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Ileana Musa, Head of Global Client Segment and Strategy at Merrill Lynch.

Ileana Musa developing ALPFA Latina leaders for a global society

Ileana Musa, Head of Global Client Segment and Strategy at Merrill Lynch.

Ileana Musa, Head of Global Client Segment and Strategy at Merrill Lynch.

While traveling to Miami to receive our Hispanicize 2015 TECLA Award, I had the opportunity to meet personally with Ileana Musa for an exclusive interview. Ileana’s remarkable background precedes her: the Head of Global Client Segment and Strategy at Merrill Lynch, she formerly held leadership positions at Bank of America’s Global Wealth & Investment Management (GWIM) Banking group, BankBoston and JP Morgan Chase.

A soft-spoken small attractive Latina, she captivated me with her passion and conviction about the leadership role of Latinas in the corporate world, which speaks for her own story.

Ileana was born in Cuba, and came with her family to the United States in 1971 at the age of three. Raised by her single mom, who always instilled in her the eagerness to succeed through preparation and hard work, Ileana was awarded with a scholarship for her undergrad studies at University of Miami. She then pursued an MBA from Florida International University.  In 2004, she was sponsored for the Executive Development Program at the Kellogg School of Management. Ileana holds FINRA 4, 7, 24, 63 and 65 securities licenses, as well as her Life and Health Insurance license, and is Six-Sigma Greenbelt certified.

“Three years ago, my company encouraged me to represent them at the ALPFA Convention in Orlando. I was so inspired by their mission that I decided to get involved with the organization. Many ALPFA senior leaders impressed me for their aim at empowering Latinos–and specially women– to take the leadership role they deserve in the corporate world,” she said.

ALPFA, the former Association of Latino Professionals in Finances and Accounting, has recently been renamed as the Association of Latino Professionals For America, in a quest to expand their mission and influence to all industries and corporations where Latinos can play a headship role.

She was offered to jump on board joining ALPFA’s National Corporate Advisory Board. Six months later, she became the Chair of Women of ALPFA, the strategic initiative for leadership and empowerment of Latinas in corporate.

“I spent the last three years helping the organization increase its influence, as we launched a national platform for women and members to collaborate and share experiences. The 3-year strategy includes an umbrella theme, ‘Building the Legacy of Latina Leadership,’ with a specific focus for each year: the first year was The Power of Influence; the second, Using the Power of You, and the third one –currently underway–, Making an Impact in a Global Society,” she explained.

WOMEN OF ALPFA Building Impact in Global Society

The idea behind the initiative is to create and develop a competency model in which Latinas at all levels can acquire skills in each topic. The program sustains three tracks, an entry-level track for student Latinas, and mid- and senior-level tracks for those waiting in the pipelines.

Another important goal of the program was to conduct activities at a local level to encourage Latinas’ participation and attract corporate sponsors. With 135 university chapters and 43 professional chapters across the country, Women of ALPFA promoted the importance of Latina leadership by exploring these topics through a series of events that included panel discussions, presentations and networking. It was also an opportunity to provide its 23,000 members with a relevant voice.

“It was very important to work locally to convoke Latinas so they bring others along in every city. The program has three strategic pillars that are instrumental to their success: how we continue to develop Latina leaders in the workplace; how we connect these women; and how we leverage the Women of ALPFA brand so that companies can attract and retain Latino talent,” she said.

Ileana believes one of the most imperative aspects of the initiative is to connect Latino women, who bring extraordinary experience to the table.

“There is vast experience out there and many stories that need to be connected so we can help one another,” she noted. With the support of Charles Garcia, recently named ALPFA’s CEO, and Lori Ruff, Chief Brand Evangelist, the organization brings extraordinary value to corporate sponsors around the nation.

Ileana sustains that these corporate sponsors are very eager to engage because they understand that developing this talent will only reflect of their gain in Hispanic/Latino market share and employee retention.

Ileana Musa, Head of International Credit & Banking, Bank of America and Indhira Arrington, SVP, Diversity and Inclusion, Bank of America, receiving her Latina Style Magazine award.

Ileana Musa, Head of International Credit & Banking, Bank of America and Indhira Arrington, SVP, Diversity and Inclusion, Bank of America, receiving a Latina Style Magazine award.

“When corporate sponsors send their employees to an ALPFA event, and they experience a conference or summit for the first time, they become much more connected to their companies. They better understand the opportunities that might lie in front of them and become more committed to make them happen. It is really a win-win situation,” she shared.

Although Latinas are still sorely under-represented in the C-suite and under-recognized in corporate America, Cuban-born Ileana believes the future holds great possibilities for Latinas. “I believe that, as Latinas, we bring uncommon skills to the table. In addition to our technical and professional competence, we are naturally endowed with a special set of soft skills related to our understanding of a global culture, our creativity, our willingness to collaborate and to be inclusive in getting the work done,” she concluded.

Verve-Brand-Ambassadors-Flash-mob

Social media meets corporate: Become a Brand Ambassador

Verve-Brand-Ambassadors-Flash-mob

Brand Ambassadors have been around for many years – and they are everywhere. Visit any industry convention, sporting event, concert, or street fair and you will see the Brand Ambassadors working the floor. They are the high-energy men and women handing out samples, answering questions, passing out bumper stickers, and taking pictures with passers-by, among other activities.

