What does success look like to you?

What does success look like to you?

By Scio Team

It’s easy to see the idea of success as a default goal, something everyone should be looking for in any endeavor they start. And while it’s true that always looking for a specific destination is part of our nature, what does success mean? Because when we talk about success, it’s easy to forget that it never looks the same for everyone.

Truth is, success comes from a very personal place for most people, where our experiences and expectations shape the way we work and collaborate, and the specific things we choose to focus on. That’s why at Scio we believe that a good organization leaves enough space to let every collaborator reach success on their terms.

So what is a success, then? As we were curious about what drives each of our developers and engineers, we sent a survey to all the Scioneers to ask this very important question: what does success look like to you?

The importance of balance

Success is feeling in control of my personal life”, states one of the responses we got. “Being able to feel like I’m doing something valuable, having the strength and motivation to continue doing the things I love, and also being happy with the ones around me.” This image of success, for example, points out the important balance between work and personal life, one of the core values of Scio regarding their collaborators. We consider this is an important topic because developing software is as much of a creative endeavor as a technical one, and having people who keep healthy boundaries is crucial to always arrive at the best outcomes. 

To this end, fostering a good culture of collaboration and camaraderie is the best approach to ensure that a project is completed successfully, as it can also mean that your work doesn’t go unnoticed. 

I like that Scio’s culture promotes the gesture of congratulating the team, both individually and as a whole”, says another of the answers we got. I like the post-mortem charts we have about our successful projects, where they make sure all the team knows we are aware of their achievements. We even have social meetings to celebrate successful goals, which I think it’s a good idea. So let’s continue promoting the gesture of congratulating our teams for their achievements.

This is one of the examples of the ways Scio tries to maintain mutual support in everything we do, and something as simple as notifying everyone that a team has achieved a goal, or having a group call to just chat and relax, goes a long way toward it.

Success beyond the office

However, for some, success transcends the workplace and instead focuses on how it affects a collaborator’s everyday life. “Having my own home, seeing my kids happy, and maybe even running a marathon in another country is success” was one of the answers we got, as well as “Feeling full, and having yourself, your family, your significant other, your mind, your work, and your world in balance” and “Being able to do what I like in life and enjoy every second.

This topic keeps coming out because a clear balance between work and personal life has been increasingly desired among both developers and companies starting to embrace the advantages of remote work and hybrid collaboration models, so making sure a healthy equilibrium exists is one of our core values here at Scio. “Feeling happy and comfortable with where you are”, another one of our responses, sums it up very well. 

We understand that, due to the nature of software development, sometimes keeping this balance is tricky, even if Nearshore companies like Scio offer plenty of flexibility and options to work, so taking the steps to ensure that our collaborators can define success beyond the needs of a project goes a long way. 

This also ties with another concept that many developers find attractive in any workplace: the chance to learn and grow as they work, which seemed to be a focal point in many of the answers we received. “Meeting the objectives and goals, keep the things I learned, as well as learning from the mistakes to improve”, and “Creating something of value that has a positive impact on the people you care about” get to the point of it, as a successful person might also be one that learns, grows and creates useful things from the work they do.

Looks like having a clean conscience, lots of self-caring, not reserving everything to myself, feeling useful, achieving a wisdom state” was an unexpected answer. A lot of people can see success in purely personal terms (i.e. “how I feel about this thing I did?), so creating an environment where collaboration and personal growth are on the same frequency tends to deliver the best outcomes.

The success of living well

What does success look like to you?

And last, it’s not a secret that many go into software development because it’s a very in-demand field with lots of organizations to choose from to collaborate with, and compensation is always important for anyone looking to join an organization that shares their values. “For me, is to be financially stable enough to give my family a better life, while also being happy in your job and what you like. To be successful is also to be recognized in your work and know that you are an important part of your company”, reads one of the answers, highlighting success as having the means to support your loved ones while also working on something you feel passionate about.

For me, success is when your lifestyle and quality of life improves significantly and money isn’t an issue at all”, continues another of the responses. “While also achieving your personal and professional goals, feeling full and happy. Then you have a balance of these ‘pillars’ and yet you are further away from where you started.

