August 1, 2023

Meet the Team, Monika Mueller, EVP of Consulting Services & Head of LATAM

It’s not surprising that Monika is a leader in an international tech company with a focus on her teams. Growing up with a programmer mom and now raising her own multinational family, she’s got a bit of experience. 

Her family comes from the US, India, and Germany, so Monika makes it a priority for her children to experience different cultures, learn different languages, and see all the different ways that people live. When she’s not traveling the world with her family (she did this interview from Germany), she’s out for a bike ride, training for a race, mentoring at her church and focusing on helping other women succeed in their fields. 

As EVP of Consulting Services and Head of Latin America, Monika wears several hats at Softensity, and still finds the time to support other women. She is also a member of the invitation-only Forbes Technology Council, and regularly contributes thought leadership articles on Get to know Monika and hear what it’s like to be a woman in tech leadership. 

What does it mean to be the Head of Latin America for Softensity?

Latin America is our anchor location where we know we can provide consistent, quality delivery to our clients and also help the regions and people who live in LATAM to build economic stability for their families.

I look at being Head of LATAM as a triple responsibility. One being to the company to make sure that we’re operating in a mature and responsible way that’s scalable and stable. That way we can grow and have a predictable environment for our employees and clients. 

Secondly, I feel responsible to provide financial stability for people within the region that normally may not be accessible because of their countries’ economic situations. We give them an opportunity to rise above the financial insecurities, inflation, and economic instability of their counties by being able to work for a multinational, U.S. based company. I feel a lot of responsibility for making sure that we have a stable operation because I know we’re supporting the financial health and stability for the people who work for us in these regions.

And then, of course, I think of our clients. I love that we can provide an economical, collaborative solution for our clients to continue to achieve their roadmaps and their vision — thanks to time zone alignment and cultural similarities between LATAM and the United States. We can offer our clients that high quality of work because of the nature of the education systems and the commitment from the people that work on behalf of our clients. Every day I think about making sure that all the decisions being made and the way we’re evolving in LATAM are balancing those three elements. 

How did you originally become interested in working in the IT industry?

I don’t think I had any interest in technology growing up. When I was in high school, we didn’t really have any focus on STEM or STEAM. Ironically, my mom was a COBOL programmer, which is now a very old programming language but it was the language at the time. But even though my mom was in technology, she never really forced that career path upon me. 

At almost every company she worked for, she was the only female software engineer, and I grew up watching her not only deal with the challenges of working in a very male-dominated industry as a minority woman but also seeing how much she enjoyed the process of creating things through technology. 

When I began my master’s program in marketing, I think I was like a lot of kids — I didn’t really know exactly what direction to go in. I was actually thinking of getting my PhD, but when I was interning for the head of our university, he told me that he thought I had a really consultative mindset, which I had absolutely no idea what that meant.

I didn’t know anything about consulting. I didn’t even understand that it existed, to be honest. He had a next door neighbor who was a partner at Ernst & Young. EY did not recruit from state universities like mine, but as a favor to the head of the university, I got into their interview process. It was an immediate click. 

Everyone that I met at Ernst & Young had creative approaches to problem solving, learning new things, learning new technologies, and dealing with the challenges of working with new clients, which really excited me. 

I learned the importance of working hard and showing value in whatever job you’re in. I had no aspirations to get into consulting, but this person saw something in me that I didn’t even know was there. Without that connection, I don’t think I would be where I am today, so it really was divine intervention that I entered into consulting and have stayed there for the past 30 years. 

How can we empower more women to work in the tech industry? 

It’s a very complicated question and topic to think about how women can excel in technology.

There are a couple of patterns I’ve seen. I think women, and especially young girls, need to be aware that being in technology does not equate 100% to doing software development. If I look back at my coding, I have barely done any hands-on development, but I’ve been involved in strategy around technology evolution, project management, and business analysis. There are other roles for very creative people, like UI/UX design or marketing strategy for technology companies. I think breaking that myth is important because it immediately turns off young girls who think “I don’t want to be a developer.”

