Meet 4 of HBJ’s 2021 Diversity Champions: Alex Lopez Negrete, Michelle Ngome, Travis Torrence, Billy Williams

Meet HBJ’s Outstanding Diversity Champions, which recognizes individuals within the community or for-profit and nonprofit organizations who have shown outstanding initiative to promote diversity and inclusion either in the organization or community, making a positive difference in others’ lives through contributions to social justice, equality and diversity.

Diversity Champion<br> 
Alex Lopez Negrete, president and CEO, Lopez Negrete Communications Inc.

Alex Lopez Negrete

President and CEO, Lopez Negrete Communications Inc.

Why is diversity important and how does it impact your clients or business? As a U.S. citizen with Mexican roots, my personal connection with diversity runs deep. I have chosen to embed my commitment to diversity into the core beliefs and DNA of my advertising agency, Lopez Negrete Communications, as well as into my personal endeavors. I make diversity an important part of my life’s purpose: Having a positive impact on both the communities I/we operate in and come from and the agency’s clients we serve and represent. For me, diversity has always gone beyond meeting a client’s corporate requirements. Diversity and inclusion are philosophical, operational and strategic standards that ensure our work has the legitimacy and cultural intelligence clients demand and audiences seek and deserve. Only then will our work have the desired impact it is designed to have.

  1. Keep the pipeline flowing by identifying and nurturing young, diverse talent to enter our industry and recruiting them into our firm early in their careers.
  2. Continue to foster the idea, particularly among new team members, that diversity is at the core of our corporate mission, vision and cultural DNA.

How do you truly incorporate diversity into your organization? The very nature of our work and our purpose make diversity an operational priority. However, from a systematic perspective, I incorporate diversity into our organization by:

  • Making it central to our vision, mission, and corporate culture and being vocal about it daily
  • Recruiting with a diversity-first mindset
  • Working with industry entities, trade organizations and educational institutions to ensure we have a flowing pipeline of young, diverse talent entering our industry and our organization
  • Making sure we, as a diverse organization, use our buying power and influence to impact our vendor diversity.

Importantly, the biggest impact we have is actually outside of our organization by helping corporations understand that multicultural segments in the United States will continue to grow, and their cultural influence and significant economic power will continue to expand and affect not only the demographic makeup of the cities and regions in which Hispanics live but also the cultural makeup of the communities we serve.

I advocate for employers to go beyond diversity and inclusion by adding representation and participation to the equation. It is important for diversity to be represented throughout the entire enterprise at all levels, top-down from the board of directors. It is critical for workers of diverse races, cultures and genders to bring their entire selves to the table and infuse the organization with the richness and expanded lens they offer. My focus on skill set, culture and fit strengthens Lopez Negrete Communications’ approach to recruitment. That process has led to hiring and retaining the best talent available, regardless of ethnicity, gender, religion or sexual preference. It has also allowed me to keep my fingers on Houston’s cultural pulse while understanding the complexities of living in the most diverse city in the country.

What accomplishments in the field of diversity and inclusion are you most proud of? I am fortunate to have supported and opened the doors of opportunity in the advertising industry to many Hispanic college students through the Lopez Negrete Hispanic Marketing Education Scholarship, created in 2007.

Michelle Ngome

Founder, Line 25 Consulting

Why is diversity important and how does it impact your clients or business? Diversity is extremely important. Representation really does matter. I help organizations make sure that proper representation is carried throughout their marketing. It is important that images reflect your employees and your audience.

What advice would you give to boost diversity in your organization? At Line 25 Consulting, we find diversity, equity, and inclusion as a business imperative. It will remain a priority as we grow.

How do you truly incorporate diversity into your organization? The best way to boost diversity in my organizations is by checking my personal and business core values. Diversity goes beyond complexion but making sure to have candid conversations about learning from people’s experiences creates valuable strategies and tactics to reach our goals.

What accomplishments in the field of diversity and inclusion are you most proud of? Creating a space for marketers to come together to share their experiences and find opportunities has been rewarding. The African-American Marketing Association helps foster the growth and professional development of African American marketers, creatives, and entrepreneurs.

What kind of world do you hope future generations will see when they grow up? I hope racial division will be eliminated throughout society. Black people will not be paralyzed by fear when approached by a cop. Asians will not be blamed or attacked for this virus. Whether someone is climbing the corporate ladder, seeking business capital, or homeownership, all individuals should be treated fairly in their professional and personal lives.

Travis Torrence

Global litigation bankruptcy and credit team lead, Shell Oil Co.

Why is diversity important and how does it impact your clients or business?

