I feel that starting a new role is like going on a journey, a new adventure. There are unpredictable things ahead – some may be good, others less so. But who you travel with also affects your experience. And since we will be travel companions on my new journey as Chief Diversity Officer, I wanted to share a little about who I am and how I see the world.
Growing up in Puebla, Mexico, my parents raised my brother, sisters and me with the idea that one day we would have to take care of ourselves. “There is no Prince Charming,” my mother would say.
I don’t recall thinking of people as being either rich or poor purely based on how much money they had. “Richness” had a different meaning to me. My father had worked himself up from being very poor to being the most respected doctor in our community. When he passed away years ago, many people came up to me at his funeral to tell me “your father saved my life” or “because of your father, I was able to have children and a family.” That defined for me what having a rich life means: being able to contribute something meaningful to your society.
When asked in kindergarten what I wanted to be when I grew up, my first answer was a cashier at the supermarket; a few years later, I wanted to be an astronaut. And later in high school, I wanted to be Marie Curie. When I learned about her, the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in Physics, later in Chemistry, this literally shifted something inside me. Her journey inspired mine and I ended up studying physics and math with an Electronic Engineering degree at university. I liked the formulas and logic used to understand the world around me.
Being one of only six women in a class of 100 men, I got along and worked with men without any difficulty. I learned to ask for help and not be afraid of asking. Sometimes it takes courage to just be yourself and not be ashamed of what you don’t know, but rather be curious to learn something new. This attitude has helped me my whole life.
There were a lot of wealthy students at my university; I was not one of them and that feeling of being different, left out, sometimes ignored, has never left me. Part of my personal mission is to be empathetic and listen to the voices we don’t always have the chance to hear. Listening means “I care”. Listening means “what you say has value”. Listening means “I respect you”.
When I graduated, I had to get a job. So, I put on my most professional-looking clothes and rang the bell of Volkswagen de Mexico in Puebla City. The security guard told me I could only come in with an appointment. I talked with him long enough until I convinced him to let me in and give me the name of a person who might be hiring. I got my first job that day.
And on that day, I learned something I never forgot: When you believe in something strong enough, you can convince anyone.
I had opened a door that would open many others in my career. Just a few years later, my next role at Volkswagen brought me to Germany. I had been to Berlin as an exchange student when I was 15 years old, so I already knew the language and felt comfortable with the people. Nothing can prepare you better for the world than travelling and living outside your own culture. It forces you to gain new perspectives, get comfortable with being uncomfortable and learn by making mistakes – and these are some of the greatest ways to grow.
At this point, my husband, Bernardo (I did find my Prince Charming after all!) got a job offer in Detroit in the US. Our relationship has always been one based on communication and on helping each other grow. Sometimes I followed him and his career path, sometimes he followed me. And later when we became parents, we continued to share responsibilities and be there to support each other.
Sure, that lifestyle is not for everyone and I still think half of my friends and family in Mexico don’t really understand what I do for a living or what motivated me to leave. But my two daughters, 15 and 20 years old, they get it. They find it perfectly normal to have ambitions, strive for what they want and not be held back in any way.
In Detroit, instead of working in my familiar technology area, I was pushed to work closer together with customers – way out of my comfort zone. What I learned then turned out to be the best investment of my life: I learned to adapt technology to people and not vice versa.
When I entered the Siemens family as Chief Cybersecurity Officer in 2018, I had the privilege to hear Janina Kugel, the then Chief Diversity Officer and Chief Human Resources Officer, speak at a women’s leadership conference. I went home that night and thought “I would love to fill those shoes one day. This is a job where I could make a difference on a whole new level”.
And my dream has come true. Since May 2020, I am Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) while I continue in my role as the Chief Cybersecurity Officer. For the first time in my professional life, I feel that both sides of my personality are finally getting equal airtime. Now I am in a position to fully give and contribute as my whole self.
As you can see, diversity is a part of me but it’s a part of all of us: we are all beautifully unique and our own individual diversity is needed in our society. I strongly believe that diverse opinions, backgrounds and perspectives are healthy – healthy for companies, for teams and for your personal life. But diversity is only one side of the coin: inclusion is about creating a safe environment to be ourselves, to listen and to empower the wide spectrum of voices that often gets ignored and deserves to be heard, integrated, amplified. Inclusion is about making sure all of us enjoy a sense of belonging, both in our personal lives and in our professional lives. I care deeply about this and am fully committed to contribute in this space as I progress on my journey as CDO.
My parents always told me to “be the best”. No matter what I decided to do or be, “be the best at it” is what they would tell me. With the years, I have replaced the word “best” for “better”. It’s a small detail yet it makes a big difference because it means that the goal has not been reached yet. You have to stay active, push yourself to achieve more, work harder, go farther and never settle for the status quo.
That’s why I am fully committed each and every day to be a better CDO, a better colleague, a better wife, mother, friend, a better listener, leader and human being. Be better. We all can.