CEO Connect with Monica Hernandez (Transcript & Photos)

Originally born in Colombia, Monica Hernandez has been in the information technology and consulting industry for more than 17 years. She’s the founder and CEO of MAS Global in Palm Harbor.

As a consultant, she’s had the chance to work with top United States experts, and talented teams, to serve the highest demands from global customers who are looking for expertise and guidance to meet their goals, deliver on schedule and be on budget.

MAS Global is a woman-owned, and Latina-owned, business that does $10 million-plus in revenue. It works with teams in Latin America and throughout North America.

Bridgette Bello, CEO and publisher of TBBW, interviewed Hernandez in front of a live audience at the Tampa Club. (Photos below)

Let’s talk about the best thing that has happened as a result of being on the cover of TBBW in March?

Hernandez: I think everyone wants to feel that they belong somewhere. I’ve been in the U.S. for 20 years now, but five of those in Florida and being on the cover, and meeting so many great people and business leaders, just makes you feel like you’re a part of the community. That’s what beautiful about Tampa—the diversity we have and the inclusiveness of our area.

Any breaking news to share? I know you just won a very large contract and you weren’t sure if you would be able to talk about it. 

Hernandez: We did. We just got the contract yesterday. Our company, MAS Global, has been growing very fast. One of the other things that happened was Inc. magazine, which lists the fastest 5,000 companies in the U.S., and we have been on the list for two years in a row, in 2020, they’re supposed to publish the list in two weeks [this interview took place on July 30], but MAS Global will be on the list. [Ranked 2,757 in 2020].

This is the perfect collaboration between talent right here locally, in the U.S. and Florida, as well as Latin America. And just helping companies here on their digital journey. As an immigrant Latina, to be on that list and be able to provide opportunities for people in my home country, and now my adoptive country, feels great.

It’s amazing that during this time so many businesses are struggling, it’s hard for them to figure out how to react to something so shocking, and new, and unprecedented. For us, we are in technology and we’re fortunate because this accelerated the need for some companies to say, “We need to go all-in with digital.” And it’s a matter of how do you want to react? Because it is a different business environment.

But when we have those relationships that we’ve developed over the years, it’s easier to have this conversation and figure out how to make it work in this environment that we are finding ourselves in.

These are weird times and running a business, for all of us, is weird regardless of the industry that we’re in. There just isn’t anything we could have done to prepare for this. Talk about how you and your team have learned to be lean and innovate during the crisis?

Hernandez: As a leader, first you want to make sure you take care of your team. That everybody is safe and that you listen to what their concerns are because you don’t want to be talking about deliverables and deadlines when everybody is worried about their health, or what they are going to do about having their kids at home and school. It’s just a really stressful time, so leading with empathy is really important.

Showing that you care and that you truly, genuinely want to know how you can help, they will go through walls for you if you do that.

That was the first thing for us. To make sure that we could work effectively from home. That our employees had what they needed to be effective and being in technology, for us, was not that hard of a transition because we were already used to working partially remotely.

Then it was how do we make sure that our clients feel that we are still being able to deliver effectively. Even when our consultants, in the U.S., are working from home. That’s where relationships really play out because you build trust over time.

So now, regardless of where you are working, they know that you are there to help with the challenges that they are facing.

Once we did that, we asked ourselves, “How do we take advantage of the opportunities that are new because of this?”

If we are a technology company and we are business leaders, then what can we do? Let’s not be victims of the circumstances. What can we do differently? How do we adapt? And when our clients started coming to us saying, “Cash is king and we need to preserve, but we want to make sure we continue building these digital capabilities. What can we do?”

That’s when it’s time for us to be really creative. I went back to my team and said, “How are we going to do this?” That was one of the challenges one of our clients told us about. They wanted to deliver the same thing for less cost, which I’m sure is a similar scenario for most people. In my mind, I knew that there was no choice, so I said, “Challenge accepted.” We will go figure it out. Failure is not an option.

I think having that mindset is a sort of Latina stubbornness, I guess. [Laughs.] It’s that determination that I also learned from my mom. My mom was an entrepreneur and had her small business with her sewing machine, and it’s a lot of hard work. It’s a part of our Latina values.

I think we’re actually in a better place than we were before the crisis. We’re growing, we’re hiring and we’re thinking about new opportunities.

We’re also trying to figure out if we are having these great opportunities, how do we help others? As a woman-owned business, we’ve helped other women-owned businesses to build their own digital capabilities. That’s important as leaders. Once we take care of our people and we figure out how to be innovative and take care of our clients, how do we reach out and what can we do to make sure the community is taken care of.

How has having relationships and a strong reputation influenced what has happened with MAS Global during this time?

Hernandez: It’s been key. As a mid-sized company we have around close to 200 employees around the world, between the U.S., Mexico, Argentina and Colombia. In our space, we compete with large companies that have very close relationships with the CEO level of Fortune 500 companies. We need to make sure that we constantly work on those relationships and a crisis is not the time to do that. You have to do that before, because it’s not the time to say, “Hi, what do you need? How can I help you?”

If you’ve always been there for them, bring value and listen to their needs, then when this sort of crisis happens, they know they can rely on you.

TBBW convened a conversation about diversity and inclusion, and the importance of that. I think to a certain degree, we think these issues don’t affect us here in Tampa, but they do. We did your interview in late January or early February and a tremendous amount of the time you spent talking about the importance of diversity and inclusion. As leaders that needs to be a part of our leadership and hiring strategy. Talk a little bit about that. 

Hernandez: The way I look at diversity is not just diversity but inclusion. How do we all, each of us, create a truly inclusive environment? I always tell my team, it’s not just a philanthropic thing to do, it’s not just the right thing to do but it makes business sense. Because the more global we become, the more diversity of thought we need.

Everyone together is certainly going to come up with better solutions to the problems that we face. All of us need to be sure we’re keeping that in mind. If you go around the room, everyone probably agrees that it seems like the right thing to do but what are we doing about it?

Each one of us can make sure we are checking our own biases. I have a 6-year old and a 9-year old, and they’re American and they’re Latino, and I want them to talk to everybody and I want them to speak multiple languages and learn about multiple cultures.

We have such great diversity and we all have a great contribution. Each group has its impact on the economy and we’re creating businesses. If we all work together and make sure we’re advancing and going in the right direction, as a whole, that will make our community better.

Photos by Ryan Gautier

ABOUT CEO CONNECT

TBBW’s series is an exclusive, invitation-only, event that brings together Tampa Bay area’s top business leaders to meet and mingle. Pilot Bank was presenting sponsor, and The Tampa Club was host sponsor. DCE is TBBW’s production partner.

The evening begins with a cocktail reception for about 130 guests, followed by an interview of that month’s cover CEO.  Due to COVID, the events are

Partnering with TBBW provides an opportunity to network with the area’s business elite, generate new business opportunities and increase brand awareness.

For information about event sponsorship opportunities, email Jason Baker at [email protected]

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