“Growing up as the son of immigrants, the desire to succeed and improve was always present in our home,” Chief Legal Officer José Ramón González says. “My parents emigrated from Cuba seeking a better life, as my grandparents had done so before; they immigrated to Cuba from Spain a century ago. In effect, we had a double immigrant mentality where success was always a central theme and obstacles were never an excuse.”
As a first-generation Cuban American, González was raised in a community that focused on achieving excellence, with the goal of paving a better and brighter path than the one his parents had had access to before him. In his New York City neighborhood, he was surrounded by immigrants from many countries. The people, backgrounds, and stories at school and at home not only instilled in Gonzalez a drive to succeed but also equipped him with an innate ability to build relationships and interact with people from all walks of life.
Realizing that he had a knack for using his spectrum of experiences to come up with creative solutions to problems, he eventually found the law as a natural field for him. “My upbringing taught me to be adaptable,” González explains. “The ability to look at things in a different way and understand that there are many valid approaches to take. That flexibility was a key skill I learned early on and carry with me to this day.” He connects this to his success in a private-practice London posting at the New York–based law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges; his work as general counsel at the Bermuda-based, London market start-up, Torus Insurance; and his current role at QBE North America (QBE).
In his position as chief legal officer for QBE and the most senior Latino in the company, González incorporates his global perspective into his work every day. His cross-cultural upbringing and life experiences, along with his communicative style, allow him to develop a deep empathy with colleagues across the globe. Appropriately, he entered QBE at a transitional point in its history. A new CEO came into the business, refreshing the entire management team and warranting a transformation of the legal department as well.
“The skills I already had in place prepared me to take this role. It was that immigrant mentality of having to constantly create my own reality and destiny,” González says. “I wasn’t afraid of the challenge. I was determined to curate a new legal department fit for purpose in an organization that was undergoing quite a bit of change.”
González fearlessly took on the project and completely rebuilt the legal team into one that mirrored QBE’s strategic focus of welcoming the diverse viewpoints of its workforce and supporting the dynamic culture that grows when unique voices are heard. In order to build a stronger team with a higher profile within the organization, he assembled a team that was connected based on shared values, foresight, and aspirations.
“Many times, leaders end up replicating themselves within their teams. Instead, I focused on bringing together people with diverse ways of approaching problems and who shared similar values, such as being intellectually curious and conscientiously pragmatic. At the end of the process, you end up creating a diverse team that’s inherently cohesive because everyone shares a similar world view. This is the type of diversity I strive for.”
“The skills I already had in place prepared me to take this role. It was that immigrant mentality of having to constantly create my own reality and destiny.”
González constantly sets the footing for his local and global colleagues to follow his lead. He says, “While finding the right people is important, setting them up for success is equally as important.” González works to guide others towards their respective successes both inside and outside the office, as evidenced in his commitment to organizations such as LatinoJustice PRLDEF (LatinoJustice), the Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA), and the Spain-US Chamber of Commerce.
His work with nonprofits has reinforced his belief in the importance of giving back to the community. When González joined LatinoJustice, he “wasn’t looking at the big picture.” At the time, it seemed like a good networking opportunity. Now, seven years later, González says that his experience with the group has been an incredibly transformational journey. “Soon after I joined, I really started to understand the importance of the work LatinoJustice was doing. We use the law to protect the civil rights of individuals that would otherwise be forgotten.”
With the recent tumultuous political events affecting the Latino population, González believes that his influence is more important than ever. As the young Latino community enters the current workforce, his position grants him the opportunity to inspire the next wave of leaders.
“Young professionals should be able to see successful examples within their own community to demonstrate who they can be. For me, it’s very important to be visible in my position—to represent communities like ours.”
Editor’s Note: At time of press, José Ramón González was no longer with QBE North America.
Locke Lord LLP:
“Locke Lord congratulates José Ramón González on his well-deserved recognition. Having long worked with José and his QBE team, we celebrate how he collaborates with outside counsel, his leadership and his commitment to diversity.”