Expanding AAPL’s Diversity

Family members joined Trinidad Hernandez, CPL, at the 2016 Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida, where he became a member of AAPL’s Executive Committee. Pictured from left to right: Elva Garcia (sister) and her husband Charlie, Hernandez and Fernando Magallanes Hernandez (brother).


Simply asking for involvement is a good start.

For over a decade, Trinidad Hernandez, CPL, of Midland, Texas, has been a staple among AAPL and SAAPL leadership. Currently the assistant chair of AAPL’s Education Committee and Annual Meeting, he previously served as third vice president, president of the Educational Foundation, trustee of the Landman Scholarship Trust and chairman of the Accreditation Committee. Before that, he was treasurer, first VP and ultimately president of the San Antonio Association of Professional Landmen.

And it all began with a simple ask. Hernandez became a landman in 1997 and joined AAPL a few months later. Drawn by the recurring educational speakers, he began regularly attending SAAPL monthly meetings.

“The members made me feel welcomed and I continued to go to the meetings,” he recalled. “After attending meetings for several years and meeting many more fellow San Antonio landmen, I was asked if I wanted to be nominated for treasurer of the association. I immediately accepted. I knew this would offer more opportunities for my career, and I felt I could contribute.”

That was 2010 and he’s been serving his fellow landmen ever since.

While some claim success is only a matter of luck, Hernandez points to education and hard work. “I believe we make our own luck. You can’t be at the right place at the right time unless your hard work puts you there.”


Hernandez grew up on a small ranch south of San Antonio where love was plentiful and money was tight.

“Our parents provided everything we needed, and we learned to be appreciative for what we had,” he said. “We didn’t have new cars or color TVs, but we could run outside and ride horses all day long. We didn’t know we were poor.”

His father was an “ex-illegal alien” from Northern Mexico. “I say ‘ex’ because my mother would not marry him unless he would go back to Mexico and enter the USA legally,” he said.

Born in Sabinal, Texas, to immigrant parents from Northern Mexico, his mother was a voracious reader and believed education and hard work were the only way to escape poverty. Her father died in a car accident when she was 11, and she had to drop out of high school a few years later and find work to help support her family. Refusing to give up on her dreams, she attended night school to earn her GED.

“She would tell us stories about coming home from night school and being punished for being out late at night,” Hernandez said. “In those days, a respectable Mexican girl was not out of the house late. But she persisted and took the punishment because she knew with her GED, she could get better jobs and provide more for her family. She made it her mission to support her mother and sister.” Years later, Hernandez’s father — with the help of his mother — also earned his GED. Both found work in civil service.

“Education was very big in my family and it was constantly stressed. My parents both sacrificed and enrolled all three of their kids in private school, and all three of us went on to get college degrees,” said Hernandez, a graduate of Saint Mary’s University in San Antonio. Similarly, he believes education and hard work are the keys to achieving one’s goals.

“Most people would call this the American dream and I truly believe everyone in this country can achieve their goals using this method — no matter what race you are or where you come from,” he said. “One of the great things I love about the oil and gas industry, especially as a landman, is that most people in the industry don’t care where you come from. They look at your work ethic, the quality of work you produce and how responsible and trustworthy you are. If you are all these things, you earn the reputation as a ‘good hand.’ If you are a good hand, you will always be working.”


At 40, Hernandez began his career in land. After starting off as a pharmaceutical sales representative following graduation, he enjoyed work as a real estate broker and a site acquisition agent for cell towers. When that industry slowed in 1997, the owner of the site acquisition company he worked with asked if he wanted to be a landman.

“I asked, ‘What’s that?’ He explained it was basically the same type of work as a site acquisition agent, which I really enjoyed, so I said yes. He introduced me to J. Mark Smith and Zach Anderson, CPL, with J. Mark Smith & Associates Inc., and the rest is history,” said Hernandez, now West Texas land manager at the firm.

Involvement with AAPL opened many doors in the oil and gas industry, while earning the CPL designation also earned him the respect of his peers and the industry, he noted.

“AAPL has become another family for me. Being a minority has never hindered me in any way in advancing my career. I have never experienced any type of discrimination from any other members. In fact, many of the members and leaders have been mentors to me and have encouraged me to advance in the leadership,” Hernandez said.

“I haven’t experienced any discrimination because I believe that I don’t go looking for it,” he added. “If I don’t get a project or if a client lets me go, I don’t look at discrimination as the first reason. I examine my project performance and ask for constructive criticism to better understand the reasons for the missed project or our release. The constructive criticism allows our landmen and me to continue our pursuit of professional growth and excellence. 


