense summer venture at Harvard Business School. Once graduated, she joined the Pacific Gas and Electric Company through the Energy Procurement Rotational Program. Dive in as they talk about her decision to apply to an MBA while living at home and having a fulltime job, the programs and processes she went through and the experience she had being a mexican-american female engineer.

Show notes:

  • 00:18 – Welcoming Roxana Ruvalcaba
  • 00:30 – About Roxana
  • 03:03 – About Yale and people who attend their Pre-MBA Programs
  • 03:57 – Programs and application process for business school
  • 09:56 – About MLT program (Management Leadership for Tomorrow) and what comes next
  • 12:32 – Balancing full time work and MLT
  • 13:36 – Why UCLA?
  • 13:50 – Applying to an MBA through consortium program and what it is
  • 18:59 – UCLA and MBA experience
  • 23:57 – MBA internship at google and what it was like working there
  • 25:45 – Two things to be considered in any MBA program
  • 28:09 – Mexican-American, female and engineer getting in MBA. Different experience to others?
  • 29:29 – Job searching process. Balancing between MBA classes and interviewing for companies
  • 33:00 – Roxana’s parting words for the audience

Key Takeaways:

  • Taking time off and focussing on course leads to a better outcome
  • Depending on the style of studying, taking on a tutor will attend personal needs and be more intensive
  • “Having solid foundation in finance will help no matter what she decided to do after; it is important to know  how to manage a company”
  • “Even though you are not prepared,do it, you will learn later on”
  • “GMAT good for five years, so if you have time, get it out of the way; there are ways of funding”
  • “Doing an MBA is a great. You gain a lot of personal and career experience”

Mentioned resources:

  • MLT Program (Management Leadership for tomorrow) – programs that start in college to help set milestones to apply and get ready for an MBA program
  • GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) to gain entrance into an MBA program
  • Manhattan Prep > GMAT Prep courses

Connect with her via linkedin:

Want to help us grow? You can:

Who is Hugo Castellanos? Find out about him on linkedinThanks so much for listening to the show! If you want to know more about this or comment on the show, please join us on LatinosWhoTech or go to Conexiones Leave a Comment

Boricuas on Mars: Nicole Gonzalez & Elio Morillo, Engineers @ NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)

In this first episode, Hugo welcomes Nicole Gonzalez and Elio Morillo, Puerto Rican engineers working at Nasa JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory). Nicole is an electronic engineer who develops electronic systems for both the Mars 2020 and Psyche exploration missions, and Elio is a testbed engineer that verifies avionics, payloads, and software, to ensure that operations on route and on the surface of Mars are fully characterized. Dive in as they talk about how difficult living and growing up in Puerto Rico is, their talented and diligent work in the NASA and the week they spent back in a school of Puerto Rico, after having been recovered from hurricane wreckage and gang destruction, voluntarily giving STEM workshops to school students in between eight and fourteen years old. This is a story about how Puerto Rico rises #PRseLevanta

#PRseLevanta

Boricuas On Mars Cover

Show notes:

  • 00:01 – Welcoming Nicole Gonzalez Cejo and Elio Morillo
  • 02:28 – Nicole’s role at Nasa JPL
  • 05:08 – Elio’s role at Nasa JPL
  • 06:30 – Aspect of redundancy
  • 07:30 – Robot or human missions (JPL robotic space exploration hub)
  • 09:48 – About Puerto Rico and the lack of their daily supply of power
  • 13:55 – STEM Program; Voluntarily teaching kids from 8 to 14 years old STEM back in Vega Baja, Puerto Rico
  • 19:46 – Projects and things Elio and Nicole built with the kids in Marisa’s community centre “Sinergia Los Naranjos”
  • 23:16 – The story about Marisa “La Guerrera” and how she recovered the school from hurricane wreckage and gang destruction
  • 27:57 – Next steps with projects to continue showing what engineering is
  • 31:33 – Sharing stories during their week in Puerto Rico
  • 38:35 – If you want to help, connect with Elio and Nicole on their program Stemcoqui, via linkedin: Nicole Gonzalez Cejo Elio Morillo, or instagram: Elio Morillo

Key Takeaways:

  • “Sleep one hour less and use it for your side hustle”
  • Everybody’s background can find a solution to problems
  • Rethink with what there is accessible in order to elaborate new things and create new solutions

Mentioned resources:

Connect with them via Linkedin:

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  1. Leave us an iTunes review
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  3. Share it with a friend
Who is Hugo Castellanos? Find out about him on linkedinThanks so much for listening to the show! If you want to know more about this or comment on the show, please join us on LatinosWhoTech or go to Conexiones Leave a Comment