As head of responsibility at Allstate, Dianne Lystlund handles complex reserve accounting processes and programs that help ensure that the company can achieve its financial goals. So it is no surprise that when you meet her, scared and confused are not qualities you would associate with her. But when she grew up as a daughter of immigrants in Waukegan, Illinois, she remembers feeling it so often.
After arriving from Puerto Rico to Illinois with her family, she went to school and could only speak Spanish and without much help to move to a full English-speaking environment – bilingual programs were not widely available in schools at the time.
"I remember the first day my mom and dad went to school with me," she said. "I did not understand a word."
But when a third-grade teacher became interested in her, things began to change. Dianne was selected to participate in a summer enrichment program that exposed her to disciplines such as poetry and playwriting, and when she started high school, she had gained some confidence in navigating her new surroundings.
"The program opened up the world for me," said Dianne.
While Dianne and her siblings were getting through school, her mother took time to continue her own education and graduated from high school. After graduating, she became a quality inspector for a pharmaceutical company and joined the Puerto Rican Society, a community-based organization in the Waukegan area. Meanwhile, she continued to be a full-time mother.
"My mother's perseverance was definitely an inspiration," said Dianne. "So was her involvement in society."
In terms of her own involvement in society, Dianne included being the founder of the first Latin student club in her high school and becoming a member of several college student associations ̵
Dianne's commitment to her community continued into her professional career. In 1995, she was one of the founding members of the Professional Latino Allstate Network (PLAN), a professional resource group in Allstate, where she is a former treasurer and currently holds the title of vice president.
Helping Latin professionals advance careers and become leaders in their fields is the most important mission behind PLAN. The group provides networking, leadership and development opportunities to its members throughout the year, as well as special events for cultural moments such as Hispanic Heritage Month.
THE PLAN has been strengthened so much in recent years that some of the members have mentioned it as one of the reasons why they have joined the Allstate.
However, it is more than just a professional group. When Dianne's husband was diagnosed with an incurable disease, her colleagues stood by her side and supported her through the difficult times. After he died in 2006, she felt more committed to continuing the work she had started.
This year, Dianne received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of Latino Professionals For America (ALPFA), an association that empowers and develops Latino professionals as leaders. Allstate has sponsored this association for the past 25 years.
Dianne joined ALPFA in the early 1990s, and during her time as a member she has participated in various committee roles and served as chair of the association's Chicago chapter. Many of the members she has mentored have become chapter officers in her local area or leaders in other organizations.
Prior to that, she had received the ALPFA Servant Leader Award 2013 and Illinois Certified Public Accountant Diversity. Leader Award 2015.
Awards are enjoyable, but mentorship and counseling for young professionals – or as Dianne calls it, "giving back to others" – is the main inspiration behind her involvement in her professional groups. "Thinking about the difference these young people can make in the next ten or twenty years is exciting to me," she said.
"When I was growing up, I did not have many professional role models who looked like me," said Dianne. "It's nice to be able to provide it for others."