Women in Leadership: Paula Vázquez
Paula Vázquez is a professional chef who worked onboard a cruise ship travelling the world and run her own restaurant. Due to an unexpected series of events, her career path changed drastically in 2011, when she decided to join Avature as QA Analyst, a world completely new to her.
As she embarked on a challenging and continuous learning journey—which lasts until today—Pau became a referent for some modules, and got deeply involved in product decisions as time went by. Throughout the years, she took on many roles, including the management of several teams. Since 2019, she’s been appointed Engineering Director and oversees the work and organization of several Avature teams, including Satellite Services, Main App Experience, Framework, Mobile, Configuration Management, and WebSources.
How was it that you started out as a chef on a cruise ship and ended up being Engineering Director in a software company?
I was looking for a career change and started in technology because my brother used to work at Avature and he insisted. I told him I didn’t know a thing about computers, but he claimed that to start in QA I didn’t need to have previous specific knowledge, but just to be a human being with good logical skills and very willing to venture into new territories. So I decided to give it a chance, I thought 6 months would be enough to see how my learning curve went… and here I am!
At that time, Avature was a small company, and we were just a few people in the QA team. That encouraged me to learn a lot, to dare do new things and cover some gaps. It was all about being in the right place at the right time and, most importantly, to have the courage to do it.
What unique challenges have you faced in your career in a leadership position? How did you overcome them?
I was part of the engineering team at Avature since the time we were about thirty-something Avaturians in the area. Even though there were women around (actually, a lot of women for a tech company), there were only a couple of us taking on leadership roles. I think in my case it had to do with professional maturity more than industry know-how.
Something common is not daring to make your voice heard for fear of being labeled “bossy” or “emotional.” I myself did not have a technical background, I came from a completely different industry, and learned on the job. At first, I had a hard time being assertive when I was making a point and many times I didn’t participate during big meetings even though I did have something relevant to say. Hello, impostor syndrome!
As time went by, I learned not to apologize all the time, not to use little words or phrases to nuance my opinions. Today I can be in a meeting that turns into a very technical discussion and still have something to add to the conversation. I make sure I ask questions—I’m confident enough to do it now. I understand my opinion is valuable, even in areas where I might not be an expert.
If you could speak to other women starting their career now, what advice would you give them?
I’d encourage them to do more, to speak more, to raise their hands, to make mistakes and learn from them, even when it means to find (and show) yourself in a vulnerable position.
What do you imagine or expect as the next steps for you to continue growing professionally?
I have no idea! I never imagined being in the position I’m in today, I didn’t plan this career. I found something I love doing, that is challenging, and that I get to do together with an amazing group of people I appreciate very much.
If I think about the future, I’d like to keep finding projects that force me to rise to the occasion and that can be enriched with my unique point of view. To me, it’s not about the job title or company area, but the challenge itself.