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STEM


STILL CHANGING THE WAY AMERICA WORKS AND THINKS


by Lango Deen ldeen@ccgmag.com I


n 2002 a recent U.S. Census painted the picture of the changing face of America, with statistics that showed Hispanics as the fastest growing minority group in the nation. Over this time span, HE&IT has featured an incredible roster of Hispanic engineers, computer scientists, and technology managers on the fast track.


This year, I thought if I could vote for the “Face of HE&IT Tech” it would be Ralph de la Vega. Here’s why.


In the fall of 2001, Vega, then president of Latin America operations at BellSouth Corporation, was among almost 60 men and women featured in HE&IT’s “Hispanic Power Hitters Changing the Way America Works and Thinks.” Back then, his responsibilities covered Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia, Ven- ezuela, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Panama, Nicaragua, Brazil and Guatemala. Vega’s work in the community was also making a contribution toward building a stronger America as he demon- strated leadership and vision in his organization.


Two years later, when HE&IT did a similar survey, Vega made the “50 Most Important Hispanics in Technology and Busi- ness.” Then chief operating officer of Cingular, he was leading technology planning, network operations, marketing, sales support, and customer care. Vega was listed again in 2005.


A year later, he was one of two executives who led HE&IT’s most influential list with lessons in technological leadership, noting how to stay competitive in a digital world. His key message to STEM students was that everything was possible with education.


www.hispanicengineer.com


As a teenager, Vega was on his way to becoming a mechanic but his grandmother came to the U.S. from Cuba where she had been a science teacher and helped young Vega see that a college education would give him the tools he needed to make his dream come true. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at Florida Atlantic University and started his career in 1974 with BellSouth as a manage- ment assistant.


“Once you have the job you want,” the learning and striving are just beginning, Vega told HE&IT. He also told new hires to be adventurous.


“Challenging assignments make great leaders, and the wireless field is wide open to challenge and growth.”


How right he was. Few years later, Vega saw the next big thing “as a future about more than voice,” with opportunities in inter- active mobile applications, mobile Web browsing, and video.


“Your world is in your hands and only one or two clicks away,” Vega said six years ago.


HISPANIC ENGINEER & Information Technology | Fall 2014 17


LEADERS


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