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Ana Villegas, Latinas in STEM, Latinitas

NI CMO Ana Villegas empowers young Latinas pursuing careers in STEM  

Ana Villegas is the Chief Marketing Officer at NI, a tech company that has developed automated test and automated measurement systems that help engineers solve the world’s toughest challenges for more than 40 years. 

In her role as CMO, Ana leads NI’s global marketing organization and ensures the organization supports their customers and the incredible businesses they lead. NI’s technology helps engineers test and measure the performance of their products, ensuring quality and speeding the pace of innovation in our world. 

With many years of marketing experience across both consumer and B2B organizations, Ana is a frequent speaker at international conferences on B2B digital and modern marketing, diversity and corporate social responsibility topics.

Ana Villegas, Latinas in STEM, Latinitas

Ana Villegas, Chief Marketing Officer at NI. (Photo courtesy of Ana Villegas)

Additionally she proudly serves on the board of Latinitas, a non-profit focused on empowering girls to innovate through media and technology.

As a Latina in STEM, Ana knows first hand the biases and challenges that many women face in this field. Through her work as a leader and mentor she is helping to break those biases and create opportunities for young Latinas in STEM. 

“My childhood set me down a path that didn’t include a career in technology,” she says of her childhood in Peru where she attended an all-girls school where traditional expectations for women were placed on her. 

“The expectation for women was to get married, have children, and take care of the home. And my schooling very much reflected those priorities – I learned to cook, sew, and do other household chores. However, I knew I wanted more,” Ana continues. 

“I worked hard and actively sought out challenging opportunities. I spent time studying engineering despite growing up in an environment that reinforced a limited view of what women can – or should – accomplish. I knew many of those around me had doubts about my plans, but I didn’t allow their doubts to influence me and each accomplishment pushed me further.” 

It was not easy, but Ana kept moving forward on the path she created for herself. She built her own future, seeking opportunities and finding success where others had doubted her. 

Eventually, she would immigrate to the United States from Peru to attend the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University where she received her Masters of Business with a focus in Marketing. Since then, she has worked in marketing roles at Dole Food Company, Dell, and NI. 

“My advice to others: do not let others’ doubts influence your opinion of yourself. Celebrate every victory and know you can achieve anything if you stay focused and work hard.” 

Latinas in STEM need mentors

Another important piece of advice Ana has learned throughout her career is the power of mentors, especially for young Latinas. 

“I have a 10-year-old daughter so it’s important to her future that she has role models and individuals who are there for her. I want her to understand that she’s capable of anything if she puts forth the effort, focuses, and sets ambitious goals for herself.” 

Ana Villegas, Latinas in STEM, Latinitas

Ana Villegas at Startup Chica with Latinitas. (Photo courtesy of Ana Villegas)

In her work as a board member of Latinitas, Ana strives to empower young Latinas and help them cultivate confidence in their abilities and ambitions. 

Through after-school clubs, camps, events and publications, and channels, Latinitas provides a space, both in the physical and online, for girls to express themselves, develop their skills, learn about their culture and discover their unique voice.

Latinitas aims to bridge the gap in access to education and careers in technology and achievement of women in media and STEAM fields. The organization builds future leaders in STEAM who advocate for themselves and their communities and creates a culturally conscious environment that instills pride in identity and a sense of inclusion.

“I’m so proud of the community we’ve created at Latinitas and excited to see these young women flourish as they chart their professional paths.”

You might be interested: Puerto Rican neurotoxicologist Alexandra Colón-Rodríguez is promoting Latinas in STEM

Ana Villegas, Latinas in STEM, Latinitas

“I’m so proud of the community we’ve created at Latinitas.” (Photo courtesy of Ana Villegas)

Ana’s own experiences with mentors and mentorship has opened doors for her and helped her grow into the leader she is today. 

“While working at Dell, I was fortunate to find a mentor in Carla Piñeyro Sublett,” she recounts. “She was serving in a Latin America leadership role and asked me to join her newly formed team. But I wanted to continue on in a more globally-focused trajectory, so I declined. That was a nerve-wracking moment and answer to give someone who had counseled and helped me in my professional growth journey, but it turned out fine. Years later, when she became the CMO at NI, she called and we finally got the opportunity to work together.”

Today, Ana is able to give back as a leader and mentor herself. As an executive in her field, her priority is to help develop future leaders. Knowing first hand the challenges minority individuals can face in the industry, Ana focuses on understanding and embracing the unique perspectives and voices each person brings to a discussion. 

