Europe, Interviews

Eugenia Velasquez -Technology Manager at Vistaprint

Machine Learning is the science of getting computers to learn and act like humans do, and improve their learning over time in autonomous fashion, by feeding them data and information in the form of observations and real-world interactions.

Meet Eugenia Velasquez, Technology Manager at Vistaprint. She leads a team of software engineers that build customer-centric experiences on the Vistaprint website. In addition, she manages recruiting activities for the expansion of the Vistaprint Technology Team in Europe, which aims to significantly grow the Software Development team in the Barcelona and Prague offices

What role does technology play in your job? 

Technology is everywhere! I am part of a Global Technology Organization comprised of 400+ Software Engineers who are currently building the newest technology platform to power Vistaprint, an e-commerce company which provides customized marketing materials for small businesses at a very large scale. From the moment you place an order at Vistaprint.com to the moment the final product arrives at your door, everything is automated. None of that would be possible without the power of technology in ALL aspects of the process: marketing, site, design, analytics & manufacturing.   

I am a Technology Manager, and my job is to make sure our engineers are maximizing their impact and efficiency by working on the highest value projects, in the fastest possible amount of time and producing the highest quality code to create the best customer experience. All of that of course while having fun and learning new technologies.

What is the greatest transformation in technology you’ve witnessed in your career?

I have to say that the greatest transformation I have witnessed is the evolution of data science and machine learning and the universe that they have unlocked.

Machine Learning is the science of getting computers to learn and act like humans do, and improve their learning over time in autonomous fashion, by feeding them data and information in the form of observations and real-world interactions.

There are several numbers of use cases in every industry where this concept can be applied. In the e-commerce world where Vistaprint belongs, this is commonly used to recommend products based on numerous variables like the customer profile, browsing and purchasing history or what other similar consumers have bought.

This is what companies like Amazon, Netflix or Spotify use to recommend an item to purchase, a tv show to watch or a song to listen to. There is no longer the need for analysts to manually tweak business logic as the algorithms get increasingly accurate in their predictions of consumer’s preferences. And when applied correctly, they become a powerful tool to solve complex problems like in the healthcare industry, where machine learning is used to develop diagnostic applications.

What is the hardest thing about your job?

Dealing with the problems that technology can’t fix – people problems. It takes a significant investment of time, effort and money to retain highly talented engineers and keep them motivated and growing. It’s even more difficult to attract new talent and grow the team given the high demand for Software Engineers in today’s world.

I have learned that the environment and the culture are equally as important as the actual job description for an individual to feel happy with their job, so I try to foster an environment where psychological safety and open feedback are a must.

Women in the field of technology are definitely a minority. How are you helping to attract more women to tech?

There are only 6 women in our local Technology team out of 58 engineers in Barcelona. Sadly, it is a fact that women are a significant minority in this industry. Bringing a more diverse talent pool to the field of technology is something I am passionate about. Vistaprint is a firm believer that diverse teams perform better, which is why we leverage partnerships with organizations that support women as they explore careers in Technology.

We recently hosted an event with Women Who Code, a global organization that provides services for women pursuing technology careers at our Vistaprint offices. They also provide leadership opportunities, networking and even scholarships.

What would you say are the most important skills women need to bring to the table if they want to be successful in tech?

1. Confidence – As a women in tech, you will most probably be surrounded by men. Don’t feel intimidated as your opinions are as valid as anyone else’s.

2. Curiosity – Technology is forever evolving at a very rapid pace. In order to keep up, you have to be constantly learning.

3.  Creativity – Technology is useless or even a thread if it’s not applied correctly. Women tend to be more empathetic than men. Use this to your advantage to come up with creative solutions on HOW to apply technology to the benefit of the ultimate consumer that will use your product or application.  

Who is your (tech) role model and why?

My tech role model is Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of Lean in. Through her book, she initiated a movement around women empowerment and created “Lean In Circles”, which are a small group of women who meet regularly to learn new skills, network, and encourage each other.  I learned from her to be intentional about my actions in order to get to meaningful results and to raise my voice and ask for what I need without fear of rejection.

What steps should be taken to attract more women to tech?

I think the most impactful step to take is to raise awareness of technology-related jobs/career paths to young girls who are yet to decide what to study and who to become. In Barcelona, there are coding schools for kids who are as young as 4 years old. This is great because it will trigger that curiosity in their minds from a very early age. Technology has transformed our lives and will continue to do so. As the job market continues to evolve, education will need to evolve so it is important to keep up with this high demand for tech roles, not just in engineering but in every field.

What would be your message/advice to women trying to get into technology?

Technology is fascinating and basically limitless. Do not put a limit on yourself on what you can learn and accomplish. Find a mentor who can help you and guide you and don’t ever be afraid of failing or rejection. Failing is a necessary step for success.

Eugenia is a Technology Manager at Vistaprint. In her role, she leads a team of software engineers that build customer-centric experiences on the Vistaprint website. In addition, she manages recruiting activities for the expansion of the Vistaprint Technology Team in Europe, which aims to significantly grow the Software Development team in the Barcelona and Prague offices.

As a Women in Tech, and often the only women in the room, she is keen on reducing the gender imbalance through hiring and getting involved in local communities that support Women in Tech to attract talent. She is passionate about building valuable software fast and empowering teams to become autonomous and productive. Outside of work, Eugenia enjoys traveling and running. She has run 7 half marathons in 7 different cities of USA & Europe and 1 full marathon in Paris. Eugenia was born and raised in Caracas (Venezuela) and went to Boston for college. She graduated Summa Cum Laude and holds an Industrial Engineering Degree from Northeastern University, where she was awarded Top 100 Most Influential Seniors.

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