Toward the end of Hernandez’s term as SAAPL president, the local association’s director to AAPL was unable to attend the upcoming AAPL directors meeting in Washington, D.C. Attending in his place, Hernandez saw it as an opportunity to see how the national association conducted business. He didn’t know a soul at the meeting.

“I took the initiative and at the directors informal roundtable, I introduced myself to everyone at the meeting. I think I took some people by surprise because I got some funny looks. But I didn’t care. I thought this may be my only opportunity to attend one of these meetings,” he said.

One director who took notice of Hernandez was Mike Flores from the Los Angeles Association of Professional Landmen.

“I also noticed him because he was the only other Hispanic in the group. He took me under his wing and let me know how to navigate the meeting,” Hernandez said, noting they discussed how they could get other Latinos involved in AAPL leadership.

“Mike made me realize that we should serve as role models for Hispanics and any other minority who wanted to be active in AAPL and wanted to assume a leadership position. I accepted this idea and I have tried to include and recruit as many minority landmen into the association as possible and have tried to mentor and encourage them to become leaders in the association.”

The next year Hernandez was voted in as the formal AAPL director from the San Antonio landman association, serving from 2012 to 2016, when he was elected third vice president of AAPL.

Hernandez is thankful for Zach Anderson serving as his mentor and encouraging him to pursue his CPL designation. “If it had not been for him, I don’t think I would have progressed this far,” he said. “I still have farther to go.”

His goals include encouraging more minorities to pursue leadership opportunities.

“There are actually many minorities already in our business. Most cannot be seen because they are not in leadership roles,” he said. “If someone is looking for help to get involved in a leadership position, you can contact me and I will help.”

Hernandez also encourages local associations to identify potential leaders and to mentor, encourage and support them in leadership. “We must look inward and support people who are already members. It all starts at the local level. If someone had not asked me to participate in the SAAPL, I doubt that I would have moved up the chain to a leadership position,” he said.

“I also would recommend that when a minority reaches a leadership position, do not abandon that person. Remember this might be something new to this person. They may not be used to leading a different group or even being in a leadership position. They may need further mentoring and encouragement to keep them moving up the chain,” he added.

“Motivating a person to enter into a leadership position is just half the job. It is not easy to be a leader, and we cannot let people become disheartened or lose their excitement. They still need our support.”

We asked Hernandez to share more insights on encouraging minorities to get involved in association leadership roles:

You first got involved in a leadership position — SAAPL treasurer — because you were “asked.” Was that a difference maker?

TH: Yes, it was that simple. I had considered getting more involved and here was my opportunity. I realized that even if I did not know that many people in the organization, somebody had noticed me and had felt that I could add something to the group. They had taken the risk of asking me to join their Executive Committee, and I felt responsible to be the best I could be and not let them down. I worked hard to be prepared for all the meetings and to greet everyone at the door. I wanted to be the best treasurer possible, and I have followed that same strategy in all my positions of responsibility.

Do you think we should be asking more minorities to get involved in leadership roles?

TH: Definitely! All it takes is asking and inviting minorities to get involved. Maybe they want to get involved but just don’t know how. If you think about it, most minorities are not brought up to be overly assertive in American society because they are always trying to gain acceptance and fit into society. Their parents may have little to no education and have no sense of the workings of the traditional American business. Unless you encounter someone who can point you to the path of possibilities, you don’t know the process for acquiring your success.

At your first AAPL directors’ meeting, there was only one other Hispanic member there. Did you feel outside your comfort zone?

TH: By this point, it was not outside my comfort zone. It seems for most of my career, I have been the only Latino in the room on many occasions. I rarely notice that situation anymore. However, I don’t come into a room looking for other Latinos; rather I come into a room looking to make new friends or greet the friends I already know. If I don’t know anyone, I have enough confidence in myself knowing that I belong in the room and I can introduce myself to anyone I come in contact with. Being a pharmaceutical sales representative taught me how to approach people. So now it is second nature when I walk into a room of people that I do not know. These skills are the fundamentals that we can help young minority landmen acquire. We can help them learn the professional and social aspects of doing business. 

You’ve actively recruited minorities to the industry and AAPL. Does “asking” make a difference like it did for you in your first volunteer role?

TH: Yes it does. I have asked minorities and nonminorities to join in leadership roles. If I see someone with potential, I will ask them to think about moving into a leadership position. I have nominated several people to serve on different committees in the AAPL. Some have made it and some have not, but I think it is my responsibility to continue to bring new blood and new spirit into this organization. I do not try to recruit someone just because they are a minority. Everyone deserves a chance at being in leadership and not just because they represent a certain race or social class. I was brought up to be fair that way.