“We must set aside our own biases to understand others’ experiences and viewpoints,” she says. “This builds trust, appreciation for one another, and ultimately helps people grow. My ‘superpowers’ are my abilities to listen and to help others overcome adversity in a way that’s authentic to them.” 

Ana’s parting words of advice to women interested in pursuing a career in STEM is to surround yourself with others who will uplift and support you when you face challenges and to be your own strongest advocate. 

“Speak and live your truth and don’t be afraid to voice your perspective or challenge traditional ways of thinking. Own your authenticity and the personal power it affords you.” 

Microsoft Excel MVP

How I became a Microsoft Excel MVP after 20 years as an accountant

Economics expert Yolanda Cuesta Altieri shares how she became a Microsoft Excel MVP after changing careers and how you too can take action to turn your profession around. 

If you have ever heard the term MVP, something related to sports—basketball or soccer—will come to mind, since it is named a lot to give recognition to outstanding players.

Yolanda Cuesta Altieri, Microsoft Excel MVP. (Photo source)

The acronym, if we are talking about sports, comes from English and refers to Most Valuable Player, which means something like “most valued player” or “outstanding”. But what you may not know is that there is another MVP recognition related to technology. They are the recognitions, awards in English, that the Microsoft company grants to people who stand out for sharing their technical knowledge with the community in an altruistic way.

In this case, the acronym MVP corresponds to Most Valuable Professional, which we can translate as “most valued professional”. It is a person that the company recognizes as a specialist in the field who can be trusted.

Well, here you have an MVP in the Office and Services category, which from 2014 to July 2022 has been recognized uninterruptedly year after year with this recognition by Microsoft.

This has been specifically for my contributions and dissemination of my knowledge in the spreadsheet program Microsoft Excel. And what I want to convey to you is that you can also become an MVP if you have a technological background. Extrapolating, I also imagine that there will be this type of recognition in other areas of knowledge, it is a matter of looking for information about it.

First steps 

Back in 2011 I decided to change direction in my profession and I made the decision to voluntarily leave a boring job with endless hours. Of course, it was full-time, indefinite and relatively well paid (this was not easy, since in my environment I was not well understood).

I changed it by choice for a part-time job in the mornings. And in the afternoons, as I have always liked to pass on knowledge, I began to write a blog about Excel and other spreadsheets that had some success, so much so that I won an award at the regional level with it, and I began to be known in the Excel community.

Two years after starting the blog, one of my followers told me about the MVP program and I decided to apply. Here is a first piece of advice: you already have the “NO”, so everything that comes ahead is welcome.

After a few months, already in 2014, I received the news that I was awarded the Microsoft MVP award. I haven’t said it yet, but it doesn’t have an associated monetary prize, but rather it’s a seal of quality, which gives you great professional value.

 

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2014 and already MVP

From then on, I was invited to attend the technical events organized by Microsoft, both at the level of European countries (for example, I participated in the meetings in Barcelona, ​​Rome, Lisbon, Madrid…) and at the annual Summit level at the central offices of the company, who are in Seattle, United States, that same year of 2014.

Over the years, I have not only had the opportunity to travel thanks to the award, but also to meet a lot of super valuable colleagues and professionals, who have provided me with knowledge and help whenever I have needed it.

And not only that, but many doors have also been opened professionally; with opportunities that would not even have crossed my mind before taking the step of changing my job in that year 2011.

The first year in Spain there were only two women with this recognition, with about 60 men being MVPs. Now, in 2022, there are 14 women with the MVP Award.

I have made a small calculation and, in percentages, the female representation of MVP in Spain, in 2014, accounted for 3% of the total. Now it is 19.4%, which represents significant progress, but there is certainly room for improvement.

You might be interested: From books to dating to DREAMERs, 6 apps by Latinas in tech to celebrate

Conclusions and one last piece of advice

So, what I want to convey to you, my second piece of advice, is that it is never too late to change. If you really want it, you have to take a step forward and start turning around in your profession. It doesn’t have to be as drastic a decision as mine to leave the job indefinitely, but it is up to you to take small steps to change the course.

What can you do? Well, for example, sign up for some training that interests you, update your resume, apply for job offers that seem attractive to you, delegate family tasks, talk to your acquaintances about your new concerns. 

I hope that this story can help you so that you can also adjust what you are not comfortable with in your profession and that it gives you strength and encouragement. I am at your disposal for more information about it.

See here to read the original article in Spanish and connect with Yolanda on LinkedIn.


Article translation by Victoria Arena. 

