“I had to look it up, because it’s really an American Holiday,” said Luis Chavez, Lead Software Engineer, in the spirit of full disclosure.
After doing a bit of research, Luis was happy to talk about the sentiment behind National Hispanic Heritage Month and its impact.
“It’s important. It’s an opportunity to not only celebrate, but to promote the positive contributions that Hispanic people make to society,” said Luis.
Hispanic Heritage week was first written into law in 1968 by Lyndon B. Johnson, while Ronald Reagan approved its expansion to cover a 30-day period in 1988. The month covers the days between Sept. 15 and Oct. 15, celebrating the contributions people of Hispanic Heritage have made to society and commemorating several Latin American countries’ independence.
Luis is from Venezuela, and while his country’s independence doesn’t fall during this month, he still feels the significance that this month has. Despite being at TDS for about one year, Luis has spent plenty of time in the U.S. He was born in Florida and lived in the U.S. before moving back to Venezuela after just one year.
He came back to the U.S. as a high school exchange student in Massachusetts, but still returned to his home city of Barquisimeto—the third largest city in Venezuela. His final visit was a permanent one, as he moved to Florida to attend graduate school in 2001 and has lived in Madison since 2004.
When asked about his heritage, Luis continues to take things in stride, remaining patient and happy to share his story with others. “I’ve always thought communicating and talking openly about my background and culture helps break the social barriers that exist between people from different cultures,” said Luis.
Luis was confident that his comfortability extends to work as well. “I’m happy to share, and I enjoy talking about those differences and similarities. I enjoy getting people interested in that. I’m a pretty open book,” said Luis.
Luis is also interested in helping to diversify TDS. “The more the diversity and different backgrounds we have helps us solve problems from a broader view,” said Luis. (This is actually backed up by The Harvard Business Review)
Luis is involved in launching one of the newest Employee Resource Groups coming to TDS, the “Our Heritage ERG.” The scope of the new ERG is explained in a portion of the group’s charter below:
“The Primary purpose of the “Our Heritage” ERG is to advocate for employees of TDS Telecom through the celebration of cultural differences. This ERG will promote and educate employees by giving them a seat at the table, engaging multi-cultural communities, being advocates for diversity and inclusion, and raising cultural awareness and competence within TDS.”
“Our heritage ERG tries to join together different heritages. We’re all here in the U.S. from different backgrounds. I joined because I like to promote that. I want to help the Hispanic and Latino communities achieve higher grounds,” said Luis.
One of the things I’m most proud of when it comes to TDS is our ongoing effort to create an inclusive and diverse work culture. The journey is nowhere near complete, but this initiative seems to be genuinely supported by employees and leaders alike. TDS has four established Employee Resource Groups, with plans to add more in the coming months. ERGs have been crucial in finding ways to “Plant the Seeds of Inclusion.“
If you’d like to learn a little more about implanting Diversity & Inclusion practices at your company, check out this blog: Diversity: From reports to change agents to practical advice.