Interview with coach and author Gabriela Mueller Mendoza

Find out why former technology expert Gabriella Mueller Mendoza believes women belong in STEM – and what inspired her to write her book How To Be A Smart Woman In STEM.

What is your career background?

I worked as technology expert for over a decade for several large blue-chips companies. I used to program software until one day I realised my passion and talent lied in empowering cross-cultural teams and leaders. I made the transition, it took years of hard work, but it was all worth it.

What is your proudest career moment to date? 

Whenever I see a leader or team having an a-ha moment, a breakthrough, is such a proud moment for me.

Sometimes it is obvious but sometimes I get an email from somewhere across the world from someone who has worked with me some time agoand subsequently made significant changes towards equality and diversity.

What is your favourite part of your job? 

When I take the first steps on a stage to speak or inspire audiences. Making eye contact with my audience and recognising myself in their faces. Regardless of their seniority or culture, we are all the same.

As a speaker and coach I energise the room using savvy but appropriate humor to make people learn and laugh almost at the same time. It is these experiences that are the most memorable.

What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?

I’ve got the most Swiss-German last name I could have (Mueller) yet I am a Latin woman. Overcoming societal stereotypes and limiting beliefs about me has helped me become stronger and gain clarity about who I am.

Managing my inner-critic has also been tricky though I managed to learn to tame this while writing my recent book. This was a very empowering moment.

How do you balance your career with your family?

I don’t believe in a ‘work-life balance’, I integrate them. Since I travel quite a lot, setting real priorities once a week is golden for us in the family.

I allocate long trips alongside vacations so I can bring my family along to exotic places while I get to work – something I never thought would be possible! Besides that, understanding that my husband is supportive; when I travel he isn’t babysitting, he is just being a parent.

I have learned to fully trust his way of doing it. The parent who is at home is the CEO at home, I no longer micromanage them while I am away. Career decisions that impact all of us are discussed in the core family circle. Trust and clarity are key. What inspired your new book, How To Be A Smart Woman in STEM? 

Two things inspired me to write my book. The first is the clear low representation of women in these key fields (STEM Science, technology, engineering, mathematics) today. In the new digital era, they are way too important to leave in the hands of only half of the population. 

Secondly, even though I left technology over 17 years ago, I wanted to create a book I wished I had read as woman in tech at that time. I wrote the book I wish I had read whilst I was working in the industry, with the addition of strategies and tactics that can be applied in today’s society.

Why is it important we act now to get more women into STEM?

The fourth Industrial Revolution is now kicking it and it will not only change the world as we know it, but it will also change us. The merge of biotech and increase in artificial intelligence raise interesting challenges and it is crucial we get all hands on deck.

Women belong in STEM and numbers are not rising as much as previously expected and it essential we secure their contribution, innovation and creative thinking. If women are included when trying to find solutions, humanity will thrive and can face global challenges head on.  

What are your three top pieces of advice for any aspiring businesswoman?

  1. Take inspiration from others We all need role models. If you don’t have any close by, use the technology of today and follow the best people in your field to provide you with the inspiration to succeed. If we see it, we can be it, so look out for amazing people who have achieved something you admire and learn from what they did. Learn from the best.
  2. Take risks Don’t just wait for all chips to be aligned, or for the “right” moment, this moment may never come and the worst chances are the ones you don’t take. You will either survive or succeed, so take risks. Failure is only information to help you adjust your effort or direction, nothing else.
  3. Go for the promotion Be aware fewer women ask for promotions and pay rises then men. Often, women only apply to jobs when they feel they meet 100% of the requirements, whereas men apply when they meet, on average, only 65% of the requirements, according to research. Go for it; even if you don’t think you fully meet of the requirements. Especially as many of these are just preferred qualities so don’t disqualify yourself before you even apply.

Gabriela Mueller Mendoza is an empowering coach and professional speaker. A former IT consultant for blue-chips companies, she helps women in tech giants, engineering corporations, academia and NGOs in over 80 countries.

She’s also the author of How To Be A Smart Woman In STEM which seeks to empower all women in STEM with the tools for success.