In a world dominated by men, it is always inspiring to see women breaking barriers and thriving in the technology sector. One such woman is Paula Andrea, a sales manager at Firstbit Latam, who has navigated her way through various challenges and emerged successful in the world of ERP product sales.
We had the privilege of having a candid conversation with her as part of our 'Girls in IT' project, a series of interviews focusing on women who have demonstrated exceptional dedication in the technology field. In this interview, Andrea shares her journey, achievements, challenges, and unique perspectives that have contributed to her success in the IT sector. Let’s start!
Thank you very much for being here today. Could you start by telling us a little about yourself and your experience in ERP product sales?
Thank you for the invitation and for recognizing the value of this initiative, given the gender bias in the tech sector. My journey began as a business administrator in tourism and hotels, working in various locations in Colombia. As I concluded my studies, I transitioned to a commercial executive role in a hotel chain. Unfortunately, the pandemic temporarily halted my career.
A year later, I entered the tech sector as a Business Development Representative for a Canadian company, focusing on Contact Center solutions. This role, which involved prospecting, qualifying leads, and initial client interactions, marked my entry into the tech world. After nearly two years, I joined Firstbit Latam, where I currently work as the sales manager for Colombia, developing new projects across various solutions like ERP, RPA, and BI.
Your journey is admirable. During the pandemic, it was a challenging time for the entire industry. What motivated you to join this field?
The optimism I felt was significantly fueled by the promising outlook I perceived, despite the challenges of the pandemic. While this sector was not immune to the global disruptions, it was one of the few that remained resilient and managed to navigate the adversities faced by the entire world, industries, and the global economy. This resilience was particularly striking to me, especially when contrasted with the massive layoffs experienced in other sectors. Although there were layoffs in this sector too, my job search revealed how challenging it was to secure employment in my previous sector.
However, I was fortunate to receive an opportunity at this company. What intrigued me was the daily news of companies maintaining their performance indicators even as most of their employees transitioned to remote work. This observation sparked a reconsideration of my career direction and led me to contemplate a change in my professional trajectory.
That's incredible. Can you share some of your secrets? How do you build and maintain strong relationships with your clients over time?
Absolutely. I believe it is crucial to conduct thorough initial prospecting. What does this entail? It involves a deep understanding of our clients' challenges in order to propose suitable solutions and establish a relationship that goes beyond merely a commercial or corporate interaction, evolving into a form of friendship.
This is essential because it ensures that the client remains loyal, not just at the point when you are addressing their immediate needs, but also in the long run. I consider this to be a foundational element — to foster not only a business relationship but also a personal one, as this contributes to the stability of our relationships.
Have you encountered challenges that require a comprehensive professional approach to overcome?
Certainly, a prominent challenge is acknowledging that we are not the sole entity in this sector, nor the only one providing these kinds of solutions. Competition is indeed one of the most significant hurdles. In Latin America, in particular, several companies are already well-established, especially regarding brand recognition. This has been one of the most considerable challenges I've faced at Firstbit, not just within this organization but also in this specific sector. Numerous emerging companies and solutions are highly competitive, both technologically and in terms of pricing. However, altering the mindset of Latin American clients can be somewhat daunting. Introducing a new tool or company can sometimes be a bit intimidating and challenging.
Among these challenges you mentioned, how do you think your approach as a woman has contributed to the success of your sales of ERP products?
Well, I believe women are more perceptive and intuitive. From that perspective, it facilitates effective relationship management, not just from a commercial or corporate standpoint but on a personal level as well. This is one of the aspects that greatly assists me.
Additionally, being highly organized, a trait commonly associated with women, is beneficial in my work. It enables me to be proactive and stay one step ahead, which I find incredibly helpful in my daily activities and in devising strategies.
What is your opinion on the representation of women in technology and sales? Do you think there are enough opportunities for women in this sector?
There is undoubtedly a considerable journey ahead of us. As we discussed, the technology sector, along with many others, faces significant gender bias. Despite progress made in several countries, including notable advances in gender equality in Colombia, much work remains. It is crucial to persistently support and advocate for initiatives like 'Girls in IT' to guarantee increased opportunities for women in this field.
Can you share some of your accomplishments in the sales area or in your career in general?
Sure! A pivotal accomplishment for me was transitioning into the technology sector and subsequently rising to become one of the top sales representatives on my team. This was particularly notable given that my base and team were located in Spain, while I was the sole representative in Colombia. This achievement was significant not just commercially, but also personally, as it required adapting to an entirely new industry, unrelated to my previous studies and work experience.
Another considerable accomplishment at Firstbit was the rapid development of new projects, accounts, and clients in a relatively short time frame.
You are indeed a very inspiring figure for all women in technology. Before we finish, could you share any advice or message for other women who are looking to start or advance their careers in the tech sector?
It is crucial to adopt a proactive approach, actively seeking opportunities rather than waiting for them to present themselves.
Continuous curiosity and a commitment to lifelong learning are also essential, given the rapid evolution of this industry. Staying updated is necessary to avoid falling behind.
Persistence is another key trait, as challenges are inevitable. Facing them with a positive attitude and seeking the best possible solutions is crucial.
Lastly, supporting and empowering other women, not just in technology but across all sectors, is of utmost importance. Fostering a supportive environment and helping each other achieve our goals is vital for overall success.
I hope that this initiative will continue to grow and help women in the technology sector. Thank you!