Words and stories flow easily from Fernando Hernandez’ mouth, even when you talk to him for the first time. He’s definitely a people person. And it’s even clearer that he’s a visionary who is extremely passionate about supplier diversity.
Hernandez, director of supplier diversity, global procurement group, Microsoft Corp., is the 2014 recipient of the Robert M. Stuart Leadership Award. It is named after the first chairman of the board of the National Minority Supplier Development Council and is bestowed on individuals for their “overwhelming support and generosity that elevates the entire NMSDC network.” Hernandez accepted the award at the NMSDC Leadership Awards Gala on May 21 in New York City.
Hernandez, who first joined NMSDC in 1999, is no stranger to supplier diversity successes. He began his career in multicultural marketing at AT&T in New Jersey and later moved to supplier diversity where he directed the telecommunication company’s $1 billion program. After AT&T, he moved to the Pacific Northwest to work for Washington Mutual.
In 2006, he was recruited by Microsoft. Senior executives there challenged him to increase the company’s diversity spend, then at only $622 million, and develop a three-year strategic plan. While others may have shied away from such a monumental task, Hernandez tackled it with gusto. He accomplished the request in just two years, increasing Microsoft’s spend to $1.5 billion. Today, thanks largely to Hernandez’ leadership, the software company has completely embraced diversity and is on track to spend $2 billion with MWBE suppliers by June.
Hernandez said he finds technology fascinating and investing in minority-owned technology companies and seeing them flourish is one of the best things about his job. He feels like a “proud papa” when he recalls how small many of the MWBE vendors were when they first started out with Microsoft and how they have been able to scale and grow under his tutelage.
One of the keys to his successful career has been his positive, can-do attitude. Hernandez said he does not put limitations on himself and that helping others is “addictive.” He is especially pleased to see how communities are impacted in a meaningful way, as is society in general, by Microsoft’s diversity efforts. He’s also a firm believer that good things happen to those who help others. “Positive energy comes back to you,” he said.
One community initiative Hernandez is especially proud of at Microsoft creatively combines supplier diversity with digital literacy. The software giant is working with minority-owned Sutherland Global Services to provide technology access and skills training to underserved youth around the globe. So far, the program has helped youth in India and the Philippines, and it will be expanding soon to the Caribbean and the United States. Locations in the Middle East and Africa are being considered as well.
Hernandez is passionate that a level playing field combined with technology will eventually make the world a better place. “The next great idea can come from anywhere,” he said. “I challenge all of us. We all need to focus on how we can stimulate that.”
BY GENNY HOM-FRANZEN