Local Profile is kicking off 2020 with its first ¡EXITOS! Leadership Summit, an event that aims to celebrate Hispanic and Latinx leaders who work in the Dallas area. At the event, five successful business people will participate in a panel discussion and present their own speeches: Merary Simeon, Alejandra Gonzalez, Jaime Montemayor, Javier Moreno and Ana Rodriguez. There’ll also be cocktails and time to network.

Philip Silvestri, president and publisher of Local Profile, says representatives from businesses of all sizes, nonprofits and media organizations are especially encouraged to attend the inaugural event.

Through putting on ¡EXITOS!, Silvestri wants to start a conversation on diversity in the business world and give Latinx leaders a platform to share their stories. “How often do you see Latinos in the forefront?” he asks. 

Silvestri says this is the first of five diversity-focused events that are planned for this year. Three other conferences will feature women of color, LGBTQ+ leaders and women in business, and one event will delve into the topic of mental health.

The summit will be held Jan. 31 from 2 to 4:30 p.m. at Frisco Hall, 5353 Independence Parkway. Tickets are $55 and can be found at eventbrite.com.

Merary Simeon, North America vice president of diversity and engagement, PepsiCo

Simeon, the summit’s keynote speaker, got her start in the corporate world when Mrs. Jackie Bolden, one of Simeon’s teachers, recommended Simeon for a cooperative education program with the pharmaceutical company Warner-Lambert Inc. during her senior year.

Simeon was the first person in her family to graduate from high school and college. “I think that the key thing is that somebody took the chance,” she says. “She saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself at the time.” 

After nine years at Warner-Lambert the company also paid for her to get her bachelor’s degree in business administration Simeon went on to work for Prudential Financial, Revlon and then at Frito-Lay, a division of PepsiCo. 

Frito-Lay asked her to move to the North Texas area in 2008 to serve as a human resources executive for 17 of the company’s manufacturing plants stationed in the western United States. She then oversaw 15 plants in the eastern U.S. for four years. Since the company created her current role in 2018, Simeon is on the road about 50% of the time, traveling across the United States to promote the company’s diversity initiative.

When asked what her greatest accomplishment is, Simeon gets excited. Simeon set up a partnership between PepsiCo and Centenary University in New Jersey to bring a four-year bachelor’s degree program directly to employees who were too busy to attend a traditional school or could not afford program fees. Eighteen out of 20 employees graduated from the program and were able to get promotions and move onto better jobs. A few even went on to get their master’s degrees.

“I truly believe that when you invest in somebody’s education, you change their lives,” she says.

Simeon thinks ¡EXITOS! is a great opportunity to bring local Hispanic talent together. 

“I don’t think we realize how much power we have as Hispanics and Latinos in our community,” says Simeon. “We need more role models, and we have to change the face of leadership. If we don’t lift ourselves up, then who will?”

Jaime Montemayor, founder and CEO, DosDos Technologies

Montemayor, who was born and raised in Mexico and earned his master’s degree in computer science at Stanford University, paid his own way through college. He spent most of his career at PepsiCo, working there for 21 years in seven different roles. 

In 2018, he decided to do something he’d always wanted to do: start his own company. He founded DosDos Technologies, a consulting firm that helps businesses develop information technology and digital strategies, with the aim of growing the companies’ overall value.

At ¡EXITOS!, Montemayor wants to talk about the importance of mentoring and learning from the experiences of others. 

“That’s my first objective, is just to be able to tell my story about what I’ve done in the past and where I’m going, and see if I can inspire people to bring about change,” Montemayor says.

Javier Moreno, senior manager of corporate strategy and growth, Toyota Financial Services

Moreno was born and raised in Puerto Rico and moved to Pennsylvania during his senior year of high school to learn English and attend college. In 2003, during his second year at Penn State University, Moreno was elected national president of the Future Farmers of America — the first person with a native language other than English and the first Puerto Rican elected to this office. 

Throughout his career at Toyota, Moreno has served in 11 different roles, including as an assistant manager of global communications in Japan. In 2017, he was chosen to build his own team in Plano and worked to establish Toyota as a new corporate citizen in Collin County through marketing initiatives and government collaboration.

Moreno says he’s very fortunate to be a part of the Toyota mission. “Essentially, I’m in a place where I feel empowered due to the company’s culture, foundational pillars and respectful people.”

Ana Rodriguez, managing director, Latino Leadership Initiative at the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University 

After graduating from the Cox School of Business as a first-generation college student, Rodriguez worked for the Bank of America and then served as the executive director of Anita N. Martinez Ballet Folklorico in Dallas.

Rodriguez eventually returned to SMU in 2017 to lead the Latino Leadership Initiative, which aims to help local middle and high school students get ready for college by hosting events featuring leaders from companies across the country.  

At ¡EXITOS!, Rodriguez plans to present research-based information that proves that the more diverse a company is, the better and more successful it will be. 

“There is a competitive advantage for companies that are diverse [and] have diversity within their leadership ranks,” she says. 

Update 1/30/20: a previous version of this article incorrectly stated the number of manufacturing plants that Merary Simeon oversaw as a human resources executive for Frito-Lay. We apologize for the error.

Audrey Eads

Audrey Eads is a freelance writer based in Richardson. She has also written for the Dallas Morning News, Austin Monthly and the Rockford Register Star. She enjoys cooking, trying new restaurants, watching...