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Human Element: A drive to excel and inspire the next generation of Hispanics - Alessandra Yockelson

Our Human Element series showcases HPE’ers and the impact they’re making on their community and the world. HPE recently celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month, and we sat down with Alessandra Ginante Yockelson, HPE’s Chief Talent Officer and HR business partner for CTO/Software, Compute, HPC/MCS/Labs, Pointnext, and Storage to talk about her Sao Paulo roots, her experience in tech and what it means to inspire the next generation.

I believe in equity for all because giving talents fair access to opportunities is all it takes for them to thrive and be seeing for their true potential. Opportunities transformed my life, and it is my purpose to create them for all

How have your heritage and upbringing inspired or motivated you at work?
I came from a traditional working-class family and neighborhood in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Growing up, I was immersed in a predominantly brown community, which taught me early on the benefits of privilege. My siblings and I have lighter skin, and so did my mother. My father has browner skin as one of the sons of an interracial marriage. Despite our humble upbringings, when I was at school or at work, I did not have to face the challenges that Black and Brown female colleagues went through because of the intersectionality of their identity.

My family was very close, and my parents were strong role models. Even though they did not receive higher education, they valued the opportunity to go to school and always encouraged us to be the best in class. Because our family income was so tight, we depended on scholarships. As our parents pushed us to excel, that ethic of excellence and believing in my abilities was instilled in me. It’s something I’ve carried into adulthood – something that inspires me at work and in life – not only for myself, but for others, too.

Due to their educational limitations, my parents had enough experience and knowledge to offer advice to a certain point. They were always there to support me, but they also encouraged me to venture out, to remain curious, and to always ask others when I did not know something. I was lucky to find people who saw beneath my gender, beneath my accent, beneath where I came from and gave me the access – the opportunity to show my talent and ability.

I think it is imperative to give equitable access to opportunities, and performance will speak for itself. At work, I try to help fellow Hispanics and other co-workers excel. As a leader, I believe in stretch assignments coupled with supporting and encouraging others so they can find opportunities, push their skill set further, and know that they are supported along the way. I believe that staying in our comfort zone and not giving and receiving feedback is a waste of human potential, and that surrounding ourselves with homogeneous groups is a huge missed opportunity to continue evolving our beliefs and mindset.

 

What advice do you offer to inspire the next generation of Hispanic leaders?
I think, determine your goals and work towards it. I put emphasis on the execution part, though. Most people will determine goals, but in my life trajectory, I have observed that the ones who attain them dedicated focus and time to be ready for the moments of truth. I like to tell my own story not because it is special at all, but because it is not. For instance, I always wanted to have an international career, but I could not afford English classes. I had a goal, but I had to take action to achieve it. So, I skipped dessert at lunch in the office to save money to pay for my first semester of English, when I was already 20 years old. And the harder I worked on it, the luckier I got. After seeing my commitment during the first semester, the school gave me a full scholarship to attend the second semester.

The other advice I often give, I actually got from my parents. They always encouraged me to feel confident to ask questions and move forward. In school, I would think about who the best professor was and ask pertinent questions. I would even ask, “how much do you make?” because I was curious, and I wanted to know so I could shape my path.

I think the key was that I asked for information rather than help. If you ask for help, people are busy, and they might even run away from you. My questions would usually be about the person, the decision she or he made, and why. People that don’t know you well yet and are usually busy, are more inclined to spend time with you if you ask them “tell me about yourself” than “can you help me with?”. By listening and reflecting on their stories, that gave me precious moments of mentorship that allowed me to evaluate what was good for me.

Also, when listening/observing someone, do not look at it as one picture, but at the full movie, otherwise it can be discouraging. The story is made of bricks put together – one after another – and every brick is part of the full path to achieve your goals. There are micro foundations to success.

 

How do these principles and insights inform your work at HPE?
I believe in equitable access. I have the power now to influence the leaders on what is right – to give people access. I am obsessed with metrics and I focus on these questions: Do we have diverse talent pools, diverse hiring panels, and are we training our leaders how to be inclusive and promote equity?

For me, the constituencies – or different groups we represent – are wealth creators for our businesses. How can we be fair, level set, and empower under-represented groups? We’re transitioning to a growth mindset, high performance culture, which is all about learning agility and how you shape that learning.

 

What are you most proud of?
If you look at the retention of diverse talent, I will say we have come along way. Two years ago our attrition among female employees was at 10%, and it is now at 5%. It took a lot of effort from a lot of people to make this change happen.

HPE has been celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month and as I meet with other Latinxs representing other companies, I perceived they felt more comfortable either doing business with Latin American clients or participating in Latin American groups because they felt they belonged.

When I was about to join HPE, I frequently asked myself, how am I going to feel? Am I going to feel I am part of the team? With so many tenured co-workers and this being my first job in tech, how am I going to fit in? Will I have to fake it? And to my surprise, that was not the case at all. Every single employee I interact with, makes me feel welcomed. I am lucky, I took a risky move and it paid off.

 

You’ve made bold moves in your career, what advice would give to others on taking risks?
If you do not move, you are taking a risk. You need to move after you deliver. This combination of performance, learning, and movement is what makes your career. For outstanding results, you must be bold. Human nature is to go for safety, but if you take a bold move you learn way more and have the potential to deliver impact beyond what others would have expected.

 

What would be your final advice for the next generation?
Great outcomes require behaving with intent; it is not necessarily a matter of trying harder, but trying smarter.

Have a plan. Understand what your purpose, passion, and ambition are, where you want to go and how big your delta will be and execute it. You will encounter multiple obstacles, and you will need grit to overcome them, then build and execute you career towards that goal.

*Employee Resource Groups


HPE Editor
Hewlett Packard Enterprise

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Alessandra Ginante YockelsonAlessandra Ginante YockelsonAlessandra Ginante Yockelson
Chief Talent Officer, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and HR business partner for CTO/Software, Compute, HPC/MCS/Labs, Pointnext, and Storage.

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/alessandra 

 

 

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