An inspiring story of a female Latina tech leader and entrepreneur
If you read our blog, have followed Abstracta online, or know any of us in person, you have probably heard about Sofía (aka Sofi), our US Chief Executive Officer and Chief Product Officer. In January 2018, she officially became a partner of Abstracta. We wanted to share Abstracta’s and Sofía’s story to reflect on how far she has helped us come and to celebrate our newest Executive Board member!
Abstracta started as just three guys- myself, Fabian Baptista, and Matias Reina (which never could have lasted forever!). As students in 2007 we began to slowly develop a product for automated tests in the software development platform, GeneXus, and thanks to several life events, we ended up putting together our own company in August 2008.
At that time we were classmates, today we are great friends who share many values and experiences. Our original vision was to become a product development company related to software testing. That idea mutated as today we not only do that, but we provide consulting and training for everything related to software quality. In addition, we have expanded our focus, not only targeting Uruguay and the region, but also the most competitive markets, particularly Silicon Valley in the United States. This made the team grow considerably, up to 80 people. So far, although the issue was on the table, the company still had just the three initial partners. Now, in our tenth year, we decided to make a change, so I present our new partner: Sofía Palamarchuk.
(Soon the four of us will come together for a photo op, but it must be a special occasion that brings us all in the same place, as we are spread across Montevideo, Salto, and San Francisco today.)
In this post, I want to share Sofi’s story, intermeshing her personal life with her history in the company.
We hope her story inspires other women in tech, especially from South America.
Who is Sofi?
Sofi is a person whom we admire very much. Not many years ago, she started in Abstracta as a performance tester and now she is our US CEO based in San Francisco. In the beginning of 2018, we decided she will be focusing more on rolling out Apptim, a mobile performance testing tool we’ve developed. The truth is that she has managed to position herself both in the company and as our friend.
An Interview with Sofi
Getting Into Tech
“I come from a middle-class family and was raised in Montevideo, Uruguay. I went to public school until third grade, when I was offered a scholarship to go to a private school, double time. This changed my life. I made my best friends to this day at that school.
My career plan was always to be an accountant or an economist. In my first year of university, I enrolled in the Faculty of Economics and Administration and at the same time in the Faculty of Engineering. Right after starting the subject “Programming 1” which involved programming in Pascal, I realized that I was fascinated, and I dropped out of Economics. I always liked to study and learn new things, but learning to code was something different and I enjoyed it right from the beginning. It made me very happy to see the results of my own ideas reflected in a program with a life of its own. It was magical. The hours didn’t matter, I coded at night, during the day, the weekends. When you enjoy what you do, you don’t look at the clock. By that time I knew that I had found something that I really enjoyed and a tool I could use for the rest of my life, so I opted for Computer Engineering.
When I was 20 years old, I moved to Dublin, Ireland, where I spent one year. Since my last year of high school, I knew that I was going to live in another country. For those who don’t know, Uruguay is a fairly small country with a total population of just over 3 million. Half of the population lives in the capital, Montevideo, so you feel like you know everyone. Spending some time abroad was a necessity, something inside of me told me to leave, to go out to know the world. In my second year of university, I felt my desire to travel intensifying, so I set out to work and save the money I’d need. I kept going to university, but my main motivator at the time was traveling (followed by programming, which I loved). My plan at this time was to go the following year to Ireland. And I finally achieved it. That experience marked my life.”
Sofi Joins Abstracta
“I joined Abstracta in April 2013 as a performance tester. Fabian and Matias interviewed me, the first round interview wasn’t technical—we simply talked about life—and the second one involved completing a logic test and then solving a coding problem.
I had just returned from Ireland, I had my whole head dreaded (37 dreadlocks!), I was, what many people would have called “a hippie” and they still hired me. Amazing.
My career as a performance tester was super intense! I was involved in several projects for companies in Uruguay: BBVA, Ancap and ANII are just a few. At the beginning of 2014, I began to make the transition to the sales team, starting to go to meetings with our team in Uruguay.”
From Uruguay to Silicon Valley
“Venturing into business outside of Uruguay, thinking that the sea of startups in San Francisco would be interested in partnering with us, was something we all mutually agreed on. I had lived abroad (I had also been to San Francisco before), I had good English and I wanted new challenges. In the first half of 2014, I dedicated myself more to of the commercial aspects in Uruguay (I don’t think I even helped to bring in any new clients, oops!), beginning to think more about how to attract clients from the USA.
So, I began to dip our toes in the water. I went to all the freelancer websites, sent proposals, contacted all the Uruguayans I knew who lived in the USA, contacted the Uruguayan embassy and consulates in different cities, and even contacted companies in Uruguay that were from the US; a little bit of everything that was within my reach and did not require a large initial investment.
