05/28/13 | Uncategorized

Colombia’s High Tech Women

Unbeknownst to many, Colombian women are leading the way in a whole host of industries, from government to Google.

By Adriana Galue (Founder, Mint Consulting)

It is always a pleasure to profile success stories from the country where I was born: Colombia.

Did you know that Google Latin America (LATAM), Adobe Systems LATAM, Colombia’s Ministry of Information Technology, and the Colombian Government’s Agency for High-Impact Entrepreneurship and Innovation are all high-growth ventures led by Colombian women? If that weren’t enough, there are a wealth of other PetroleumFinancialAutomotive and Insurance companies led by Colombian females too.


So why would companies such as PepsiCO, Ford and General Electric LATAM choose Colombian women for their leadership positions? Simply put, because we are awesome additions to any team ! We are fun, intelligent, highly educated, very driven and very people-oriented. These are all key aspects if you want to take a venture into a high-growth phase.

Having travelled extensively around the world, I have found Colombia to be one of the countries with the highest degree of innate entrepreneurship. This entrepreneurial spirit has been reflected in the make-up of the Colombian government where women occupy almost 50% of positions.

40 years ago, my own mother was an innovator in the field of Public Health, having pioneered the first LATAM community-based health care system in the favelas that surround Bogotá. Today, the system consists of hundreds of clinics managed by different medical schools around the country.

The Colombian Women Shaping Government Tech

When it comes to technology, Colombian women are pioneering IT innovation in government: as of 2013, the Colombian Ministry of IT is led by a powerful female duo.

María Carolina Hoyos Turbay, a Social Communicator and Journalist from Javeriana University leads the Vice-Ministry of Colombia’s IT. She holds a MBA in Global Strategic Marketing from the University of San Francisco in California, a specialization in Global Strategic Marketing from Harvard University as well as a specialization in Dissemination of Information Technology and Digital Content Convergence from the Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea. Think that’s impressive? Marìa has also completed a specialization in Business Models of Electronic Commerce and Market Value Creation from the University of Chile.

Hoyos Turbay is another woman making a splash, both as a consultant and an international speaker in digital content and has served as advisor to the office of the former Colombian Minister of IT, María del Rosario Guerra. A member of the National Television Commission Board of Directors, Hoyos is also CEO of the Corporation Gustavo Matamoros D’Costa, part of the Ministry of National Defence. She was also director of the Colombian National News for three years and founded the magazine NEWS.

Strengthening Hoyos Turbay’s strategy is María Isabel Mejía, current Colombian Vice-Minister of Information Technologies & Communications. As a software engineer with a master’s degree in Strategic Management of Information Technologies and 30 years’ experience, she has held leadership positions both in public and private companies as well as in the world of academia.

María Isabel was the coordinator of the Colombian Project Year 2000 (Y2K), an initiative designed to bring about a millennium change in Colombian’s IT Space. She was also the CEO of the Colombian “Computers for Schools” Program. Additionally, she undertook the design of the Colombian Government Online project. The newly created Vice-Ministry of Information Technologies & Communications that María Isabel is leading comprises of several branches including: Development of IT Policy, Innovation, Deputy of IT Economic Development, Management of Colombia’s IT space including Standards and Architecture, Security and E-Government Online among others. This new portfolio budget for 2013 is a staggering 72 Billion USD. The new Vice-Ministry is expected to boost industry applications, software development and services within the Colombian government.

Leading the Innovation in Entrepreneurship branch of the Colombian Ministry of Commerce is Catalina Ortiz. She is the CEO of iNNpulsa Colombia, the Colombian government’s agency for high-impact entrepreneurship and innovation. iNNpulsa aims to promote competitiveness within Colombia, with the belief that innovation in business will lead to a more prosperous society. Together with MassChallenge, iNNpulsa is developing tools and programs to better enable Colombian entrepreneurs to tackle global challenges.

From Startups to Google… You Name It, We’re Doing It

Adriana Noreña is yet another Colombian success story. She has been the CEO of Google for Latin America since June 2011. Prior to her current role, she was the CEO of Google Argentina for three years. She has held progressive leadership positions in the company, as the Director of Online Sales and Operations for Google Brazil and then for Latin America. Outside of Google, Adriana served as Director of Marketing and Business Development for Avaya and Manager of New Business and Planning in Elma Chips (PepsiCo).

Adriana holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University ICESI(Colombia), a Masters in Business Administration from Babson College (USA) and a Master in Management of Technology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA).

Last but not least there are women such as María Paula Duque, Colombia’s Public Sector Lead at Microsoft, Vicky Ricaurte, co-founder of UrGift one of the hottest Colombian startups today and the extraordinary Rosa Cristina Parra, the Colombian journalist from Universidad de la Sabana who led the Global Mobilization Against the FARC’s movement in 2008.

In short, if you’re looking for a brilliant co-founder, look no further than the Universidad de Los Andes Website (my Alma Mater) and get in contact with other Colombian women. We’re a force to be reckoned with!

Women 2.0 readers: Would you consider working with a co-founder in Colombia or elsewhere overseas?

About the guest blogger: Adriana Galue, born in Colombia and educated in Canada, started working with web startups following a career in Neuroscience. She is the founder of Mint Consulting and also teaches seminars in entrepreneurship applied to technology in several South American universities. Adriana holds a Master’s in Neurology and Neurosurgery from McGill University and an MBA from the Leeds School of Business, University of Colorado. Follow her @AdrianaGalue.

Photo credit: UN Women via Flickr

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