Q&A with Rob Fuentes, a Diversity Champion and Product Innovator
Rob Fuentes, a managing director in our Engineering Division and head of Legal, Conflicts Resolution Group and Internal Audit Engineering, was recently named to the Hispanic IT Executive Council 100.
We sat down with Rob to hear about his career path, the passion he has for promoting diversity, and to get an update on his latest innovative product.
Growing up, did you know you wanted to be an engineer?
Well, not exactly! As the oldest child in an immigrant family, I was encouraged to pursue a career in either medicine or law and I started college as a pre-med major. From an early age, though, I had a passion for programming thanks to my uncle, an engineer at Texas Instruments who showed me a rudimentary computer program. I was hooked. It was on a Commodore 64, a generous gift from my parents—who had immigrated to the United States as teenagers—where I was able to learn programming in Basic during my spare time.
As a pre-med major in college paying my own way, it was extremely challenging to juggle classes, a full time job, and all the required hours of lab work. I soon realized that I needed another career path as engaging in lab work and working part time wouldn’t be feasible. An eye-opener was seeing dozens of ads for software engineers in The New York Times. I thought to myself, “you mean, I can actually get paid for what I do for fun? Sign me up!” I switched and became a Management Information Systems major.
You’re responsible for driving the engineering strategy for critical control functions. Can you talk about the role of Engineering in risk management?
Engineers in risk management have an opportunity to take commercial and innovative approaches towards addressing risk through cybersecurity, regulatory and operational controls, and more—there are many ways for engineers to help manage risk.
Organizations have historically invested heavily in technology aligned to revenue-generating functions. Because of this investment, the amount of technology in these areas has grown over time and it can be challenging to navigate complex ecosystems when testing new software solutions. In a control function, engineers are able to demonstrate impact by evaluating new technologies nimbly through completely fresh approaches.
As head of the Engineering Hispanic/Latinx Network, what are your main priorities and proudest accomplishments?
I’m blessed to have an incredible team of talented and passionate committee members for our Engineering Hispanic/Latinx Network (EHLN) who inspire me on a regular basis. Internally, we are focused on growth and development for the members of our network. Externally, we are focused on supporting the firm’s aspirational goals for attracting diverse talent to the firm.
A few of our proudest accomplishments have to be related to an external recruiting event that we piloted to help identify engineering talent in Mexico City, as well as an incredible mentoring program that we developed in partnership with diverse students from Black Wings and Latinas de RTC (Rewriting The Code). We also work closely with the firmwide Hispanic/Latinx Network [here in a recent feature] to champion the Hispanic/Latinx culture within Goldman Sachs.
Can you tell us about your project with GS Accelerate?
Yes, I am super excited about the initiative with GS Accelerate, the firm’s incubator and innovation platform that allows employees to pitch new business ideas for funding. The product is called “Higher” and its aim is to digitize the recruiting experience and enhance our diversity and inclusion engagement with candidates by helping them leverage networking tools and resources. These resources can include insight into role descriptions, interview prep toolkits, and interview biographies. Higher drives interaction between candidates and GS professionals and provides insight into our culture in digital form. Typically, this type of engagement only occurs on a 1:1 basis during the interview process. We’re hoping to launch our pilot in late Q4.
How did the idea come about and how does it facilitate diversity?
I’ve been extremely fortunate over the past decade with the firm to recruit incredible talent for our division through a number of conferences (such as Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, National Society of Black Engineers, and Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing). During these events, it was evident that we had an opportunity to deliver an exceptional recruiting experience to our candidates, that – of course – is also firmly aligned with our Goldman Sachs brand of excellence.
Working closely with a group of colleagues on the concept, we decided to enter the GS Accelerate pitch process, thinking our initiative to ensure an enhanced experience for diverse candidates would be well received. A key challenge we wanted to tackle was the “network gap”—the advantage some individuals have as a result of who they know based on where they grew up, went to school or previously worked. Our goal is to provide networking access to diverse candidates to help them find opportunities and to leverage valuable information which can help with their interview preparation.
How are you celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month personally and professionally?
Personally, I’m taking the time to celebrate my parents who paved the way for the subsequent generations of our family. For them to move here as teenagers without the support of any family or friends in a foreign country was a massive and courageous undertaking which I can’t even imagine doing myself. The countless financial sacrifices that they made to ensure my sister and I had access to education just puts it over the top in my eyes.
Professionally, our Engineering Hispanic/Latino Network organized an incredible social event for us to recognize and celebrate this important moment for us to come together and celebrate our heritage.