Director of Engagement
By: Frank Morris Lopez
Carlos Vasquez will never forget the first time he felt excluded as an immigrant here in the U.S. Originally from the Dominican Republic, Vasquez already had a wealth of professional experience. He had a law degree and worked in his home country as a paralegal, junior lawyer, lobbyist and director of legal affairs.
But when he came to the States, none of that mattered. “I was filling out an application for this position for which I was already overqualified,” he recalled. “And as I’m filling out the application form, it asks what law school I graduated from. It was a dropdown menu and only included U.S. schools. It was frustrating. It was the first moment of exclusion that I had. It minimized my qualifications, what I had, it basically reduced me to nothing.”
Thankfully, connections happen. A friend introduced Vasquez to the CEO and founder of Conexión in Boston, where he now works as the director of engagement. Conexión is a nonprofit that works to advance Latino leadership across business, nonprofit and government sectors. In his role, Vasquez now develops new connections for others through the organization’s early career and mid-career mentorship programs. He also works to create programming that promotes socio-economic wellbeing and wealth creation.
“I really believe all the experiences that you have lead to where you are,” Vasquez said. “I feel very honored to work with Hispanic/Latino professionals who are defeating the stereotype of what a Latino looks like — that we’re only ‘this’ or ‘that.’”
Since the demographic makeup of corporate America is largely “old white males,” Vasquez said, most of Conexión’s mentors also happen to be white men. “But it’s a beautiful process to witness,” he said. “The mentors are also learning from their mentees, defeating their own stereotypes and biases they might have toward Latino professionals.”
Two years ago, Vasquez was asked to join the Boston Children’s Museum President’s Council, where he’s been at the forefront of the museum’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. This year, he was named to the Board of Trustees.
“My message to other Latino professionals, other Latino leaders is your voice counts. Who you are has an impact and it’s needed,” Vasquez said. “A lot of Latino professionals don’t realize how amazing they are. Just remember, if there isn’t a seat at a table, bring your own chair.”