As we reveal more responses, we can start to see that “success” is, at the end of it, directing your life in the way you want to, down to every detail, as this answer manages to explain beautifully: “For me, success has many shapes. From small achievements to the greatest goals, success can happen anywhere, in any place, both in our personal and professional lives, in the financial sense, or even with the people around you”, trying to get across how success is present in our daily lives.

Even in defeat, we can see success in learning something, feeling good about it, making ourselves proud, and gaining more knowledge in return. If we see it like this, anything we achieve is a success.

So what do you think? How do you personally define success and how does it get reflected in your personal life? Is it something concrete you work towards every day, or a state of life you want to achieve? Because no matter what your definition of success is, at Scio, we are willing to lend you a hand and achieve your best possible outcome.

Does one size fit all? The hyperpersonalization of work

Does one size fit all? The hyperpersonalization of work

By Scio Team

Are you an office person, or a home person?” might have been a weird question to ask in a job interview a couple of years ago, but as our relationship with jobs evolves, we begin to understand the different ways people see work, which have an immense weight in the ways we relate and engage with a particular organization.

Let’s think back for a second and ask ourselves: since the pandemic began, what was the biggest difference we felt working from home? It’s not difficult to imagine that everyone had a different reaction to this change: some found themselves missing the interactions of the office, while others found that working from home was an ideal arrangement, and a third group looked for a middle ground working at the office some days, and from home the others. So the question is: do you have a preference? Does that impact your work?

The equilibrium between productivity and presence is one of the hardest to master in business”, mentions this Forbes article analyzing this situation. “We often think of ourselves separate from the environment, the system, the culture, the work. In reality, there is very deep interconnectedness to our being.” 

In other words, the environment in which we collaborate affects the results we have and is clear that people, as individuals, have personal preferences in the ways they work. And if that conclusion might seem obvious, it seemed to need the upheaval of a pandemic for many companies to start harnessing this newfound approach.

It’s a shift away from the one-size-fits-all approach of the past, where the work is designed (complete with open-plan offices, fluoro-lighting, 9:00 am starts and a five-day workweek) and then people are squeezed into it”, says an article published by the news network ABC. “But one size never really fits all.” 

This gives us an idea: is it possible to ensure that a collaborator can have more control over the conditions of their work? Yes, and it’s becoming a topic of discussion everywhere, especially in Tech, where disruption of the status quo is the name of the game: Hyperpersonalization.

The rise of Hyperpersonalization

Does one size fit all?: The hyperpersonalization of work

How do you prefer to work? Where? When? Why? Everyone has a different answer to these questions, so collaborating in an environment that takes them into account makes all the difference in our productivity. In software development, for example, this was already a trend before the pandemic, with things like having the option to work from home one day a week or offering different hours depending on personal preference becoming normal.

However, the pandemic came to be one of the final blows at our traditional “office hours”, with a big percentage of people discovering ways to work that they really couldn’t consider before, changing the way many organizations collaborate with employees.

In the past, workplace strategists were able to assign flexible working ratios based on a team and its primary functions. With the mass-scale adoption of hybrid working, the preferences of employees coming into the office have become hyper-personalized. We can no longer assume an employee or team will be in on specific days due to their job function or demographic”, indicates the blog The Pulse about this trend.

And it’s easy to see how these circumstances might define the outcome of any given project. After all, are your most productive times the same as everybody else’s? Is your home the best place to get things done? Or do you like to be at home, but also have the option of an office for important meetings or access to better infrastructure if you need it?

“Hyper personalization is usually associated with marketing products and services to individual consumers — think about how Netflix builds up a profile of what you like to watch and uses that to suggest content to you or the way Spotify serves up new songs based on what you’ve listened to before — but it can also be applied to the workplace”, continues the ABC article about the topic. “The pandemic gave many workers a chance to dip a toe into the hyper-personalization waters.

However, what does hyper-personalization actually look like in action? Because we must keep in mind that this concept encompasses lots of different elements, ones that go from the business you are working from, to the individual interests and affinities of each developer and collaborator.

