Early in her career, Leticia Latino worked hard to earn the respect of her colleagues. As President and CEO of Neptuno US, an affiliate of a South American-based infrastructure company owned by her father, Latino wanted colleagues and clients to understand that she held her position because of her own skills and capabilities and not because of her family connections. Being a woman in a male-dominated industry only magnified the challenges Latino said she faced in proving she and Neptuno were capable and offered quality products to some of the largest companies in the telecommunications space in the United States.
When Neptuno was incorporated in the United States in 2002, Latino rejected the idea of tapping into programs that extended benefits to the woman- and minority-owned businesses. “I didn’t want to play that card,” she said.
After 20 years in telecom, Latino has become a familiar and trusted leader in the industry, but she began to rethink the idea of accessing networking and other opportunities afforded to women-owned businesses. So last year, Latino registered Neptuno as a certified woman-owned business with the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council and began participating in the Women’s Wireless Leadership Forum and other programs targeted at women-owned companies.
Exploring these avenues has allowed Neptuno and Latino to take advantage of increased networking opportunities as well as gaining an audience with companies that have diversity sourcing programs that dedicate a portion of their budget to working with suppliers owned by women and minorities. Latino said a growing wave of momentum toward acceptance of women in the industry seems to have peaked recently. A focus on diversity at tradeshows — such as the Supplier Diversity Summit and Women’s Wireless Leadership Forum event at Connectivity Expo — is one example of that momentum.
“Telecom has always been ‘the boys club,’” said Latino, who joked that telecom conferences have always been the one place there is never a line for the ladies’ restroom. “Now we have our own thing going. It is so refreshing to be part of those groups and see women helping each other.”
Latino attributes part of the gender imbalance in telecom to a traditional lack of women studying engineering, although she said more women are studying engineering now than 20 years ago when she was beginning her career. In fact, Latino began her career in the financial industry at Merrill Lynch to forge her own path outside the family business. But for the woman who used to visit her father at tower construction sites as a child, the telecom industry seemed to be her destiny. After working for a few years at Nortel Networks, she decided to return to her roots.
Latino went home to Venezuela and learned the family business, visiting factories and learning everything she could about towers. She then returned to the United State and founded Neptuno US. During the 20 years she has led the company, Latino said she has focused on making Neptuno an innovator in the industry. With innovation in mind, Neptuno is now focusing on 3D Laser Surveying Technology, Asset Lifecycle Software and emerging smart city applications and deployments.
Diversity is important for that type of innovation as well as for building a strong workforce, Latino said.
“I definitely believe a different point of view is important,” she said. “If you feed off the same kind of thinking and the same approach to things, innovation gets stuck. Women bring different skillsets, a different approach to issues that in the past haven’t been there.”
Written By: Kristen Beckman
Company Name: Neptuno/Smart TecPort
Contact Person: Leticia Latino van-Splunteren