Todos somos, somos uno: Unity through allyship and empowerment

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Hispanic Heritage Month is observed in the United States each year from September 15 to October 15, celebrating the cultures and contributions of Americans of Spanish, Mexican, Caribbean, and Central and South American ancestry.

October 2023

Nitin Gaur

Jeanet Ladino-Otero
Vice President, Workforce Planning and Insight, State Street

Todos somos, somos uno: We are all, we are one. This year’s theme for national Hispanic Heritage Month is embodied by Jeanet Ladino-Otero, a vice president at State Street with an inspiring career path, and a mission to empower others as she grows.

Hispanic Heritage Month is observed in the United States each year from September 15 to October 15, celebrating the cultures and contributions of Americans whose ancestors hail from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. In a world that is increasingly more polarized, Hispanic Heritage Month, and Jeanet’s journey, remind us of the power and importance of unity and solidarity.

A challenging (but rewarding) start
Jeanet came to the United States from Colombia when she was 22 years old. At that formative time, she confronted cultural differences, a language barrier, and the challenge of keeping her student visa. She also had to figure out her identity in a new country. “Seeing myself in a different culture was a challenge,” she says. “You’re not from here and not from there — you’re trying to figure out who you are and how you fit in the world.”

Jeanet’s career began modestly: She worked in catering while attending college. This meant waking up at 3 a.m. to go to work, rushing to class, then heading back to work for a second shift. In addition to receiving a bachelor’s degree in computer science, Jeanet acquired customer service skills and a strong work ethic during those years. “I learned that every relationship matters, no matter who the person is,” she says. “You have to be friends with everyone, from the dishwasher to the manager.”

These lessons would serve Jeanet well as she began to climb the corporate ladder. She earned her master’s degree in information technology and e-commerce in 2003 and started working in that field in Boston. Fifteen years ago, Jeanet came to State Street as a security administrator, and is celebrating a career milestone of sorts this year. As she puts it, it is her “quinceañera” at State Street. For those who are unfamiliar, a quinceañera is an important tradition in the Latin culture that celebrates a 15-year-old girl’s transition into adulthood. Jeanet considers the last 15 years of professional growth at State Street to be as significant and formative as the first 15 years of her life. She credits colleagues, mentors and managers for giving her the confidence to succeed at State Street.

In particular, a former manager and mentor stands out. He taught Jeanet that she did not have to ask for permission in her career; she could be the boss and fully own her decisions. “That was the first ‘aha’ moment of my life,” Jeanet recalls. “He believed in me 100 percent and made a huge difference in my career.”

Unity and allyship
The encouragement and support she received from her mentors and managers had a lasting impact on Jeanet and inspired her to pay it forward with colleagues. When she served as Chair of State Street's Latin American Professionals Group (LAPG) from 2020 to 2021, she focused on encouraging all members to seize opportunities and achieve their potential.

“When I became LAPG chair, I had the freedom to make the role my own and shape the group’s direction,” she says. “This experience helped to shape my leadership skills in a great way. I learned to actively listen to what the members needed and wanted, so we could deliver results as a team. Most importantly, I learned that I could speak up not by raising the volume of my voice, but by smartly raising my opinion and the opinion of those I am representing.”

The LAPG is dedicated to ensuring Latinx employees can celebrate their cultures and diversity while feeling valued and engaged in the workplace. The group not only helps drive employee engagement, professional development and talent retention at State Street; it is also helping empower the community. LAPG partners with local organizations that are helping to uplift the Latinx community and communities of color through education, social services and financial literacy.

Jeanet transitioned as LAPG chair last year, but she remains committed to empowering her colleagues. She currently serves as Global Co-Chair of State Street’s Professional Women’s Network (PWN), an employee network dedicated to empowering, inspiring, developing and retaining women at State Street. With more than 4,000 members across 13 countries, PWN helps advance women’s careers through mentorship and sponsorship programs.

To young Hispanic professionals who are getting started in their careers, Jeanet recommends finding allies, as she has done countless times in her career. “Opportunities are there; you just need to figure out how to navigate them,” she says. “There is always someone who will help you navigate if you take the risk and push forward. Don’t be afraid of asking for help — you will be surprised at how many people are willing to lend a hand.”

Working toward progress for all
There are 63.7 million Hispanic people in the US as of 2022, making it the country’s largest racial or ethnic group — 19.1 percent of the population, according to the US Census Bureau. The Hispanic community contributes richly to the American experience in “a million different ways,” Jeanet points out. “The opportunities are there, and we work for them.”

This Hispanic Heritage Month and beyond, Jeanet is laser-focused on empowerment for her community. “We are one together,” she says. “If we do not support each other, then we can do nothing.” She wants the theme of this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month — celebrated by the LAPG with events, such as leadership panels and cafecitos (coffee and conversation) that highlight the diversity and richness of the Hispanic culture — to inspire her colleagues and peers throughout the year.

“We can all empower each other by supporting each other in every way,” she says.


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