I’ve been part of some very long projects”, says Carlos Estrada, one of the Lead Developers at Scio. “And one time, after six or seven years with the same client, I told Rodimiro [Scio’s Service Delivery Manager and Co-Founder] that I just felt in a rut, doing the same thing every day. He understood and said he had a couple of projects I could help with during my “dead” hours at Scio. I liked that openness, and it helped me explore other types of tasks that I was interested in.

As this anecdote shows, “hyper-personalization” doesn’t have to be a complete upheaval in a company; just being listened to and working with an organization open to making changes by offering options for different types of people, can go a long way. To this end, that same ABC article we quoted earlier gives us some questions to consider and discuss hyper-personalization, and define where you want to direct your career:

  • When and how do you work your best, and in what environment
  • What you find engaging and meaningful
  • Where your strengths lie
  • The ideal place of work and your desired mix of responsibilities

What options exist today?

To account for the hyper-personalized preferences of the workforce, many organizations are developing workforce personas to better understand employee preferences beyond just their job function or demographic”, and you might be seeing these efforts starting to take hold.

For example, while Scio is a Nearshore company with developers all over Latin America, which are permanent remote collaborators, for those locally in Morelia we plan to implement a “hybrid” model of work, where the week is divided between home and office days. Also, we offer different start and finishing times, in case you prefer something different than the traditional 9 to 6, and three days of PTO in case you need to take time off for any personal reason, among other options aimed at our collaborators as individuals who have different affinities and preferences.

When it comes to creating the right culture of an organization and/or building an attractive brand, the question actually becomes how do we rethink our existence, policies, and structures so that it can reflect (as authentically as possible) some of our deepest values, ways of connecting and working?”, concludes Forbes.

And this last question is at the heart of it: the ways we connect as individuals with our jobs matter, so choosing an organization that understands, respects, and tries to implement measures to give collaborators some freedom to work as they see fit is invaluable to foster a healthy, engaged culture. 

Would you have it any other way?

A career built on learning: How Scio approaches growth in software development.

A career built on learning: How Scio approaches growth in software development.

By Scio Team

A software developer is a person who likes to learn as a trade, try new things, look for different approaches, experiment with new languages, and be part of a community that exchanges information, knowledge, and tips. Especially today, with our world more driven by software than ever, the possibilities look endless, so to choose a place to apply your skills is also to choose a place that gives you something in return, like the opportunity to learn and teach everything you know.

Such places brew communities that go beyond the workplace; it creates a culture of sharing that benefits everyone in the organization, from programmer to programmer, from team to team, and from partner to partner. Encouraging this mindset is one of the main goals of Scio, and for close to ten years now, our organization has been focusing on an approach in which every one of our collaborators can set their goals, work towards them, and grow.

However, what does this process look like? What do we offer our engineers, and every collaborator in terms of growth, no matter if they are just starting their careers or more seasoned veterans looking for a new challenge?

The joys of learning

I was in my last college semester when Luis and Helena came to my school to give a talk. They were looking to open positions for interns at Scio for the first time, and a teacher encouraged me to apply”, says Carlos Estrada, a Lead Application Developer and member of the Coaching Committee at Scio. “And 12 years later, I’m still part of this company”.

His story is not an uncommon one, but it helps illustrate the approach of Scio to its collaborators. “I am a Systems Engineer specializing in Networks and Web Technologies, which was mostly about handling cables and connecting routers, and when I joined Scio as an intern, I realized I had some gaps that I wouldn’t have if I had chosen Software Engineering. A lot of the concepts I wasn’t familiar with, like SCRUM or Unit Testing, I had to learn as I collaborated on my first projects.” 

The realization that school maybe didn’t teach us everything we need is something we are all too familiar with, but you also eventually realize that our learning process never really stops, no matter if you are a Junior, Senior, or Lead Programmer. As we mentioned, around the time Carlos joined our team, we also started developing a way for our collaborators to share and obtain all the skills they wanted: Sensei-Creati, our coaching and workshopping program where every Scioneer can share and grow their skillset.

