Raised in the Tower Business But Building Her Own Path

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If you look at Leticia Latino van-Splunteren’s accomplishments, you’d be forgiven for assuming she was born to take over the family business. You wouldn’t be completely wrong, in fact, there’s a photo of her mom (above left), pregnant with Latino, at one of Neptuno’s early telecom sites. But you wouldn’t be completely right, either. 

“When I started work at Nortel, I didn’t tell anyone there that my family ran a telecom company in South America,” Latino, President and CEO of Neptuno USA, Corp., explains. “I didn’t want to be thought of as just the daughter of the owner of Neptuno. I wanted to make my own way.”

But when Nortel went under, she started looking at things differently. “I said to myself, if I’m going to work really hard for something, I want to work hard at advancing my father’s legacy. That’s when I decided it was time to join my family’s business.” 

The international reputation of Neptuno helped when Latino formed Neptuno USA in 2002, but it still took time to leverage her own contacts in the industry and to be taken seriously. “I was a young woman, running a business in a male-dominated field,” she said. 

The new Miami office focused on international work. Latino began looking into what else her company could create or provide to add value. Neptuno USA branched into software and 3D laser scanning, transforming it from a tower manufacturer to a tower and telecom technology company. Even so, it struggled to gain a foothold in the United States. 

“All the experience we had internationally was worth little here.” Latino explains, “For example, we were a vendor for many years in European companies. But in the U.S., the vendors are handled totally separately from the international company. It took years to gain vendor status here.” 

Neptuno USA still works largely in international markets, though it is doing more stateside. “We have proven ourselves,” says Latino. “We supplied the towers for the Ericsson Center of Excellence, which is a brand new training facility for 5G technicians.”

Latino appreciates the support of allies that helped her on her path to success. “Starting out, I was going to do it on my own, alone,” she said. But then a senior leader in the industry took her under his wing. “He became my mentor. I saw that people wanted to help. They wanted to see me succeed.”

Then representatives from companies she worked with encouraged her to apply for Certified Women’s Business Enterprise (WBENC) status. “I had avoided it at first. I wanted to be known for our services and our products, not that we were woman-owned,” Latino explains. “But then the reps shared how it would allow them do business with us. I realized it was a program meant to help.”

Recently Latino won the 2018 Women in IoT award by ConnectedMagazine. She’s been featured as one of the prominent women in telecom by TowerXchange, the Wireless Industry Association (WIA) and AGL magazine. She’s an active member of the SmartCity Council TaskForce and the WIA City Networks Task Force. And her company was a finalist in the 2019 WeInnovate! Program promoted by WBENC-Certified Women’s Business Enterprises.

Latino is a full member of the Business Development Advisory Committee (BDAC) and the Chair of the Job Skills and Training Working Group, both appointments by the FCC Chairman. “It’s a brand new experience for me but I’m enjoying it,” she said. “I like the government aspect of it. And trying to make a difference.”

On a more local level, Latino also works to make a difference. She mentors women early in their telecom careers through programs with NATE and WIA. She also informally mentors both men and woman within her company. 

And to further help others, this year she launched a podcast, “Back2Basics.” In it, Latino advocates for reconnecting with yourself and others. “Human connections—including a connection with yourself—are the key to succeeding in your business and personal life,” she says.

As for her time in the telecom industry, she’s seen not only are more women in telecom, but they’re reaching more positions of power and influence. “Bit by bit, the diversity ‘voice’ is being heard. It’s starting to resonate at all levels,” she said. “I think it’s great. There’s plenty of room for all of us.”

By Kristen Stelzer for Inside Towers

September 26, 2019

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