If every life path contains a large part of luck and unforeseen events, Teresa Salcedo has been particularly well served. Nothing predestined this daughter of Spanish farmers to become a key player in the merger between Renault and Nissan, and to end up in charge of the digital transition of one of the most prestigious French luxury brands.
And the amazing thing is that all of this happened almost in spite of her, simply because she was exactly the rare profile that organizations needed at pivotal moments in their existence.
It all began in Spain in the 1990s. In high school, Teresa Salcedo showed an extraordinary interest in engineering subjects, whether it was mathematics or physics. It was therefore natural for her to choose this path for her higher education, even though she was the first in her family to opt for such an orientation.
"In 1995, it was the second year that my school offered exchanges under the Erasmus program. Having a taste for adventure and a natural curiosity for foreign countries, I immediately volunteered to go. I chose France and ENSTA Paris because it was the easiest and also because my mother was a French teacher, even though I didn't speak a word of French myself at the time!"
A characteristic that will surprisingly have very happy consequences on the rest of his career.
"As is still the case today, ENSTA Paris places great emphasis on the international dimension of training and requires the study of a language in addition to English. I would have liked to learn Italian, but as I did not master French, which is compulsory, the management of the program recommended that I study a non-Latin language in addition to French. That's how I learned Japanese."
A choice that would prove particularly relevant when, a few years later, the Renault and Nissan automakers decided to join forces to better withstand global competition, and were looking for executives able to bridge the gap between the two cultures.
"Not only did I literally fall in love with the Japanese language and culture, but it was a tremendous career gas pedal within the Renault-Nissan group, where I spent 22 years, working on the industrial launches of the Clio II and III, the new Mégane, and the list goes on... I was involved in Turkey, Slovenia, Spain, Brazil, Argentina, China... All because I didn't speak French when I arrived at ENSTA Paris!" she jokes today.
In 2017, Teresa Salcedo was assigned to ensure the digital transformation of all the methods and R&D teams: industry 4.0, virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, she could finally give free rein to this approach, which is the raison d'être of the ENSTA Paris training program: training in engineering based on scientific and technical excellence, augmented by the digital.
Then, in 2021, at the end of the health crisis, after 22 years in industry, Teresa Salcedo felt the need to give a new meaning to her career, and to give back in a way all that she had received: "I first thought of teaching in an engineering school, never having given up my passion for mathematics and science in general. At the same time, I also had the project of creating a company from my family's agricultural productions in Spain... And then Hermes contacted me on LinkedIn..."
Not at all sure that she wanted to continue in the industrial world, Teresa Salcedo discovered during her interviews with Hermes a company with a fundamental value that she had been hoping to find for a long time: placing the human being, and in this case the craftsman, at the center of all the company's thinking.
"Convinced that these values were not just a marketing display but the DNA of the brand, I finally agreed to take charge of the digital transformation of this magnificent, world-renowned French company. I have about a third of my professional career left to go, so I might as well be in excellent company."
When she looks back, Teresa Salcedo had absolutely no idea the incredible career she ended up building, including more than 20 years in the automotive industry. "Even in this very male-dominated environment, I managed to make some very structuring choices that were uncommon in positions of responsibility, such as working 4/5, taking parental leave, which was not always easy to defend, even though I always found a lot of understanding from my managers."
But for her, the company is not the only front on which it is useful to advance women's rights. But for her, the company is not the only front on which it is useful to advance women's rights: "Where we also have a decisive role to play is at home after 6 p.m., as a mother and wife. A woman can lead a fulfilling professional life if she is well accompanied and supported by her husband, and if there is true parity within the couple. I often tell my boys that it is as husbands and fathers that they can really make things happen, by helping their partner to achieve, not being afraid that she has a better job or a better salary than they do. Behind every successful personality, whether it's a man or a woman, there's been a supportive partner."