Women in Leadership 2: Ivonne Valdes

Ivonne Valdes is a Transformational Global sales leader with more than 30 years of expertise in Mission Critical Datacenter, Enterprise and Cloud. Her drive to keep learning helps her passionately identify market opportunities and develop precision GTM strategies to transform and accelerate business. She is currently in charge of the company’s top segment—with customers such as Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Apple.

With a career spanning 35 years, you have amassed a wealth of experience in the technology sector. Tell us about your journey so far, some of the biggest challenges and the most rewarding parts.

I have always approached life as a journey of development and growth versus a destination. My biggest challenge was also my breakthrough. I learned early in my career that having a life plan is key and to read between the lines. When I moved to Silicon Valley in the early 80’s I became fascinated with technology and the semiconductor industry. I decided to work in this industry. Well, one slight challenge, all the job postings required an engineering degree and I had a clinical psychology degree. Back in the day, jobs were posted in the newspaper. There was a product management position with a leading semiconductor company. The key responsibilities were around customer management, order scheduling, communication etc. nothing that truly required an engineering degree in my humble opinion (remember read between the lines). However, I figured I needed to learn their business, to get considered. I enlisted my neighbor to tutor me on semiconductor technologies, trends etc. In parallel, I called the recruiter for 40 days until I got him to agree to get me in for an interview. The rest is history. I got the job!

Diversity and inclusion is a prevalent topic in companies and in conferences. Do you think women have enough opportunities and awareness about the various options that our industry presents to them?

I believe there is a cornucopia of opportunities. However, the only way to know is to educate yourself on what is happening in the market, go network, attend conferences and ask questions. Don’t just focus on your cu rrent position, give yourself the permission to invest 30 minutes a week to read or network. I say give yourself permission because we are all busy, but you need to make time for your own personal development. It’s your career so OWN IT! Be visible, interested and present.

You recently won the first D&I Inclusion Champion Award by iMasons. Can you talk about your involvement with iMasons and what this recognition means to you?

I have the pleasure of serving as chair of the Infrastructure Masons Hispanic/LatinX members group, and recruited my colleague and friend Claudia Massey, Vice President Global Business Operations, to be vice chair. Our goal is to create a collaborative ecosystem within the Hispanic community to drive digital infrastructure awareness. 

We have five simple straightforward objectives:

  • Create a community of DC professionals, educational institutions
  • and employers
  • Drive awareness, collaboration and link people to opportunities
  • Partner with local schools
  • Align with industry leaders
  • Attract, retain and develop the next generation of infrastructure leaders

iMasons is comprised of individuals who truly want to make a difference in the world. Diversity and inclusion are not just words, they are part of our core. We are tirelessly working to recruit, retain and develop the next group of digital leaders.

Valdes with her family

With regards to the award, I am truly humbled and honored to have been nominated by my peers and selected by iMasons. That evening will be imprinted in my memory forever. It was very emotional and moving for myself and my family. As Verna Myers says, “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.” At Infrastructure Masons, we are all DANCING!

You are a role model to many in the industry when it comes to diversity and inclusion. Who is your role model?

My role models are my mom and dad. I grew up in a family-owned accounting and insurance business on the East Coast. My dad is a retired public accountant and my mom is a retired insurance broker and travel agent. Growing up we were the only Cuban family living in a predominantly Italian, German and Irish neighborhood. We never thought of ourselves as different. My parents always have encouraged us to treat everyone with respect, learn from others, and ALWAYS give back, mentor and coach.

My parents set the example by mentoring and coaching young entrepreneurs, who wanted to start a business. As a teen, I would offer free translation services to help those applying for residency and naturalization. It was so gratifying to watch them get their citizenships and achieve their dreams. They all had rich stories and beautiful dreams about America, the land of opportunity.

At Schneider Electric, you are in charge of the company’s top customer segment with customers including Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Apple. Please share some of the business and leadership principles that you abide to successfully do your job.

My three key principles:

  • Customer first: Growing up in a family business, I learned that customers are your true north.
  • Continual improvement: Our industry is constantly evolving, so it’s critical that we scorecard our performance and drive continuous improvements. Just because something worked in 2019, does not mean it will work in 2020 and beyond.
  • Leadership: We are at a crossroad and the pandemic has altered how we interact, manage our accounts, our careers and our personal lives. This means reinventing how we can work smarter, not harder. It’s a continuous improvement path.

You are on a few boards including HITEC foundation, iMasons Hispanic/LatinX Members Group Chair and Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley. With such a demanding day job, how do you prioritize your time and contribute to such impactful efforts?

I am fortunate that my husband and I are empty nesters. We both believe in D&I, importance of education, sustainability to name a few. We discuss every opportunity that arises and how it aligns with our family and our values. Many of these organizations are trying to solve similar problems. So, I apply my professional experience to linking best practices and creating communities of action. I am extremely fortunate to have a supportive family system all the way from my parents, my husband, our children and our grandchildren, who believe that together we can make a difference.

Can you talk about your new role at Virtual Power Systems (VPS)?

I have the honor to serve on the VPS sales advisory board, while working alongside the leadership team.

What’s your message for young women who may be contemplating whether or not to join the tech industry?

Don’t wait! There has never been a better time in history. We need people who want to solve problems, and guess what, some of these problems are new problems that no one has the answers to. Become involved in Infrastructure Masons and leverage the network. Think about what fuels your passion. Is it problem solving? Or sustainability? Creating best practices or anything else? Build a career plan, share with your mentors, and pursue with determination. Don’t let obstacles or failure define your success. Remember its your life, your career. OWN IT.

How do you maintain a work-life balance?

My passion is cooking, family trips, entertaining, traveling, dancing, sport fishing and trying new adventures. In December, my husband and I are taking a falconry class. I don’t believe there is such a thing as balance. I believe in the practice of being present, not being afraid to ask for help and giving up on perfection. It’s okay if you buy Safeway bakery cookies for the school function. Block your calendar even if for 15 minutes to have a cup of coffee or tea with a loved one. Take a walk with a child. During SIP, schedule a Facetime call. Find ways to explode your heart with hope and joy.