December 16, 2020
Leadership, Women in Tech
Women in Tech. “Be human, compassionate, treat others well above all. This will be the real mark you leave on the world”, Catalina Tobón.
Catalina, director of Sales and Marketing at Cafeto, has been in the tech industry for 15 years now. She has supported foreign companies to launch and open new markets in the LATAM region, focusing on financial and telecom markets. Her passion is developing processes to improve commercial dynamics and optimize company results. On top of this, she has successfully led teams of more than 30 people, and this is why we want to share her story today.
Catalina, when did you became interested in technology?
I became interested in technology when I was a little girl. I was always interested in learning how to manage thoroughly any device that came into my hands. When the first sim card phones arrived in Colombia, my parents gave me a Siemens A56. I read the entire manual and learned all possible phone hacks.
I officially landed in the technology sector when one of my oldest friends invited me to join her at her job. She was working in a cutting-edge cellphone manufacturing company building a training team to train sales representatives who were going to sell the product to the service carriers. It was then that opened the door to the industry to me.
Well, I joined an incredible team of young people, all very driven by technology; it was a great experience. Of course, I traveled, learned, and taught. I got to experience, for almost eight years, the evolution of the devices and got to live through all the technological updates and make demonstrations to lots of groups of people.
What obstacles did you have to overcome?
Prejudice against my pregnancy was the biggest challenge I had to face. During my time working at cellphone manufacturer’s companies, I became pregnant. The CEO, my boss at the time, asked me not to tell anyone about it and told me he didn’t expect “that” from me.
The news caused a lot of commotion in the company. They “let me go” after I returned from maternity leave, arguing I would not perform at the same level as before I had a child. The news hit me like a ton of bricks. I thought, “how can a child be an obstacle?” but in retrospect, I think, how wrong they were.
Fortunately, I was able to turn that situation into an opportunity. Thanks to the excellent work relationships I had cultivated, I got my next job, and thank God I haven’t run into that kind of leadership again.
Who has been your biggest support during your career?
My husband and my son have been the most excellent support, always, all the way. They have been very understanding.
“In my experience, many male and female leaders believe that because women are mothers, they do not have the same disposition as a man to take on big responsibilities”.
A day in Catalina’s life.
I get up at 5:00 am, have coffee, meditate, exercise, and have breakfast. I kiss my son and my husband, and I start my day. Currently, I am leading and building the Sales and Marketing team at Cafeto Software. I do several things at the same time. I assemble teams, train them, search, and implement the necessary tools to do the job effectively and efficiently. Design processes that allow better interaction between the client and the sales team.
Everything remotely! Although I had experience working with remote teams, it has been a challenge. Mainly cause I love to interact with people. I am a very social person.
Why do you think aren’t there more women in tech?
I think there is an important cultural component. How our parents raised us plays a vital role in our career choices and handling certain situations.
The idea is that women iron and cook, and men do mechanical stuff, plus there aren’t many female role models to feel identified to in the technological world.
Also, at school, technology is a subject that you take as optional, once or twice a week. The focus that has been given to it is not extensive. You learned to use Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and that’s it.
I feel that there is also a lack of visibility of the variety and flexibility in the possibilities for tech training. This is key.
Could you name a few challenges (or obstacles) women in tech face?
Women are not yet taken seriously enough in the industry. I see women, including myself, preparing way more than any male peer to achieve respect and credibility.
Many male and female leaders believe that because women are mothers, they do not have the same disposition as a man to take on significant responsibilities.
All this has changed a lot since it started 17 years ago; however, there is a long way to produce tangible transformations.
What advice or tips would you give to women who want a tech career?
- Stay a good amount of time in a single company. Try not to jump so quickly from job to job. This allows you to identify what are you good at and identify how you see yourself in your role.
- Study, there are no excuses. Today there are thousands of resources to prepare.
- Always be a hands-on person.
- Never assume.
- Don’t stay silent. Express yourself, be transparent.
- Be human, compassionate, treat others well above all. This will be the real mark you leave on the world.