Sensei-Creati is a mix of both coaching and mentoring, where we offer support to help you grow as a collaborator. It’s a whole exchange process between the Sensei (Coaches), and the Creati (Coachees), where we create a culture of help and mutual support in every aspect”, explains Yamila Solari, Co-Founder, General Manager, and Coaching Leader at Scio. “A Creati approaches a Sensei, and if the Sensei accepts, the Creati starts a process to learn what they are interested in, choosing which technical, soft, or personal development skills they want to improve. After all, the Sensei may have completely different viewpoints or experiences, which allows the Creati to expand their options and vision.

The advantage of this program is that it is not directed only to junior staff looking to “level up”; anyone can be part of the program, be it as a Creati or as a Sensei, no matter their level of seniority. “If someone in IT is interested in Quality Assurance, they have the opportunity to add that to their skill set through this program. Scio’s not an organization that only values your current skills; we want you to grow as a whole, and if that’s what you want to work on, we can gladly help you”, continues Yamila about the goal of the Sensei-Creati program.

The only requisite to becoming a Sensei is participating in the program as a Creati beforehand, and then taking a short course on coaching to teach you the best ways to share your feedback, opinions, and advice. “Coaching is not telling people what to do; it’s helping them to do what they want to do, with no judgment and through active listening, offering empathy and a communication space focused on strength to emphasize how it can be used to overcome challenges”, concludes Yamila.

The joy of teaching 

Even when I didn’t know the theory, I was practicing and learning new skills, which is something you need to do a lot in this industry; every month or so, it seems like a new version of the framework you were using comes out, and you need to adapt to it quickly”, continues Carlos. 

This is true; as an industry that’s always moving forward, any programmer and engineer passionate about their work will look for ways to keep updated, experiment, and apply any new skill they get. “We still have interns [now called Apprentices], and I always make sure to tell them to choose their specialization carefully and choose what they want to do, to avoid making my mistakes.

Due to his seniority, Carlos eventually was invited to be part of the “Coaching Committee”, tasked to bring their input to everything related to the developers at Scio, like reviewing the performance of developers to give promotions, designing technical tests for new candidates, or in the case of Sensei-Creati, developing more workshops oriented for the more senior staff. After all, the Sensei-Creati program aims to be interesting for everyone, and having the point of view of someone with as many years of experience as Carlos is invaluable.

I remember how nervous I was when I started to become a coach because at the very beginning I didn’t know how to be a mentor. However, the first time a Creati approached me to learn a technology I knew, we hit off quickly because we shared the same interests and affinities, and with my first apprentices, the code I was showing them was bugged and I had to fix it overnight, which also taught me to prepare myself better. After that, with the help of Yamila, you get the hang of it, and now I have tons of apprentices and Creati that I know how to help in everything they need”, Carlos tells about the experience of becoming a coach at Scio. 

This is a cycle of learning and sharing that still drives much of the community of software developers in the industry, and one that Scio wants to keep encouraging. “I like to think of our profession in terms of brotherhoods. We are in the same business, we see value in cooperation, and we are colleagues. We always consider new points of view, and stories of success and failures are the prime currency for us”, says the Argentinean blog Pienso Luego Pienso about the collaborative nature of programming. And that can’t be truer; curiosity is what drives software, and every innovation is built over a shared knowledge. 

Coaching in Scio started about 10 years ago, as a way to facilitate the work of supervisors and evaluate the performance of people. That was our more traditional approach, which didn’t work the way we wanted until we came to realize that people only learn when they are open to it”, continues Yamila about the development of this program. “So after many iterations, this program became voluntary and without a supervisory element to it. It’s a lot more powerful this way because nobody is telling you to do something, you do it because you want to”. And will keep being the goal here: becoming a place that goes beyond a job, into a place where you can focus on yourself as a developer, a person, and a collaborator eager to learn more.

You could change the outcome of something by measuring it

You could change the outcome of something by measuring it

There are a lot of opinions about the best possible way of measuring productivity, but that can bring us to another question entirely: why measure it at all? In this second part of our interview with Adolfo Cruz, we dig into the reasons why measuring productivity is important for any organization.

By Scio Team

If you are adding value for a client during a product’s development, creating something they can use to attract more users or increase their profits, you may say the time invested in the process was productive, but how do you measure that? Can it be done?

