“Diversity is the key to success”
99 percent of the world’s population speaks at most three languages. Isabel Valles belongs to the remaining one percent.
Born in Spain, she speaks five languages fluently and is now Head of Internal Audit at thyssenkrupp AG responsible for the Automotive and Corporate segments of thyssenkrupp AG.
“Languages are my hobby,” Isabel reveals. It’s a hobby, a passion that Isabel inherited. “I got my talent for languages from my mom.” As the daughter of a German mother and a Spanish father, Isabel grew up bilingually in her hometown of Zaragoza and holds both nationalities. Starting with English at school, she soon added a fourth language after attending school not only in Spain but later in France as well. Through family visits to her mother’s home country, Isabel also got to know German culture. And thanks to her parents' passion for travel, she was lucky enough to visit around 70 (!) countries with them.
It came as no surprise to the Valles household when, after graduating from high school in Spain, Isabel began an international degree course. Isabel: “I chose the European bachelor's degree in Languages and Economics, where you end up with degrees from three universities.” She studied for four years at the Universidad de Granada, Cologne University of Applied Sciences and the Université de Provence Aix-Marseille I. After graduating very successfully, Isabel had a Spanish, a French and a German bachelor’s degree in her pocket.
After a short internship at Audi in Ingolstadt, she added a master’s degree. At the Universidad Internacional Menéndez Pelayo in Madrid, Isabel completed a master’s program in International Business Management, limited to 250 hand-picked students and sponsored by the Spanish Foreign Ministry. Linked to the degree was an assignment as “International Trade Advisor” at the “Spanish Office for Economic & Commercial Affairs” in Düsseldorf. As part of the one-year assignment, Isabel supported Spanish companies in establishing themselves on the German market.
At home in Germany
Isabel had already established herself in Germany – and didn’t want to leave. At thyssenkrupp Raw Materials, now thyssenkrupp Materials Trading GmbH, she found what she was looking for: a trainee program in international sales. With her résumé, the native Spaniard was a perfect match for the job profile and was invited to the assessment center. Isabel left a lasting impression and was selected: In the following 15 months she worked in various areas of the company and gained valuable insights into all aspects of the trading business. During the trainee program she completed tasks ranging from order processing to carrying out strategy projects for management. Isabel has great memories of this very instructive time as well as the regular exchanges and meetings she had with trainees from other thyssenkrupp Materials Services companies.
After overseeing several projects as a junior project manager, in 2017 Isabel was offered a position in internal auditing at thyssenkrupp AG. “I didn’t hesitate for a minute,” she says, and can hardly believe that four years have passed since then. “I’ve got to know so many interesting companies and departments through my work in auditing at headquarters that the time has just flown by.” As Head of Internal Audit since October 1, 2021, she and her team are responsible for auditing the business processes of the Automotive and Corporate business segments worldwide for security and efficiency. A task that is important for the individual companies, she says. “We see ourselves as colleagues who work closely with the companies. With our experience and expertise, we have a different perspective and can therefore provide support."
Despite the heavy demands of her job, Isabel still finds time to continue her education. “At every stage of my career so far I’ve tried to add value to the company, to learn and develop myself,” Isabel says. “I believe it’s always worth pushing yourself to improve.” For example, Isabel is also a participant in the thyssenkrupp Talent Program and has qualified as a “Certified Internal Auditor” and a “Chief Fraud Examiner,” internationally recognized auditing qualifications.
Passion for languages
In her limited free time, Isabel continues to devote herself to her great passion, languages. Today, she not only speaks Spanish, German, English and French with C2 level proficiency, she also has a very good command of Portuguese and Italian, as well as knowledge of Japanese and Chinese thanks to a three-month crash course at a Chinese university in summer 2011.
To avoid getting rusty, Isabel attends regular lunchtime get-togethers organized by foreign employees at thyssenkrupp, where only the language of the respective participants is spoken in the relaxed setting of the canteen. In addition to practicing their foreign language skills, the participants also exchange views on other aspects of their individual nationalities and countries. Isabel: “It’s fascinating to get to know colleagues from other countries over lunch. We have people from all over the world here in Essen. You probably wouldn’t get to know many of them otherwise.”
Coming together with people from other cultures has played a big role in the development of her own personality, Isabel says. “If you’re open-minded as a person and travel a lot, you develop an understanding and a certain empathy for other cultures. That shapes you and is reflected in the way you work. It’s always helped me.”
For Isabel, one thing is clear: “Diversity is the key to success, especially at a globally renowned company like thyssenkrupp.”