Celebrating our diversity during National Hispanic Heritage Month
National Hispanic Heritage Month is observed annually in the United States from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988. Today, the month-long celebration is an opportunity to observe the important presence and impact of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the United States and celebrate their heritage and culture.
Leidos has nearly 2,000 employees who have self-identified as Hispano-Latino. Diversity of thought, values, and ideas is a driving force behind our culture of innovation. National Hispanic Heritage Month serves as an occasion to recognize the vast contributions Hispanic and Latino Leidos employees make not only to our company, but to our nation.
In recognition of National Hispanic Heritage Month, we asked some of our employees about their careers, life experiences, and words of wisdom to fellow Latino professionals.
What kind of work are you doing, and what value do you feel you provide to the customer and/or Leidos?
Jennifer Cane: Currently I am the Director of the Competitive Intelligence/Position to Win (CIPTW) department at Leidos. We lead the integration, analysis, and assessment of the competitive marketplace to develop comprehensive position-to-win goals that help capture teams position themselves strategically.
Ana Cheng: I am a Software Engineer, developing algorithms and protocols for tactical wireless communications systems, specifically self-forming, self-healing, directional Mobile Adhoc Networks for the Department of Defense and commercial customers. I am passionate about advancing this technology because I believe it has tremendous potential in terms of the many applications it can support. It is a thrill to me every time we see something my team and I built together become fully operational, where initially there was just a blank page.
Sergio Estrada: I serve in multiple roles beginning as Project Engineering Associate Manager/Program Lead Manager and the Technical System Architect, Expert /Cloud Application Manager, supporting the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Corporate Data Center Operations under the general supervision of the assigned Division Chief(s), in Application Management Services under Enterprise Program Management Operations.
Art Narro: I am the subject matter expert for the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Data Warehouse. My role is to understand the source data and how it is processed to support our products (and how to use our products to answer new questions).
James Perea: I am the Portfolio Manager for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosives (CBRNE) Defense, Infrastructure Protection and Advanced Energetics inside the Mission Operations Infrastructure Protection Division. Composed of 350-plus Leidos professionals and subcontractor personnel in multiple locations across the country, the portfolio provides CBRNE defense, electronic security and infrastructure solutions, research, development, test and evaluation, field delivery and sustainment services, and energetic research and development to the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, other government agencies, and the commercial utilities.
Ernest Sanchez: I am the Program Manager for the Cargo Mission Contract (CMC), the NASA prime logistics and engineering services contract that supports the International Space Station (ISS) and Exploration Programs. We work very closely with hardware providers, international partners, and commercial ISS-visiting vehicles to ensure the safe and on-time delivery of hardware and services.
What advice would you give to other Latino professionals looking to grow or start their career at Leidos?
Cane: I would encourage them to continue in their path to excel in their profession. You bring diversity and strength to the organization and your talents and efforts will help reach, not just your goals, but also help the company to maintain its status as a global leader in science and technology solutions.
Cheng: To continue learning, and to strive to be a contributor and a good communicator. Never be afraid of asking questions or postulating ideas. It helps spur productive discussion and improve designs when everyone’s best ideas are applied to a project. Also surround yourself with dedicated, ethical, and kind people. It makes all the difference in the world when you can count on your teammates, learn from each other, and maintain a common and selfless focus to meet or even exceed our customers’ expectations.
Estrada: Stay humble, stay hungry, and surround yourself with a great team – because you can’t and you won’t be able to succeed alone.
Narro: Take pride in the work you do, no matter what the job might entail. The pride you show in a job well done is noticed by managers and customers. Be positive and cheerful, your co-workers will appreciate it and it helps reduce the burden of hard tasks. Finally, picture what success looks like. If you can see in your mind’s eye what the result will be, you are more likely to achieve it.
Perea: The 5“Be’s” – be available, be open, be steadfast, be aggressively patient, and most of all believe in yourself. As Latinos, we are often taught as part of our culture to put your head down and work hard and good things will happen. In my experience working hard is only one part of the recipe to success. Being open and available to new challenges, being open to a mentor’s advice and coaching, and being open to reinvention are all equally important. In today’s world, we expect immediate results, however, I’ve found that consistent performance, being able to be counted on, and aggressive patience can really pay dividends in a “choose your own adventure” company like Leidos, where the career possibilities are endless. Finally, believing in yourself and having the self-confidence to take on any challenge rounds out my 5 “Be’s” recipe… ¡Creer en ti mismo! (Believe in yourself!)
