For Ana Villegas, the importance of empowering young Latinas is personal. When she was growing up in Peru, Villegas’s family expected her to become a stay-at-home mother like her own mother was.
Villegas, however, had different plans. After completing a master’s degree in finance and marketing and building her career in Peru, she applied for an MBA at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. “I moved to this country with my two suitcases and $2,000 in my savings account,” she says.
Now, Villegas is marketing director for North America commercial business at Dell Inc., where she is responsible for B2B marketing communications. Villegas has led the evolution of the marketing efforts through digital and next-gen technology adoption, establishing forums to drive innovation and partnering with key vendors to be first in market for new marketing tactics. Villegas also speaks at B2B marketing forums, where she discusses digital evolution, omnichannel strategy, and how to succeed in a shifting landscape.
Villegas’s work at Dell Inc. goes beyond marketing, however. Soon after joining the company in 2003, Villegas joined the employee resource group (ERG) Latino Connection, formerly known as Adelante. She attended events and independently mentored Latina employees until 2014, when members of Latino Connection’s board asked her to join the ERG as an emerging leader.
Villegas and her fellow emerging leaders were tasked with identifying technology-focused organizations to support. When Villegas found Latinitas, an organization that empowers young Latinas through media and technology, she knew it was the perfect match. “CEO Laura Donnelly began talking to me about this organization, about the girls, about how they wanted to learn about technology,” Villegas says. “This is the type of organization I wanted to support, and it aligned 100 percent with what Latino Connection wanted to do.”
Finding ways to support Latinitas proved challenging at first. The organization hosts after-school programs throughout Austin, Texas, but they happen when Dell employees are at work. To overcome this barrier, the ERG developed a virtual mentoring room where volunteers Skype with students. Mentors introduce students to new technologies and career paths, but the girls’ questions often lead elsewhere. “I want to talk about all that I have done and my experience, and the girl will say a question like, ‘Weren’t you afraid when you left home?’” Villegas says. “We need to go back to our roots to really speak to these girls and explain the basics.”
In 2014, Villegas established the Day at Dell, an annual day when Latino Connection and Latinitas bring a group of girls to the campus. “For me, that day was magic,” Villegas says. “They were impressed with the cafeteria. They were impressed with how we put all our servers in a data center. Things that we see every day and we forget. They were like new eyes, looking at everything through this new filter.”
Some students were amazed to see employees who looked like them. “They would say, ‘I didn’t know people like me worked here,’” Villegas remembers. This bittersweet feedback underscored the need for a program like Latinitas.
Villegas herself is a model of what the Latinitas mentees can achieve. Among her recent accomplishments is the Dell B2B digital campaign, which won Best B2B Campaign in the 2017 DMN Awards, a showcase of the most innovative campaigns, technology, and personalities in marketing. The campaign used dynamic optimization to create a customer-driven advertising journey.
“CEO Laura Donnelly began talking to me about this organization, about the girls, about how they wanted to learn about technology. This is the type of organization I wanted to support, and it aligned 100 percent with what Latino Connection wanted to do.”
In one example, a banner advertisement shows four Dell solutions, and a consumer can click on one to receive more information. When a consumer returns to the website, the advertisement remembers where they were in the journey and presents the next choice.
Less than 30 percent of consumers visit Dell’s website before they are ready to buy a product, making third-party engagements like this one vital.
“We could keep optimizing the Dell site forever,” Villegas says. “But that was only allowing us to keep customers, not to gain or grow customers.” The Dell B2B digital campaign guided potential customers through the journey of choosing Dell and sent them to the website only after several levels of off-site engagement. The campaign achieved thirteen times the engagements over previous campaigns with a fourth of the cost.
Working in technology opens up options beyond the tech industry, Villegas says. Five years ago, her main concern when hiring new talent was creativity. Now, she looks for individuals who understand technology. “More and more, technology is becoming this fiber that goes across the functions,” she says.
In June 2017, Villegas was honored at the Latinitas Quinceañera gala. The event featured artists from around Austin, a silent and a live auction, and recognition of Villegas and other Latinitas supporters.
“The place was packed. There was a line to register. There was a line to get to the bar. There were a lot of people all wanting to participate and to really give thanks and to give back,” says Villegas. “All of that made it a beautiful event.”
Latino Connection is expanding its reach by partnering with other technology organizations in Austin to form a cross-company group called [email protected] in Tech. The group hosted a career development event in September 2017, during Hispanic Heritage month. Latinitas will be in attendance with information about ways to support the organization. “I’m very proud that Latinitas is part of this, and that we will all be supporting Latinitas,” Villegas says.
Villegas wants to give young women the opportunities that she’s had and the confidence to take them. “I’ve learned that you have to make your own opportunities. You have to push and keep giving your best,” she says. “That’s what’s going to take you into the next step in your journey. That’s what’s going to keep you moving.”