As the head of customer, digital, and technology strategy at GAP, there is a guiding philosophy that shapes Desiree De Melo Dare’s work, and also her life: “Let us go get it together.” De Melo Dare grew up in a poor bairro in São Paulo, Brazil, with limited access to good education, opportunity, and every other hopeful possibility of escaping a harsh life in Latin America.
“Life was about survival and not a privilege,” the executive explains. “That situation taught me a lot. But what I also learned was that it wasn’t about how fast you can get somewhere, it’s really about how many people you can bring along with you.”
De Melo Dare’s upbringing in a rough environment made her toughen up quickly. She learned to stand up for herself and fight for her dreams. The young Latina learned the art of the hustle, because whether it was education or some other way of bettering her situation, she had to make it happen herself.
Fortunately for De Melo Dare, she took after her mother. “If it wasn’t for my mother’s strong personality and strong Christian values steering our family in the right direction, I would never be the person that I am today,” the executive says. “Although both of us have strong personalities and do not always see eye-to-eye, I will be forever thankful for what she has been able to teach through her own example and the grit she instilled in me and in my siblings.”
Growing up with limited resources meant De Melo Dare had to learn to be creative and take a different approach to problem-solving, and that incredible skill has only sharpened over time. De Melo Dare believes her Latino perspective helped her always see the best in a bad situation and figure out a way to bring structure to chaos.
Professionally, De Melo Dare would build out impactful experiences with very well-known names—HP, IBM, Walmart, and Sam’s Club—prior to coming to Gap in 2021 as head technology strategy. She then quickly transitioned to become head of customer, digital, and technology strategy in 2022.
At Gap, Dare is a member of the organization’s HOLA Latino ESG as well as a consistent sponsor of other women, especially Latinas, in tech.
“Because we are so few, my mission is to mentor, sponsor, and grow Latino talent into leadership roles,” De Melo Dare explains. “You need to bring others along with you and pass to others what you have learned. Show them that anything is possible and that they have the skills to get there.”
“It wasn’t about how fast you can get somewhere, it’s really about how many people you can bring along with you.”Desiree De Melo Dare
In that mentorship work, De Melo Dare has helped create the ELLA (Empowering and Leading Latinas) mentoring circle. The group is organized of Latina leaders at the officer level who are teaching and mentoring other Latinas in the space.
“We are developing the pipeline of future Latina leaders, and I could not have been more excited about this,” De Melo Dare says. “The interesting thing is that we learn and grow so much with this group; it is amazing what younger generations can teach us.”
De Melo Dare was also recently named a board member of Delta Dental of Arkansas, and she hopes the opportunity will allow her to support her Latino community in accessing better options when it comes to oral health care.
The executive says her drive to pay it forward is now driven by her own daughter, Elena. De Melo Dare has helped achieve so much for her own family in just one generation. She’s now doing the same for all those around her.