Anna Navarro Descals is the most influential executive in Silicon Valley born in Catalonia (Olot, 1968). She is Global Vice President of Netapp, a publicly traded tech company focused on cloud data management. Her position in the company is quite an exception, not only because of her gender and origin, but also because of her academic training. Who would say that a philologist can reach the top of the global technology industry?
The path that has brought her here is full of effort but also of being in the right place at the right time. Navarro was born in Olot into a wealthy family, her father was the head of maintenance and improvements at Nestlé in Girona and her mother was a painter. As a young woman, she went for Philosophy but finally opted for English and then German Philology “because they had more job opportunities and many people already mastered English.”
The Catalan executive has received the distinction of the most influential woman in the field of technology by the magazine ‘Insight Analytics’
He combined his studies with a job at the British Airways base at El Prat airport. “I did everything, baggage management, flight planning, customer service…”. He remembers that he has always liked the connection of peoples and cultures. For this reason, he went to Berlin to do a three-year postgraduate degree.
His American adventure began in 1992. A little for love, a little for the desire to discover the country. She transferred from British Airways and moved to San Francisco. But once there, he found himself in precarious working conditions. “They paid less and I barely had vacations!” So she decided to undertake on her own. He created The San Francisco Translating Company, a company specialized in translation and internationalization services for companies. “In the first year I didn’t receive a single client and in the second, I started making money… later, the business grew, I even had clients like Levi’s and the San Francisco City Council!”
Navarro – who in the United States changes his last name to Schlegel – assures that the service was pioneering and that he managed to make a name for himself in the city. “I started working for technology companies and in 1997 I got an offer from Cisco that I couldn’t refuse. I sold the company and became responsible for the globalization program. Languages were and continue to be key when entering a country and convincing the local consumer, although they are not everything”.
Navarro remembers the anxiety that invaded her when she arrived in such a different and new sector, being also a young employee. “She needed knowledge in technology, I lacked references, everything had to be done, it was like entering the university again.”
The key, remember, was to study and surround yourself with the best. “I had always liked international collaboration and I felt that it suited me”. After 6 years, he signed for another multinational, Xerox, as head of the digital content area at a global level and later, he worked for other large companies –VeriSign, VMWare, Acclaro– with positions related to internationalization programs for their technologies.
It was in 2007, when he signed for Netapp. “I started as the person in charge of web management and after half a year, I was in charge of the globalization of the business. I took the business to China, Russia, Japan and 142 other countries”.
Two years ago, she was appointed global vice president, a position that required her to travel very often before the pandemic broke out and from which she works to make the role of women in technology visible. “20% of my time is dedicated to giving talks and serving young women,” she says.
Along the way, he has also had two children and has founded several NGOs. She highlights her work at STEMentors, which helps poor people find work in Silicon Valley, and her work at the Women in Localization entity, which promotes women’s work in the translation and business sectors. She (In the past, she has also promoted humanitarian campaigns for minors in Africa). She has also written the book TrulyGlobal , in which he gives the keys to take a business to the global market. She now thinks of writing a fiction book about the lives of some friends who live in Silicon Valley.
Where do you find the time to get it all? Well, coordinating with your team and keeping a super-organized agenda, full of colored stripes, where you only take a break on Saturday afternoons and Sundays. He spends them at his house in Santa Clara, with his children, his friends, running, dancing, cooking… This is how he finds the calm he needs for the rest of the week. He tries to come to Catalonia a couple of times a year, although he admits that his present time is in Silicon Valley.
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Anna Navarro, a philologist at the digital top
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