In September 2014, we started a consultancy with a Silicon Valley team (thanks to the support of FODIME by UruguayXXI). In November 2014 I took my first solo work trip. I remember that I was very nervous. I was renting a car and driving on the highway, which, by the way, I had never done before! And as much as I had been in San Francisco, I knew nothing about Silicon Valley. I remember that I arrived at the airport and had planned to go straight to San Mateo to meet one of the consultants, yet the GPS sent me to the other side of the bay. After two hours we finally got to meet (That’s when I learned the great difference between “avenue” and “street” in the US!).
After that trip, the next steps were to put together a marketing plan for 2015, to give more visibility to what we were doing and position ourselves in the local market. We were already looking to hire someone like Kalei White (our current CMO). After six months of searching, I met with her and she started working with us in March 2015. On the other hand, I saw the need for one of us to move to Silicon Valley; we knew even then that to achieve our goals, we had to be there. There is no place like the Valley.
2015 was a year of more events, meetings and our first direct US customers (we had worked with US-based companies before through other partners). In September we participated in TechCrunch Disrupt with Abstracta and Monkop (now Apptim). We closed our first big US clients in November 2015, one of them being a late-stage startup in Redwood City that revolutionized the health industry through the non-invasive detection of coronary artery disease.
In 2016, I had been in San Francisco for six months, participated for the first time in the O’Reilly Velocity Conference in June (we have been going ever since), and in March of 2017 I moved permanently to San Francisco.”
On January 11, 2018 Sofi joined the board of Abstracta.
Sights on the Future
“For me, this was a natural, expected transition, that we are all very happy about. For myself as well, the relationship between us has changed over the years, for some time now I have felt that I am part of Abstracta and that my contribution to the company goes beyond what my title says or what any of my responsibilities have been at any point in time.
I went through many roles and I always felt comfortable and supported by the founders. Since I decided to expand the company to the US, I took on a more important role and every time I expressed my view and opinions, they were always well received.
When the time came to make the decision whether or not to accept the offer of being a partner, for me everything was already decided a long time ago, it was just a matter of formalizing it. I would not have gone to live in another country and assumed the challenge I took if I did not see a bright future with this company.
Assuming this new role gives me on the one hand, a lot of joy because it means that the founders value me in the company and what I can add from here on, and confirms that all the challenges that I took as my own throughout these years were worth it. I am grateful to be part of a group of humans that I love and share many values, for me the latter was the most important in making the decision. I also feel it as a great personal achievement, and like everything else, it is a great responsibility and nowadays I feel that I have the tools and the capacity to take it on and help the whole Abstracta team (and our country, Uruguay) grow.
For me, success is that we all feel proud for what we do. I want a company where people are creative, productive, and excited about their work. I want all us together to achieve the change we want to see in the world.
As for how this can affect Abstracta, being the first woman on the board, I think it can bring change, but in reality, Abstracta has already been supporting several women. I’m not the only woman in the C-Suite, which helps me feel supported in some areas. I can add a different sensitivity to some issues and turn my vision over to a future that personally motivates me a lot, where we can lead the team and the country. I’d like to be able, from my new role, to motivate the whole team towards our north, to show them that we can and that everyone is aware that their role in the team is important and that we want to grow together. I feel that I can contribute to having a clearer vision, show the world the passion for what we do, working with a team of pros to achieve what we set out to do and have the social impact that we look for as a company. Living in Silicon Valley makes me believe that I can really take the company to the place of being a reference in our area and be agents of change.
As I commented in the annual talk of Abstracta in January, I want us to be irresistible to the world.”
What are the next steps?
“This year comes with many changes in Abstracta and several that involve me. I have taken on a great new challenge, which motivates me a lot. I want to continue contributing in all areas that I can and that we all achieve a momentum that makes us unstoppable.
On the other hand, being a “girl in tech” motivates me a lot to help and collaborate with organizations that encourage more girls and young women to study a career in STEM. This year I hope to devote more time to these activities; I have participated in Girls in Tech in San Francisco and been a mentor in other programs. Also, being a Latina in tech in Silicon Valley, (we are few) I have been invited to give different talks. This year I want to take on more opportunities in which I can share my story and motivate others to make their way. I also like to support other entrepreneurs who are creating a similar path to ours and who want to take their ideas or companies to another level, so I will continue to share my experience and help others.
I think that we have to collaborate a lot more among us Uruguayans. We may be few, but we become stronger when we unite.”
And it is with great pride that this trio of co-founders/friends now welcomes Sofía Palamarchuk as our fourth business partner. We are sure that we will make better decisions and that the Executive Board is supported by a great woman, with much drive and courage to dream more and better. We are happy about how everything has transpired and thrilled for everything to come!
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