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National Society of Hispanic MBAs focuses on career, professional development

By April Miller  |  Photo by Doug Khrenovsky

The National Society of Hispanic MBAs boasts more than 30,000 members and 40 chapters. Founded in 1988 with a vision to be the “leading catalyst for Hispanic achievement by 2025,” the organization empowers Hispanic business professionals to achieve their full educational, economic, and social potential. The Cleveland chapter — more than 400 members — began in 2007.

Although MBA is in the organization’s name, possessing one is not mandatory for membership. Students, professionals, and executives are all welcomed to join, whether Hispanic or not. Members are at various levels in their careers: college students, MBA graduates, professionals, and executives.

“All people in the community can benefit from the career and professional development programs we offer,” Silvana Ochoa, the president of NSHMBA Cleveland, says, noting that scholarships and educational attainment programs are focused on the Hispanic community.

Ochoa, who came to the states 10 years ago from Colombia, says education is what opened doors for her here. “I came without knowing anybody and with $100 in my pocket, looking for better opportunities and to expand my horizons,” she says.

As an attorney in Colombia, she did not find the career transferable to the United States. Eight years ago she volunteered with NSHMBA, whose mission and benefits interested her. A fellow NSHMBA member helped Ochoa “to navigate the system and to believe it was possible for me to pursue graduate education,” she says. “The idea of getting a master’s degree in this country never crossed my mind.”

NSHMBA board member Sergio Eduardo de Ilzarbe adds that he believes Hispanic MBAs have their own set of struggles when they come to America. While the importance of the Latino population’s contribution to the economy is recognized, he says that there are many barriers when individuals want to enter the labor market. “Creating a good network of those who have been able to pass through those challenges is important. I believe that what NSHMBA does is then extremely important,” he says, “and I want to be part of it.”

Members have access to the online tool Nektpro, where they can tap a large network of member companies. It was created to connect job seekers with employers looking to increase the diversity of their workforce. Members also have access to other online tools that can help in managing their careers. In addition there are opportunities to attend free networking and professional development events. Members may also benefit from the society’s scholarship opportunities and university partnerships.

One initiative that engages with students at local universities is the Minority Business Case Competition, held each September. Open to students of Hispanic heritage with a 2.5 or higher GPA with any major, the winner receives a $500 cash prize, tickets to the NSHMBA 2015 End of the Year Celebration, and NSHMBA premium membership.

“The hands-on educational experience is designed to provide MBA students with the opportunity to apply assessment strategies and management competencies by providing solutions to an actual case, while contributing to the betterment of our community,” Ochoa says. “We engage local universities and local minority owned businesses for this initiative.”

Other events this year included An Evening at the Top of the Fed in August. Held in conjunction with the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland and the National Black MBA Association Cleveland Chapter, it featured Mark Schweitzer, senior vice president and director of research with the Federal Reserve, and gave attendees an opportunity to not only discuss economic outlook and monetary policy but to network with peers in banking, government and venture capital. The NSHMBA National Conference and Career Expo in Chicago was held in October, and November saw the group hold its fundraiser and end-of-the-year celebration.

Plans for 2016 include rolling out a mentorship program to help college and MBA students and continuing to make people aware of the organization. As a volunteer-based group, Ochoa says they are happy to hear from individuals and businesses interested in joining and working with the society, either those who wish to volunteer or serve as a board member.

“Sometimes the only thing you need is someone who shows you the way,” Ochoa says, “and that is what NSHMBA did for me. That is what we continue doing. My goal is to show the Hispanic community that education pays off and that it is attainable.”

For more information: nshmba.org/Cleveland

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