Find it Fast
ALUMNI ROLL CALL: EAST EAGLE SOARS TO THE TOP OF SILICON VALLEY
Had it not been for the encouragement of his educators at East High School, Guillermo Diaz Jr. likely would have never become one of the first Hispanics to shatter barriers in Silicon Valley and establish his name as an innovator and leader in this far-reaching, influential industry.
Hailed as a transformative global business leader and champion of diversity, equity and inclusion, Mr. Diaz for 20 years served as Cisco’s Global Chief Information Officer, responsible for the tech titan’s IT organization, strategy, and services.
Today, he is the Chairman of the Hispanic Technology Executive Council -- the premier global executive leadership organization of senior – and is the founder and CEO of Conectado Inc. There, Mr. Diaz has established an innovative Web 3 digital platform with the mission to accelerate access to opportunities for those that are underrepresented in technology and STEM fields.
In addition to spots on the Board of Directors of Jack in the Box and Blue Shield of California, Mr. Diaz is on the impact boards of Npower – supporting veterans and young adults -- the Latino Donor Collaborative and the Stanford Latino Entrepreneur Initiative.
Growing up on the East Side of Pueblo, Mr. Diaz was not immune to challenges and the effects of the destructive behavior of those close to him. But in his educators at Park View Elementary, RIsley Middle School and East, he found supportive anchors in what was often a murky sea of uncertainty.
“All my teachers were very humble, and always supportive, at every level,” Mr. Diaz said. “I think Pueblo itself just sort of resonates with that community and culture.”
One of those teachers, Mrs. Guerrero, became one of Mr. Diaz’s early champions.
“She saw something there in me,” he said.
But it was at East that Mr. Diaz found an educator who would prove to have a profound effect on the young Eagle’s future.
“The teacher who really, really helped me was my electronics teacher, Mr. Adrian Gonzales, who unfortunately has now passed away,” Mr. Diaz said. “He was really key in my growth at East and saw something in me I never would have realized.”
A visionary, Mr. Gonzales also saw that electronics would form the foundation of the future.
Lacking the funds to attend college after graduating from East in 1983, Mr. Diaz instead joined the Navy, which in hindsight, provided the key that later opened the door to Silicon Valley.
“Thanks to Mr. Gonzales’ support in the electronics class, I went into the Navy, and that’s where I really learned a lot about electronics and telecommunications, and security and networking and those types of things,” he said.
With a coveted skill set that now made him highly employable, Mr. Diaz, in 1988, found himself in the San Francisco Bay area, where the final Naval ship he served on had docked. With the Digital Age primed to unfold, Mr. Diaz elected to stay in Silicon Valley to take advantage of the opportunities available in that burgeoning tech mecca.
“The whole Internet was just a glimmer in someone’s eye,” Mr. Diaz said of that time in history. “So I was just in the right place at the right time, with the right skills.”
Mr. Diaz began his career, and his ascent up the Valley walls, as a Telecommunications Manager for Alza. It was there that he learned the business side of the telecommunications/networking industry.
After attending community college in the Bay Area, Mr. Diaz returned to Colorado to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Regis University.
“The whole reason I went into the Navy was to get the money to attend college,” he explained.
After earning his degree, Silicon Valley came calling again, this time in the form of a company called Silicon Graphics: a fast-paced, up-and-coming organization.
“I was brought in as a director to run the worldwide communications network,” Mr. Diaz said.
As Mr. Diaz’s star began to rise in the Valley, new opportunities arose.
“Shortly after the Y2K problem, I left Silicon Graphics for Cisco Systems,” he said.
Cisco Systems, of course, is a multinational digital communications technology conglomerate corporation that continues its reign as one of the largest technology companies in the world.
One of the first young Latino veterans to establish himself in the industry through his time at Cisco, Mr. Diaz developed an impressive track record for accelerating culture through people, process, and technology.
“There hadn’t been a lot of Latinos in tech, at all,” Mr. Diaz said. “And so I rose through the ranks at Cisco and ultimately became the Global Chief Information Officer.”
In that high-ranking, high-pressure role, Mr. Diaz was responsible for the company’s worldwide IT organization, strategy, and services. In all, he logged two decades at Cisco.
He was a key leader of the Cisco Diversity Council and the visionary/executive sponsor of Conexion, Cisco’s Hispanic/Latino employee resource organization, and Cisco’s Veteran employee resource organization. Additionally, he led the acceleration of building future technology leaders through his passionate and innovative leadership of the Cristo Rey Work Study program and scholarships delivered through the HITEC Foundation.
In early 2020, Mr. Diaz added a new title to his resume, that of “entrepreneur,” with the founding of the Conectado platform.
“I decided to take all of the lessons from technology, to building diverse teams, to community and putting that all in one package: a platform that will incorporate more Latinos and under-represented communities into technology,” he explained.
“I know that we are still very under-represented in these fields, so my goal and my mission is to get more Latinos, more Blacks and more of the indigenous communities into the technology and STEM fields.”
In his career, Mr. Diaz has earned a bevy of accolades and awards:
- TheboardiQ Veterans Hall of Fame (2021)
- Most Influential Leaders in Technology (2021)
- Most Influential Leaders in Technology-Digital Trends (2020)
- C-Suite Leaders: Top Latinos in C-Suite (2019)
- Maestro Award: Top Industry Leadership (2019)
- Top Ten Latino Leaders: Silicon Valley Business Journal (2019)
- Innovation: Technology Business Management (2017)
- Executive Sponsor of the Year: Cisco Customer Success Award (2016)
- Top 10 LIDERES Award (2016)
- Estrella of the Year Award for outstanding individual leadership in technology (2015)
- Top 100 CIO/CTO Leaders in STEM (2016)
- Silicon Valley Business Journal Best CIO (2014)
- National Eagle Leadership Award (2010)
- CIO Magazine’s Ones to Watch Award (2007)
Mr. Diaz lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife, four children, and French bulldog Mila. But with his family still residing in Pueblo, and harboring fond memories of his hometown, Mr. Diaz remains firmly connected to Steel City.
“I’m still the only one who really went away,” he said. “My Mom is still there, along with all my siblings. I visit every couple of months. And in every article written about me, I’m always sure to make sure that ‘Pueblo’ is all over it.”
For those young people unsure of their futures, or who may be lacking the funds to attend college, Mr. Diaz has some sound advice.
“A lot of times, we put ourselves in this mindset of, ‘I can’t do it.’ And the reality is, I found a way to do it. And that could be through the military, or through scholarships. And now, more than ever, there are resources for kids. And what I’m trying to do is bring a lot of those resources to them, so it makes it easier.
“First off, you have to have the mindset of wanting to achieve, and then, find somebody who has done it before and don’t be afraid to talk to them. A lot of times, people ask me, ‘How did you break through the glass ceiling of a Fortune 50 company?’ And I say, ‘I asked.’ They asked me what I wanted to be, and I told them, ‘I want to be you.’”
And it’s imperative to keep in mind one thing.
“Always remember where you came from to know where you’re going.”
“I grew up in Pueblo. I grew up in the U.S. Navy. And I grew up in Cisco,” Mr. Diaz said. “And in each one of those places, I learned what’s great, and I learned what I don’t want to do or see again. And that makes me work harder so that I don’t see those things again.”