Jorge Baldor, Latino Center for Leadership Development: ‘As an Entrepreneur, My Focus Is More on the End Product’

Baldor wants "every young Latino to learn to look in the mirror each morning and recite to themselves the phrase 'Why not me?' until it becomes their own mantra and belief system."

The successful entrepreneur and co-founder of the Latino Center for Leadership Development reflects on empowering future leaders, the role of education on career trajectory, and the changing workforce.

Jorge Baldor immigrated to the United States from Cuba with his family at age six.

An energetic entrepreneur, Baldor has founded or helped support several organizations aimed at empowering others and developing future leaders, particularly within the local and international Latino community.

In 2015, Baldor founded the Latino Center for Leadership Development along with Miguel Solis and Rebecca Acuna. The successful entrepreneur also founded Mercado369, a community art center and cafe that reflects the culture and history of Latin America, and works with programs such as After8toEducate, a program that supports unsheltered high school youth in Dallas. 

A Dallas Regional Chamber board member, Baldor was also named a finalist for the Dallas Morning News’ Texan of the Year in 2018. 

Dallas Innovates Q+A (Images: Istockphoto)Describe your career path so far. Has it been very direct, or more round-about?

My path has been anything but direct. My entrepreneurial spirit kicked in fairly young and has led me to explore life as it has come. I’ve often seen life as what happens in between the plans.

Challenges that are unforeseen or unpredictable, such as the COVID experience beginning last year, mean that creativity and flexibility are even more important to adapt and move forward. For me, this has been my pattern all along, so the changes that came were a bit more fluid.

How did you get plugged into the path you’re currently on?

I see my current path as understanding the need to find common ground within our various communities to then deal with tougher issues, especially through my experiences helping bring art and culture programming—in particular Latino art and culture—to venues across the city.

I’ve worked with the Dallas Museum of Art, the Latino Arts Project, Mercado369, and the Meyerson Symphony Center (on an Afro-Mexican presentation), and I have helped sponsor numerous arts organizations, such as Cara Mía Theatre, Teatro Dallas, LaRondalla Music Academy, the Meadows School of the Arts and Meadows Museum at SMU, and the Crow Museum of Asian Art, among others. My work has evolved into a passion for bringing all cultures together to enjoy and learn from each other.

Education can have a big influence on our career trajectories and choices, and Hispanic college enrollment rates continue to increase every year. What was your educational experience like, and do you think it had any effect on where you are today?

After high school, I was not prepared for the college experience. Already an owner of a small business a couple of years after high school, I did not pursue a university degree until about seven years later. When I did attend [SMU], it was not in search of a career—it was in search of an education for myself that has continued well beyond my degree and motivates me to this day.

As an entrepreneur, my focus is more on the end product and results, not the beginning of the process. I see this particularly in statistics about increased Latino college enrollment. What we don’t hear enough about is why college graduation rates don’t also continue to rise.

The Society for Human Resource Management estimates that Hispanic workers will account for one out of every two new workers entering the workforce by 2025. What future challenges do you see for Hispanics in the workforce, and what are you hopeful for?

The challenge both today and in the future for Latinos in the workplace is staying on the workplace ladder and not being seen as uncaring to the firm because of missing evening events or networking opportunities. The fact remains that for Latino culture, it’s life/work balance, not work/life balance, that brings true enjoyment and personal satisfaction.

Current diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts often miss the core of the widespread disconnect problem among Latino workers. Latino workers often face mental health issues associated with abandonment—feelings resulting from loved ones being left behind in other countries without the ability to reunite even on special days or for bereavement.

Latino workers must also deal with questions about identity in a bicultural and bilingual world, or confront real and imagined comments and glares from family members, loved ones, friends, and neighbors who see going “corporate” and receiving promotions as abandonment of one’s self-respect, and not necessarily a trait to admire.

These and many other factors play a significant role in the daily lives of many young and seasoned corporate executives, but they are not often discussed or addressed. I am hopeful that mental health becomes a core value for employers and that workers facing these challenges can find supportive and welcoming workplaces.

Who do you look up to in the Hispanic community?

I’ve always admired people with conviction and a drive to make a difference, regardless of the personal cost to them.

For me, Ernesto “Che” Guevara is an example of one of those individuals that didn’t let the odds stand in his way as he forged his unique path.

What would you want future generations of Hispanics to know, especially when it comes to building a successful career?

I would like for every young Latino to learn to look in the mirror each morning and recite to themselves the phrase “Why not me?” until it becomes their own mantra and belief system. Once this has taken place, there’s no one that’s going to be able to hold them back.

The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

This Q&A is a part of the DRC Hispanic Heritage Series that includes interviews from representatives of Dallas Regional Chamber member organizations and partners. A version of this story first appeared on the Dallas Regional Chamber site.

Dallas Innovates is a collaboration of Dallas Next and the Dallas Regional Chamber. 

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