Q&A with Dell Intrapreneur Ingrid Vanderveldt

Ingrid Vanderveldt created her own opportunity at Dell - by having the guts to ask for it.

Ingrid Vanderveldt says her best talent is “making things happen.”

It’s easy to see why.

In the past two decades, Ingrid has built and sold two companies, founded the GLASS Forum (GlobalLeadership & Sustainable Success) for women, and was the on-air host of American Made, CNBC’s first original primetime series.

Now, the self-confessed “serial entrepreneur” is an intrapreneur, serving as the first-ever Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Dell. In that role, Ingrid is not only using what she’s learned “in the trenches” of business to help other entrepreneurs, but she’s on a mission to empower abillion (with a “b”) women by 2020.

Along that line, today Ingrid has joined with the Young Entrepreneur’s Council (YEC) to launch#FixYoungAmerica, a program designed to tackle youth unemployment at the policy level. Below, she shares what inspired her to get involved in the campaign, how she created her own job at Dell, and her “major goal” of getting a mobile phone in the hands of every woman around the world.

Being an intrapreneur for a global company like Dell sounds like a sweet gig. How did you get selected for this opportunity?

I’ve been an entrepreneur my entire life and so when Dell launched a program called the DellWomen’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN) three years ago, I was invited to join. Next thing you know I’m in Shanghai with 75 amazing women entrepreneurs, all brainstorming what could we do to make our businesses more successful and what could Dell do to facilitate that. The following year our DWEN group met in Rio, only this time there were 125 women. On the flight back from Rio I just had this ‘a-ha moment’ that I wanted to empower a billion women by 2020, but the only way I was going to accomplish that goal was to partner with others and create leverage. So I called up Steve Felice, the Chief Commercial Officer at Dell, and I asked for the opportunity. I was really nervous but – fortunately – they said yes.

Empowering a billion women by 2020 sounds exhausting. How do you plan to tackle that?

I’ve always been very involved and very interested in global sustainability. If we’re going to create real change in this world, we need a new set of eyes – and those are the eyes of women. Women need to believe that they can operate as leaders of themselves, their families, and this world. So how do we get that done? One of my major goals is to help get a mobile device in the hands of every single woman around the globe. That seems far reaching now but it’s absolutely possible.

You mentioned recently that throughout your career in business, you’ve noticed women do things differently than men. Tell me about that.

The biggest difference I see is that men do a fantastic job of looking at things from a linear perspective. Women, on the other hand, tend to approach everything simultaneously and look at things from a holistic perspective. On the surface it may seem like we’re juggling too much and not as focused – when really we’re just looking at the bigger picture and putting ALL the pieces together.

How did you get involved in the #FixYoungAmerica campaign?

I was asked share my perspective on intrapreneurship and it made sense because Dell has been involved at a national scale providing opportunities for young Americans. There’s obviously a lot that needs to be done at the policy level, but I think everyone can help with this in a really simple way. Because all a young person really needs is to know that they are valued. That’s it. If you look around the country at where the school systems are failing and you talk to the young people about what’s wrong, they all say the same things. “My parents don’t care” or “My teacher doesn’t know my name.” It’s heartbreaking. We really need to start listening to kids today and if you’re in a position to open a door – even just a crack – and welcome them in, that can make all the difference in the world.

If you could go back and give one piece of advice to your 20-year-old self, what would it be and why?

In my 20s I felt like I had to prove myself all the time and I felt that if I made mistakes, I wouldn’t get other opportunities. Now I’d tell myself to listen more and be okay with the mistakes because it’s just part of the process. In those mistakes that we create a much richer life.

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