Diversity and inclusion are integral to maintaining competitiveness for teams and organizations grappling with complex legal issues and ultimately providing innovative products and services to the marketplace. Organizations must reflect the diversity of their partners, customers and the communities in which they operate to foster creativity, harness resiliency, and leverage efficiency. However, diversity alone is not enough. Teams really need to be able to collaborate seamlessly to be successful. In the absence of inclusive leadership and inclusive behaviors, the authenticity, trust and respect necessary for effective collaboration will not be developed or sustained.

What advice would you give to boost diversity in your organization? Invest in the essential resources necessary to cultivate a robust pipeline of diverse talent. Think creatively about attracting and developing the most talented people to your organization. Foster an internal environment that boasts an ethos of inclusive behaviors so employees can bring their true and authentic selves to work, which will enhance engagement. Ensure that the organization’s policies, practices, and systems are analyzed to ensure they are equitable and do not negatively impact any segments of your workforce.

How do you truly incorporate diversity into your organization? Diversity, equity and inclusion are a part of everything I do. From being an ally to people from other underrepresented groups in our industry to serving as an ambassador for internal and external initiatives to enhance inclusion, it’s about modeling the best behaviors and underscoring the best practices that will serve our entire community and organization.

What accomplishments in the field of diversity and inclusion are you most proud of? I am most proud of my former service as co-chair of the Texas Minority Counsel Program, the premier conference with respect to diversity and inclusion for attorneys in the State of Texas. During my two years as co-chair, the team implemented a pipeline project for low-income elementary school students. TMCP attendees planned and presented exhibits about what it means to become a lawyer. We have all been to conferences and made connections through happy hours, spa events, and golf tournaments. This innovative program enabled conference participants to network and build relationships with each other while showing young students of color that they too can become lawyers or anything that they put their minds to achieving.

I am also especially proud to be one of the two people who personally developed a mentorship program for LGBTQ+ Houston Bar Association members called “Coaching Circles.” Recognizing that LGBTQ+ attorneys of all ages and races are likely to feel isolated in the legal community, Coaching Circles endeavors to assist LGBTQ+ attorneys with developing supportive relationships, giving and receiving professional guidance, and creating a safe place for discussing LGBTQ+ specific concerns among attorneys.

Billy Williams

Audit partner, inclusion and diversity lead, KPMG

Why is diversity important and how does it impact your clients or business? In a professional services firm, we understand how important it is always to have the best and brightest talent to succeed in the marketplace. To do this, it’s important that we promote diversity in skills, backgrounds, thoughts and experiences to provide our clients with innovative solutions. When we embrace diversity as a company, we also enable our professionals to reach their fullest potential in their careers. It is not only the right thing to do. It truly is a business imperative.

What advice would you give to boost diversity in your organization? In order to advance diversity and inclusion in a meaningful way, I believe that it is imperative that we as leaders lead by example. It is important for leaders to be involved, speak up and lead initiatives. Diversity is not only the responsibility of members of underrepresented groups. The initiative must be owned by members of leadership who are often from underrepresented groups. It’s also important for our leaders to first recognize and speak up regarding diversity problems to resolve the issues. Our leadership must take ownership and have accountability for diversity to drive change. With diversity and other initiatives, I often say that there are four C’s for success: Courage, commitment, consistency and collaboration. I think you need all four to give diversity the boost it needs in your organization.

How do you truly incorporate diversity into your organization? My overarching strategy with incorporating diversity is through education with both the majority and the historically underrepresented groups. At KPMG, this is accomplished in a variety of ways. We have been able to host educational series that provide venues to promote authentic conversations in the workplace regarding diversity and inclusion. We host diversity share forums to share best practices with other organizations, focus group sessions with members of diversity business resource groups (BRG), Ally campaigns, and other events. The ultimate goal is to educate individuals, provide exposure and expand relationships.

Lastly, I am the president of the Houston Chapter of the National Association of Black Accountants. Our organization partners with external affinity organizations such as NABA, Ascend, or Association of Latino Professionals For America, to support the community diversity initiatives and help educate and support our professionals and the next generation of diverse professionals.

What accomplishments in the field of diversity and inclusion are you most proud of? My biggest accomplishment in terms of diversity has been helping create an environment where diverse individuals know they can succeed. Early in my career, there wasn’t always a person that looked like me in leadership. As a leader, I am able to mentor professionals and implement initiatives that allow others the following to be successful. I get joy in watching the individuals within KPMG and externally who I have personally mentored risen to the highest levels within their careers. This truly fills me with pride and a great sense of accomplishment to know that I helped in some way to allow the next generation of leaders to be successful.

What kind of world do you hope future generations will see when they grow up? I hope that we can have a workplace similar to the diverse world we live in. I hope that we have a world that people recognize the value in embracing diversity and promoting inclusion. I would love for everyone to feel comfortable being and are encouraged to be themselves at all times. People should not assimilate to their environment but rather the environment accepting the uniqueness of the people and the world around them.

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