Tech-entrepreneur Maria Camila creates Latiner, a dating app for Latinx singles 

After experiencing racial based rejection on mainstream dating platforms, Maria Camila created Latiner –the first Latina-created dating app for Latinx singles. 

Founded by Colombian born tech-entrepreneur, Maria Camila, Latiner is the first Latina-created dating app for Latinx and Hispanic singles. (Image courtesy of Latiner)

According to Pew Research Center, the Hispanic population in the U.S reached 60.6 million in 2019 and accounts for approximately 18% of the country’s total population. For tech-entrepreneur Maria Camila, this realization coupled with negative experiences on mainstream dating apps, prompted her to launch her first venture. 

“It hit me that we, as the second-largest racial or ethnic group in the U.S., should have one dating app built on our own. A dating app catering to whoever wants to date Latin American singles, considering that mainstream dating apps are mostly created and dominated by white people,” says Latiner founder, Maria Camila. “Latin American singles need a comfortable and efficient dating platform. That’s what inspired me to create Latiner.”

From bad dating experiences to an entrepreneurial opportunity 

Latiner, Maria Camila,

Latiner founder, Maria Camila. (Image courtesy of Latiner)

At 25 years old, Maria Camila is already making a name for herself as an entrepreneur. Born and raised in Bogotá-Colombia she studied business administration at Fundacion Universitaria Cafam. She now lives in San Francisco where she works at a logistics company and she is now also the founder of Latiner. 

The idea to create Latiner came to Maria in January of 2020, after many unpleasant and disappointing experiences on mainstream dating apps. 

“When I first came to the U.S. 2 years ago, I felt lonely, kinda hoping I could find a boyfriend to be around,” Maria says. 

Maria’s friends in the U.S. set her up on many blind dates but most ended the same way. “Some of them turned me down because of racial differences, while others said they were afraid of the ‘Latina temper’,” explains Maria. 

Then Maria began her own online dating journey and learned first-hand how racists people could be when it came to dating. 

“I kept coming across profiles stating ‘Whites Only’,” she says. “As a Latina, it does take an emotional toll when people turn you down constantly, simply because you’re not their dating preference, not to mention the colossal waste of time swiping the wrong one on a wrong app.”

Latiner, Latinx singles, dating app

Latiner is changing the game as the first Latina-created dating app made specifically for Latinx singles. (Image courtesy Latiner)

These experiences prompted Maria to do something to change the game for Latinx singles. She began discussing the idea of a Latinx dating app with friends in the IT industry. Soon she persuaded them to join her team and together they successfully developed the app in 3 months. 

“The key to success is to start before you are ready” 

Before launching Latiner, Maria did not have any experience or educational background in technology. Everything was new. She didn’t feel “ready” to start, but she had an idea that she believed in and so she sought the right people to help her make her vision a reality. 

Latiner, Maria Camila

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all. The key to success is to start before you are ready.” (Image courtesy of Latiner)

“All I had was an idea of creating a dating app for Latino community,” she says. “But I had a bunch of friends who worked in the technology industry, and some of them were app developers. I told them about my idea as well as the prospect of Latino online dating market. They thought it was awesome, and they wanted to work together with me to develop the app.” 

When thinking back on her process, Maria recalls something she once heard from Steve Jobs about creativity. 

“He said creativity was just connecting things. People who were creative meant they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. In my case, I connected my unhappy online dating experiences with what I could do to make Latino singles feel comfortable while dating online, and I came up with an idea of making a dating app for ourselves,” Maria says. “In a word, you should know your community very well, know what they need, and you have to be creative and initiative to do something about that.”

You might be interested: 8 Steps to launching a tech startup

Through her experiences as a new entrepreneur, Maria has learned that anything is possible. “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all,” she says. “Be brave. Every single woman, regardless of ethnicity, race, age, or whatever you think might hold you back, has the right to make her own choice. The key to success is to start before you are ready, nothing will work unless you do.”

women-in-tech

Rosario B. Casas is closing digital divide for Hispanics with #Brooklyn2Bogota

Brooklyn2Bogota is a digital incubator for Hispanic business owners created by BCPartnersTech and led by women-in-tech advocate Rosario B. Casas and Felipe Andrés Forero Hauzeur. The program aims to help close the digital divide post-COVID for business owners and entrepreneurs by focusing on empowerment, digital transformation, and business growth through a variety of activities and mentor lectures. 

women-in-tech

Rosario at TEDxTalk. (Photo courtesy Rosario B. Casas)

Women-In-Tech advocate Rosario B. Casas 

Brooklyn2Bogota leaders Rosario B. Casas and husband Felipe Andrés Forero Hauzeur. (Photo courtesy Rosario B. Casas)

Award-winning women-in-tech advocate, Rosario B. Casas is Co-Founder of Business Creative Partners, BCPartnersTech, leading digital adoption and transformation for Hispanic owned businesses. She is a Colombian-born serial entrepreneur, now based in New-York, with over 8 years of practical experience in data and technology platforms and management roles.  

