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Breaking the Bias – María Ramírez Laencina breaks out of her comfort zone

As a part of our Women’s History Month celebration, we are elevating the voices of women at Qualtrics who have Broken the Bias by seeking nontraditional career paths. We sat down with Maria and other women at Qualtrics to hear their stories and we'll be sharing them throughout the month. You can check out the rest of the series here

The one Quote that can best summarize my Career Story is “A ship in port is safe, but that's not what ships are built for.” - Grace Hopper. 

I joined Qualtrics in Madrid as the only Solution Engineer supporting presales activities on a team of 5 AEs for the Iberia market (Spain, and Portugal). This was a huge decision and move for me personally and professionally because I was making the switch into a "startup" company (in Iberia) after 10 years in Oracle, the last 2 of which I was in a management position, leading an EMEA team of international junior Solution Engineers. 

I joined Oracle in 2010 after spending 3 years in Malaga, Spain as a Junior Customer Experience Solution Engineer.  With the help of mentors and my manager, I moved to the London, UK team supporting commercial industries and specializing in retail. I love presales/solution engineering because we are like doctors who listen to patients' pains and prescribe the best medication to fix the problem today as well as prevent future injuries.The coolest part of my job is when I get to play the role of "Imagineer" and use my creativity and innovation to design and recommend the best solutions to meet customers’ needs and play a key role in the strategy of some of the biggest organizations in the world.

In my time as a Solution Engineer, I’ve been part of the business transformation from on-premise to cloud, from a product-oriented company to software as a service, and now I am part of growing a new Category in XM! I've been certified as a specialist in products that have come and gone (Siebel CRM, ATG, Responsys...) and am still learning new solutions today (Qualtrics, XM Discover, Usermind...). Some of the highlights or most memorable moments of my career have been presenting at an industry analyst event with thousands of attendees in the audience, being on "demo stand” duty at events, and facilitating and organizing hackathons with schools. My career has been all about: learning, taking risks, adapting, and embracing change. I truly believe passion and enthusiasm are contiguous to the people around you and to our customers, and they make work easier and more fun. 

How did you decide on your career path?

I got into "IT" by curiosity and chance. My first job out of University was with Accenture. I joined the management consulting team as an associate and my role was to take notes in meetings where the customer was defining the requirements they wanted for a new CRM solution. I am a very social person and naturally make connections and build rapport with colleagues and wider networks and this helped me meet new teams. My constant curiosity and questioning of everything I didn't understand ("Yes and…?", "Tell me more...", "But how?", "What happens if…?") allowed me to learn on the job. A year after I accepted the opportunity to join the IT team I was selected to implement the solution the customer had purchased (Oracle Siebel CRM). 

I studied business in University, I have no degree in IT or computer science and I have never coded but I have spent almost 15 years in IT and in technical roles. All of my technical knowledge and training has been from product training and being hands on with the products. I want to highlight this because many may shy away from or not consider exciting and amazing positions and careers in something like solution engineering because they are not technical. At the early stages of my career, I can't say I had a plan because I did not have visibility into what the options were, but with the right network, skill, and attitude the right offer always came up. You just have to be brave and move out of your comfort zone.

Tell us about the importance of leadership / mentorship in your career journey.

In my career path, they have been instrumental and core! Every single position and job change I’ve made has been because I’ve had mentors and sponsors who thought of me for the role. I moved from consulting/implementation (post-sales) into pre-sales or solution engineering, because the Oracle team that did the audits and reviewed the work we were doing approached me and thought of me for the job. I moved from Malaga, working in the Spanish market, to the UK because my manager was great at coaching and being a cheerleader. They shared my success across teams and opened up communication and collaboration lines so the UK team could get to know and work with me. The move from individual contributor to manager was also an internal recommendation by an ex-colleague. They gave me a heads up that the new team was being created and they thought that I could be a great fit. Building up and nurturing your network is key to a successful professional career. For that, I think it helps to make sure you make the people that believe and support you look good and that you can return the investment they made in you in the team.

What’s the best career advice you have ever received?

Learn to say no. Clearly understand what you do in your role, the value you add (the KPIs), and the “why” behind what you’re doing. This will help you prioritize and say no.

Learn how to ask questions and remember, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." - Einstein

"Fake it ‘till you make it" but invest the effort and time needed to catch up and learn as fast as you can. It is critical to know your strengths and weaknesses and who you have around you that can help you overcome those weaknesses.

María Ramírez Laencina is an alumna of University of Maryland Global Campus and works as a Principal Solution Engineer. She is an active member of Women's Leadership Development, a Q Group (employee resource group) with the charter of elevating and supporting all women at Qualtrics so they achieve personal & professional wellness and impact.

Women's Leadership Development

Women’s Leadership Development (WLD) aims to empower ALL Women at Qualtrics globally to thrive by: attracting diverse women’s talent; developing & retaining women to all our teams; building a strong network of allies to create opportunities for action; elevating the voice of all Women to create a culture of belonging; partnering with the community to create a more inclusive environment.

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