Diana Colella is SVP of Entertainment and Media Solutions at Autodesk, bringing rich industry experience, product management expertise, and strategy savvy to her leadership role. She is a courageous leader who understands the importance of risk-taking and focusing on growth. With over two decades at Autodesk, she has served in multiple roles across the business, such as VP of Business Strategy, Director of Product Management, and Senior Finance Manager, before taking on her current C-Suite position.
Below, hear more about Diana’s unique path to the C-suite, her approach to career development, as well as her tips to remain authentic and passionate as a leader.
I started my career as an accountant but had an interest in product management. Despite my finance background, I knew the role I wanted and began obtaining the skills I thought I needed. I did sales for a while because I knew customer relationships were important, then I worked on go-to-market operations and focused on global services. I learned a lot, and those experiences all led me to product management.
From there I moved to business strategy, and now I manage both the product strategy and execution of the media and entertainment organization for Autodesk. We build 3D tools for movies and games that enable artists’ creativity, and also look at cloud and collaboration across organizations. We provide tools to make companies more efficient in their film-making process.
At Autodesk, I have been in charge of companies from $50 million to $500 million that grow in double digits; I know how to scale businesses. Because of this, I get excited about companies that are starting out or are medium-sized and looking to scale. I also get really excited when companies want to transform themselves; and since I have so much experience from both the product and business strategy sides, I can bring those different skills together for companies that are going through a transition.
Being your authentic self means a lot to me. Being authentic and completely transparent has helped me in my career and has been my guiding principle as a leader.
Inclusivity is also important to me. I am the executive sponsor for the ‘Belonging’ culture program at Autodesk, which is focused on embracing differences and creating belonging between teams. This is something I am extremely passionate about. I want to make sure everyone participates and engages with their teams, so I empower and encourage employees to foster an inclusive workplace.
First I want to say, it is hard. It can be challenging to be authentic, to get your point across, and also be thinking about how you’re actually coming across. Finding a balance in areas like confidence, understanding your expertise, and knowing the value of your strengths in any room will help you build credibility and remain authentic.
Autodesk was willing to take a chance on me as I moved into different areas, which enabled me to learn new skills. I also remained honest about where I wanted to end up and why I was moving into different roles, which my managers and teams all supported. Autodesk allowed me to recreate my career over and over again, and I’ve always done different things so it doesn’t feel like I’ve been at the same company for 23 years – but I have!
It’s amazing what our products can do, so staying passionate and engaged is easy. The company also cares deeply about things like sustainability and impact, which are topics I care about.
I am a big advocate of career development and gaining skillsets, and am passionate about taking risks, even if it doesn’t work out. The experience that comes from trying something new and knowing if you like it or not as you move through your career is an important learning.
While I believe career development can be done at any age, I am especially interested in supporting the younger generations, like Millennials and Gen-Z. They are still at the point where they can change or experiment with their careers and have so much opportunity to move into new areas. I hire a lot of interns because I think we have a responsibility to invest in the younger generations and their futures.
I signed up for Athena when I started to think about a board seat. Athena opened my eyes and offered training and support, allowing me to form connections with fellow members. These resources were very helpful in understanding what it would take to be on a board. I love how Athena is supporting women to break into board seats and develop leadership skills.
Be courageous, because courage can help you through your career and life outside of work. Without courage, it’s hard to make decisions and build strong relationships. The experience you gain by being courageous, whether it works out or not, will help you at any stage of your career. Get your voice out there.
I had the courage to apply to new roles, even my current SVP role, because I felt I had the ability to obtain it. Women often feel like they have to work 3x harder to obtain a role, but if you have a feeling, you should go for an opportunity. Just go for it and don’t hold back. Put yourself out there. Being courageous is why I am where I am today.
Athena members can connect with Diana through the Member Directory. Athena provides women leaders with the learning, network, and access to opportunity they need as they rise in their careers. Make Athena your competitive advantage by joining today.
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