By Sara Alvarez Kleinsmith, thought leadership, Dell Technologies
Monica Esparza Younger received a gift at an early age that drove her to succeed: encouragement. A Mexican American girl born and raised in San Antonio, she didn’t spend much time doubting her ability to thrive at school. Great at math and the sciences, she was determined to become an engineer. Her parents, teachers and mentors guided her every step of the way.
Today, as the vice president and CIO of the Financial Services Digital organization at Dell Technologies, she leads a global team of over 350 people and mentors many. Younger was named in the HITEC 100 as an influential Hispanic professional in the technology industry in both 2021 and 2022. Using her talents as a leader to unite people during one of the largest tech mergers in history, she’s an inspiring example of a Breakthrough Champion.
Digital transformation within large organizations is no small feat. A reported 67% of global workers polled believe their organization underestimates the people requirements when planning transformational programs. Yet, Younger’s team has successfully led multiple transformational initiatives; from unifying the workforce to a single, global HR experience between Dell and EMC amidst a merger to a multiyear transformation initiative that uses a cloud-based platform to globalize Dell Financial Services platforms. She shared her journey and advice on how she makes transformational leadership look easy.
As of 2021, only 2% of the computing workforce was comprised of Latinas. How did you overcome the odds to find your way to engineering and a successful career at Dell?
Even though I realize that statistically, there may have been reasons for me to doubt myself as an aspiring engineer, I was always drawn to math and the sciences. It wasn’t until I was studying industrial engineering at St. Mary’s University [and was one of two women in the program] that I realized the glaring disparity. This is why I’ve always been passionate about mentorship and giving back, particularly when it comes to inclusion.
I’ve been an active advocate and volunteer with Latinitas, an organization based in Austin that empowers young girls to learn and innovate through media and technology. I also mentor first- and second-year Latino students who are interested in pursuing careers in tech. As a leader, I’ve always believed that the more we can bring in people with different perspectives, the better chance we have to drive impactful change. I came to Dell and started in manufacturing, then became a team lead of shipping systems and then a team lead of configurations management. I was encouraged to become a manager, which led me on the path to where I sit within the organization now.
You’ve led teams across multiple IT domains in implementing organization-wide transformation. That has to be a huge undertaking. How are you able to motivate, encourage, and unite team members in these initiatives?
First, digital transformation occurs only when there’s a team effort. My team is effective because we are able to come together with one shared goal. This is elemental to any endeavor that involves so many people. Second, when it comes to digital transformation or large-scale change on this level, it’s all about relationships. Currently, we [DFS Digital] are leading the multi-million dollar 5-year transformation effort for the Commercial Transformation Program to enable DFS to deliver a best experience to customers, partners, and team members. I’ve been able to leverage my relationships working across teams all these years to help deliver the technology solutions that our customers need. I consider it a success because of the teamwork involved, as well as the effort we put in as a united group.
According to Dell’s Breakthrough study, 64% of respondents report the failure of their digital transformation programs is due to their people. What advice would you give to leaders and employees to avoid burnout and scale for success?
First off, you must have the right balance. Make sure you’re able to disconnect from work and find time to do the things [outside of work] that you care about. As a mother of two, I know this is a key to my success. As a leader, you have to set an example. Take breaks, step away and tend to the things that matter so that your life is in balance. Balance is something I prioritize for myself, and I encourage my team to do the same.
Second, it’s important to take risks—as a leader or someone starting out. Find ways to take little risks. If it doesn’t work out, you can find another way and move the team forward in a different way. Finally, I’m a big believer in relationships. For leadership, I think that it’s important to build diverse teams and encourage everyone who has a seat at the table. For those just starting out, look at the person you aspire to be. Seek out a mentor. I’ve been fortunate enough to have great parents, friends, a loving partner, and Dell colleagues and mentors along the way. That’s why I prioritize mentoring others.
Technology opens so many doors. If you think about it, we interact daily in so many ways with technology. With tech, we can make lives easier and give back. That’s what drives me every day and why I’m so excited to get to do what I do.
Breakthrough Champions is a series on Perspectives profiling ordinary Dell employees doing amazing things to advance digital transformation. The series is inspired by Dell’s “Breakthrough” platform and the belief that progress happens at the intersection of people and technology.