Productivity can be witnessed, it happens right in front of you when a team is making progress, but translating that into data is not an easy task; it takes a lot of time and effort to get right, and it might take focus away from the resulting product, ironically affecting your productivity.

It’s similar to that quantum physics phenomenon where you could change the outcome of something by observing it; all the effort invested in getting exact numbers to measure productivity could make you neglect stuff that has value for the product developed, so you need to be very careful in how you implement measurements to not interfere. 

So this begs a very important question: why measure productivity at all? You can see people in the software industry questioning that, going as far as suggesting it’s unnecessary, but we disagree. At Scio, we want to know if our engineers are offering real value to our clients, which is very important to us even if sometimes we use subjective, case-by-case measures to do so.

Measurements impact the way products are being developed

Reaching a standard that applies to everyone is complicated, and if you add the fact that some people may be working on different projects and products at the same time, with different challenges and rhythms, you get variables that complicate things further, so we guide ourselves by the idea of “We are productive if we add value to a business”. It’s a given that achieving working software is delivering promises, so it’s more about how a client feels about the products you are making.

The problem is trying to approach this with objectivity, but doling out numbers can have unintentional consequences; developers can over-focus on raising their numbers because the important metric seems to be proving your value with high stats, so it ceases to be a team and instead is just a collection of people making their figures go up. Metrics can bring improvements, but you also need to consider their context to make them helpful, which is why it’s difficult to find a universal solution to measure productivity in software development. 

When we are in charge of managing a project, productivity is more focused on avoiding red flags instead of checking who is less productive in any given team, measuring it to avoid deviating too much from our goals; it’s easy to fall from a cliff if you aren’t careful with that. We are not interested in using metrics to know if everyone is achieving some arbitrary standard, but rather steering a ship, looking at the productivity of the team as a whole.

To this end, it’s useful to register the progress of every project and map them out to find general trends rather than trying to get exact figures. Robert D. Austin, the author of the book Measuring and Managing Performance in Organizations, said that unless you can measure 100% of something, there’s no point to measure anything at all, but in most cases, you don’t need to have every single data point, just an educated guess about where the project is heading, helped with some metrics that give a clear perspective.

This can be seen in the sprints. With information about how many story points (the metric used to estimate the difficulty of implementing a given improvement) are completed, how many issues surface, how many are solved, and comparing it with past efforts, the red flags are obvious. If the team completed between 5 and 10 story points in a sprint, but only 1 or 2 the next one, you need to dig into the process; you might find some challenges nobody saw coming and had to be solved to move forward, and you didn’t need more than knowing past productivity to compare. 

And often, if you are using Agile Methodologies, the team is the one that realizes when someone is struggling or is free to help and correct the issues themselves. A good team can manage itself, keeping productivity up without needing someone to check their progress daily. This also results in the quality of the product being directly embedded into the productivity of the process, as the team should already know at this point what needs to be measured to plan with the amount of flexibility necessary to succeed.

We help your team deliver more value to the business.

In software development, we could measure how many Final Users are aware of a specific feature, how many support tickets are being sent, how many things are misunderstood, or which things are not working as intended, converting it into data to know if there are issues during development, but you still need to take some subjective measurements, like conversations with the clients to know how they feel about the product, to give context to this information.

That’s the impact we want to have on our clients, and more often than not, they start seeing the benefits of these processes. They take the time to plan their sprints, properly assess the project, and address issues, especially with not very experienced clients, whom we show what a good software development cycle looks like.

After all, developing software is closer to creating art than manufacturing an object, so the question of productivity is similar. Just like writing a novel, it’s hard to estimate exactly how long each step is going to take because human beings are bad at estimating time and effort in the long run. 

We take the time to understand your business and create custom software that helps you grow.

As we know how quickly things can change in a short amount of time, Scio typically plans short-term goals (between 1 – 3 months) and mid-term goals (between 6 – 12 months) at most when we work with our clients during the evolution of the product, in order to ensure it has enough room to grow naturally, focusing on the steps we need to reach a desirable outcome, and even then it’s a challenge to keep every detail under control. There have been occasions where we have to overhaul plans to finish a project in the timeframe we set, and in those situations, the final product is different from how we first envisioned it because of the natural evolution that a project goes through. 

