Hi Aida, can you tell us a bit about your career journey to date?
Aida: I graduated in electrical engineering and worked in Silicon Valley for one of the top companies there. Palo Alto was an amazing place to be during that time while working for Hewlett Packard (HP). The company had a large focus on diversity and I felt very supported. However, being a woman and a Latina in engineering in those days was not easy. I helped launch the first LatinX group at HP and that started my journey in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) work. I was the founding president, and I was also involved in the HP Women’s Network. This experience provided me with leadership visibility opportunities and eventually consideration for the head of DEI job that opened up. I was awarded the role and a new career in DEI began for me. It’s been a little over 20 years that I have been doing this work as my primary job.
What's the most challenging aspect of managing people right now?
Aida: I believe it is important to care for our workforce and better understand what motivates them and what barriers they face. The pandemic fundamentally changed the way we work, and in some ways it has provided a blank canvas to create new ways of working and connecting with one another. Many people are still remote and that brings challenges not seen previously. It’s important we have compassion and a relationship with employees that will allow for more transparency.
What attributes do you look for in new recruits and why?
Aida: I look for candidates who are open, flexible and disciplined with high emotional intelligence. I also look for someone who will treat others well and is supportive of a diverse workforce.
How important is LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace for you personally?
Aida: We work with people that come from all constituencies and it’s important that our employees and new recruits are supportive of these differences. Respect for one another regardless of differences is paramount. In my experience, people will share and open up if they feel supported and valued as opposed to facing judgment. The more we welcome and encourage people to bring their whole self to work, the better for our people, culture and environment.
What's your favorite inclusion campaign to date and why?
Aida: There are many I can speak of, but I’m particularly proud of the successful outcomes I’ve seen when straight allies become champions for the LGBTQ+ community, and when men become allies for gender inclusion.
How do you encourage staff to have a work-life balance, especially with the increase in remote/hybrid working?
Aida: It’s important to find that balance that allows us to have time to focus on work as well as personal needs. For many of us our work is being done at our home and with that there are many benefits, but we must be careful that work doesn’t take over other life needs.
What's the biggest highlight of your career to date and why?
Aida: I feel privileged that I have had the opportunity to expand who I am as a person and see the world with a new lens. Through different roles I have been able to travel and live in various regions and countries, and this has given me a rich and expanded perspective. Along the way I have met many people and those connections and stories they’ve shared have enriched my personal growth. As the head of DEI for various global companies and industries, I have expertise on launching successful DEI strategies and this has brought me a great deal of enjoyment and satisfaction.
What was the last book you read and would you recommend it to fellow leaders?
Aida: The New Earth by Eckhart Tolle – this book is meaningful to me because it highlights the importance of living in the present moment. So many times I find myself thinking about the future and this book reminded me to live NOW.
What was your last holiday destination and where do you plan to visit next?
Aida: I recently spent some time in Portugal and Spain. It was educational and also extremely beautiful. My next place to visit will most likely be the Big Island in Hawaii. I try to go at least once a year to swim with the dolphins in the wild.
What do you do to unwind at the end of a hard day?
Aida: I love to hike with my dogs in the hills behind our home. My dogs bring me so much love and they show me how to appreciate different things.