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‘Concordia gave me the education I needed to be successful in the workplace’

Autodesk exec Diana Colella, BComm 91, helps support women in the workplace
August 7, 2019
By Ian Harrison

Diana Colello and Gina Cody “My advice for students is to take advantage of every opportunity to meet people on the business side.” Diana Colello (left) and Gina Cody participated in a fireside chat to mark International Women's Day in March 2019, presented by Women in Technology International and Autodesk.

When Montreal-based Discreet Logic was sold to California’s Autodesk, Inc. (NASDAQ: ADSK) for a cool $420-million (U.S.) in 1999, it shook up Canada’s tech industry. Two decades later the company, whose visual effects software powers popular films and video games, still employs hundreds of workers out of historic and expansive post-industrial digs in Montreal’s Cité du Multimédia.

One of the people who helps make Autodesk a perennial “Best Workplace” in Canada contender is Vice-President, Business Strategy and Marketing, Diana Colella, BComm (accountancy) 91. We recently sat down with the Concordia grad to talk about her distinguished career and the tech industry at large.

For those who may be unaware, can you describe what Autodesk makes and what your role consists of?

Diana Colella, BComm 91 Diana Colella, BComm 91, is vice-president, Business Strategy and Marketing at Autodesk, Inc.

Diana Colella: Autodesk makes software for people who make things. If you’ve ever driven a high-performance car, admired a towering skyscraper, used a smartphone, or watched a great film, chances are you’ve experienced what millions of Autodesk customers are doing with our software.

I’m responsible for directing the business strategy and planning activities related to Autodesk’s AutoCAD product line, media and entertainment product lines and license-compliance initiatives, as well as the go-to-market planning and execution required to ensure the long-term success of these businesses.

Autodesk has an important history in Montreal; a history you’ve been a part of since the acquisition of Discreet Logic. How has a presence here helped it stay competitive in such a dynamic industry?

DC: Montreal provides a significant talent pool for Autodesk to draw from. Additionally, the cost of living here is lower than in San Francisco, where Autodesk is headquartered. This has the advantage of allowing us to build talented and highly motivated teams who can enjoy a very comfortable lifestyle, which contributes to both productivity and engagement.

The large number of high-quality universities in Montreal provides a strong advantage not only because of the talent they produce but also their potential for collaboration on research projects.

Can you talk about your efforts to develop and mentor future female executives? Why is this work important to you?

DC: I’m the executive sponsor for Autodesk Women @ Montreal (AWAM), which is part of the Autodesk Women’s Network. I feel that women should support and celebrate each other in the workplace. We started AWAM as a way for women in Montreal to network. It’s been a phenomenal experience and the energy in the room when we get together is so inspiring. I feel proud, as this is something I would have loved to have had when I first started in the industry 23 years ago.

What soft skills must business graduates sharpen to not only have successful careers but rise to the executive level?

DC: Education is important, but building relationships and understanding companies inside and out is crucial as well. The biggest failure I see is the silo effect. Caring about what others do will make you empathetic, help you understand how you can succeed and make those who work around you succeed as well.

How did Concordia contribute to your success?

DC: Concordia gave me the education I needed to go out into the workplace and be successful. Today there are so many more opportunities I see where students can get involved in specific committees and where the business world and academia are collaborating. My advice for students is to take advantage of every opportunity to meet people on the business side. This will help you determine where you want to end up and find the role you studied for.

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