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November 19, 2018 Community Excellence & Nonprofit Awards 2018

Paredes reinvents nonprofit promoting more Hispanics in corporate America

Photos | Contributed Tatiana Paredes (top photo) has helped improve member engagement at Prospanica Connecticut, a professional networking nonprofit that aims to place more Hispanics and Latinos in corporate America. The group hosts member events and a toy drive.

Next Generation Leadership — Winner: Tatiana Paredes, President, Prospanica Connecticut; Supplier Diversity Analyst, Stanley Black & Decker Inc.

Three years ago, Prospanica Connecticut, a professional networking nonprofit, had to rebrand and faced an uphill battle for members and member engagement.

Board member Tatiana Paredes, who took over as president in 2017, helped reshape a group dedicated to placing more Hispanics and Latinos in corporate America.

Paredes, 35, of East Hartford, and as of May a supplier diversity analyst for New Britain toolmaker Stanley Black & Decker Inc., recalls the nonprofit's change as fundamental.

Long-known as the Connecticut chapter of the National Society of Hispanic MBAs, a huge gap had been developing, not only with Hispanic students acquiring their MBAs, but with them finishing their bachelor's degrees.

Though, historically, the group boasted some 500 members, many were not truly active, said Paredes and Prospanica Executive Vice President Luis Valdez-Jimenez. Today, about 150 active members belong to the group, reflecting a strategy shift to “quality over quantity,” Valdez-Jimenez said.

“We had to reach out to our legacy members and notify them of the change,” he said of Paredes' role. “She has been effective in leading that widespread organizational change.”

In her volunteer role at Prospanica, Paredes also has partnered with the St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center food bank to give toys to children, and helped ensure that the board deploys local vendors when hiring for conferences and events.

Professionally, Paredes' work experience has been used in case studies and articles to share best practices in supplier diversity. She continues to participate in programs to help her develop, is a qualified medical interpreter, and has received the 2018 Buyer of the Year award from the Greater New England Minority Supplier Development Council.

Work ethic

Paredes was born in El Salvador and came to the United States at age 5. While working for St. Francis Hospital as a supplier diversity health equity and inclusion coordinator, she joined Prospanica in 2011 as a way to give back to the Hispanic community. As compliance officer and secretary from 2013 to 2017, she got involved wherever she could.

Inclusion is a key component of her work ethic, said Gaston Persano of West Hartford, a former Prospanica president.

“She can be working with a very senior person or a very junior person, but she has that warmth and engagement that allows her to connect with people easily,” Persano said.

She also focuses on offering events based on customer demand, such as the annual Employee Resource Group Summit, held this past September, in which she organized panels and speakers.

“During the planning, she made sure that every task had an owner,” Valdez-Jimenez said.

Valdez-Jimenez is one of Prospanica's success stories. He came from Madison, Wis., to a Prospanica conference in Connecticut that Paredes helped organize. It had a job fair component, and United Technologies Corp. of Farmington recruited him. Today, he is a supply chain contracts specialist with UTC Aerospace Systems.

Though Prospanica is a support network chiefly for Hispanics and Latinos, diversity and inclusion remain important. One Chinese board member speaks better Spanish than some Hispanic members, Paredes said.

Her latest accolade: She is bringing the national Prospanica team to Connecticut in February and hosting one of its first-ever regional summits.

There will be a career expo in which local companies can participate, and Stanley Black & Decker has committed to being involved, she said.

At age 29, Paredes was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Following treatment, she is in sustained remission and advises others in similar situations to be their own advocates, since her case was initially misdiagnosed.

That setback didn't hold her back. In fact, while managing a $30,000 budget, Paredes likes to try new things.

At the September Employee Resource Group Summit, Paredes offered an orientation to new members and used bingo cards to serve as ice breakers, forcing participants to meet new people.

“Events can become routine,” acknowledged Paredes. “People get bored.”

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