From an early age, I knew that I could compete with anyone and that I should take pride in my successes because I earned them. It was not the color of my skin or my racial heritage and background. This was also stressed at my high school. This is where, for the first time, I was exposed to other races and to kids from other socioeconomic backgrounds. It was in 1971 that I first encountered African American students in my classes. It was also the first time that I was around students whose parents were attorneys, doctors, businessmen, leaders of the community. Up to this point, my circle of friends were other poor Mexican kids like me. I was a rural country boy and I wasn’t exactly exceptional; however, in this school, everybody was treated the same. Everyone was expected to do well, no matter where you came from.

What would you say to encourage a minority landman to pursue leadership?

TH: I would encourage them by saying that if you want to add something to this group or if you want to make a difference, you must make the decision to get involved with leadership positions. Start by volunteering. Earn a voice in the industry by giving your time and talents to professional organizations. The best place to get a voice and be heard is to become involved and volunteer. Work on your certification. Take certification classes that will expose you to other leaders in our group. You will be able to network so you can let them know you want to get involved. In this way the organization can also get to know you. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. And most of all, don’t let anyone hold you back as you start making progress. I know in the Latino community sometimes people, even family members, will try to hold you back once they see you succeeding in your goals. They may feel jealous that you will surpass them socially or make more money than them. But remember, you are not alone. Someone — a mentor, a friend or a co-worker — is always available to give you support. Even I can help you navigate through the process and introduce you to other people who will help. You will not be alone.

Why is it so important that local associations take an active role in recruiting minority members for potential leadership roles?

TH: Because that is where a minority person or anyone can develop their confidence and get experience being a leader. Local associations serve as the training grounds for future AAPL leaders. You can work your way up the chain of command and get to see if you have what it takes to serve on a committee, as an officer, as a leader of your organization. If you like it, then you can work on serving at the national level.

Once a minority is in a leadership role, what are some ways their local association and AAPL can help maximize their success?

TH: Support them. You can support them in many ways. Have experienced senior members serve as a mentor. The organization can form a support group or committee to develop and offer advice that can be followed by a new leader. Form a leadership group of past officers who can help guide these young leaders as they negotiate unfamiliar systems of the organization. They may not have had the opportunity to go to business school to learn how most businesses work, or they may not have been involved with organizations that have a traditionally Anglo-American legacy. Handling situations in their culture may not be the same as handling it in today’s business culture. They need time to learn and get comfortable with their responsibilities.

Looking back at your own experiences, can you recommend any specific tips to help local associations promote a culture of inclusiveness?

TH: There are some minority landmen already in our business, and first I would ask local associations to reach out and invite all landmen to become members. We should make sure minority individuals can easily find the information needed to become members of the local association. Once they are members, we can help them stay in the association. Sometimes minority landmen feel like they are not wanted. If a new landman comes into a meeting, have someone available to introduce them around. Make them feel welcome. Identify minority leaders to help recruit other minority landmen. Once in the organization, minority members could be responsible for identifying outstanding landmen with the potential to become leaders. You cannot just recruit minorities and forget about them. It takes follow-up support and time to develop their skills as leaders.

Anything else to add?

TH: I would like to clarify that sometimes individuals of ethnic minority groups feel like they are living in two worlds. One world is the Anglo-American world and all that implies, including the cultural values, the attitudes, the language and the subtle differences that go along with the dominant American culture. The other world for a minority individual is the familial world of their cultural background. Sometimes these two worlds collide with each other. We as minority people must learn to navigate and live in both worlds. We must understand that if our goal is to be successful in business, we must adhere to the cultural business systems of the Anglo-American world. We must learn the language, attitudes and business practices of the American system.

Living in two worlds can also bring some stress. In the Anglo-American world, it is taken for granted that one’s work has priority. In the Latino world, the family is of the utmost importance. A minority individual’s family may not understand why you are working so hard and not spending as much time with them. We are constantly juggling to meet these requirements for each world. Companies need to understand that we can handle situations in a better light once we know the ground rules and learn to balance both worlds. Companies do not have to change their culture to accommodate minorities, they just have to understand that their employees come from many different backgrounds and the two may conflict at times.

Finally, I want all landmen to know that as a member of AAPL for 22 years, I have never personally felt the sting of discrimination in this organization. I have always been accepted for my talents and my faults. I know there is discrimination in this world and I have experienced it from other people, but never here in our organizations. I understand that there are people who may not like me or my work, but it has never been because of the color of my skin or my heritage. For that I am very grateful but also very proud of this organization. It has given me opportunities and taken me places that I never imagined. I have met many wonderful people and have made many friends. I am proud to be a member of AAPL, the SAAPL and the PBLA and all landman associations. I am proud to be a landman.