So planning way too into the future is highly risky, shorter steps with a clear idea of every milestone is a method that has shown us the best results to develop a product, which is one of the principles of the Scrum methodology; working with iterations that have defined starting and ending points, and progress is registered at every step.

And even then you can get slightly different results every time. Sometimes a team is very well attuned and can build things faster than a team mostly composed of new developers, or engineers who had never worked together before, so obviously they took a little longer, which is why Scio evolved to focus more on the value we are delivering to our clients, involving them more in the process, deciding together which features were more valuable, and the priorities to establish.

After all, always having the option to say “Okay, let’s stop for a bit, reorganize, plan better retrospectives, and find areas of improvement” depends on knowing your process back and forth, and that’s why measuring productivity is important. 

Measuring productivity is hard, but it’s not impossible. It takes some general metrics and subjective questions dictated by human behavior that are never objective. That’s where Scio comes in – we design teams that fit with the culture and practices of our clients, ensuring that no matter what, we always have the necessary perspective to achieve a successful engagement. If you want help measuring your engineering team’s productivity or just need someone to bounce ideas off of, send us a message. We love talking about this stuff!

The challenge of the Home Office: A chat with Project Manager Jesús Magaña (Part 2)

The challenge of the Home Office: A chat with Project Manager Jesús Magaña (Part 2)

Last time, we discussed the skill necessary to work remotely with Jesús Magaña, one of our Project Managers here at Scio. But, as you might think, setting up a home office is another story entirely. How to manage it? We hope this second part of our chat sheds some light on it.

by Jesús Magaña

Working from home is a challenge.

I spend most of my time on calls and video conferences. When the pandemic started and we had to go home, it was somewhat uncomfortable. “Oh, they are going to see my house”, or my wife or children would pass behind me inadvertently, or you would probably hear someone ringing the door or yelling, and other considerations you never had before, but you learn to deal with them day by day.

But after almost two years of that, I like the way we are working now. I feel the team is more productive and accomplishes a lot more, and although I miss the old office dynamic of arriving and greeting everybody by hand, remote work opened a ton of connections and made a lot of changes to my personal life. 

I can have lunch with my kids every day.

For example, do you want to know something cool about working from home? I can have lunch with my kids every day. Just like everyone else, I used to eat out of a Tupperware container at the office, but now that hour also works as a break where I can spend more time with them.

Also, it’s an interesting feeling to be aware of how your kids see you while you work, and how you express yourself with the people you work with, even if you have your door closed. I think that for a Project Manager, it helps to be working in an environment like that. If you were not a very good PM, screaming at people and whose attitude is less than ideal to collaborate, would you behave the same way in front of your family?

People learn a lot by imitation, and promoting a good culture of working, is easier if they directly see you. It can also help you to detect some vices you may have when you realize you are about to do things you don’t want them to see you doing.

You see, one of my main responsibilities is transmitting the culture of Scio to our apprentices and every new person that joins the team. Culture can have an effect at home too because it is a similar process to teaching your kids the kind of attitudes you want to see in them.

So, if your kids see you dealing with people in a professional, empathic, and understanding way, they are probably learning something valuable about collaboration and relationships.

The home office can humanize a collaborator.

They can take a peek into your inner life, the things you have at home, the people there with you, and you can learn more about their hobbies that you may never know otherwise. 

All these kinds of things give you more context about others, and you can generate more personal connections because, when you turn your camera on, you let them enter your home, and that shows the human side of your coworkers. 

As you can see right now [during the Zoom interview], I have a blurred background, because I moved out recently and I don’t want all those boxes to show up and that, but that’s a normal part of a home office.

Still, the challenges go beyond that. In the beginning, when I started to work full time from my home, the balance between my personal and professional life was non-existent, “I’m already here, I don’t have anywhere else to go”, and without a clear line during the day at which to stop working. 

Of course, I noticed that wasn’t right, but I still reached a limit. There was a certain feeling of tiredness when you don’t have a clear dividing line between both sides of my life; it was easy for me to stay an extra hour to finish late stuff, but I got to the point where I was just going through the motions the day.

