Women make up less than 30 percent of the workforce in three critical tech clusters: data and AI, engineering and cloud computing, according to a 2020 World Economic Forum report. That doesn’t sit right with Julissa Mateo Abad.
“If women don’t participate in creating these solutions, we probably end up with a solution that doesn’t fit for us,” she says. “It’s normal right now to be the only woman in the room, but we have to change that to create diversity in the new products we develop.”
Along with forging her own path in tech as a project leader at digitization firm Bunker, Abad founded Mujeres TICs RD (Women in ICT Dominican Republic) in 2016. With 250 volunteers and more than 500 members, it encourages girls across the Dominican Republic to study engineering and learn coding. “We want to make it as normal for girls to study tech as it is for boys,” she says. “We want them to know they can become creators rather than just tech users.”
Abad is out to double the number of women in tech from the Dominican Republic by 2030—and she leads by example. In 2017, she was part of a team that won the first hackathon for women in Central America and the Caribbean. The challenge: generate empathy for trash collectors in Costa Rica. Within 48 hours, she and her team had created a virtual reality program that simulated the working conditions at garbage dump sites.
The project exemplifies her belief that focusing on humanity can inspire teams to create new technologies—and transform society.
“Technology changed my life,” Abad says. “I come from a very humble city, and thanks to everything I have learned, my life has changed and has impacted other lives. Professionally and personally, the best thing I have done so far has been creating this community that is my family today.”
“It’s normal right now to be the only woman in the room, but we have to change that to create diversity in the new products we develop.”
Q&A: Julissa Mateo Abad on people, Ada Lovelace and the happiest moment of her life
What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?
Being able to organize the fourth meeting of Women Changing the World (Mujeres Cambiando el Mundo MCM) in the Dominican Republic was one of the happiest moments of my life. We had more than 300 attendees. When I started studying, there were no such activities.
What’s your mantra for leading projects?
People always come first.
What’s the one must-have skill to succeed in The Project Economy?
The ability to adapt to change is a skill that not many people have. But we have to cultivate it because we live in an economy that’s constantly changing. We have to be agile.
Be curious and start going to events to know how the world is changing. It will lead us to a brighter future and help us create things that can be adjusted to the new tomorrow.
What’s one way managing projects will have changed by 2030?
What used to be managed as operational processes are now managed as projects.
How are young people changing the world of projects?
Young people are open to taking more risk. They love to be up-to-date, and learn and share new things.
What famous or historic person would you want on your project team?
Ada Lovelace, considered the creator of computer programming. She was a visionary—someone who was able to work as part of a team without fear of having an opinion.