TEAM International Supports Female Software Developers in Colombia

TEAM International Supports Female Software Developers in Colombia

TEAM is excited to be one of the sponsors of Pioneras Developers, one of the largest technology meetups for women, a non-profit organization supporting women in the IT industry. They are currently present in three cities in Colombia: Medellín, Barranquilla, and Cali.

TEAM International has been supporting local meetups in Medellin since April 2017, starting with MedellinJS. We are glad to add to our TEAM one of the largest female developers’ meetups; Pioneras Developers

To learn more about the founders, members, and the organization, we decided to sit down and ask them some questions:

Can you please introduce yourselves?
Hi, my name is Marian Villa, I’m a founder and a part of the 2019 Core Team Members of Pioneras.

  • Hi, my name is Laura Ciro, I’m also a member of the 2019 Core Team of Pioneras.
  • And I am Ana Maria Sosa, I’m a member of the Core Team of Pioneras, and I am very happy to be involved.
  • And I am Liz Parody, I am one of Pioneras’ founding members.

Tell us a little about your experience with Pioneras Developers?
Ana Maria: I became part of Pioneras about two or three years ago. I am very happy about what we have achieved, about all the events we have successfully created, the monthly meetups, and the impact that those events have had on women. Every day they are becoming more motivated to be speakers and to create content. I think we have achieved cool things.

Laura Ciro: I came to Pioneras as an attendee at one of the first meetups they officially created, they had about 70 – 100 attendees and it was awesome. After some time, due to all the knowledge I acquired in the meetups and all the training I got inside the Pioneras’ community, I decided to contribute further by becoming part of the core group of Pioneras.

Liz Parody: I have been a part of the Pioneras’ community for about 3 years. Pioneras have changed the lives of many, including me. Thanks to this group I recently got hired by a company in San Francisco. It was all due to Pioneras. For me, Pioneras is a bridge that allows the communication and collaborative support among women.

Marian Villa: Hi, I’m glad to be here. We had been working for about three, actually almost four, years already. The funny thing is that we started as a small study group of about 5 to 7 girls, then up to 10 girls showed up to our meetups, and now we have a digital community of about 200 people. Our monthly meetups have about 40 to 50 attendees, and in other events we have reached attendance of between 80 to 100 women. These are all women wanting to learn about technology, and that was something that didn’t happen before here in the city, nor in the country.

Also, another nice thing that have been happening is that the girls have been able to get jobs in leading companies, not only international companies, but regional ones, bringing value and adding strength to the teams where they work. Those companies have supported our growth in return.

Why did you create Pioneras?
Marian Villa: Well, I’m going to start telling our story, but I want my team to contribute constructing our story here, as Pioneras Developers was created collaboratively.

A few years ago, we were women interested in learning about IT, and even though there were mixed meet-ups communities – because we are not the first meetup about technology, in the city nor in the country – we felt there were few women and we were a minority in the industry.

At that time there was only one leading community teaching JavaScript, an important programming language that we wanted to learn. We want to clarify that the men were really supportive. They were always there for us and we are not against them, we never have been, but we were only three to five women attending meetups of one to two hundred people, and the drop-off rate among women was very high.

We didn’t understand why, if we all have the same capacities and if women represent about 50% of the population, there were not more women studying and why the few that was represented kept leaving. That was why we started the search to create a space for women, looking forward to increasing our community presence within a female environment.

At the start of our initiative we were supported by other communities, and we were also questioned. There was some resistance to the idea. People were asking us why we were leaving the mixed meetups if they weren’t excluding us, or why we were creating a female only meetup when they were supporting us.

The answer to those questions has always been “yes, we know you are supporting us”, but we felt overwhelmed, it was our issue, not yours, could be a lack of trust, a lack of confidence or something else, but we just needed a space where we could solve those issues as a team of women supporting each other, to learn and to grow.

Pioneras has never been a community that reject the mixed communities or men’s communities, actually, our goal is that because of Pioneras women move to be part of other communities and become leaders, speakers, and share knowledge. We want them to start filling that space and hopefully one day the communities will be 50/50 women and men, and that has been happening. That was how Pioneras started, we were prompted to create a space where we could feel comfortable learning and supporting ourselves among other women.

