Women in Tech in Costa Rica: Gorilla Paula Chavarria
In Costa Rica, like the United States, there is a high demand for skilled engineers. The information and communications technology (ICT) sector generates more than $2 billion dollars annually for Costa Rica and is the fastest growing sector in the country. As early as 2011, the then-president and the country’s first female leader, Laura Chinchilla, declared the hardware and computer software sector as a national priority and pushed for greater gender equality, especially in technical fields. In part 1 of our “Women in Tech in Costa Rica series, we outlined why it’s important to have women on your development team. In this post, we discuss some cooperatives investing in the women (ticas) of Costa Rica and bridging the gender gap in technology, making Costa Rica one of the leading countries in Latin America in gender equality.
With the slogan, “Programamos en codigo femenino” (We Program in Female Code), Sulá Batsú sponsored the first women’s hackathon in Central America in 2014. Recently, with the support of the UN Women’s Fund for Gender Equality (FGE), Sulá Batsú organized a program called “TIC-as: Creating Employment Opportunites for Women in the Information, Communication and Technology Sector in Costa Rica,” which aims to generate opportunities in technology for women living in rural areas.
IdeasinAction organizes a program which allows anyone to sponsor a young woman in a technology course called MenTE en Acción. MenTE or (The Mind Network) was launched in January 2015 at the Presidential Palace and was attended by the Vice President, Ana Helena Chacon. Gorilla Logic is a sponsor of the hackathon Ideas en Acción’ organizes and we are proud to have Gorilla Caro Aguilar as a mentor with MenTe.
Enterprise organizations like Intel have invested in programs aimed to encourage the younger generation to enter the technology space. These programs include “Juguemos a ser ingenieros,” or “Let’s Pretend We’re Engineers, which gives fourth and fifth graders hands-on engineering experience. Timothy Scott, public affairs manager at Intel’s Costa Rican offices in La Ribera de Belén told The Tico Times in 2015:
“We want women to design our products because women are our customers. Most of our end products are used by women. They can also provide a diverse way of thinking which will result in diverse ways of solving problems.”
Due to programs like these and efforts by the Costa Rica government to provide excellent education to their population, now, more than ever, young women are excelling in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields in the country. In this post, we introduce you to one of those extraordinary women, Gorilla Paula Chavarria, where she talks about her life and journey becoming a mobile developer. As mobile development as a discipline is relatively new, Paula’s 5 years experience makes her stand out in this space.
- Tell us a little about yourself, your hobbies, your education?
I have a background as both a developer and an interactive designer. I studied computer science engineering
As for hobbies, I am an avid reader, especially in the fantasy and fiction genres. My favorite series is Harry Potter because I grew up reading the series. One of my favorite authors is Chilean-American Isabel Allende, whose work is considered “magic-realism”. I like that she bases her novels on historical events and pays homage to the lives of women. In the past, I also studied Japanese and Japanese culture.
- What made you choose programming? What is your favorite part about programming?
In highschool, when I had to choose what to do with my life, I decided I loved art and was going to study graphic design. I liked the idea of becoming an artist, but I realized the field was not promising in terms of a career and jobs in my country. My other passion was to build things, but I didn’t want to build anything to do with chemistry because I absolutely hated the subject. I began to research about programming and I realized that programming was an art in itself. When developing code you are like an artist. You take charge of building something from scratch, which is something I love. I got into mobile development because I realized how design and programming went hand in hand to create beautiful designs and experience.
Creativity is my favorite part of programming because it takes a lot of creativity to build something from nothing. It is something about programming that has always mesmerized me. The first time I saw a program I had written, it was amazing! The program was something silly, a simple program to run key matches for a football tournament, but it still fascinated me.
- What programming skills do you have?
I specialize in mobile development and can work on both iOS and Android, but I have a personal preference for iOS. I have also worked with other technologies, for example on my Master’s thesis I used Microsoft Kinect and a programming language called Processing. The main purpose of my thesis was to create a community of style and photography which I named WeStyle. To do this, I developed a prototype to run users through the experience. For the first part of the experience, I used a Processing program and Kinect to identify window shoppers. This would allow them to start a quiz-like-game where they had to choose three photographs through gestures. Once the three photographs were chosen, window shoppers were presented with the style which suited them best for the pictures they chose. Users really liked the prototype and the story it told. The project was even featured in a Costa Rican digital newspaper. Check out the video below to see a visualization of Paula’s thesis:
- How well do you feel women are represented in Costa Rica in the technology sector?
At the university level, it was very difficult because a lot was expected of the women in my courses. In my courses, there were often only 3–4 women in a class of 40–50 students. Many men believed the women didn’t deserve to be there so they would test us more to make sure we deserved our place. Apart from being harsh, it was also very sad. A lot of talented and intelligent women were not given a proper chance because they were supposedly “unqualified”. These women had a lot of ideas they could have added to the field and it is a shame that they didn’t follow through with programming or understood that they could be anything they wanted to be.
Many times I have been the only woman in the room with 30 male developers. When making friends in the office, I often couldn’t find any other women. This is one of the reasons I like Gorilla Logic and the leadership here. At Gorilla Logic, you are not labeled as a man or woman or the woman leader of the women’s group. Gorilla Logic sees us all as equal, and as a part of the team and that is what makes it awesome!
- What made you choose Gorilla Logic?
I was looking for an opportunity that would allow me to rid myself of the feeling of being an “ant working at a factory”. I wanted to be seen as a real person. At Gorilla Logic, I saw that I could be anything I wanted to be and be myself. People address me here as a person, as Paula, rather than just another number. If I want to be a developer/ interaction designer at Gorilla Logic, they allow me to be that and would give me the tools I needed to achieve my dreams. Not many places do that for their developers.
- Anything else you would like our readers to know?
I haven’t been at Gorilla Logic very long, only a couple of months, but it has been a pretty awesome ride so far. I love every single day that I work here. I feel like the management really cares about their employees and the employees are what make Gorilla a great place to be. I also love that I don’t have to commute 3–4 hours a day to go to and from work!
If you have any questions about nearshoring your software development or Costa Rica, please read Mario Merino’s post and don’t hesitate to contact us. Subscribe to our blog and stay tuned for our upcoming posts to learn about Costa Rica and the women making Gorilla Logic an innovative and exciting place to work.
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Originally published at Gorilla Logic.