And that affects your work. I started to become more easily distracted, and without that urgency I had in the office to finish stuff and go back home, getting burned out was easy. After all, I was already in my house and any concern about returning late had disappeared.

So I started changing my attitude about it, first by trying to schedule things to do in the afternoon and to always have something to do, be it just riding my bike, going for a run in the park, or things like that. 

I try to be consistent with it, and disconnecting completely at the end of the day makes it easier, even if I have to play up the change of context by walking around the block or something when I finish? or start my day. It works for me and lets me know when my day has finished and if I should stop. 

If someone asks me these days for advice about being a Project Manager, first I would like them to consider why they want to do this kind of work, to see if their idea of a PM is realistic. You are in a very critical position of responsibility, and I recommend they develop some great social skills and know the entire development cycle well.

These days, my routine is very well defined, and that’s important for someone who wants to follow this career path from now on. I spend all my morning on calls, updates, and client meetings, probably around 40% of my time goes into that, leaving the afternoon to deal with the specific needs of my team, from getting a new mac for them, to define parameters and functions of everyone involved. And after doing it all from the comfort of my own home, I cannot imagine doing it any other way again.

“We are starting to shift our place in the world”: An interview with Senior PO Gilda Villaseñor about her volunteer work with young women in the software industry.

“We are starting to shift our place in the world”: An interview with Senior PO Gilda Villaseñor about her volunteer work with young women in the software industry.

Even if the software industry is open for everyone with talent and dedication, women historically had to overcome more challenges to carve their own spaces. So we had a chat with Gilda Villaseñor about her work with Technovation, and the motivation to bring more women into this profession.

I was fortunate enough to never notice the idea that math was for men, and women should focus on areas like the Humanities. So when I was in middle school, I started playing chess, and I think that gave me a certain mindset that helped me identify or generate some complex scenarios in my head, and analyze them carefully.

I trained that part of my mind often, but without thinking of a specific professional area to apply it until my mom signed me up for a computer workshop. Both of my parents are doctors who worked at the IMSS (the Mexican healthcare system), and they had a coworker in the IT department that was always telling them about how computers were coming strong, and as they always had been curious about everything new, said: “Well, let’s get her into it to see what happens”.

I didn’t put any resistance to the idea, to be honest. Back then, my siblings had a very strong affinity for art, and they were always doing something related to it. It was something I wasn’t interested in at all, so I was the one that never had anything to do on weekends, and I joined that class.

Well, it turned out that I was good at the logic needed to write programs; they taught us how to write very simple procedural programs, but I realized that I understood those things quicker than all of my classmates and made things work faster when I was writing code. In the beginning, it was just a hobby, though, until I started high school and realized that I was better at the Computer class than the rest of my friends, so when I was finishing school, I decided I wanted to study something that could take me out of the city, and among my options were Computer Science, which was available at the Tecnológico de Morelia, but I wanted something different.

In the beginning, everything was fine, but during my last years of college and my first professional years, I started to notice very few women doing the same things as me, although I didn’t question it until I started hearing the stories of other women in the field. And it was when I reached a certain level when I noticed how my knowledge and experience were sometimes questioned without reason, and I wasn’t advancing as easily as my male colleagues, finding certain resistance to my authority when I started climbing up the hierarchy.

Also, having to decelerate my professional career when I chose to exercise my maternity, and the difficulty of having to juggle my job with taking care of my kids took a toll, as I couldn’t keep my rhythm the way some of my male coworkers could, which is part of the reason why I wanted to change things for myself and any woman working on this industry.

I started my volunteer work in an international program called Technovation. I was there between 2016 and 2019 until it had to stop because of the pandemic, and although I’m not active on that initiative right now, I am collaborating with others that try to bring more women to technology, business, and even writing, where we do women groups helping each other to break the stereotypes and current models, seeking to attain better conditions.

I have always had the impulse to seek a way to improve the conditions of everyone around us, from how we treat each other, to what happens during the professional growth of my colleagues. What started my dedication to this was a women-exclusive event I attended once, where all of these women talked about the challenges and problems they faced at work when they start to climb up in the ladder, and that’s how I started to realize many things I never questioned before, like how few female managers I’ve had, which I believed were just the way things were.

