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Profile: Carolina Moreno, Vice President of Sales, EMEA & General Manager, South of Europe at Liferay

Women in Tech: “Effective leadership is a “‘we” business”

Dominik Mohilo

Four years ago, we launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Carolina Moreno, Vice President of Sales, EMEA & General Manager, South of Europe at Liferay.

research study by The National Center for Women & Information Technology showed that “gender diversity has specific benefits in technology settings,” which could explain why tech companies have started to invest in initiatives that aim to boost the number of female applicants, recruit them in a more effective way, retain them for longer, and give them the opportunity to advance. But is it enough?

Four years ago, we launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Carolina Moreno, Vice President of Sales, EMEA & General Manager, South of Europe at Liferay.

Today’s Woman in Tech: Carolina Moreno, Vice President of Sales, EMEA & General Manager, South of Europe at Liferay

Carolina started her career at Vodafone after obtaining her Master’s degree in Telecommunications Engineering from the Polytechnic University of Madrid in 2000. There she worked in different technical departments. Since 2005, she has coordinated several projects at the national and international level using open source software as a driver for economic and social development. Because of this interest in open source technologies, she joined Liferay in 2009. At that time, the company was primarily operating out of Los Angeles, CA, and did not have much of a presence in Europe. There, Carolina filled a variety of leadership roles in both Southern Europe and the EMEA region. She focused on growth and leading her teams.

Currently, Carolina is Vice President of Sales in EMEA and General Manager for Southern Europe at Liferay, leading marketing and product sales, including on-premise and Paas offerings. Liferay is an open source-based Digital Experience Platforms company. The company develops software that helps businesses of all sizes design digital experiences for the web, mobile, and IoT, creating an end-to-end customer experience. Carolina’s primary mission is to help customers, partners and users use Liferay technology to drive digital transformation for the most part, creating value while fostering an outstanding work environment. A work environment where people can grow and achieve their personal and professional goals.

When did you become interested in technology? What first got you interested in tech?

When I was in High School I had a friend studying Telecommunication Engineering, and he was working on a project to connect isolated towns in Africa, bringing connectivity and development options to their citizens. I loved that project and so I decided not to study medicine and to become an engineer instead, because I saw then how technology could bring opportunities to people. I felt I could personally contribute as well, as I did later in different positions.

How did you end up in your career path?

After graduating, I started my career in 2000 at Vodafone, where I worked for several years in different engineering departments. From 2005 onwards, my passion for technology as the key for transformation led me to coordinate several technological projects on a national and international level, relating to the application of open source software as a motor for economic and social development. Because of that early interest in open source technologies, in 2009, I joined Liferay, one of the world’s leading vendors of Digital Experience Platforms. At that time, the company was operating out of Los Angeles (CA), with a reduced presence in Europe.

Since then, I have held a wide range of leadership positions in both Southern Europe and EMEA, growing the business by managing people and larger teams.

During this process, I have come across some obstacles due to social bias, but also personal bias. We all know the glass ceiling concept and it appears in certain situations, though the most important barrier I have found is the “concrete ceiling” created by my own personal bias, strong enough to convince me that I was not good enough for a position, a move, a promotion or a salary increase, when I actually was. It took me some time to identify it, though once I did it, I learned how to overcome it.

Did you receive support from your family and friends? Do you have a role model?

My family believed in my potential and they were always very supportive of any challenge I faced, so I grew up ignoring the idea that I could have less of a chance of thriving as a woman.

“You can achieve whatever goal you set for yourself, just work for it!” is still a very common phrase in conversations with my mom. And though I found role models among friends, managers and peers, the person who has really inspired me the most has been her, Aurora, my mother. She taught me to care about people, provide value in what you do every day, smile often, be gentle and dream high.

Did someone ever try to stop you from learning and advancing in your professional life?

I have experienced this, with different levels of intensity, in situations where the status quo of a leader or group of leaders has been challenged, both men and women can experience it. As an example, I recall a situation where, in a promotion, I was told by a male peer: “This position is not the best for you, you will have to travel a lot and you will not be able to dedicate proper time to your kids. I´d reconsider it.” I doubt the same statement would have been presented to a man, where travelling is accepted and the work-life balance is not within the scope of the discussion.

The most important barrier I have found is the “concrete ceiling” created by my own personal bias, strong enough to convince me that I was not good enough for a position, a move, a promotion or a salary increase, when I actually was.

A day in Carolina’s life

I work for Liferay, the world’s leading Open Source Digital Experience Software company. We make software that helps companies create digital experiences on the web, mobile and connected devices.

