Inspirational Woman: Ana Martinez | Chief Technical Officer, Uberall

Ana Martinez

Ana Martinez is Chief Technical Officer at Uberall, a hybrid customer experience provider.

Ana has 20 years’ experience in technology, ranging from MarTech to HRTech but always with a specific focus on the B2B space. At Uberall Ana manages a team of engineers who are responsible for all new innovations to the development of Uberall’s SaaS platform. Alongside her work at Uberall Ana is CEO of ATHENAWORKS; a company she founded with the goal of empowering female technology partners creating digital change. She studied computer engineering at Universidad de la República in Uruguay and computer science at California State University.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I have worked in tech my whole life, beginning my career as an engineer in Los Angeles, having moved from Uruguay. From there I have worked across industries, be it HRTech, MarTech and many more, but always with a focus on the B2B space. I became CTO of MomentFeed, a platform provider for digital marketing, in 2019 where I worked to build the team and the technology until it was acquired by Uberall, an hybrid customer experience platform provider, in 2021. As CTO of Uberall, I am in the exciting position of overseeing all the innovation the company has made over the past two years in the development of our SaaS platform.

Besides engineering, championing diversity in tech has always been a passion close to my heart. In 2015 I worked as CTO at Power To Fly, a US-based networking agency with the mission to fast-track economic equality by upskilling and connecting underrepresented talent. One of the company’s aims was to build a female-only engineering team and I interviewed countless impressive candidates, making me realise just how many exceptional women are in tech that are being overlooked or underappreciated globally. This led me to found Athenaworks in 2018, which helps organisations build up their technical teams with diverse talent, whether this is by gender, race, ethnicity or any other protected characteristics. The central mentality behind this being that talent lives anywhere.

Promoting this diversity in the tech industry then became even more important to me when I had my son and I realised that for me, and many other women, it can be difficult to be a mum and an accomplished full-time professional.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not at all! Although I did have a great mentor who encouraged me to just go out and get every opportunity I could. From there, I would figure out my next steps, and I developed what I call a ‘greedy algorithm’: any chance I got to develop my skills or try a new role, I took it. There were, of course, moments where I questioned my capabilities and suitability for a position, but I quickly discovered that you can never truly know how capable you are until you are in the role itself. All too often I’d step into a job and see I had been too harsh on myself.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

On the whole, I have been very fortunate with my career. I have had great opportunities and  great mentors. I know many women don’t, and it’s something I have witnessed first-hand, so I do feel very fortunate.

That being said, the birth of my son opened my eyes to the challenges working women encounter. I love my son but I also love my job, so it was a real challenge to find a balance that made me feel accomplished and that allows enough time for both.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

There are two things of which I am most proud. The first is the work I carried out at MomentFeed, developing and optimising the platform. Of course, I cannot take full credit for the work that my very dedicated team did, but it was great to see and lead a team who not only doubled in size in two years, but technically achieved what MomentFeed had a substantial range of technology when I arrived, as such, I was told this would limit how much we could expect to develop. Yet through dedication, skill and an exceptional team we could work on the existing tech while creating and adding new features – like changing a plane in flight!

More recently I am proud of the work we are doing at Uberall to diversify and strengthen our team of engineers. Integrating teams and cultures can be a challenge especially in a company that’s still growing, but we are creating a coherent engineering team that’s achieving great results. The work may not be done yet, but our trajectory is promising and our accomplishments are already impressive.

For example, I am proud that Uberall, through recognising everyone’s needs and preferences, is able to offer employees a complete choice of where they work – be it at home, in the office or anywhere they like. Through my work in diversity, I have seen how – even before the pandemic – options for remote working open doors for women in particular to step into exciting tech careers. Remote working doesn’t just spread job opportunities to regions with fewer openings but it is also helpful for working mothers who can use remote working to get that all-important balance between motherhood and their career.

I would like to add that I like to think that a good CTO will join a team, understand the problems and fix them so that they are no longer needed. Creating a team that is self-managerial and capable of growing on its own is a great success for any CTO.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success? 

The ability to keep pushing. There are going to be ups and downs in every career journey – times where you may be a little less certain of yourself. But I choose to take a systematic approach to it, in that I might not get it right the first time but in the long-term I can learn from and become more resilient and informed. This mindset has helped me become less reactive and emotional and develop the patience needed to keep striving for my goals.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Beyond having a good work ethic, I think there are three tips I would give to anyone looking to succeed in the tech industry regardless of what stage of their career they’re in or their background.