In addition to BCPartnersTech, Rosario is also Co-Founder and CEO of  XR Americas, a company dedicated to expanding the borders of immersive technologies –Virtual Reality, Augmented, Mixed– in industrial applications. Rosario is a Colombian entrepreneur based now in New York.

As a champion and enthusiastic advocate for women-in-technology, she is obsessed with finding more women and Hispanics using technology to solve key global challenges. To further encourage and support women-in-tech, Rosario has co-founded several strategic partnership models, serves as a member of the Big Data Advisory Board at Rutgers University, and has been a lecturer at TEDx, The World Summit on Innovation and Entrepreneurship , and The World Innovation Network TWIN Global, among others.

You might be interested: Venezuelan tech entrepreneur revolutionizes social storytelling with video-sharing app FlickPlay

How #Brooklyn2Bogota is empowering Hispanic business owners 

Brookly2Bogota is a community for digital transformation and business growth founded by Hispanic talent. Focusing on empowering business owners in the areas of Leadership, Products, and Growth the Digital Incubator Cohort offers valuable insights and guidance to participants through a series of lectures and discussions with mentors and experts as well as various activities and networking opportunities. 

digital incubator

Women-in-tech leader Rosario B. Casas is building a community for the digital transformation and business growth of Hispanic entrepreneurs. (Photo courtesy Rosario B. Casas)

The 8-week Incubation Program was initially created as a tool to help reduce the digital divide post-COVID and strengthen the knowledge of business owners and entrepreneurs, especially of Latino origin – both in the New York / New Jersey area and in Latin America.

The training program provides tools for participants to accelerate the growth of their company in the new digital world post-COVID and carry out the digital transformation they require while acquiring knowledge and skills related to design thinking and agile methodologies.

Focusing on the fundamental pillars of Leadership, Product, and Growth, the incubation process takes place over 8 uninterrupted weeks where entrepreneurs receive receive theoretical sessions and panels of specialized topics, dictated by carefully selected mentors for each area.

The thematic mentoring sessions between members of the Network of Mentors and the companies participating in our programs provide participants with expert knowledge and guidance as they move through the program. The cohort offers both private individual mentoring sessions and open conversations, many of which can be viewed here


Finally, the program provides participants with a private network that brings together the mentors and participants who complete the program. This network allows for further connection, collaboration, and exchange of ideas in the future and continued growth for entrepreneurs and business owners. 

Recently the program completed their first 8-week Digital Incubator Cohort. The first cohort provided 8 weekly closed live sessions and 23 open sessions, over 61 hours of live broadcast time, 93 individual thematic mentoring sessions, and approximately 110 hours of individual thematic mentoring. 

Applications for the second cohort are open now. See here to join.

Microsoft’s female founders competition awards $2M to Latina Tech-preneur

Latina tech-preneur Cecilia Flores, CMO and co-founder of IoT tech startup Webee, was recognized as the winner of the Female Founders Competition, winning $2M for her business. 

female founders competition

Cecilia Flores, CMO and Co-Founder at Webee (Photo courtesy Cecilia Flores)

Originally from Salta, Argentina but based in San Jose, California, Cecilia is a tech-preneur passionate about the social impact of disruptive technologies and innovation. An advocate for inclusion and equal opportunities for Women in Tech, she is an active mentor of Stanford Latino Entrepreneur, an active member of the Vital Voices Network since 2010, and a board member of We-Evolution, a non-profit that leads the women third revolution.

In 2013, Cecilia and her husband, Lucas Funes, co-founded Webee, a technology innovation company that develops IIoT (Industrial-Internet of Things) and AI (Artificial Intelligence) solutions for industrial and commercial markets. 

Webee was selected as a winner in the US Enterprise software category of the Female Founders Competition for its ability to achieve sustainable industrialization through easy-to-deploy solutions to reduce the impact of manufacturing processes on the environment. 

Backing Female Founders 

Did you know that last year, companies founded solely by women received less than 2% of the total capital invested in venture-backed startups? 

Unfortunately, despite it being well documented that women-led companies deliver higher returns over time than those founded by men, female entrepreneurs continue to receive significantly less access to capital. This is what the Female Founders Competition hopes to change.

