Creating a diverse workforce doesn’t just happen
Born and raised in the Denver area, Veronica Hernandez is passionate about her community.
Pair that with her skills in human resources and you get a talent recruiter who is making a difference not only at Denver Water, but in the lives of many around her.
Hernandez, who joined Denver Water’s human resources division in 2017, is a first-generation American. Her parents came to the United States from Mexico 31 years ago in search of better opportunities.
“I was raised in a household that spoke only Spanish,” Hernandez said. “In fact, I’m not even sure where I learned English — probably at school.”
She’s one of many people at Denver Water who have successfully created a workforce of about 1,000 people that reflects the diversity of the metro area and the 1.5 million people we serve with reliable, high-quality water.
Across the metro area, 23% of the population is Hispanic or Latino while 5% is African-American, according to the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp., an arm of the Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce. At Denver Water, 24% of our workforce as of September 2019 was Hispanic or Latino and 5% was African American.
“We devote a great deal of energy to hiring the most talented individuals who are the right fit for Denver Water. It’s important that the makeup of our workforce represents the rich diversity of our surrounding community,” Hernandez said. “Diversity brings people with different strengths and talents to our organization.”
Hernandez grew up in a community that embraced her Mexican heritage. “Even school functions were held in both English and Spanish. It was a very inclusive community,” she said.
Driven by her desire to succeed and encouraged by the importance her mother placed on education, Hernandez maintained a rigorous school schedule and participated in many extracurricular activities. But she knows the opportunities she had growing up aren’t available to everyone.
“When I started working in human resources, I realized I play a role in providing life-changing opportunities for people. I help people find jobs, and that’s very rewarding.”
In addition to her job as a recruiter, Hernandez heads Denver Water’s human resources community outreach program, which includes providing resume writing workshops, mock interviews, networking opportunities and other support services to a variety of community groups, particularly those serving minority and at-risk populations.
Hernandez and her co-workers have worked with several groups to provide career coaching and workshops, including the Center for Work Education and Employment, The Summer Migrant Youth Leadership Institute, Goodwill Industries of Denver, Colorado Youth for Change, Colorado State University Water Sustainability Fellows, the Latin American Education Foundation, and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community through a partnership with the Society for Hispanic Human Resource Professionals.
Hernandez has been touched by the many stories of the people she’s met through her job at Denver Water and her work on the outreach programs.
But Hernandez said she’ll always remember her work with 80 high school students from the Summer Migrant Youth Leadership Institute, held at the University of Denver.
The students were low-income, first-generation immigrants from all over the world. The program exposed them to college life, gave them a sampling of college coursework and introduced them to local employers.
Hernandez had an opportunity to conduct mock interviews with three of the students and was inspired by them.
“The three young men I met with had really been through the ringer, yet they were so humble. All three had strong desires to find careers where they could help others, and they spoke a lot about the importance of family and how their backgrounds and cultures drive them to succeed,” she said.
Hernandez knows many of the people she works with in the community may never apply for a job at Denver Water.
"It is our hope that as we provide these services, we are helping them become competitive candidates for any job they apply for in the future,” she said. “Who knows, maybe one day their paths will lead them back to Denver Water.”
Hear Veronica Hernandez talk about her job in Denver Water's video series “Journey of Water.”