As Director of the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network, Ingrid Devin oversees a global community of women business owners — ensuring they have access to the networks, capital, knowledge, and technology they need to excel. It’s a great fit for a life and career that’s been defined by advocacy. She shares what she’s learned on her journey so far, and what excites her about the future.
By Ony Anukem
We all have defining moments in our lives, Ingrid Devin says. “One of the things that always stuck with me was that my dad died when I was quite young, so I had a very strong mother.” The last born of six children from an Irish family, she also learned the art of self-advocacy at a very early age. “I come from a large family where if you didn’t speak up, you didn’t get heard. If you weren’t quick, everyone else took the good things.”
Today, it’s not just herself that she is advocating for, but women entrepreneurs around the world. Ingrid is Director of the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN), a global community that was established by Dell Technologies a decade ago to connect women entrepreneurs with networks, capital, knowledge and technology. These women are at the heart of everything that DWEN does — they are committed to adding value to their members personally, professionally, and in business.
One key element of the network is the annual summit, a three-day event that brings members together in a different city each year. In 2018, it took place in Toronto, Canada. This year marked the 10th DWEN summit, and on behalf of Women of Influence, I travelled to Singapore to take part, collecting the stories of some of the inspiring attendees hailing from every corner of the globe.
“There are three things we aim to achieve at DWEN. Access to technology, access to funding, and our third is access to a global network, and I think that for the women, all three areas are really important,” Ingrid says. “However, the real magic of the DWEN summit is the women — the friendships, mentorships and business opportunities that come out of them connecting.”
While the summit is the centrepiece of the network, “we are way more than just the summit,” Ingrid explains. DWEN members enjoy several other benefits, including a DWEN app, educational webinars, regional events, and tech consultations.
Constantly surrounded by successful women entrepreneurs, Ingrid feels she’s become more entrepreneurial. “My role is like running a small business,” Ingrid says. “From looking to attract new members to thinking about budgets, or even developing the team. I have more of a security because I know I will get paid at the end of the month, but I certainly think as you work with entrepreneurs, you begin to think a little more like them.”
Reflecting on the biggest entrepreneurial lesson she has learned in her current role, Ingrid says “a lot of people set up businesses and they have a great business idea. But the absolute crux is, you’ve got to be looking at finding a solution to a problem.” When I ask her if she sees entrepreneurship in her own future, she laughs. “Will I set up my own business someday? Maybe. Never say never.”
“For any business, you need diversity in your team. But it’s not just about diverse hiring. If you don’t create an inclusive culture, inclusive environment, it’s hard for your team to be successful.”
Advocating for women entrepreneurs is not the only type of advocacy Ingrid has led during her time at Dell. Prior to her role as Director of DWEN, she spent over a decade as Dell’s EMEA Diversity and Inclusion Lead. “At the time I started, it wasn’t like what it was now,” she says, pointing to “the gradual shift from equality alone, to a greater focus on inclusion.”
And that means moving beyond just diversity. “For any business, you need diversity in your team,” explains Ingrid, “but it’s not just about diverse hiring. If you don’t create an inclusive culture, inclusive environment, it’s hard for your team to be successful.”
She says her biggest challenge was ensuring that people saw the value of diversity and inclusion. “One of the things we did to overcome this was, I would find senior leaders who understood the value of diversity and inclusion, and I would get them to share the message.”
Turning to the future, we begin to discuss the importance of collaboration in women’s career advancement in the next ten years. “Every time we talk about gender diversity, we have got to include men,” she says, adding, “a lot of organizations are focusing on the issue of gender balance, a lot of governments, a lot of corporates, but the more we work together over the next ten years, the more powerful we can be.”
Ingrid is a strong believer in the power of mentorship and role models, citing the popular phrase “if she can see it, she can be it.” But she reminds us that role models can come in many forms, “I am really motivated by different people for different things,” she says. “In Dell, in the entrepreneurship network, through my friends, and women who may have been facing similar challenges to me.”
She’s also quick to point out the importance of introducing the topic of entrepreneurship to girls at a much earlier age. DWEN does this through its complementary program for girls aged 13-18, Girls Track, that runs simultaneously with the annual summit. Girls Track participants join certain elements of the summit and then have their own exclusive breakout sessions where they focus on key business topics such as how to go from an idea to a business plan, goal setting, and budgeting. Their program culminates with the girls pitching business ideas they have developed to the entire DWEN delegation on the final day.
“My advice for young girls is to dig around to find what you’re really passionate about and try to find a career,” Ingrid says. “It’s important to teach yourself to be authentic and think about what you want. Is it money? Is it status? Is it a cause you’re passionate about? Is it a type of role? Is it travel? The world is changing so incredibly, the careers that are here now may not be here in 10 years. There are so many jobs out there we don’t know and the future is so exciting.”