IBM Executive Stories: How my heritage, mentorship, and family have shaped my leadership journey

IBM hispanic leader Luis

Meet Luis Benavides, a Partner and Leader of the IBM Consulting Federal Cloud Migration and Application Modernization team. Through his inspiring story, he reveals how heritage and values can evolve into sources of strength in self-leadership and guiding others to become leaders. Luis also brings a fresh perspective on the company’s culture. He hopes his journey inspires you to become a leader who voices diverse perspectives.


The Influence of my Upbringing

Now that I am in my mid 40’s, I realize more how my upbringing has shaped me as a person, influenced my career, and inspired my leadership — something I am deeply grateful for.

Although I was born and raised in the Washington D.C. (USA) area, I proudly identify as Peruvian. My dad was born in a mountain village of Arequipa, Peru and my mom came from the seaport city of Callao, Peru. My father immigrated to the US in 1964 with several of his cousins, followed by my mom and sister. Soon after my brother was born, and then I came along, making me the youngest of my three siblings.

I truly believe my drive comes from my parents and their hard work and dedication. Like many others who were first-generation immigrants, my parents came from humble beginnings. My mother worked in the cafeteria of a local hospital and my father worked as a banquet waiter until the age of 74 at a prominent D.C. hotel. My dad would always tell me never to be late for work – this work ethic is a perfect example of why I am so driven.

To ensure we never lacked anything, my parents worked hard to build a stable foundation for my siblings and I. This experience serves as my constant inspiration. What drives me is never forgetting where I come from or the path my parents created for us.

We have a large extended family. Our upbringing was a blend of American and Peruvian culture, where we spoke Spanish and English, had large gatherings, and shared happiness, sorrows and – of course – Peruvian food. One of my favorite hobbies is cooking, which not only feeds my creative side, but also keeps me close to my mom, who passed away from cancer 25 years ago.



Ambition and Mentorship Influence

While growing up, I chose to replace a college degree with on-the-job learning, which put me on an unconventional career path. The main reason was that I didn’t want to burden my parents with the cost of a college education. In the mid 1990s, the D.C. area was booming with technology. I was fortunate to have an older brother with a job in IT who encouraged me to take a chance in this field. I took the leap, and I focused on specific skills I needed for the job.

At the time, technology was evolving so fast, that formal college education was lagging. I worked on systems that were replacing other systems in my curriculum, so I turned my attention to achieving technical certifications that made me attractive to employers – and in turn, this advanced my career. In fields like technology, you have so many technical certifications available that can help you break into the industry. You can actually take on jobs with no college degree.

Learning on the job alone wasn’t enough for me, no matter how driven I may have been. I now realize that without mentors, my career journey would have been very difficult. I have been fortunate to have mentors who’ve had great influence in shaping who I am today. The experiences they’ve shared with me were my substitute for formal education. They were, in essence, my professors. Having mentors beyond my community was pivotal to my success as well, given my family were newcomers to the US who didn’t have as much experience in the corporate setting. Even as far back as my first job, my manager embodied how to be ‘selfless,’ and taught me the importance of approaching people with a smile and enthusiasm.

Later in my professional career, I failed to get a big promotion, but I continued to show potential – so much so, that one of the executives on my panel continued to work with me, and when a new opportunity opened up, he had me work with the other leaders to prepare myself for whatever was next in my career. There was a polish I needed that comes only with experience. That was a big launching point in my career.

All of these mentors and experiences taught me how to turn my values and beliefs, instilled by my parents and cherished Latino community, into strengths at work.



I’m sharing my story now because I find myself in a place and time where I’m more ready than ever to embrace being a Hispanic leader. This realization became evident within IBM’s work environment, a company that truly celebrates diversity and inclusion. When I first joined IBM, everyone was keen on hearing my thoughts, a fantastic way to kick off my journey here. I was amazed by how welcoming my colleagues were of new ideas and different perspectives.

The diversity is incredible. There are several company-wide community groups, such as the Hispanic Executive Council, Familia@IBM, and the Hispanic Opportunities for Leadership and Advancement (HOLA), where I’m now part of the leadership team. It’s not just about your job or academic qualifications here; it’s about the principles and beliefs which have shaped you.


Going a Step Further in Your Leadership

As a Hispanic leader, I feel a sense of duty to give back to my community and pay-it-forward for what my mentors did for me.

To my fellow Latinos, to the sons and daughters of immigrants, and anyone who resonates with my experiences – I urge you to:

  • Start engaging with your community, even if it’s on a small scale: Raise your hand and get involved. Begin with something manageable and see where it leads. In my experience, the emotional satisfaction and community contribution is very rewarding.
  • Be a strong representative: Those of us who have achieved certain levels or positions should feel proud to give back and represent our identity, showing others that our cultural influence is a strength, and breaking through barriers is possible. We have an opportunity to inspire others.
  • Find a space to be yourself, and don’t settle for less: Unconventional paths offer a different perspective to contribute. Learn how to leverage it as a strength, and find those who see the value. All aspects of who we are is crucial to our success. We just need to recognize, embrace, and nurture it.



Discover Your Potential at IBM

For more than 110 years, IBM has been a catalyst that makes the world work better, and we remain dedicated to driving actionable change and outcomes for a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive society.

Consider IBM as the next step in your career journey!

  • To learn more about how IBM supports Hispanic talent in their careers, check out our Be Equal Portal.
  • If you are interested in an executive role, please reach out to us at
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