As Vice President of Sales for EMEA at Liferay, I am responsible for supporting and facilitating the digital transformation processes of our customers and partners in EMEA. I lead the marketing and sales of our products and solutions, including our on-premise and PaaS offerings.

My current position is VP of Sales in EMEA and General Manager for the South of Europe. My main responsibilities are creating value through our technology for our customers, partners and users, while boosting an excellent work environment where people can thrive and accomplish their personal and professional goals.

I do not have a typical workday: I spend many days travelling throughout Europe, meeting with my teams, customers and partners. Sometimes in our offices, sometimes during events or at customer meetings. On these trips I usually give lectures and talks as well. When I am not travelling, I dedicate 60% of my time to the present and 40% to the future: Present, because I talk and work on a daily basis with my direct reports, peers and managers, so I can follow up on the projects and issues we currently have on the table. Future, because I use the rest of my time to review data, reports, KPIs, dashboards… to measure performance and direction. This is important in order to understand what to change and how to set up new plans and processes for long-term success as a best-in-breed tech company and a great place to work.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I am proud that I have chosen to work in organizations and companies with a strong vision and ethics, where I had the chance to contribute and provide value to customers, communities and employees. In companies such as Liferay, I had and took the opportunity to create working environments where diversity, inclusion and career opportunities were a key part of successful business. I am also proud to have been an active part of Liferay´s growth: from a small startup in Diamond Bar, California to a 900+ employee organisation with 24 offices around the world.

Why aren’t there more women in tech? What’s your take on that?

My take on this is that we will have more women in tech when companies create an inclusive culture, where women (and everybody) can feel safe, engaged, committed and supported at work.

Companies report that they are highly committed to gender diversity, however, the proportion of women at every level in corporate America has hardly changed. Progress is stalled, according to the Women in the Workplace 2018 Report (McKensey & Company).

Women have earned more bachelor’s degrees than men in the last 30 years. However, there is a drop in female presence at the workplace after maternity, when the performance could be questioned, especially when a good work-life balance is not guaranteed and the women (not all of them) still maintain most of the responsibility of the chores and childcare at home. This highly affects STEM professions, where high degrees of sacrifice and dedication are frequently demanded by employers. The more we see women and men in their 40s, 50s (or beyond) as successful and happy professionals but also as care-giving and dedicated parents, the more we will see women choosing a STEM path for them to become Principal Engineer, Team lead, Head of Research in a Medical Lab, Director, COO or even CEO.

Could you name a few challenges (or obstacles) women in tech face?

One important challenge is access to less opportunities than men. Women usually access promotions based on achievement, while men it is based on their potential. For that reason, in general, women have to prove themselves to a greater extent in order to access to the same, or similar, opportunities. This disadvantage increases after arrives and many women stop seeing the higher level of effort paying off. For that reason, offering the same opportunities regardless of the gender has to be a key priority to close the gender gap.

Another secondary challenge is that success and likeability are usually correlated for men, but negatively correlated for women, due to the stereotypes. This is another factor that holds women back; watching from the back instead of being an agent of change.

Would our world be different if more women worked in STEM? What would be the (social, economic and cultural) impact?

A richer and more inclusive world. We need a fair STEM workforce so more women can make useful scientific and tech innovations that consider the needs of half the population (women).

Additionally, and according to Forbes, gender parity in the workplace could add $28 trillion (or 26%) to the annual global GDP by 2025.

Last but not least, I would like to quote Tom Peters: “Women as leaders. Women tend to be more inclusive. Women tend to be better listeners. Women tend to use we more than I. Women tend to care less about hierarchies. Women tend to share credit. ”

In my opinion, effective leadership is a “‘we” business.

Try to find a good mentor to help you with your career options and to navigate the difficult times.

The discussion about diversity is gaining momentum. How long will it take to see results from the current debate?

In the world of technology, diversity is increasingly related to improved creativity, innovation and productivity, and these needs can be a facilitating factor in opening up diversity to other, more traditional sectors.

In my opinion, I would undoubtedly promote the presence of women in companies, in any position, and the promotion of talent in environments where diversity, of any kind, is respected: Diversity generates richer discussions and ideas and encourages the much needed creativity in the technological world.

What advice (and tips) would you give to women who want a tech career?

Lead your life and your career with passion. It is possible to become a great engineer, scientific CEO or President and have a beautiful life at the same time. Do not give up. Evaluate your options and work for companies and institutions that make you feel part of something greater. Try to find a good mentor to help you with your career options and to navigate the difficult times. STEM professions can bring a lot of value and you too can be a part of it, make a plan for the long term, ask for opportunities and dream high.

More Women in Tech:

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Author
Dominik Mohilo
Dominik Mohilo studied German and sociology at the Frankfurt University, and works at S&S Media since 2015.

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