These testimonies, and seeing what other women were already doing in similar organizations and volunteer programs, as part of a greater initiative to support women, fired me up and made me want to get involved. 

Some other female colleagues and I started seeing what was happening in other cities of Mexico, and started to investigate what we would do here in Morelia; we were a group of professionals seeking a way to start changing things, looking for a way to join initiatives directed at women in software.

So that next year I found the international initiative of Tehcnovation with Maria Makarovaand other women showing us what that program was about, what they did, and the things they were achieving with girls between 10 and 18 years old, and everything around that.

We brought this program to Morelia and started with some girls from residential care and private schools, and the year after that we worked with girls from an association that helps kids in underserved communities, helping them obtain an academic education from elementary school until they are ready for college.

We were surprised by the high level of engagement they showed and integrating them into these kinds of efforts is very satisfying for them, and us as mentors. You learn a lot from this labor and it’s gratifying to see kids and young women acquire new skills, especially when they see the possibilities of technology, and the communities we build for and by women.

The biggest challenge I saw was that, since this was an international program, most of the resources we used were in English, and although we do the effort to translate everything we could, some of the books and materials were still in another language, so we had to do some additional things for the girls that couldn’t understand it, or they learned to translate, using what they had at hand, like online translators and such, to learn.

Outside of that, everything else was a great collaboration, with some sponsorships from the local government, which lent us some spaces to do these workshops, and help from Universities and local companies, like Scio, BlueBox, IA Interactive, and Fundación Amamba A.C., in the form of facilities and coffee breaks for the events.

I saw a lot of collaboration and the desire to be part of a change for women, where talented people are always needed, and in most cases the resources exist to keep pushing forward these kinds of efforts, bringing lots of institutions to collaborate and be part of the change.

Back when I started, most of the interactions I had at work were with men; if the teams I collaborated with had 10 members, there would be a single woman in there at most, so I normally worked just with men. But in the last decade, I’ve been noticing a difference; I see more women in development teams, or the software industry in general, not only in departments that require soft skills but in high positions in a company that used to be solely men.

A lot of it has to do with the benefits that are starting to be offered in the industry, with spaces open for us. Now is very fortunate to have the option of working from home, and the women that are having kids now, have the chance to focus better on the very demanding task of raising children.

So, things like these had to do with necessities exclusive to women, but that has an impact in a whole context, and I see how they are starting to change. There’s a lot left to do, but benefits and offerings like that are becoming the norm in the industry.

Technovation is about inspiring and orienting young women to follow a technical career, showing them they can. That empowers them immensely, and through workshops about technology and business to create, launch and market products, essentially teaching them how to create a start-up, teaching them to be independent, and enjoy what they do.

More everyday situations are covered in talks and events targeted towards slightly older women. For example, when a woman decides to get married, for some it’s not easy to balance a marital and professional life, because this prejudice about women having to devote themselves to their homes still exists, and even more when motherhood and children are involved. These topics get touched more on the writing groups I mentioned, where the stories we write we reflect on ourselves, the world we navigate, and we confirm that most of the times we are positioned in a disadvantaged place, but we work intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically to overcome these situations, creating sorority ties between us.

We are starting to shift our places in the world. If you compare past and new generations, I think we are already changing our self-perception, how we see each other, and how we accept ourselves. What’s next is bringing these changes to our workplaces, fighting for places with more favorable conditions for women, taking into account our necessities, our specific contexts, opening spaces for us to communicate and collaborate.

In the tech industry, right now there are a lot of incentives and resources being invested, and for women, it’s a place to reach economic independence, with the option to move freely and choose for yourself, which is why I want to encourage more women to try this area.

The women from Mentoralia, the association that organizes the Technovation program in all of Mexico, are starting to develop other similar workshops, and it was with them that I started to bring these efforts to Morelia. I always had their support, and that opened plenty of doors for me to meet incredible women from all over Mexico, which is incredible and it’s a good incentive for anyone looking to join as a volunteer, as it is something we are passionate about, and we build networks of female friends and colleagues that have a good time together while changing the prejudice and stereotypes linked with software, trying to bring a future where women never have to question if they have the space to join in an important professional area such as technology.