Now I’m going to leave it to my Team to complete our story and what we are.

Ana Maria: What I think is nice about Pioneras is that it isn’t only about meeting every month, and then there is no further communication. No, Pioneras is such a nice united team now that we support each other to grow, like when we have questions about work, about any personal project, or conferences we are going to be speakers for, we know the community will support us.

Another thing is that when we started, we were the only women meetup in the city and now there are plenty, looking forward to support each other, and we believe part of that was because of us.

Laura Ciro: I wasn’t a part of Pioneras from the beginning, though I did see the growth and evolution we all had in the team. Personally, what I appreciate the most about Pioneras is the support, solidarity, and sisterly feeling we have, a space where we all grow in confidence to show all our capacities.

What does it mean for you to have TEAM International as a sponsor?
Marian Villa: We are really happy to have TEAM International sponsoring us, though it is good to clarify that different companies support communities like us, growth and understand that the communities don’t belong to one company or the other. All companies need qualified talent and that talent does not come from academics, so creating this space that support women in technology also support and help organically grow human talent in the city and the country, that in turn helps the companies.

Ana Maria: When you assist at an event, it seems like everything is awesome, you enjoy it a lot, you learn a lot. What you don’t see is what is happening backstage or what goes into planning the event. We need a place to host it, food for the attendees, support for souvenirs or giveaways if we need it, etc., and that is where the sponsors help us a lot.

Laura Ciro: Additional insight: we are, as Pioneras Developers, generating content, knowledge, and training for women’s development, but it would be great if we had access to other means of education, like digital courses in platforms like Udemy, licenses for tools to work with, there sponsors can help too. We would also like for companies to create a better and stronger environment for women in tech.

Liz Parody: All communities need resources to survive. Also, I totally agree with what Laura said, about the environment and corporate culture in companies, and I believe the connections we are creating from working with TEAM International will help develop that more inclusive corporate culture. And for you, for TEAM International, you will have access to a pool of talent present in Pioneras Developers. It is beneficial for both sides.

What has been your greatest achievement?
Marian Villa: To be honest, we celebrate every achievement. It doesn’t matter how small it is. But there have been things that have happened that we never expected would happen, like:

  1. New communities in other cities: we never expected that women from other cities would write to us telling us they want to have Pioneras in their city too. We were amazed to see that these new groups were courageous enough to be consistent, follow our methodologies, and establish themselves there, because we know it isn’t easy. We were like wow, Pioneras grew from being a study group of three to five girls in Medellín almost four year ago, to a community with presence in three cities.
  2. Bootcamp: It happened via trial and error, we didn’t know how to do it, but we still achieved it. In Colombia, there was no such thing as a bootcamp for women held by women and being able to be pioneers creating it was incredible. After it happened, we got a lot of positive comments about it, about the talent we had there, and the talent we developed. I think we should have another one. I believe it is something valuable to duplicate

Ana Maria: Speaking of that bootcamp, it was incredible to see what the women achieved in such a short amount time, their projects at the end. I could see how what we are doing here at Pioneras Developers is life-changing. I mean, I know it is life-changing, it changed my life too.
If there anything else you’d like to share?

Marian Villa: I want to expand on the information about our organization. We are a non-profit organization with a strong focus on human development. We do not generate any profit from this, everything is done on a volunteer basis. We look forward to help communities at social risk, those that have limited opportunities in their environment to be educated and to grow. Laura, this is your main focus inside Pioneras, please give us feedback.

Laura Ciro: Yes, well, I did have opportunities in my life, but my mother didn’t have them. I know, because I have seen it, how hard it can be to develop and grow as a human being if you are in a harsh situation. That’s why we constantly try to have our meetups near these communities, to be easily accessible, to always have some food at our events, etc. We know some people struggle with paying for transportation, so we want to make it as easy as possible.

Interviewer: We are excited to be involved as sponsors and we are looking forward to working together to achieve mutual goals for women in technology. Thank you all for being here and sharing the history and goals of your organization.

Marian Villa: Thank you!

Liz Parody: Thank you very much!