The competition, organized by M12, Microsoft’s venture fund, and partnership with Melinda Gates’ Pivotal Ventures and Mayfield invested USD $6 million in four winners. Two winners–one global and one US-based startup–were selected in each of the two categories: Deeptech and Software as a Service (SaaS). Webee was one of two winners in the SaaS category, receiving $2M for her business, while Deeptech winners each received $1M. 

female founders competition

Weebee video can be seen at https://www.webee.io

“We look for founders that are willing to go the extra mile and commit to tackle important challenges in the world,” says Tamara Steffens, GM t M12 Venture Capital. “We saw in Webee a combination of a technological vision with  strong purpose and the willingness to make it happen. The expertise of its founders and the proven track record make it possible to achieve the goal of sustainable industrialization.” 

How Webee’s IoT tech is revolutionizing agriculture

One of the key components recognized by the Female Founders Competition judges was Webee’s mission of sustainability. Webee has specifically been working within the Food, Beverage, and Agriculture industry to help reduce ineffecient processes that lead to food waste.

Webee Corporations has developed a unique, no coding visual approach to building complex IoT applications for the industrial and commercial markets. Their products enable customers to benefit from IoT technology without impacting operations and obtaining an immediate return on investment. 

For those who may not be as familiar with the world of tech, IoT refers to the Internet of Things. IoT technology is defined broadly as “objects that ‘talk’ to each other.” It is everything connected to the internet. It’s about networks, devices, and data working together in communication. From your phone to smart-refrigerators, home security systems, and automated light fixtures, these all operate as part of IoT. 

So what does this have to do with agriculture? And how is Webee working to help the Food, Beverage, and Agriculture industry? 

Well, IoT has become a crucial component in the current agricultural industry, helping to eliminate food waste. 

“One-third of all food produced in the world every year goes to waste, and 40% of that comes from inefficiencies during manufacturing processes,” says Cecilia. “IoT is a key enabler of the ‘Third Green Revolution’ to achieve efficient production and sustainability.” 

The original Green Revolution has Latino roots, originating in Mexico during the 1940s. This first revolution began as a means to develop new, disease resistant crops. Through the use of technology, scientist Norman Borlaug began conducting research in Mexico to produce a disease resistant variety of wheat that would also produce a high-yield of crop. This technology then spread across the globe in the 50s and 60s, revolutionizing food production by allowing a single plant to produce far more crops than ever before.

Now, IoT is spearheading a new Green Revolution by helping to combat food waste in the manufacturing process through what is being called “smart farming.” 

Like our smartphone and smart-houses, smart farming is utilizing technology to make farming more efficient. By using a system of sensors, farmers are provided with a mobile application that receives input and data from the sensors. These sensors can be used for a variety of functions such as crop monitoring, watering, cattle monitoring, and greenhouse automation. With IoT, smart sensors collect information on the soil, which help assess the quality of the soil and crops. Smart sprinklers are also set to water plants when soil reaches a certain level of dryness. This helps reduce wasting water and is cost friendly as well. 

These are just a few of the many ways IoT technology is helping to revolutionize the agriculture industry. 

“We work tirelessly to continue our deployment to reduce the impact of the inefficient manufacturing processes on the environment,” says Cecilia. “Our mission is to democratize the adoption of disruptive technologies to achieve sustainable industrialization.” 

With the USD $2M investment from the Female Founders Competition, Webee will be continuing the expansion in the Food, Beverage, and Agriculture industry and help reduce the impact of Food Loss on the environment. 

You might be interested: A Latina innovator on becoming a successful Tech entrepreneur

Webee and COVID-19 

In addition to their work in the Food and Agriculture industries, Webee has also been involved in helping industries across the globe transition their manufacturing processes during Covid-19. 

Since the Covid-19 outbreak began, we have seen industries across the globe impacted by the virus. Supply chains were quickly shut down worldwide causing many companies to re-examine their supply chains and how they will ensure continuity in the event of the next crisis. 

Technology, such as Webee’s IoT and AI tools, will be a key ally in this transitional process. Automation and AI can help take over the redundant tasks in the supply chain of production, reducing human error and allowing employees to stay safe at home with their families without disrupting the supply chain. 

Cecilia Flores and Lucas Funes with their daughter, Lisa. (Photo courtesy Cecilia Flores)

We are only seeing the beginning of where IoT tech will go. But in order to ensure future innovation and development, it is important that more companies follow in the footsteps of the Female Founders Competition to create opportunities for women in tech and female founded companies to receive the necessary support and financial backing to continue producing innovative technologies.