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The Value of Representation and Leadership for Latino and Hispanic Industry Professionals

Nov 7, 2023
Headshots of Jose Bustamante, Will Flores, Lisa Pompei

Hispanic Heritage Month – which is celebrated each year from September 15 to October 15 and pays tribute to the rich histories, diverse cultures, and significant contributions of those with Hispanic ancestry from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central, and South America – is a wonderful opportunity to highlight the importance of celebrating our community’s voices every day. Diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives should be a year-round commitment. In this edition of STV Stewardship, STV’s Jose Bustamante, P.E., vice president of national business development; Will Flores, senior vice president for our transportation northeast team; and Lisa Pompei, business development and marketing services manager for transportation northeast, talk about the importance of representation and leadership roles for Latino and Hispanic professionals in our industry.

Jose Bustamante: Being in the Room is No Longer Enough

As the largest minority group in the United States, Latinos deserve more than just a seat at the table. Within the transportation industry specifically, Hispanic communities rely heavily on public transit for access to work, education, and healthcare. Public transportation fuels economic growth and offers opportunities for our communities, including small businesses, construction jobs, and technical training, making our representation in this industry essential.

I have faced challenges as a Latino in the United States, which motivates me to become a better member of the American fabric, to contribute positively and to make lives better, which is the most rewarding satisfaction. Thanks to STV’s support, I am engaged with key industry organizations, including the American Public Transportation Association, American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC), Latinos in Transit, Women’s Transportation Seminar, and Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO). My involvement with these organizations allows me to advocate for my professional colleagues, as well as the Latino community.

I’ve had a strong working relationship with Sound Transit and various other transit providers throughout the United States in my current and past roles. At a virtual lunch and learn that celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month, which was hosted by Sound Transit’s Latinos in Transportation Council, I discussed the importance of representation as well as having the opportunity to share our culture, traditions, and the rich history we have across the world, particularly in North America. The energy from the group was compelling. I was glad to see the diversity in so many young faces, both men and women, which tells me our early career Latino leaders are on track to lead us into the future.

I also highlighted the need for young professionals to explore various career paths before committing to their chosen one. In doing this, we will collectively create more success and leadership within the Latino community. While we may face challenges, commitment, discipline, and consistency in this profession leads to unexpected rewards. A transportation career transforms lives, fosters enduring connections, and leaves a lasting positive impact. So, my advice to anyone going down this career path is, if you are in it, keep moving forward and never glance back.

In the face of adversity, focus on your goals, and embrace setbacks and failures as learning opportunities. Nothing happens without commitment, and as Latinos, we need to dedicate ourselves to having a voice.

Will Flores: A Festivity of Diversity and Belonging

It was a typical Friday after work when the usual hustle and bustle of New York City transformed into a celebration of diversity and belonging at the COMTO New York Hispanic Heritage Month event.

Group photo at the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO) New York Hispanic Heritage Month event

As a Latino growing up in New York, I appreciate the paths paved by great Latinos like Fernando Ferrer, who served as the Bronx Borough President from 1987 to 2001. Hispanic Heritage Month offers a chance to acknowledge the remarkable leaders in the New York Metropolitan area. In my Peruvian culture, we cherish family gatherings with culinary delights like ceviche and arroz con pollo. We also enjoy the vibrant rhythms of Cumbia, Salsa, and Merengue.

During this month and other heritage months, it’s important to take the time to learn more about other cultures, attend various events, and celebrate the beauty of diversity.

I had the pleasure of hosting the COMTO event, inspiring the theme “Latinos: Driving Prosperity, Power, and Progress in America.” Speakers included Leticia Caviness, Chief of Staff for the Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer at the Port Authority of NY & NJ; Lt. Francisco Colom-Brana, Deputy Chief of the Enforcement Sector, NY Enforcement Division, U.S. Coast Guard; Yvonne Lopez-Diaz, Vice President, National Workforce Strategist at HNTB; Julissa Gutierrez, Chief Diversity Officer at New York State; and Luis Vazquez, President of the Long Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

As we celebrate our achievements and the progress we’ve made, it brings to light the importance of having diverse voices and how as a collective we can envision a better future for all of us.

Lisa Pompei: Connecting and Celebrating With My Colleagues

At a recent virtual roundtable hosted by STV’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Council, we discussed the impact of Hispanic and Latino Americans on the AEC industry. Joining me were colleagues Serena Tsui, civil engineering specialist; Mike Rogerio, vice president for construction engineering inspection; and Jaime Aguilar, associate vice president and project manager for the San Antonio transportation group. Despite our diverse backgrounds, we all emphasized the importance of representation.

During this panel discussion, I was eager to learn and share. As first-generation professionals, we should regularly introduce STEM to elementary school students with hands-on experiments. Our unique and shared stories allowed me to connect with new people at STV, including Serena, who sits just a few feet away from me in our New York office.

One thing Serena said that stuck with me was, ‘It wasn’t about the history of Hispanic Heritage Month but more about the stories of our people and their backgrounds that I wouldn’t have otherwise known.’

I can relate. Although I celebrate it every day, I only recently learned about Hispanic Heritage Month. It’s significant to me that we celebrate one of the largest workforce groups in the U.S., promoting diversity, enhancing understanding, embracing mentoring, and fostering respect for one another. I’m thrilled to see the increasing number of Latinos/Hispanics in this industry.

About Our Authors

Jose Bustamante, P.E., is vice president of STV’s Transportation Northeast. Bustamante has had several roles with the organization, including business development at a national level and regional management responsibilities. Currently, he is part of Corporate Development, which closely collaborates with all the geography leads to help map STV’s strategic direction. Bustamante also serves on APTA’s Executive Committee. He has served APTA as a business industry leader in various capacities over the past 20 years and is responsible for the general oversight and guidance of the association’s business and staff.

Will Flores is the senior vice president of STV’s Transportation Northeast. With more than 25 years of experience leading major transportation infrastructure initiatives throughout the New York region, Flores manages relationships with some of STV’s largest clients, oversees operations for the transportation practice in New York. He has been instrumental in several high-profile projects, including the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Capital Construction Second Avenue Subway Phase 2, Long Island Rail Road Elmont Design-Build, and the New York State Department of Transportation Alexander Hamilton Bridge Design-Build. He is an active member of ACEC’s New York Chapter and the New York Building Congress.

Lisa Pompei is the business development and marketing services manager of STV’s Transportation Northeast. With more than 30 years of experience in proposal management, client and community relations, strategic and event planning, and corporate communications, Pompei brings a positive energy and attitude to the team for successful collaboration and implementation of project tasks. Pompei received her master’s degree in management information systems from Iona University and her undergraduate degree from Pace University Lubin School of Business.