Ilda Andaluz is the executive vice president of HR at Varel Energy Solutions, but you’ll never hear her introduce herself that way. With over twenty years of experience in the private and public sectors across several industries, and a master of jurisprudence in employment relations law from Tulane University School of Law, Andaluz has come to believe that titles aren’t what matters. What matters is one’s ability to grow other people.
“Some people sit on a title like a throne but that’s not me,” she says. “I always introduce myself first as Ilda, not the head of a department. Because my role is to get to know people and to understand how I can support and grow them. In the end, titles come and go. In one company you could be called an executive and in another it could be a director. It doesn’t really matter.”
Andaluz is the only woman in Varel’s C-suite in a major role spanning HR, recruitment, leadership development, and DEI with direct reports across the globe. Nevertheless, she’s an approachable servant leader of an all-woman team who never forgets her roots.
She’s the Montreal-born child of an Ecuadorian father who immigrated to Canada in the middle of a snowstorm while wearing shorts and flip flops; and a Salvadorian mother who also came from humble beginnings, immigrating to Canada from her native country in search of opportunity. Their resilience, courage, and ability to connect with others continues to inspire Andaluz and her approach to leadership.
When you ask her about her greatest career accomplishments, Andaluz doesn’t tout being a polyglot (in addition to English, she speaks Spanish, French, and Italian); the many strategies and programs she’s helped to implement; or her expertise in areas like project and change management, business process improvements, and employee relations. Instead, she has taken pride in helping to increase the skills of her employees so that someone else can step into her role if need be.
“I’ve never left a role where the team I was leaving behind said, ‘Now what?’” Andaluz says. “I was always growing them. And in my field, a majority of [the] time my teams were comprised of women. So, my greatest accomplishment has been uplifting them [so they could] take on those next roles.”
That speaks to how she sees her role as a leader at Varel Energy Solutions, one of the world’s largest independent manufacturers and suppliers of downhole drilling and completions products to the energy sector. There, she recognizes the importance of evaluating and elevating her employee’s skills and abilities and constantly implementing ways to develop them.
“My role as a leader is not to get to the next role,” she says. “I need to inspire people to be better at their roles. Companies fail not because they don’t know what they’re doing but because of poor leadership. It’s important not to forget our responsibility to give our people what they need, and it doesn’t just translate in the workplace, but it goes beyond that and transforms their lives.”
Part of her drive to do that stems from a challenge and disappointment she faced earlier in her career, a time she didn’t feel believed in by her senior leadership. She had set her sights on a leadership role at a company she worked at for six years, but then an executive told her that she wasn’t “leadership material.”
“He said ‘we don’t think you have leadership potential; you still have some things to learn,’” she recalls. “I looked at him and asked for feedback, and he was not able to give anything specific.”
Andaluz walked away from that conversation feeling disappointed and deflated. Upon reflection and after conversations with her mentor she realized that she had the potential the leader said she lacked and more.
“I looked at what I could control and started writing down all the things I wanted for myself and all the roles that I could apply for,” she says. “Then I asked myself, ‘What are you afraid of? Why are you waiting for someone to give you the next role? Take the risk and apply for the next step.’”
She decided to bet on herself. She applied for roles outside the organization, quit her job thereafter, and ended up achieving the goals she had mapped out for herself. That experience taught her the value of self-advocacy. It also cemented her passion for advocating for women in the workforce.
“Being of Hispanic descent means growing up you are told to be very polite, to listen to your elders, to wait your turn to speak, and to be respectful,” Andaluz says. “When you’re in the corporate world, sometimes they underestimate you because you do those things. I’ve had people tell me ‘You’re too polite,’ ‘too nice,’ or ‘you’re never going to be an executive.’”
She continues, “I’m a champion for women because those things will stick with you unless someone is supporting you and stepping in to say, ‘Hey, it’s OK to speak up, it’s OK to go for that other role, you do have what it takes.’ If we don’t support ourselves as women, who will?”
Today, Andaluz is empowering women in the workforce through DEI strategies with the goal of increasing the number of women in the male-dominated oil and gas industry. To that end, she’s helped the company hone its leadership training efforts, speak at schools and universities, facilitate diversity and inclusion awareness sessions, created a new family leave policy to attract diverse talent, and celebrate International Women’s Day in all of Varel’s major locations (US, Mexico, Aberdeen, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, and India).
So far, these efforts have helped Andaluz hire the first woman to serve in a HR manger role in Saudi Arabia, and a learning and development HR manager in India. It’s also helped increase the presence of women in the company in Mexico, where the number of women in the Mexico plant has doubled in one year. Additionally, she’s also started a women’s network to give women an outlet for talking about issues in the workplace.
She encourages aspiring leaders, including women, to surround themselves with people who recognize their worth and to bet on themselves like she did.
“Get an inventory of all the great things you’re capable of doing, take risks, work on your confidence, get a mentor,” she advises. “Never stop learning [and] develop more on those skill sets for yourself if that’s truly what you want to do.”
FranklinCovey is proud to be a strategic partner for Ilda Andaluz to build a high-performing culture at Varel Energy Solutions. Our work includes leadership and unconscious bias training through FranklinCovey’s All Access Pass®. This subscription provides access to world-class content including assessments, courses, and resources available live in-person, live-online, and on-demand.