I also think we need to introduce girls to tech earlier. There’s a weird phenomenon, which I’ve even noticed with my own 16 year old daughter, where girls tend to be the smartest kids in elementary school while boys are less focused on schoolwork, but there’s a point where things switch. Maybe this is a controversial opinion, but I really believe it. By high school, our girls are caring more about boys and looks, so before that convergence happens, we need to be engaging with girls to instill an excitement about technology. We don’t want them to think all things technology are geeky and rule it out altogether, so we need to get serious about building awareness at a younger age.

And, quite honestly, we can’t have any significant success without the support of men that are in fact in the majority of leadership positions — and that doesn’t just mean C-suite. They could be team leaders, managers, and directors, since the vast majority of those positions are still being filled by men. We have to make them more aware of their own subconscious bias, because there are very well-intentioned people who say and do things without understanding how it may impact the women or opportunities for women within their organization. We have to bring men along in this journey with us, so it should be collaborative and cooperative, not competitive. 

What kind of work is Women in Technology (WIT) doing to bring more women into the IT industry?

Women in Technology (WIT) is a Georgia-based nonprofit that’s been around for 26 years, and it’s a phenomenal, powerful organization with a singular mission of getting girls from the classroom to the boardroom.

They have programs for every step of that journey to help girls at each milestone. In highschool, there are campus programs they can get involved in, mentoring for women first entering the workplace, and even boardroom training programs. It’s truly a nonprofit that’s making a difference, which is why I chose to be part of this organization. 

As a member of the board for six years, I was part of a program that worked to help single mothers get a cybersecurity certification, place them into jobs, and mentor them so they’ll succeed. That’s what I love about WIT — they are thinking about things from end to end and how we can take women from where they are to where they want to be. We’re asking, how do we support their childcare? How do we give them access to the internet if they need it? What is their accountability? 

I’m also involved in CHIEF, a network of women in leadership positions that support each other and other women coming up in their careers.   

Why should clients engage with Softensity?

When clients engage with Softensity, they get a partner that’s really invested in their success.

All of the decisions that we make are never to maximize the situation in the short run, but rather are made through the lens of how we can continue to strategically partner with this client in the long run. I think that’s evidenced by the fact that many of our clients have been with us for over a decade.

We constantly get feedback from clients thanking us for being there when times were tough. During COVID, we partnered with many of our clients to help them through very tough situations. It’s a very unique lens that we’re able to look through to see our goals and how we want to approach clients and employees. We’re not looking to only have a good partnership now but also five years from now and 10 years from now and so on. Most other companies have to always be maximizing their profitability because they’re reporting to Wall Street. But at Softensity, it’s not our culture to make short-term-benefit-based decisions, which is pretty unique. 

The other major benefit is that our clients choose to build their teams from anywhere in the world to achieve their goals, allowing them to align time zones if they’d like. Being a global company also enables us to ramp up teams pretty quickly because we have so many options in terms of where we can pull together teams from, whether that’s Latin America or Europe. 

Why should someone work for Softensity? 

I think first and foremost, it’s our culture. When we bring somebody new into the organization, we make them attached to a community. The communities are made up of 10 or so folks who have similar skill sets. Basically, they’re supported in a smaller community within a larger organization, which is pretty amazing. We also have very well-defined career plans, development opportunities, and the resources to help employees grow. 

Since the company was founded by two brothers, that family environment has just permeated the culture and has been maintained throughout Softensity’s history.

What advice do you have for someone who’s interested in a career in tech?

Tech continues to be one of the fastest-growing sectors, and it’s never going to go out of demand. Now is the absolute easiest time for people to explore different options in technology. People can get information from social platforms, YouTube, user groups, and nonprofits that are focused on technology. So the ability to access all of those options makes it possible to learn on your own.

I would recommend people explore those options and then create a plan to figure out what part of technology is most interesting to them — because saying “I want to be in tech” is massive. I definitely encourage people to find user groups in their local communities and go to their events. You get to talk to people and learn what it’s like on a day-to-day basis to be a project manager, work in AI, or be a Java developer before making a full commitment to go into a particular area of technology. And once you’ve decided, you can start asking what it will take to get there. 


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