Director of Supplier Diversity and Sustainability, Microsoft
Fernando Hernandez is the Director of Supplier Diversity and Sustainability for Microsoft. For him, this means he has “a really great job”. On one hand, he has supplier diversity, which he says means he intentionally seeks out businesses owned by minorities, women, veterans, and people in the LGBTQ community, and incorporates them into the Microsoft supply chain. On the other hand, he works with sustainability, which includes both environmental and social aspects. He focuses on “eliminating things like carbon, being sure that we’re mindful with our use of water and other precious resources…” recycling, and building green and blue buildings. On the social side, he works to make sure “we as a corporation are responsibly sourcing all products and services from good, different vendors…basically do-no-harm,” and making sure they give back to the communities they work with.
Hernandez believes he has been so successful because he is very empathetic. He grew up in inner city New Jersey, and knew how people budgeted for communication technologies such as cell phones. This knowledge led him to genuinely want to create products to serve these people. He says, “you’ll find in me a very different person than you’ll typically find in supplier diversity or sustainability…you’ll find someone who’s been a business person all his life.” Beginning his career as a commercial real estate broker in New York, Hernandez moved to AT&T for sales, marketing, and business development. He ended up “creating multi-cultural marketing in the U.S. for AT&T in the early 90’s”. Eventually, his passion and success in these markets led him to think about how he could give back. He worked in supplier diversity at AT&T and then Microsoft, both of which he brought to a gold standard. He considers being able to give back a blessing, and says, “This is who I am. This is my real passion.”
Hernandez has dyslexia, and growing up he remembers being most entertained by watching biographies and wanting to be like the people in them. Kindergarten was a kind of wake up call, though, when he realized he was different from most kids because it was so challenging for him just to spell his own name. It was “very distressing,” and brought on a lot of “tears, embarrassment, and feelings of being inadequate.” He says, “It was a struggle because as a child, you don’t understand it. So you’re trying to understand yourself, trying to fit in, plus on top of that here I am, this Hispanic kid in 1963 in kindergarten so there wasn’t a lot of us there, you know, so it was an awkward, difficult time.” He eventually learned how to work around it, though, and was finally diagnosed in college. He says “it kind of all made sense then.”
From having dyslexia, Hernandez says, “I learned to look at life very differently…it taught me to be an incredibly creative person.” He says he has learned to be a problem solver, to effectively work collaboratively, and what his skills are. He also says, “It’s made me a much more, I think, loving and compassionate person, and a much more spiritual person because I’ve had to lean on God…it’s made my faith much stronger.”
Hernandez believes there are many positives to having dyslexia, including creativity, the ability to delegate, and better strategic direction. He also says that, personally, “it made me a better communicator, and more authentic…I don’t hide anything anymore, so it’s helped me as a human.” Another positive is being able to conquer fear, especially the fear of having a learning difference; “you get to the point where you go beyond the fear of having dyslexia…you, in a sense, challenge it, and it’s freeing.”
Today, Hernandez says dyslexia is “still an annoyance…I can’t compose written material as fast as I would like.” He says, “There is still fear, uncertainty, and doubt in my written communication and spelling”. However, it has forced him to become a better oral communicator, making him very good at speaking to crowds in an authentic manner, and in a way that comes from the heart. He says, “what I worry about is not us, as adults, it’s the young kids. Because the young kids do not have the coping skills, they don’t have the strength yet to push back,” and stand up for what they need. He believes “we need a lot of successful role models to come forth. So I think there should be a call to action in our community.”
For young adults with learning differences, Hernandez says, “know you’re perfect the way you are”, and “ask for what you need. It’s okay.” He also says to, “find mentors that have the same life experiences as you have, so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Learn early on so you can have a fuller life earlier on.”