Yair Rodriguez is a six year member of HACE who is responsible for launching the Hispanic Young Professionals Board (HYPB) with the help of other members. He describes himself as someone who is committed to everything he does. Not only has he contributed to the success of HACE, but he, himself, has grown professionally through HACE’s network and programs. By day, he is the Senior Director of External Affairs for a local non-profit agency and by night, he is the co-founder of 1840 Creative. Read more about Yair’s journey both inside and outside of HACE as well as his advice for Young Professionals.
How did you hear about HACE?
I first heard about HACE at a networking event held by another organization. Jennifer Vera invited me to be part of the Young Professionals Board for the organization.

How long have you been apart of HACE?
I have been involved with HACE for about 6 years now in different capacities. I was part of the original group that launched the Young Professionals Board (HYPB), I have sat on various Sembrando El Futuro (SEF) Committees, I have spoken at conferences in front of the El Futuro high school program participants and I was also fortunate to participle in the Leadership Academy in 2013.

What made you participate in the HACE programs and/or boards?
Being part of the Young Professionals Board gave me the opportunity to network with individuals I would have not met through my regular 9 to 5 job. It also allowed to me develop diverse skills that I would not have acquired otherwise through work such as organizing galas, networking events and the masquerade ball. As a participant of the Leadership Academy, I was able to partake in strategy and leadership development alongside corporate executives. Being from the public sector – this experience was invaluable.

What was your position at HACE and what did it entail?
Throughout my years on the Young Professionals Board I served as the SEF Silent Auction Chair, SEF Chair and the Young Professionals Board Chair. My goal, at the time, was to ensure the group was developing different professional development goals on a monthly basis. Under my tenure, we executed the SEF event at the Adler Planetarium and launched the Masquerade Ball.

What have you learned and gained being apart of HACE?
I consider HACE to be the “launching pad” for my professional development. I gained “professional confidence” as I became more comfortable with networking, developing my elevator speech and creating a powerful leadership story. Through the Leadership Academy, I learned about strategic planning, conflict resolution practices and effective communication. All these skills have assisted me as I progressed through my career.

What led you to start your own business?
I launched 1840 Creative alongside my business partner, Elvis Ortega, at the end of last year as a means to create with our hands and express ourselves creatively. Having masters degrees and careers in the public sector, we get to do very little “with our hands.” Elvis and I sought a way to combine our childhood experiences working alongside our elders and our passion for working with wood and fabricating with steel. We love what we do, and it reflects in our high quality custom elements. You can find us at Randolph Street Market in the end of July and at the West Loop Art Festival in mid-September.

What is your favorite part about your work?
I enjoy seeing an old piece of wood and transforming it into something new and functional inside the homes and businesses of our clients. To know materials can be given a “second life” and have them be appreciated in their new form brings me joy.

How has your HACE experience contributed to your career?
HACE has helped me two-fold. Within my public sector career, my involvement with HACE has allowed me to grow and leverage my network and resources. As of August 1st, I will begin my new position as the Senior Director of External Affairs for a local non-profit agency. I could not have been prepared for this role had it not been for the years of professional development support I have received. In terms of 1840 Creative, working with HACE has taught me the importance of strategic planning, the importance of having a supportive network and the importance of creating detailed and achievable work plans.

What career advice do you wish you had while you were looking for work?
I wish I knew more about the importance of networking and establishing meaningful professional relationships throughout my collegiate years. I believe having a strong network would have helped me when I was looking for employment opportunities right out of college.

If you could share one piece of advice with the Young Professionals of HACE, what would it be?
Network every chance you get because you never know how a connection can help someone or yourself. Take advantage of all the learning opportunities presented to you and give back to those younger than yourself.

What steps have you been taking in your position recently to help you achieve your overall career goals?
I have taken the time to follow up with individuals in my network to strengthen relationships and obtain professional feedback regarding previous career choices and opportunities. I have also taken time to review notes and materials from previous development sessions to refresh my practices and plan accordingly.

How would the closest person to you describe you? Why?
The person closest to me would say that I am transparent and committed to everything I do. They would agree that when I set my mind to doing something – I am going to do it right.

If you were an animal, what would you be? Why?
Although, mythical, I would relate to the phoenix because I continuously re-invent myself, learn from the past and rise from my falls just as the mythical bird would burn in fire and rise again over and over.