Speaker Spotlight: Claritza Abreu
Updated: Mar 14, 2019
This week we're talking with Claritza Abreu, Vice President of Technology Risk Management at State Street Corporation.
Claritza serves many roles including Professor of Information Technology at Boston University and Cambridge College and CEO of LatInc Corporation, an information technology company that develop software to advance the Latino community.
Claritza’s professional profile and personal journey has been featured in national and local media; she has been distinguished with multiple important awards including the “Women to Watch” from the Boston Business Journal, 100 most influential Latinos in MA, “Excellence in Technology” by the MA Governor and as “Distinguished Alumni” by Boston University.
Claritza most recent accomplishment is the launch of the first mobile app LatInc.us for Latino students and professionals to connect, mentor, find jobs and development opportunities.
We spoke with Claritza to learn how her experience and her leadership style has been dedicated to promoting diversity of thought throughout her entire career.
Read the full spotlight below to learn more about Claritza and her professional journey from being an immigrant to a recognized leader in technology with her portrait featured in the “Dreams of Freedom” Boston’s Immigrant Museum.
What is your favorite leadership quote?
There are so many! Two that really resonate with me are -
"Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It's about impact, influence and inspiration" - Robin S. Sharma
"Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another." - John Maxwell
You don't need to be a president or a CEO - you can lead from anywhere to inspire and empower people.
What attracted you to your current industry and role?
My story started when I was a senior in high school. I grew up in the Dominican Republic and hospitality was all the rage. One day eating lunch at school, my math professor approached me and asked what I was doing when I graduated. He said I should be an engineer as his best student in math.
He asked me, "Do you know that engineers are the ones who build the world? "
I was like "Wow!", and that changed my mindset so when I graduated at 16 years old, I looked into engineering programs. I picked computer engineering and was so inspired to working alongside professionals, but a lot of my peers in computer science did not pursue a career even after receiving their degree.
What is the most important thing you have learned that has been critical to your career success?
There are really 3 things - Prepare, prepare, and prepare.
Whether is being prepared for an upcoming meeting or just to be aware of what is going on in either your department or in your company as a whole. Prepare yourself for the unforeseen future. Don’t wait for things to fall apart!
Don’t let things happen to you, make things happen for you.
What is your leadership style?
I am a very collaborative, results and relationship driven leader. I build very strong relationships with my team based on trust and accountability. Using that approach, I have always been able to deliver results better than expected because the team works harder to make things happen when they feel appreciated and valued.
How has your leadership style evolved as you’ve gained experience?
When I was a younger manager, I was not as conscious or dedicated to diversifying my team. I now make a much more concerted effort towards diversity when building teams because I have learned to appreciate and value diversity in the work place. The diversity of thoughts, approach, and ideas can only come from people of diverse backgrounds.
What advice do you have for aspiring leaders?
My advice is to always stay focused and have a career plan but remain flexible to allow you to jump into opportunities as they present themselves. Always talk it out with someone that can mentor you or give you good advice. I consider myself to be a risk taker, but I would say a calculated risk taker, I do my research and weight out different options with the help of mentors.
What tools or resources have you used that have been crucial to your success?
I learned early enough in my career to use process modeling and systems architecture design. My ability to understand and depict the big picture as well as the details on a graphical or visual artifact has been a crucial resource to my career.
What steps are you currently taking to improve yourself, professionally?
I am constant learner. I am currently working on getting CISSP certification (Computer Information Security Professional Certification) and I often participate in many professional and networking events to make sure I am aligned with what is trending in the industry and my community.
What is your proudest achievement?
In my professional career I had have many achievements that I feel very proud about, whether is as IT executive, IT Professor or community leader. I would say the one I feel most proud of are the relationships I had created over the years both professionally and in the local Boston community. Those relationships led to the creation and further development of my professional brand as a technology and community leader in Boston. People recognize me as what I love, a technology evangelist and as a mover and shaker supporting multiple causes for a better society.
What do you think needs to happen or have you seen done successfully in the past to create an inclusive workplace/corporate culture?
When I came here from the Dominican, I came from a non-diverse environment – we were all the same. It took me years to understand what diversity really meant.
There is a different mindset around culture when there is more diversity in the organization.
The key to this is diversifying at all levels of the organization, especially at the highest levels of the company. For example, at one the companies I worked at, when I joined the company I was the only female and person of color in the unit I was managing, which was the size of about 30 people. Over time I had the opportunity to hire more staff and I was able to diversify the unit 50% with members from different backgrounds. You have to be intentional about this; it is not a secret that people hire people they feel more comfortable with or have things in common with. As you diversify the top levels, the lower levels will also be impacted.
In addition to this, is the celebration of the different cultures by educating everyone about these and embracing them as part of the company culture. People fear of what they don’t know, so for me education is a key in creating an inclusive culture.
Want the chance to meet this amazing woman and hear her speak live? We thought so!
Register here for the upcoming Rise & Diversify breakfast on Tuesday March 26 - https://www.diversifythinking.com/event-info/rise-diversify-breakfast-claritza-abreu