Brand Ambassadors are everywhere because they work. They take the multi-million dollar corporations and put a human face on them. They are the smile, handshake, helpful answer, and compliment consumers remember when they think of the brand. But the best part about Brand Ambassadors is that they are ordinary people. They are effective because People Do Business With People!

Every company has a cadre of Brand Ambassadors ready for deployment. This group of people is called employees! Traditional Brand Ambassadors are required to have knowledge of the company history, its products, its culture, and its values. These are exactly the same things that employees already know – and live – each day. Danielle Molle, Principal and Marketing Director at Brand M Consulting LLC agrees. According to Molle, “Brand Ambassadors are huge to a company’s success – and the smaller the company, the more important they are.”

Organizations seeking to scale the benefits of social media must create a framework that treats every employee as a Brand Ambassador. Organizations should invest the necessary time and money to train and unleash their armies of influencers. With institutional knowledge in one hand and social media skills in the other, employees can act as the greatest form of Brand Ambassador.

Lori Ruff, ‎Chief Brand Evangelist, ALPFA.org,  LinkedIn & Social Media Authority, Advocating Transformative Professional Change

Lori Ruff, ‎Chief Brand Evangelist, ALPFA.org, LinkedIn & Social Media Authority, Advocating Transformative Professional Change

Employee = Brand Ambassador = Influencer = Brand Evangelist

Similar to the old school Brand Ambassadors working a convention floor, today’s social media-enabled Brand Ambassadors also represent the organization to the outside world. Today, social media has enabled Brand Ambassadors to use tools such as social networks, blogs, and other forms of social media to conduct their influencing activities.

Instead of relying solely on senior members of the organization to influence the marketplace through press releases, media interviews and other appearances, organizations can empower employees to go out and evangelize on behalf of the organization. Another important consideration is that the general public trusts its peers much more than it does a company CEO or other high-ranking company official. This makes employees much more influential than the highly paid CEO.

According to Tom Blackett in Brands and Branding (Bloomberg Press, 2009), “when employees are excited by the proposition they will help to sustain it and communicate it to customers, suppliers and others through their enthusiasm and commitment.” Therefore, to the extent that an organization can properly motivate its employees to act as Brand Ambassadors, employees can become an incredibly effective tool for influencing stakeholders. The maintenance of a strong cadre of Brand Ambassadors will result in a stronger brand, improved customer satisfaction, increased revenue, and strong financial results.

According to blogger Mike Bailey (“Beyond Engagement: Unleashing the Power of Employee Advocacy), “on average, when employees share something with their social networks, each one reaches 20 times more people than a typical brand sharing with the same number of followers.” This makes employee Brand Ambassadors not only a good idea, but a profitable idea.

Chief Brand Ambassador

Susana G Baumann, LIBizus (L)  with Nelly Galan, Adelante Movement, Brand Ambassador for Coca- Cola (R)

Susana G Baumann, LIBizus (L) with Nelly Galan, Adelante Movement, Brand Ambassador for Coca-Cola (R)

An effective social media-enabled Brand Ambassador Program requires a champion at the highest level of the organization. Effective Brand Ambassador programs that rely on the organization’s employees must have the owner, CEO, or some other top ranking individual act as the CBA, or Chief Brand Ambassador.

The Chief Brand Ambassador must ensure that the organization gives more than just lip service to the Brand Ambassador Program. The Chief Brand Ambassador must invest appropriate resources into the program, expect results from the program, hold people accountable for results, integrate the program into the organization’s overall sales and marketing strategy, and acknowledge the program as vital to the success of the organization. The Chief Brand Ambassador must believe that social media combined with employee ambassadors can create an intangible asset that can produce very tangible results.

In order for the social media-enabled Brand Ambassador Program to succeed the organization’s leaders must believe in the power of social media. An organization that treats social media as a fad or a waste of time will have a difficult time convincing employees of its power to influence and will not achieve success.

However, Parker Hannifin‘s Wendy Soucie, Global eBusiness Social Media Manager, warns about expecting too much too quickly. Soucie believes that expecting immediate accountability and results “is great for an advanced organization heading down the social business path, but for those early in their organizing, resourcing, and planning stages, jumping on Brand Ambassador programs before you have elevated the entire organization could be a nightmare. Especially if they do not have the resources of people to watch and listen to know when something heads south.”

The Chief Brand Ambassador, therefore, must expect results and assign accountability, but only after ensuring that the effort is in qualified hands and that an adequate road map and foundation has been established to ensure organizational success.

Panel “Uncap Your Happiness” presented by Coca-Cola at Hispanicize 2015 including celebrities such as Maria Celeste, Host of Telemundo “Al Rojo Vivo;” Nataly Arias, Women’s Colombian National Team Soccer Player; and Nelly Galan, The Adelante Movement.

Panel “Uncap Your Happiness” presented by Coca-Cola at Hispanicize 2015 including celebrities such as Maria Celeste, Host of Univision “Al Rojo Vivo;” Nataly Arias, Women’s Colombian National Team Soccer Player; and Nelly Galan, The Adelante Movement.

 

(This is an excerpt from a post published on LinkedIn Pulse on April 2014)