Firstly, in the tech industry things change so quickly! Being good at your craft is paramount, so keep learning and evolving so that you never lose that edge that will keep you adapting to such a dynamic industry.

Secondly, understand who you are. What are you looking for in a job and what environment do you work best in? For me, it was always clear that I worked best in a team and it’s that self-awareness that drove me towards management roles.

Finally, to follow up on what I’ve already mentioned, don’t fear failure! The best people learn from surrounding themselves with those that are smarter and more experienced than they are. Be humble, learn from who you can, and use mistakes as opportunities to improve. It’s all part of the journey!

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Definitely! Has the industry progressed? Yes. Is there still more to be done? Absolutely. I am grateful for the progress that has been made, but I do wonder if more could be done to accelerate it. Qualified and talented women are still being overlooked for roles and promotions and there is still a salary gap right across the world. It’s a global issue and CTOs, business leaders, women in tech…everyone needs to make sure it’s something we never take our eyes off. Maintaining awareness of the issue is the only way we can keep focused on fixing it, and that has to happen at every level, not just entry level or where talent is acquired.

I was inspired once at a conference by a keynote speaker who described the change we needed as like introducing an elevator to a business. When one woman makes it to the top, she sends the elevator back down for the next woman. So, I think it has to start with women looking out for other women and carving those paths to the top, enabling that next generation of women to reach any goal. As a CTO, I am constantly aware of the changes I have the power to make, and I would encourage others in my role to be equally attentive.

What do you think companies can do to support the progress for careers of women working in technology?

Companies are mixtures of people, so while there is a lot that we as women can do to help each other, the change won’t happen if we aren’t supported by everyone else. Allies are key in the campaign for greater gender equality in tech. Diversity is not a slogan, it’s not a committee; it’s every decision you make every day. Are you, as a leader, as a team member, being fair and just?

There are situations where managers need to be cognisant of diversity. For example, when reviewing employees’ salaries or performances, they should be constantly questioning if there is any disparity between genders. If so, why? It’s here that companies, no matter the gender ratio of managers, can start to make change. But it has to be proactive and it must be consistent. At Uberall, I lead by example, making sure that every decision I make is made with this line of questioning. Any team involved with the process will see this, and understand what the minimum standard of promoting equality should look like at a progressive company like Uberall.

For example, of the five C-level roles at the company, two are held by women and we have countless women in SVP and VP roles as well. The attitude as a whole at Uberall is that talent can be found anywhere and everywhere and that we have to lead by example to make real change and grow a more inclusive and vibrant workplace for all.

There are currently only 17 percent of women working in tech; if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

Tech is an amazing career for women, but worldwide 80% of women are becoming mothers before they hit 40, and like me, they may struggle to find that rewarding and meaningful balance between motherhood and their career. The harsh truth is the world is still set up so that having children can be a block to a woman’s career, with salary and promotion obstacles at every part of the journey.

It would be great if we could just magic away these barriers, but if it were that easy, it would have already happened! This is why I encourage the notion of keeping our thoughts focused on the task at hand and incorporating diversity initiatives into day-to-day business to support women at every stage of their career. After a while we’ll develop a routine that helps us support women in tech, not just at the start or the top of their career but in the middle too – where inclusivity initiatives are often lacking.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Networking events and social groups are incredible assets to any woman in tech. Each country, city and sector have women-led and women-focused groups that meet up and share tips and advice with each other. It’s here that many women also find advice less easily stumbled across, like how to negotiate a salary or put yourself up for the next career opportunity or promotion. My advice to women would be to not fear joining these groups. I’ve come across plenty that are suited to executive levels too which is great to see! It may also be worth looking into what already exists within your own company. At Uberall, for example, we have a “Women at Uberall” channel as well as a number of women-led and women-focused initiatives, such as creative workshops and talks aimed at building a healthy and energising working environment, held on on International Women’s Day.

Equally, don’t alienate yourself by just belonging to women-only groups. It’s still important for women to take every opportunity to hone their craft, so join wider tech-specific groups too. Talent really is everywhere and anywhere, as are opportunities to further your career.