Few leaders get the chances to lead that Manuel “Manny” Medina has created. Known as the South Florida Tech Pioneer, Mr. Medina is the founding and managing partner of Medina Capital, a private equity firm investing in innovative companies in the cybersecurity, big data, software-as-a-service, and mobility markets.
Mr. Medina is also the founder of eMerge Americas, a non-profit showcase of technologies and innovators. In just two years, eMerge Americas has grown to more than 10,000 attendees and 500 companies from over 50 countries.
He was also founder and CEO of Terremark Worldwide, Inc., a global provider of managed IT infrastructure services, a company that was acquired by Verizon in 2011 for $1.4 billion.
He has led thousands of people – and a few industries.
“I’ve never been afraid to lead,” Mr. Medina says. When asked what his style of leadership is, he continues with a small laugh, “I would describe it as a ‘controlled democracy.’ I hear from others and often use the input they give me but you can’t lead by committee. In the end, it’s the leader who must make the decisions.”
Certain projects absolutely benefit from coalition and Mr. Medina is the first one to ask his senior management people to weigh in. “I value their input highly. What other key people say often determines a plan,” he says. “But often the leader stands alone, especially in a crisis or when an opportunity presents itself that requires a quick decision. You can’t be afraid of leading.”
Just as erroneous as the leader who has to do everything with input is the leader who never involves his or her team, Mr. Medina points out. “Every situation is different, of course, but you disrespect the people around you by not hearing what they have to say in many situations,” he recommends. “A leader should never just shoot from the hip on every issue.”
When Mr. Medina talks, others listen – and not just the people on his team. His leadership in the IT industry and insightful analyses of market trends have resulted in appearances on NBC News, CNBC, Bloomberg TV, and Fox Business, as well as interviews with global media outlets.
Leading the tech-world people, building loyalty
Being a leader of people in the technology field is slightly different, Mr. Medina says, than leading people in other industries.
“In the tech world, people are less formal,” he points out. “Often the most talented minds don’t have the regime learned in a business school.
“Thought leaders tend to be more artsy, as an example,” he continues.
“A leader needs to recognize the differences in people and not judge harshly based on previous perceptions of how people should operate.”
Mr. Medina says that the work habits of Millennials – people so prevalent in tech positions — are different than their older counterparts in other business sectors.
“You have to know the people you’re leading,” he says. “But people in the tech world, like in other fields, have to know they can trust you, rely on you. You can build loyalty but it takes time, and loyalty is as important in the tech companies as elsewhere.”
Looking for future leaders
Mr. Medina came to the United States from Cuba in 1965 at the age of 13. His father got a job as a cab driver; his mother worked as a hotel maid. Mr. Medina worked hard to get an education, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from Florida Atlantic University and beginning his illustrious career as a certified public accountant at Price Waterhouse.
“I made up my mind that I never wanted to be poor,” he says. “It’s not that money is that important. It’s that success offers so many opportunities.”
What advice does Mr. Medina have for others aspiring to be leaders?
“Why does a person select a certain product to buy? Why choose one over the other? It’s all because of trust,” he points out. “So think of yourself as a brand. Make yourself reliable, a person with a genuine positive attitude. Make yourself into the one who should be chosen.”
A good work ethic is a trait Mr. Medina looks for in others. “Success starts with hard work. When looking for people to be part of my senior management, I first look at the person who has a good work ethic, someone who quite frankly could do my job. The person showing me every day that they are the one who can be trusted is a person I consider for a leadership role.”