For Yahoo’s Armando Rodriguez, it’s all about smart phones and mobile

08/24/2014 7:18 PM

08/25/2014 5:24 PM

This is Armando Rodriguez’s idealized morning routine:

“In the morning, it’s all about my dog and kids. My wife, the kids, and I all sit together every morning to a hearty breakfast,” said the vice president and managing director for Latin America and U.S. Hispanic for Yahoo!, the iconic Internet company that is 20 years old this year.

“I always check my emails before leaving the house, including sending myself emails with things that I need to accomplish that day. I use email as my personal ‘to do’ list. I also catch up on what’s happening in the world using the Yahoo News Digest app and check the latest financial news using the Yahoo Finance App.

“Once I arrive in the office,” he said, “I focus on what I want to accomplish that day, review my calendar and walk around the office to greet my team.”

But, as the head of one of more than 1,200 multinationals with South Florida offices, the reality is a little different.

On more mornings than he almost certainly cares to count, he wakes in a white-walled hotel room in Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, New York or even California, where the company was founded by two Stanford graduate students intent on taming and organizing what was then this new thing called the World Wide Web.

That doesn’t mean that Rodriguez, who since earning an MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management has also worked for the Latin America-focused arms of Disney Consumer Products, the National Basketball Association and MasterCard as well as Internet startup Yupi, doesn’t appreciate being in Coral Gables, where Yahoo has its Latin America and U.S. Hispanic headquarters.

“Being in the middle of Coral Gables is a real advantage. Coral Gables is a beautiful and pedestrian-friendly area offering easy access to many restaurants,” he said, before adding, as a concession to his work, that “it’s also very close to the airport.”

Rodriguez joined Yahoo in 2005; two years later, in 2009, co-founder Jerry Yang departed as CEO. Since then, there have been a number of CEOs trying to guide the company forward and, because of its critical role in the early days of the Internet, each move is highly public and scrutinized. The current CEO is Marissa Mayer, formerly of Google, who joined the company in 2013.

As Rodriguez sees it, the future of the company’s efforts in Latin America are all about mobile, and more specifically, smartphones.

“It’s a promising landscape [in Latin America] for digital,” said Rodriguez, a native of Puerto Rico. “LATAM users are the second most engaged online users in the world after the U.S.

“Also, smartphone penetration is expected to reach 30 percent by 2015. So mobile ad spending will only increase. Mobile growth will be key for us, as we put mobile first in everything we do. We’ll continue to invest locally, and double-down on emerging powerhouses like Brazil. Yahoo . . . will continue to focus on building innovative products to make online daily habits more inspiring and entertaining.”

Rodriguez oversees four offices, including the one in Coral Gables. The other three are in Mexico City, Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires: “We also work with resellers and content providers throughout other markets to support our properties in Colombia, Venezuela, Chile and Peru.”

Among the 1,200-plus multinationals with offices in South Florida are many technology-driven multinationals eager to expand their Latin America operations, from Microsoft to Facebook, Oracle to HP, PayPal to Apple — and loaded with cachet. Not only here but across the world, these companies must become and stay competitive to create favorable workplace environments.

“Over the last several months, we’ve introduced new benefits like free food to make Yahoos’ days easier. New smartphones to encourage innovation. And updated computers to speed productivity.

“We also rolled out aggressive quarterly and annual goals for the company and for individuals, internal feedback tools for new products as well as weekly all-hands meetings to communicate transparently on the most important topics in the company.

“Across the region, we celebrate monthly birthdays, and the anniversary of the local offices and of Yahoo. In Coral Gables, we’ve been hosting an annual employee Thanksgiving lunch since 2000, and a Halloween celebration and costume contest since 2002.”

Being in the office, being at home, is the ideal for many of South Florida’s high-flying executives. Like Rodriguez, they don’t calculate whether they will earn 100,000 frequent-flier miles during the year; rather, they calculate by which month they will top 100,000 miles.

His favorite food? “Because I travel so much, I really appreciate a good home-cooked meal.”

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the year Armando Rodriguez joined Yahoo!.

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