Born in Mexico, Diana Villegas immigrated with her family to the United States where she spent most of her life. “I grew up between two cultures; always straddling the boundaries of culture and identity. As a child, I quickly realized the importance of communication in understanding and navigating each other’s differences”, says the Mexican-American. Hence her choice to focus in a communication profession and her strong sensitivity to diversity in all its forms.
Throughout her career, Diana has been able to explore different sectors, countries and cultures. After an internship for the US government and at a marketing agency in Australia, her first focus was public relations – her “first career”.
During her last year of university, she had the opportunity to study at Besançon to learn French. It was there that she fell in love with Europe and decided to stay. Diana worked in public relations for four years at a video games company in Germany. It was an opportunity, in her opinion, to “expand her international career and vision” it allowed her to “be exposed to different ways of working, communicating and thinking”.
Back in France, she joined the public relations department of a company specialising in IoT (Internet of Things). It was then that she seized the opportunity to study at Sciences Po, where she earned a master's degree in corporate strategy. “Being the first in my immediate family to graduate from an university, earning a Master’s was a dream for me.”
Diversity as a driver
Still in France and after two years at a consulting firm, Diana joined Talan in 2021 as Alliance Manager, in particular to develop the group's partnership with Salesforce. On a daily basis, it relies on analyzing market trends, setting strategies with partners, reviewing targets, connecting the right people, and identifying business opportunities.
She evokes the freedom of action, listening and caring she enjoys within the group –
“if we have an idea, Talan will let us explore it”. Obviously, “it’s always easier to grow and succeed in such an environment.”
For Diana, this environment is partly based on two pillars: diversity & inclusion. Age, gender, nationality, culture, work/ behavioral styles … According to the young Talan, the company draws its strength from “its diversity in the broad sense”.
“Diversity is an asset! It brings different points of view, breaks groupthink, stimulates creativity and can be a source of very positive emulation within inclusive teams. It is by cultivating diversity that we can co-create solutions and innovate.”
Moreover, upon her arrival, she was pleasantly surprised to join a “super international” and mixed team – “a good example of parity”. Appreciating the spirit of mutual support and the strong cohesion within the team, she “immediately felt accepted”.
Recalling past experiences, she said she did not feel “comfortable in homogeneous environments where positive discrimination is excessively brought up and demonized. It signals a poor understanding of diversity and inclusivity while making marginalized people feel like a target”.
Drawing strength and assertiveness through mentoring
At the start of her career, Diana had no role models to “ask questions”, seek guidance or emulate in the industry. This changed when she was lucky to connect with her mentor, Funda Yakin, at a trade event in Los Angeles. Having much in common with Yakin, Yakin helped Villegas with her career plan and helped her find ways to acquire the skills she was aiming for.
The advantage of being accompanied by a woman with a similar background? The freedom to be able to “really talk to her and be understood on specific issues”. Diana added, “I tried with other mentors and while I am very grateful for their help, it was less obvious.
Unfortunately, due our society, there are certain challenges only people who have experienced them can see, understand and advise”. Diana recommends that women “try to engage with high-ranking female mentors (where possible) in their field”.
But Diana still laments the lack of “high-ranking women in IT and consulting”. “Since there are not many female leaders in this environment, it is difficult as a woman to have access to tools and information”, she explains. As soon as she can, she wants to offer mentoring to, “help in the same way that Funda did”. Until then, she advises women to stay true to themselves.
“We are often told to take space or take the lead but this does not mean we have to act in a stereotypical masculine way”, she stresses. “It’s easy to hide your true personality and become someone you are not to try to fit in and avoid impostor syndrome”.
She says that she herself ,“tried at the beginning of my career to hide my feminine side or what is considered as such; for example the way I expressed myself”. Although authenticity can be “difficult, especially at the beginning”, “at the end it pays off”, says Diana.
Moreover, this intersectional feminist is committed to women’s rights (particularly in the fashion industry). Diana acts as a social media ambassador within the NGO called Remake our World and very regularly publishes content on social media to raise awareness of these subjects. Her ambition: to help others become aware of sustainability and worker rights, which are close to her heart.
“It’s very important to talk about diversity as a whole, not just women. People, climate, discrimination ... For me, everything is connected. To be able to help people, we need to talk about systems”, she insists.