We must stay focused on our mission and the positive change we are effecting for the betterment of the Hispanic Community.
I was asked recently why we exist. The person’s point was interesting; she showed me the efforts companies go to recruit minority employees and the outreach efforts to get these candidates. She felt our work was duplicative to what the industry was doing. It was a good conversation. But in the end, she understood the value we add to what industry does, plus all the work we do that companies do not. She was impressed.
But that made me think…what do we do, and how laser focused are we on our mission given the chaotic world in which we live, and the turmoil we are experiencing every day.
In a nutshell, we raise money from industry and government, along with foundations, private donors, and special programs, so that we can ignite young Hispanic students to pursue a career in STEM, go to college, stay in college, graduate, and then help them find a job that meets their personal needs. In the process, we help better the lives of thousands of students and their families and help the Hispanic community reach its potential in this area. We are looking at expanding our offerings to include K-9 and 3 years after graduation all the way to C-suite. But we want to do this by partnering with other organizations that specialize in those areas, so that we can fully serve the Hispanic STEM community end to end.
We tried to do it all in the past and that diluted our efforts. By focusing on the area where we are best, -3 years from college to +3 years after college, we have become incredibly effective and in fact, our organization has grown by leaps and bounds during the last 5 years. We are effecting a positive change in our society larger than anyone could have imagined 5 years ago, and we are just getting started. We have an exciting bright future ahead of us and can help better the lives of so many more people with our work.
Which is why is critically important we stay laser focused on why we exist, why are we here, and what is it that we do that matters to the population we serve. This is becoming harder and harder every day. From our own internal tendency to proliferate programs and bring new offerings constantly, which at times causes us to dilute our focus as we did years ago when we tried to be all things to all people, to the constant external pressures that make us take the eye off the wheel.
Our programs are great, they add depth to the service we offer and offer a richer experience to our members. The issue is that while this is great, we are asked to create new ones all the time, some of which may not even be within our focus area. New programs create more overhead, which create more complexity, which requires more staffing and attention, which requires more money. Additionally, programs tend to take a life of their own and the program becomes the objective, not the benefit the program creates. So, we must maintain a balance between our increasingly rich experience for our members and the complexity level we create. We are in a good place right now, but we must stay vigilant to maintain a reasonable pace.
Our external forces are the more difficult ones to control because they either affect our ability to deliver our mission directly, like COVID, or tug at our heart and our social conscience, like the recent social events have done. Critically important, we can’t ignore either one. The first forces us to pivot to maintain our service level and quality. If we don’t, we can’t deliver our mission. Our staff is doing an outstanding job adjusting to the new reality and I am very impressed at how they have adapted. Next time you talk to someone in the staff thank them for keeping us on track despite COVID.
The social events forces are easier to control because they don’t hit us directly. However, are much harder to manage because they appeal to our social conscience of fairness and justice. They hit our heart and emotional empathy, and those are powerful drivers. We all want to fix the DACA issue, we all want justice for the people recently killed, we all want a stop to what is happening to minority communities, we all want to help, we want to work to end the situation.
Our challenge becomes how to be part of the solution society needs without losing our mission. If we reallocate all our energy to fighting social issues outside our mission, our mission stops and thousands of Hispanics across the nation could have a major setback in their plans to get ahead. Students would drop out of school for lack of funds, never finished college and their dreams shattered.
Our challenge is to find a way to register our support and help work those issues that hit us without losing focus on our mission, something directly in our control. We would be doing a disservice to our Hispanic community by dropping it in favor or working issues not in our control, and that we cannot deliver to fruition.
It is doable by the way; we can do this! It would take for example a chapter that decides to fund raise for a social cause to also fundraise for SHPE scholarship. Is not “either/or,” it has to be “and…”. Keep the focus on the mission and add helping others if critically important. But, to use the same example, we shouldn’t drop fundraising for SHPE in order to fundraise for a social cause outside the scope of our mission. As I said earlier, we can do this!
We have a bright future ahead of us, and we can continue increasing our impact on society by helping the Hispanic community reach its potential, to do that we must stay focused on our mission regardless of all the distractions thrown our way. It is why we exist.
Board Chair, SHPE