Diana Zarate-Diaz, MBA Candidate at NYU Stern School of Business

Diana Zarate-Diaz, MBA Candidate at NYU Stern School of Business

Diana is an MBA Candidate at NYU Stern School of Business – Class of 2019

What is your morning routine?

I’m an early bird. On weekdays, I wake up at 5 AM. I like to take my time getting ready: after I wake up, I have a cup of warm lemon water, followed by a workout of squats, sit-ups, planks and some yoga poses to boost my energy. I then take a shower and prepare my breakfast − I cannot leave my house without eating and would sooner sacrifice sleep than breakfast. Every day I have fruit (often in a smoothie bowl) and a latte (or as we call it in Colombia, a café con leche). While having breakfast, I check The Wall Street Journal, El Espectador to find out what’s happening in Colombia, and TechCrunch because there is always something interesting happening in the tech world.

Tell us about your career path

I moved to New York City for my MBA at NYU Leonard N. Stern School of Business as a Forté Fellow. I am excited to be back in school and face a different set of challenges, meet new people, travel and get ready for what will come next.

After graduating as a statistician, my journey started with two very promising job offers in my home country of Colombia: one with the equivalent of Bank of Canada and the other with the equivalent of Statistics Canada. I ended up choosing instead to follow my dream to move to China and study Mandarin. I relocated to Shanghai and, after studying the language for one-and-a-half years, I landed my first job, working at a boutique business-to-business market research firm. I gathered and analyzed information about our clients’ business environments to support their managing and executive teams’ decision-making. I am motivated by having an impact on a client’s business, and one example that comes to mind is when my team conducted research that helped a major global technology company define their product and marketing strategies.

After five years and two countries (China and Canada) working in business-to-business research, I decided to move into consumer research and I joined Ipsos. At Ipsos, I worked collecting and analyzing large amounts of data about consumer attitudes and behaviours towards brands and products. It was great to be back to my roots in statistics and my passion for making sense of data.

Combining my experience in research and my love and ability working with data, I hope to pursue a career that allows me to leverage the power of data to discover insights that create value and drive innovation following my MBA.

What challenges do you or women face in your industry?

I have been fortunate to work in an industry that has a good number of women across all levels so I find the challenge of being a woman is on a more personal level. Yes, early in my career I suffered because of poor salary negotiations. Yes, sometimes I still suffer from not promoting myself enough.

The good news is that I have learned from my ‘mistakes’. Even if I am not an expert salary negotiator or self-promoter, I now make a point of trying. Talking about these challenges with other women (occasionally with men) has been very helpful. I’ve realized that I am not the only one confronting these issues and that, in fact, women of all ages are.

What advice would you give to young girls who want to be the NEXT you?

Don’t be afraid of taking chances, even if other people don’t understand your choices. If you are a planner, don’t be discouraged if something doesn’t go your way; always remember that when one door closes, another opens. Surround yourself with like-minded people who inspire you. Learn another language and embrace diversity. Develop and maintain a professional network. Be passionate about what you do. And, give back.

How do you separate work life from your personal life?

I make sure to have at least one hour for myself every day. I use this time to do something that takes my mind of work, relaxes me and makes me happy, whether exercising, reading, or meeting a friend for coffee or dinner. I am very close to my family, despite being so far apart. Every day I take a few minutes to talk to my parents and my brother.

I also enjoy activities that combine my professional and personal interests, especially those that allow me to give back. I’m committed to helping advance women in business. Participating in the Forté Foundation’s MBA Launch program, which promotes women in business, has allowed me to motivate, encourage and support women around me by helping them build confidence. I’ve found very rewarding to volunteer at Lean In Canada and contribute to a growing organization that brings women together to learn from and champion one another.

What inspires you?

Women in my family – I’ve been privileged to have great role models in my mom, aunts, and grandmothers. Perhaps without them knowing, they have shown me the tenacity needed to run a business, the courage needed to move to a new country, and the strength needed to manage tough situations.

Men in my family—my dad and brother—are full-time supporters of my mom and sister-in-law, respectively. I am certain that my dad’s support has been key for the development and success of the business my mom started over 20 years ago.

People who don’t settle, who find value in diversity, and who are constantly seeking new challenges. Shingai Manjengwa, founder, and director at Fireside Analytics inspires me to dream big. I am grateful to have her as a champion and supporter of my MBA ambitions.

When you’re off the clock, what are your indulgences?

I love traveling and am always in search of new places to visit. Zumba: dance and music run in my blood as a Colombian. I play tennis, though I don’t do it as much as I did when I lived in Colombia. I enjoy cooking, especially recipes from Asian cuisines, and watching cooking shows on YouTube. I also like watching Chinese and Japanese dramas.

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