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Leticia Latino, CEO, Neptuno USA

Leticia Latino: Driving the Ongoing Transformation in the Telecom Industry

From working for Merrill Lynch and Nortel to joining the family business, Neptuno USA, and bringing its name, legacy, and know-how to the US, Leticia Latino’s 20+ years of experience in the telecom industry has been enriching. Under the leadership of Leticia, Neptuno has patented several tower designs, applied 3-Dimensional technology to Site Surveys and Tower Mapping, created telecom assets virtual libraries, and helped develop Telecom Asset Management Software and is taking an active role in the Smart Cities movement.

Inspired by her vision, we at Insights Success talked with Leticia to learn more about her journey and how she is leading by example.

Below are the highlights of the interview:

Brief our audience about your journey as a business leader until your current position at the company. What challenges you had to overcome to reach where you are today?

When I was a little girl, my father used to take me to his office all the time. I envisioned what it would be like to one day run his Telecom Tower Company, “if I come to work for you is only to make the company three times bigger,” I used to joke to tickle his ego. Interestingly enough, right after I graduated from Business School, instead of going to work in the family business, I felt I needed to forge my own path and accepted a position at Merrill Lynch. I wanted to pursue a career in Investments but it didn’t take me long to realize that I didn’t enjoy managing other’s peoples money; something about it didn’t fit with my personality. I then decided to leave Venezuela and come to Florida to pursue a dual degree Master’s program at the University of Miami, which upon completion, landed me a job offer from Nortel Networks, which is how I ‘officially” got into Telecom. I spent several years at Nortel before the company started having financial troubles triggering massive lay-offs and its ultimate demise. It was after going through that traumatic experience that it became clear to me that if I was ever going to work as hard as I did at Nortel, it better be for the family business, and that’s how exactly 20 years ago, I accepted an old but always outstanding job offer from my father, which by the way is the best mentor and boss one can hope for, and joined Neptuno.

Tell us something more about the company and its mission and vision.

The story of Neptuno is one that has all the ingredients to make a good movie. Italian immigrant arrives penniless in South America and, through a lot of hard work and sacrifices, creates a company that is credited with engineering, manufacturing, and installing towers for many of the first cellular networks in the Americas. The founder’s three kids each have their own professional journey but eventually join their father to protect his legacy and life-long work. The company has a major setback because it’s headquartered in Venezuela, a country plagued with political instability and socio-economic challenges, prompting it to transform and pivot in a major way to avoid going under as most Venezuelan companies have, since the late  1990’s. With a high moral compass that has integrity as the main North, in 2003 the company’s mission became making important inroads in the US market and becoming a key player in helping advance bridging the digital divide, and supporting telecommunications stakeholders in the plan of enabling connectivity for all.

Enlighten us on how you have made an impact in the industry through your expertise in the market.

Having been raised playing around wireless construction sites and telecommunications technicians, I have what I call an “insiders perspective” on the challenges that not only construction companies face but also our workforce. My father has always been someone that has treated the field crews like family. We have tower climbers whose grandfathers started with my dad back in the 1970’s. I was raised with humanity to understand that the telecom workers are the ones making the ‘magic’ happen, but unfortunately, their contribution is often overlooked. The  Telecom Industry is so large that people making decisions from  the often forget that the “heart” of this industry is in the field. In 2019, I was appointed by the FCC Chairman to the Broadband Development Advisory Committee and was also asked to chair the Jobs and Skills Working group. The work we did was incredible, and we produced a detailed report that was unanimously approved, with actionable recommendations on what the industry could do to help solve the workforce shortage. This is one of the reasons why I am so passionate about developing a highly-skilled workforce and leveraging apprenticeship programs such as TIRAP to do so, because I know first-hand the difference that training and a formal certificate can have in someone’s life. Of course, being a woman who has spent over two decades in a very male-dominated industry also provides me with relevant perspective around what can be done to ensure that our industry is more diversified and equitably represented.

What, according to you, could be the next big change in the industry? How is your company preparing to be a part of that change?            

Thanks to advancements in 5G technology and the historic investment in broadband expansion included in the recently signed bipartisan infrastructure bill, 5G deployments will contribute $1.7 trillion to the economy, create 4.6 million jobs, and enhance everything from how we communicate to the way farmers raise their crops over the next decade, and this will be a big change and huge growth for our industry. To help create those jobs, Neptuno became a Telecom Industry Apprenticeship Program (TIRAP) Employer in 2020, which is a Department of Labor Program whose national Sponsor is the Wireless Infrastructure Association and it aims at skilling and training a more diverse and inclusive telecom workforce while promoting an incredible ‘earn as you learn’ apprenticeship model.

Where do you envision yourself to be in the long run, and what are your future goals for the company?    

I envision myself continuing to get Neptuno involved in initiatives that bring impact to bettering the way we conduct business and create positive change for the industry all together. Someone once said to me that while my father was at the center of the wireless revolution, I seemed poised to be at the center of the SmartCity revolution, and that is an exciting thought to me. I am also very passionate about nurturing genuine connections and that’s why three years ago, I created a podcast called “Back2Basics- Reconnecting to the essence of YOU”, in which the guests share their stories about how through failures and successes they have stayed connected to their essence and to what makes them tick. Inspiring change is ultimately what makes me tick, so I do as much as I can to live with the alignment of my inner and outer goals.

What would be your advice to budding women entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into the industry?

In my opinion, there has never been more exciting to join the Telecom Industry than right now. Even if many times it is only with the goal of making a diversity quota, Women are finally being given opportunities that were unreachable just a few years back. There is a new platform being created, and our perspective is finding a voice in it. And as mentioned before, the infrastructure bill and 5G deployment are bringing an insurmountable number of new opportunities, and all help is needed to fulfil very aggressive deployment goals, so if you want to join in, this is the time, and everyone is welcomed!