Dan Mateo Shares the Advantage of Being Authentic in the Workplace
Holland & Knight's Diversity Council and Hispanic Affinity Group are proud to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month and pay tribute to the generations of Hispanics who have enriched America's history and continue to play a role in its future success. This year, we took time to speak to some of our Hispanic attorneys, who shared their stories with us. We now present a video series showcasing some of these conversations. We hope that the stories conveyed in these videos inspire those struggling with recognizing their roots and shine light to the contributions that Hispanics have provided to the United States.
In this video, Philadelphia Partner Daniel Mateo talks about his path toward becoming authentic inside and outside the workplace. Daniel shares his participation in organizations that celebrate his beliefs and how he has grown to embrace every single part of who he is.
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Episode 2: Dan Mateo Shares the Advantage of Being Authentic in the Workplace (You are currently viewing Episode 2)
Daniel Mateo: I've been at Holland & Knight for about four years, and one of the first things I did when I joined the firm was really seek out diverse lawyers. And I was super impressed and really attracted to the firm because of the high number of Latino and Hispanic lawyers that we had throughout the platform, but especially in Florida. So, not something I was accustomed to, to have so many people who looked like me, who spoke Spanish, who understood my culture and my background. And so that was really has made my time at Holland & Knight special.
I'm Puerto Rican by birth. I spent some time in Puerto Rico, but I'm what we call a "Nuyorican." Grew up in the Northeast between New Jersey and New York. So, I'm all Hispanic all of the time. So much of my professional identity and my cultural identity are intertwined. I'm not sure that's always been true, but we're in an environment where law firms have understood and embraced the power of diversity. And so it makes it much easier for people like me to be very proud of who they are and quite frankly, to figure out ways that we can benefit the firm and our own practices by leveraging what makes us different. And so I did that at the local level with Hispanic Bar of New Jersey as a young lawyer, and ultimately became the president of Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey and then started to get involved with the Hispanic National Bar Association, HNBA, as either a young lawyer, volunteer or sitting on committees or speaking in CEO. And that has become you will hear many HNBA members talk about this. And they're not patronizing, it "familia". A 100%. I've grown up with the organization, and I just recently was elected to be president elect, and so that means that I will be the 46th president, I believe, of the Hispanic National Bar Association, to be sworn in sometime in September of 2023. And that for me is super exciting because it's the marriage and the culmination of my professional life, of my personal friends, of my huge interest in promoting diverse lawyers, Hispanic and otherwise. So I'm excited about it. It's going to be a lot of work, but it's going to give me a great platform to talk about what it is to be a diverse lawyer at a large firm. It's not just me. There's a whole group of volunteers, lawyer volunteers and amazing national staff whose focus it is to try to improve the trajectory for Latino lawyers and the Latino community when appropriate. And we do that in a number of different ways. The ways that sort of resonate with me the most are the student outreach. Raising money through corporate sponsors and law firm sponsors like Holland & Knight to build scholarship funds to make sure that we help defray some of the costs, expensive cost of law school for some of these students. Lots of mentoring programs to help law students not only navigate law school, but the whole job process. Identifying practice areas where Latino lawyers have been historically underrepresented. In addition to all the good work that HNBA does, it is the best party ever been to time and time again, because the speeches happen, and the regular catering dinner happens, but as soon as that's done, the lights go down, the music comes on and we as a family get on that dance floor and have a really good time. That's a little bit of my Puerto Rican heritage that shows. I hope I don't embarrass my good Puerto Rican dancers out there, but that shows and comes out, and that I'm very proud of when we get together at the HNBA. I probably was not as open about a lot of things, including my sexual orientation and being Latino, because it was just easier to put your head down and do the work and have what we often say is, "Oh, I just want to be judged on the quality of my work. I don't need to highlight the fact that I'm Latino and I don't need to highlight I'm gay. I just want people to judge me on my work." And that is true, but when you leave that on the table, right? When you avoid the conversation, I think it's it's not authentic. And I think people feel that. And there's real benefit to being authentic in the office and outside of the office. And as soon as you become authentic and as soon as I felt like I could be authentic, people started gravitating to me. Right? Because now they're like, Oh, wow, this guy doesn't have an agenda, he has nothing to hide. And so you have a much more human conversation with people when you're just your authentic self. Again, I'm not proud to say that I struggled with disclosing my identity and sexual orientation. I think people need to do that in their own time and in their own way. But I can stand here as an example to say to be courageous, to be authentic and you will hopefully see many more doors open for yourself than are closed.