Photos by Santa Fabio
Color Magazine: Can you tell us more about your role as the Vice President of Business Transformation and Chief Digital Officer at Mercedes-Benz Financial Services?
Rodolfo Dominguez: I started this exciting role in August 2016, following the successful completion of a five-year transformational project which delivered an industry-leading technology solution that supports our core business in the U.S. and Canada. In my current role, I lead a team of very talented people whose mission is to transform the enterprise by developing innovative solutions that generate measurable value and exceptional customer experiences.
How do we accomplish this? We ensure our core business runs efficiently so that we can deliver on our value proposition to our customers, dealers, and brand partners. We continuously explore ways in which emerging technologies can improve, or even revolutionize our business. This is especially critical given the amount of technology-enabled disruption taking place in our industry.
We provide executive leadership with the right information to make decisions on technology and process improvement investments. Finally, we actively manage our project portfolio to ensure successful outcomes that enhance our business, as well as our customers’ and dealers’ experience.
CM: How did you get started at Mercedes-Benz Financial Services?
Dominguez: I started my career with the organization in Mexico City in 1996 as a Portfolio Accountant. The opportunity was presented to me by my former manager at KPMG. He was my first mentor and had become the Controller of Mercedes-Benz Financial Services in Mexico.
This happened in the midst of one of the worst economic crises in the country, which made for a very challenging environment that provided tremendous opportunities to learn and grow. This was also the start of a very rewarding career with the organization, which has afforded me incredible experiences in Mexico, Canada, the U.S., as well as around the globe. Most of the positions I have held in my more than twenty years with the company (including the current one) did not exist when I started them. I have always had a passion for transformational projects that bring together people from different backgrounds, and Mercedes-Benz Financial Services has been an ideal place to pursue this over the years.
CM: What’s the most rewarding part of what you do?
Dominguez: The most rewarding part of my role is that I can make a difference in people’s lives in so many different ways while bringing value to the organization and our community. No two days are alike, except for my morning ritual which includes meditation, a workout, and a healthy breakfast.
CM: What’s one thing that a lot of people may not know about you?
Dominguez: To offset school expenses, I started a number of businesses in my native Mexico City while in elementary and high school, including printing and selling T-shirts at rock concerts as well as offering swim lessons for toddlers and kids. I started the T-shirt business with two friends and only 100 pesos I borrowed from my dad. The business later grew to employ several people despite a strong economic downturn in Mexico.
By having those businesses, I learned very early the value of hard work and that all privileges in life are earned. I also learned how to work with diverse people and teams to create positive outcomes for customers and stakeholders.
CM: How has your cultural identity been reflected in your work?
Dominguez: While I can say that I am proudly Mexican, at a very early age I was drawn to multiculturalism; and I have always had a passion for bringing together people from different backgrounds. This has been reinforced by experiences over the years including attendance at international schools; working in Canada for nearly ten years; calling the U.S. my home for the last decade; and more than twenty years working for Daimler AG, founded and headquartered in Germany, and one of the world’s most successful automotive companies.
Those experiences have made me comfortable around and appreciative of all cultures and people. I also have adopted different attributes from each of the cultures I’ve lived and worked in, and integrated them into my toolbox. This allows me to understand a diverse group of people—their needs, wants, and perspectives—then assembling multicultural and multidisciplinary teams to drive transformation by bringing the best out of everyone.
CM: What advice would you give to younger generations of men who are trying to get their foot through the door?
Dominguez: Whenever I have an opportunity to share my story with younger professionals, there are a few things I highlight for career development.
Don’t allow fears or limitation to guide your actions. Set your sights on a goal and work towards it.
Ignore any voices, internal or external, that would discourage you.
Don’t let critics define you. If need be, prove them wrong through your actions.
Stick to your values. Never compromise your credibility.
Be curious and seek mentors, coaches, and other self-improvement mechanisms to help you on your journey.
CM: How do you see the Millennial generation affecting or changing the industry?
Dominguez: The millennial generation is helping to drive what is happening in many industries and, according to a 2014 study by Brookings, millennials will make up close to 75 percent of the workforce by around 2024. As such, this generation is vital for our future. It is critical to understand what millennials value and how they work best.
As a generation, millennials have many strong attributes. For example, generally speaking, they are naturally curious. Growing up at the time they did, and being digital natives, millennials bring a different perspective to all industries. As a result, the way they think and the way they solve problems is naturally more fitting to the technology-enabled work we do today. I personally have found millennials bring constructive challenges to the way businesses operate, solve problems, and develop solutions.
Though Millennials are an important cornerstone of our future, each generation is important to the workforce. I seek the best talent at every level of experience and get to know people as individuals and independent of their generation, role, or title. I want to really understand each person’s strengths, their competencies, and their passions. When I know a person, then I can find the best way for them to grow.
CM: Who and/or what inspires you? How do you help to inspire others?
Dominguez: I am inspired by people who are able to help others overcome adversity and self-limiting beliefs to achieve greatness. I have been fortunate to count on many empowering influences from an early age and I strive to provide the same for others.
CM: Who are your mentors, who do you go to for guidance? Who are your mentees?
Dominguez: It is important to develop and cultivate strong personal and professional networks, including your own “sounding board” and coaches both inside and outside your current company. The relationships can be formal or informal and should always be reciprocal. I, personally, have found mentors and teachers in my children, who remind me to be present in every moment and enjoy the simplest of experiences; my wife Holly, who inspires me and supports me every day; my parents; my colleagues; and my friends, who each want to help me to be successful. Formally, I periodically engage a coach which is a more structured personal, development relationship. Selectively, I also will formally mentor three to four people at a time. With colleagues in my company, those mentee relationships tend to be very focused, project-style relationships with specific goals. In our meetings, I give them tools and homework. I candidly share all my failures and successes, struggles, and triumphs with the goal of helping each mentee walk away successful and knowing that we’ve both invested our time wisely.
CM: What qualities make for an effective leader?
Dominguez: I believe that leadership comes down to vision, communication, and trust—both giving trust and being trustworthy. In the day-to-day, that translates into a leader being able to articulate a defined vision to the assembled team; then being able to convey purpose so that each team member understands how their knowledge, skills, and abilities contribute to the overall successful implementation of the vision. This purpose motivates them to do their best work. Finally, leaders should create the corridor, through communications with other leaders and stakeholder groups, for the team to perform, then get out of the way and trust the team to execute on that vision.
CM: How would you define success?
Dominguez: Success is when you are able to make an honorable living and provide for your family doing what you love to do while making a positive impact in the world.
CM: What was your “aha moment” that led you to believe that you would be successful?
Dominguez: I learned at a very early age through self-started businesses in my youth, that I can get people excited about things. I understand people’s needs and wants, and make them feel special through genuine connections. I want to create experiences for them. As a leader, genuine connections motivate those around me to bring their best and accomplish what is seemingly impossible.