Sanchez: There are numerous opportunities to have continued growth in their careers here at Leidos, regardless of their unique skillsets. As in life, you should always strive to do your very best in everything that you do. Look for those stretch assignments, work as a team, be patient with your co-workers, and find a job that you enjoy doing. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and always continue learning and expanding your skills and capabilities.
How have your life experiences (cultural, family, community, etc.) shaped you into the person you are today?
Cane: From an early age, I was taught to appreciate and be proud of my Cuban heritage. The characteristics of a fun, loving and hard-working people were always apparent in our family reunions where love and loyalty to God, family and country were the foundation. ‘Better ourselves through education’ was a concept that was always instilled in me. I will never forget the phrase, “Knowledge and education is the only possession that no one can take away from you.”
Cheng: I was very fortunate to have parents who instilled in my siblings and me the great rewards and fulfillment that come from working hard. By giving your best every day, by knowing nothing is just handed to you, and that although there may be obstacles, you have to be persistent in going after something you are passionate about. It was their example that shaped my approach to every life challenge, and it has served me well. I grew up knowing that I could do anything I set my mind to, and that every problem has a solution if you work diligently to find it. I am also very lucky to work with a team of incredibly talented and dedicated folks. Lastly, I want to be a good example for my two daughters – I never want to let them down.
Estrada: My faith, my wife, and my family are at the center of my success. As a son of immigrants from Mexico, my parents stressed the importance of an education, and to be culturally aware of where we came from. Additionally, my wife is from Guatemala, and just like my own parents, they stressed to her the importance of a higher education. We pass on these same goals and experiences to our children so they can understand the struggles that my parents, and my wife’s parents made to come to the United States in order to have a better life.
Narro: We grew up with stories about how my grandparents made their way in this country, and how they made their way during the Great Depression. We were taught to be proud of our family, honor our family, and respect ourselves and the work we do. Lastly, we were taught that no matter the job, all work is valuable and should be respected.
Perea: My culture and traditions are deeply rooted and imbedded in who I am. I am proud of my heritage and what it has to offer. I grew up in a small town south of Albuquerque, NM where my family had settled well over 150 years ago. The cornerstone of the New Mexico I grew up in was built on Spanish, Mexican, and Native American traditions to include our faith, amazing food, a mixed language we call “Spanglish,” a love of our beautiful desert scenery, a sense of duty, simplicity, and familia (family). Today, my pride in my heritage is reflected in my academic achievements, my professional career, and most importantly in my family. I love my New Mexican upbringing and the values that have been instilled in me. To this day, I strive to make my family proud of who I am and the legacy I’ll leave behind.
Sanchez: Life gives us very valuable learning experiences! I feel that I have learned the most from my failures and life challenges, which have allowed me to grow as an individual and as a leader. My faith and community service continue to shape me by giving me an appreciation of life, and how precious and important family is as we advance in our careers.
What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you? Why is it important?
Cane: It is a time to commemorate the impact that Hispanics have and have had in our nation. Our presence dates back to 1513, with St. Augustine, Fla., being the first colonial settlement in North America, 94 years before the English settled in Jamestown, Va. The Hispanic presence in North America, whether motivated for economic reasons, to find a better life for their family, for political reasons, or fleeing an oppressive regime and reaching our land in pursuit of freedom and peace, adds some sparkle to this “melting pot” which is our United States.
Cheng: I truly wish there were no need for recognition of minorities at all, and recognition is not what drives my approach to my work. However, I realize there is inequity in the world, so it is important to shine a light on the many positive contributions Hispanics and any under-represented group of people bring to society and to the betterment of the human condition. I am proud to have had a part in advancing technology that helps keep our service men and women safe, and hope to continue to do so for many years to come.
Estrada: It represents a time for us to reflect on the positive strides that we have made as a culture, but also a time for us to continue to educate and encourage our children that we can provide so much more to this world as a Hispanic culture.
Narro: Remembering the sacrifices and challenges of prior generations in leaving their homeland to make the United States their home, and the home for their children.
Perea: It is extremely important for our community. According to the National Council of Hispanic Employment Program Managers, Hispanics constitute 17 percent of the nation’s total population and are the fastest growing segment of the population. We have a tremendous responsibility to our families, community, peers, and to our nation. In a world where we are constantly bombarded with bad news, it is important to recognize those who are a light in their communities, who strive for good, and lead by example.
Sanchez: It means celebration and is a time to embrace and share our culture with others. It is important as it gives us an opportunity to showcase those who are progressing in their careers or have taken on leadership opportunities in the company and in our community. This month also gives us opportunity to encourage others to continue pursuing their dreams while improving their skills as an employee.