Why Mariely Bandas-Franzetti believes advocacy will increase Latino representation in tech

Drawing from her own upbringing, the Dell Technologies executive explains how inclusivity in STEM starts with supportive leaders.

By Jackie Gutierrez-Jones

Ask a technology professional to identify the moment that sparked their passion for the industry and you’ll likely hear about a first encounter with a computer or a particularly inspiring science teacher. But for Mariely Bandas-Franzetti, it all began in her native Puerto Rico with a classic red 1968 Camaro and her father.

“I was always drawn to how things work and fixing things. That was part of growing up with [my father],” Bandas-Franzetti says. “Every Sunday, we pulled that Camaro apart and we put it back together. He taught me how things work together in a very concise, very simple way. That’s what sparked a lot of my interest in engineering.”

Now Bandas-Franzetti uses the skills she honed with her father—curiosity, persistence and self-reliance—as vice president of digital services at Dell Technologies. She has led global teams of professionals responsible for the systems that efficiently and effectively serve customers, including the development, deployment and sustainment of IT solutions. Throughout her professional career, she’s leaned on those early lessons with her father to help her solve complex problems in the fast-paced and agile world of tech, as well as advocate for women and Latino people in the industry.

Never stop learning

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Bandas-Franzetti’s father put himself through school and became a mechanical engineer. It was an experience that would provide yet another important life lesson for his daughters: Never stop learning. Education, he explained, was the key to their independence and success.

Bandas-Franzetti and her parents at Universidad de Puerto Rico on graduation day. “They’re the ones that taught me don’t stop being a student—you better keep learning something new every day of your life!”

Bandas-Franzetti took that lesson to heart, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the Universidad de Puerto Rico in 1996. Shortly after, she moved to Austin, Texas, where she led a variety of manufacturing engineering and supply chain transformation initiatives with Dell Technologies. She then pursued a master’s degree at Georgia Tech, which Dell Technologies supported financially.

“We talk about how technology involves a hybrid work model now,” adds Bandas-Franzetti. “Georgia Tech had this program that was partially remote—most of it was done online—and that was a long time ago. My son was 3 years old and now he’s a freshman at the University of Texas!”

Empowering the future

In her role at Dell Technologies, Bandas-Franzetti wanted to mentor other women and diverse groups to help foster their personal and professional growth in tech. At the same time, she knew that her efforts needed to be bigger than mentorship: She had to be an advocate.

“I went and looked up the definition of advocacy and it’s defined as any action that supports or argues for or on behalf of others. Advocacy is going to be crucial for really healthy and diverse groups [in tech]. Mentors are like great team coaches—they’re going to be there to support you, to advise you. But advocates are like fans. Advocacy and inclusion are going to be key for retaining talent.”

Bandas-Franzetti at Dell EG1 Manufacturing, the first facility where the engineering team earned patents on automated management of distribution processes.

Committed to being an advocate, Bandas-Franzetti launched what would become the Women in Leadership program in 2017. What began as a book club for women in the Brazil office where she was visiting (“We started it with a very funny book about how nice girls don’t get the corner office.”) soon evolved into a program that empowers women leaders across the globe. The program currently boasts over 400 graduates. Today the program is rebranded as Empowering Diverse Leaders across Dell Digital.

In addition to her work with Women in Leadership, Bandas-Franzetti serves on the leadership board of Dell Technologies’ Hispanic employee resource group Latino Connection. This year she sponsored a pilot program with the Diversity and Inclusion team called LatinX Director+ Cohort that helps address the challenges of retaining a diverse talent pipeline.

Mentors are like great team coaches—they’re going to be there to support you, to advise you. But advocates are like fans. Advocacy and inclusion are going to be key for retaining talent.

—Mariely Bandas-Franzetti, VP, Enterprise Services, Dell Technologies

“You have your new hires—and we’re doing great bringing in a more diverse mix of people—but how do you keep that pipeline motivated and continue their extended development?” poses Bandas-Franzetti. The program, which launched with 25 key personnel, helps keep Latino employees engaged by expanding their skillset through external coaching, guest speaker presentations on topics such as breaking through barriers in leadership, and roundtables with executive leadership team members.

Diversity in tech

Beyond Dell Technologies, Bandas-Franzetti understands the changing tech landscape and recognizes that companies need to evolve in order to serve the diverse needs around the globe. In 2019, Dell Technologies CEO Michael Dell delivered a keynote speech at the Dell Technology Summit pointing to the power of data to advance humanity. The subject was a source of inspiration for Bandas-Franzetti. “There are many new ideas developing inside brains all around the world that don’t have a chance right now to connect,” she says. “We need to figure how to access that. Right now, less than half of the world is connected. The common thread there is data—how you access that data and how you’re able to connect more people.”

In that spirit, one of the projects Bandas-Franzetti is excited about is Dell Technologies’ Solar Learning Labs. Located in areas where access to information technology is scarce, each Solar Lab is a force for transformation and inclusion. Using standard shipping containers that have been converted into a classroom, each unit is equipped with solar panels and user stations featuring workstations and network technology from Dell Technologies. Each lab can offer up to 20 people a wireless connection to learning materials and can currently be found in six countries: Mexico, Colombia, Morocco, Kenya, Ethiopia and South Africa.

Many Solar Labs are decorated by local artists, expressing themes such as the power of education, hope for the future and pride in their communities and cultures. They have become symbols of inclusivity and opportunity.

“I really believe STEM careers are great for anyone who’s creative. I think if you want to be part of something that’s going to help the world be better, you need a career in STEM. That’s the core of what we do here at Dell Technologies.”