Eduardo Arabu – National Hispanic Corporate Council & Latino DEI Collective

Eduardo Arabu

CEO, National Hispanic Corporate Council & Latino DEI Collective

Chicago, Ill.

Describe your job.

I am responsible for day-to-day operations including the design, implementation, and execution of organizational development strategies at the Washington, D.C.-based National Hispanic Corporate Council (NHCC) along with its affiliate brands: The Latino DEI Collective and The Consortium for Latino Employee Organizations. I also am the lead designer of our events; I identify opportunities to convene corporate executives, representatives, and stakeholders to advance their respective diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies, as well as the Hispanic segment.

What made you choose the meetings and events industry?

There is a saying in our business: “We did not choose the meeting and events industry, but the meeting and events industry chose us.” That was the case for me. For many years, I attended conferences, events, and meetings; but it was not until I was recruited to NHCC that I learned there was such an industry (and best practices) for meetings and events.

How did you get started and what got you from there to today?

I have experience with corporations, nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, sports entities, and governmental agencies. I’ve worked for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Chicago Cubs baseball organization, the office of a U.S. representative, the office of an Illinois state senator, and two corporations. While on a congressional fellowship, I stayed connected with the then-executive director at the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute. Several years later, he transitioned to NHCC, and I came across a job opportunity to lead its administration and events.

How do you keep up with industry trends, changes, and cutting-edge developments?

Upon “joining” the industry, I became aware of channels to elevate our strategies, resources, and opportunities to excel in this arena. I am a subscriber to traditional print and digital media, including magazines, newsletters, eblasts, and marketing resources. I attend events, tradeshows, and marketplaces that convene buyers and suppliers to discuss the latest market information and learn about hotel partnerships plus other regional and local event attractions and opportunities.

What essential skills should every industry professional possess?

Every industry professional should have the essential hard skills required to lead, such as event intelligence, project management, finance and budgets, and the associated skills for management and leadership.

What is the philosophy or approach to work that gets you through stressful times?

My approach is to focus on the mission, which in our case is to provide a collaborative community that shares best practices to elevate Hispanic corporate strategies. While our work focuses on Fortune 1000 corporations, we are advising on and supporting inclusion initiatives that hire and elevate more Hispanic talent, integrate more Hispanic suppliers, and give back to Hispanic communities. The philosophy serves as a reminder of our ultimate goal and purpose. I think about what is at stake and the opportunities to serve underrepresented groups. Organizational leadership and event planning are stressful roles that require strategic planning and execution plus an understanding of human behaviors and event science. Focusing on our mission serves as a motivation that helps me deal with stressful times.

What is the best professional advice you ever received, and what advice do you have for others in the industry?

The best advice I received came from the consulting industry. First, you are only as good as your latest work. You may have led five perfect events, but if you did not deliver on the current or last event, people will only remember the recent failure. Another thing I learned was to establish what success looks like and work backward to develop a scorecard. How will my performance be evaluated? Is it the number of attendees, the number of sessions, the sponsors, the attendees’ survey, etc.? You must understand what the priorities are and how your superiors will evaluate you. My advice for others is to connect, learn, share, and network to build your event intelligence, toolkits, resources, and relationships.

Describe your biggest professional success.

One of my biggest accomplishments was obtaining my master’s degree in public policy and management from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), which has a top program for public policy. I was one of only a few Hispanic graduate students at CMU. The educational attainment for U.S. Hispanics is 75 out of 100 will finish high school, 20 of those will complete college, and fewer than five of those will receive a graduate degree. That puts me in the top five percent.

My other accomplishment was a recent promotion. After three years at the helm of NHCC, I was promoted from executive director to CEO. Despite organizational struggles, the pandemic, and other challenges, I was able to pivot us toward organizational excellence, doubling membership, tripling revenues, and quadrupling engagements, along with adding new events and experiences.

Share an anecdote about a meeting or event that did not go as planned and how you handled it.

Several years ago, we experienced last-minute challenges prior to our annual meeting in Atlanta. Co-host sponsors had invited our attendees to their headquarters, and we had to transport them from downtown. A few weeks prior to our event, a major bridge had collapsed, and on the day of the event, Atlanta experienced its heaviest rainfall in a long period, which all added to Atlanta’s notorious traffic. Thankfully, I had arranged a police escort for our buses and added an element of VIP status for our attendees.

What is the best part of your job?

Every day I get to work with Fortune 1000 companies and brands to advance their diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies.

As a Hispanic, I know the work of corporate social responsibility is important to the advancement and economic inclusion of the Hispanic communities, providing access to corporate employment, procurement, and philanthropy.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I enjoy playing sports, especially basketball. It is my way to stay active and fit with all the wonderful food and beverage we have available in the hospitality industry.

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