Offering Opportunities with Mariana Costa Checa of Laboratoria
With her education in International Development, Mariana never imagined she would one day be a Co-Founder and Executive Director of a social enterprise empowering Latin American women to learn code and get jobs.
“I never say myself as an entrepreneur,” Mariana shared, “I don’t have a background in tech.” Things changed when she moved back to her home country of Peru. Because her husband worked as a software developer, she saw how in demand software development was and decided to start her own company with her husband and another partner.
As the company expanded, Mariana had a major realization. “The team started growing and it was all men except for myself and another. It shouldn’t be this way.” She thought. This idea is what got Mariana into the social impact sphere.
Diving into Development with the Women of Peru
Because of Mariana’s experience leading a software company, she knew a lot about the industry. The observant entrepreneur said, “Many of our best developers only had high school diplomas. There was a lot of space for people. We thought, why don’t we train them ourselves?”
That’s just what Mariana and her partners did. Their focus became women who they knew didn’t have many job opportunities. By training and empowering these women with work, they constantly see transformations.
“It’s really meaningful work,” Mariana commented, “Our training center is right next to our office, so there are a lot of opportunities to interact with women in the program. It’s amazing to see how they change.”
This change is not a small one. Mariana explained, “When they apply, most of them don’t know what coding means. So many doors have been closed to them.” With that experience, it’s no wonder many of these women are shy and undervalued. Laboratoria changes their lives, in addition to their careers. “We do work around self-esteem, confidence. By the end, they’re presenting to hundreds of people. They feel talented doing something of value.”
Witnessing women change as they study with Laboratoria adds meaning to Mariana’s work. The impact of Laboratoria across Latin America is starting to gain momentum and recognition.
Entrepreneurship on Stage
The Laboratoria Co-Founder was surprised and excited to be invited to the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship summit moderated by President Obama. “We must be doing something right,” Mariana thought of her recognition, “It was a reinforcement that our work was important.” The panel, that included Mark Zuckerberg, talked about their challenges, their missions, and entrepreneurship. On her experience with some of America’s most famous names, Mariana mentioned, “They were super nice and interested in our work.”
Mariana’s journey to global recognition wasn’t easy. “Failure is a key part of life,” Mariana explained, “When you’re an entrepreneur, there’s no way out of it.” The hard-working entrepreneur ended up closing her software development company with her partners. “It was a change of plans,” She noted, “We learned from the experience a lot and it was for the better.”
Things haven’t gotten any easier with Laboratoria. “We had no clue how to identify girls that actually have the potential to succeed in the program. We had a very significant number of girls who in the end didn’t what to learn what we expected them to.” From this setback, Mariana and her partners made their program better.
After her recent run-in with failure, Mariana had this advice to give, “Appreciate it. Make the best of your experience. It’s the best way to learn.”
Encouraging Women in Tech
Mariana had positive things to say to women just entering the tech field. “You’ve chosen an awesome path,” she declared, “It’s amazing how many opportunities there are in tech. Having the chance to be a part of a group that’s building what will redefine our lives is amazing.”
While the opportunities abound, Mariana knows that they won’t come easily. The Laboratoria Co-Founder said, “If you work hard for it, there’s no limit to what you can accomplish in tech. Among her own accomplishments, entrepreneurship has been among Mariana’s most important.
“For me, it’s one of the most amazing experiences of my life,” The Co-Founder explained on her journey in entrepreneurship, “You learn so much. There’s no better learning experience.” Mariana believes that women need to start something of their own in tech and that they already have the skills for it.
“You really need to start something when you have a feeling of urgency and a sense of passion.” Mariana commented. The Laboratoria Co-Founder teaches that when you feel passionate about a problem and the issue is personal, that’s when you need to launch a business.
Social entrepreneurship is close to Mariana’s heart and is one area that she thinks we’ll see more and more women enter. “It’s an amazing field,” Mariana related, “It’s incredibly challenging and you need to be prepared, but don’t be afraid of trying it.”
Mariana closed simply, “I think it’s very beneficial to be a women in tech. We need more women in tech and in entrepreneurship.” With Mariana’s example, we can see how fulfilling a meaningful career is. Laboratoria’s success is gaining worldwide recognition. It will be fascinating to see what’s next for this hard-working social innovator.
How were you introduced to the tech field?
Did you know that’s what you wanted to do all along or is your background something completely different? Share your experience with us in the comments below.