Sharing knowledge and fostering community is a skill she learned by watching her parents, says Varsovia Fernandez, president & CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Pennsylvania Conference for Women advisory council member. Read on to see how her parents’ values shaped her own career.
Q: How did your professional career begin and how did you end up where you are today?
A: I believe that my present career began with the exposure my parents provided growing up, when helping me do well at school and helping our community by creating jobs, teaching at church, engaging in the political process and donating their time to the Red Cross. Their values of hard work, dedication and contribution not only helped toward building a better place to live, but also taught me about the rewards and benefits of education and career growth.
Q: Can you name a leader for whom you have great respect and tell us why?
A: I truly admire James E. Nevels, founder and chairman of The Swarthmore Group and chairman of The Hershey Company. Mr. Nevels has endured the many barriers his family faced as an African American family that believed education was the panacea to their shortcomings. Armed with three college degrees (of which two are graduate studies), hard work, determination and self-reliance, Mr. Nevels grew into a successful results-driven entrepreneur, executive, community and Fortune 500 leader. His active leadership style has allowed his influence to help many people through education, community, career and business.
Q: As a leader in your company, what is the best piece of advice you would offer to a new employee to help them succeed?
A: Define your values and act by them. Know yourself. Be generous with your knowledge and your network.
Q: What would you say has been your driving force in your staying power in a male-dominated industry?
A: Being in it and being able to perform toward desired results as who I am.
Q: As a seasoned professional, how do you share your experience with your team on a daily basis?
A: I make them part of my experience either by allowing them to be physically present at certain business events with me or by sharing the story. I ask them to allow me into their experience by giving them the opportunity to share their success and to present on a topic of their choice beneficial to all staff during our staff meetings.
Q: What is the one thing you make time for in your daily life that helps keeps you refreshed and positive?
A: Driving. It clears my mind and allows me to reflect on my day and to spend time with me while experiencing the highest level of accountability for myself and others.