August 16, 2022

Meet the Team: Maria “Male” Colmenares

Maria, or Male as everyone calls her, is an animal lover, a food and wine connoisseur, and a passionate woman in tech. She’s also dedicated to learning more about other cultures through cuisine. Not only does she put effort into using the proper ingredients and techniques, she also researches the tradition around different dishes and tries to pay respect to the culture of origin.

Her curiosity and interest in global traditions come in handy in her professional life, too. Male is a scrum master and community lead based in Argentina, but she works with software services professionals all over the world. In just six months with Softensity, Male was promoted to community lead—making her the first woman to take on this role. And as a “feminist in construction,” she takes her role in diversifying IT very seriously.

How did you become interested in IT?

I’ve been leading teams for about 15 years now, at first as a volunteer in the national organization in Venezuela and then as a professional. When I moved into Argentina, I originally planned to spend three years studying to be a veterinarian—which I didn’t want to do. I started looking for work in marketing since I had experience in that industry and in project management. Later, I migrated to technology with digital projects and working with software. I’ve been working in the tech industry for seven years now, working on teams of designers, UX professionals, and software engineers. Currently, I’m 100% focused on teams that provide software services.

What’s it like to be the first female Community Lead for Softensity?

I consider myself a feminist in construction because I’m always growing and learning more. So for me, being the first woman as community lead in the company is a huge responsibility, not only for my own professional growth, but for other women in tech. It’s very important to do my best and be my best self in this role, because it’s going to open doors for other women at the company.

We need more women taking leadership roles and management roles, and in order to do that, managers have to create equal opportunities and safe spaces. It’s been my goal to try to have more women on my team and to also empower the women that are already on my team. I want to empower them to be strong, to feel respected, and to make themselves seen and heard.

What challenges have you faced as a woman in IT?

Being a project manager, I need to problem solve, have difficult conversations and make decisions. In the past, I’ve felt like my opinions or my strategies weren’t taken seriously. But if a male colleague repeated my sentiment, it was like, “That’s a great idea. Let’s do that.” Other times I felt like I was treated like an assistant, not a manager. I was taking notes or ensuring everyone was in a meeting. It just seemed like my opinion didn’t carry the same weight as my male counterparts.

Because I’ve been through that and I’ve witnessed some unacceptable situations in both professional and personal scenarios, I know it’s my responsibility as a leader to provide the team with a safe work environment. Anytime I have the opportunity to bring on women software engineers, testers, or really any role, I try to create a respectful environment where they can be heard, feel confident, and feel like they have the same power as their male colleagues.

Luckily, I think companies are changing and focusing more on diversity, equality and creating the same opportunities. But I think it’s a change that needs to go deeper — not only within companies, but on a human level.

How is the IT industry in Argentina and Latin America growing?

Argentina really is a tech hub for Latin America. We are growing so fast and the market is very competitive. International companies are looking to Argentinian professionals to build their teams, especially thanks to the rise of remote work. In Argentina, and all over Latin America, we have so many young, professional, highly qualified tech workers who can easily jump into any project.

It’s not only the high level of tech skills here, but also our culture. Latin Americans are so creative, especially when it comes to solving problems that seem impossible to get past. We are quick, and we learn fast. I think that’s extra value that we can provide to the industry.

What’s the best part about working for Softensity?

The best part is the people. We have people from very different cultures all over the world working together for the same goal. We’re constantly learning not only about other countries and other languages, but other ways to work and to approach the same problem.

Having a female leader, Monika, also brings me extra value because it’s not common to find women in leadership roles in the tech industry. So if I can find at least one woman leading a big part of the company, for me, that’s a place where I want to be.

How has Softensity supported your growth professionally?

I feel like doors are constantly open to me, and opportunities are available. With every new role and responsibility that I take on, I learn more and get more exposure to clients and internal processes. In the short time that I’ve been with the company, I’ve achieved a lot of growth, both professionally and personally. It’s very satisfying to see that my work is seen and I’m valued as a professional as I’m given more responsibilities, visibility, and involvement in projects at a higher level.

What do you think the future looks like for the IT industry?

IT is an industry that is constantly changing, which is good because we need to evolve to stay on top of everything. But, I still think the IT industry needs to be more diverse. There’s a common myth that women just aren’t interested in IT or few women are trying to break into the industry, which isn’t true. We say that to justify the fact that not enough women are being heard, valued, and put into leadership positions in IT. I think we have a lot of work to do to make the industry more equal.


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