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17 julio 2024

Laura Lacarra: “Young women need to be able to see that stem professions can also help people”

Lacarra (1986) is a Data Engineer at Telefónica and perhaps one of the most active women in the techie communities in Aragón. Recognized by her own company as one of the 25 People of Value at Telefónica Spain, in 2019 she was the only Spaniard nominated in the Women In IT Awards Ireland, and has been considered by Business Insider as one of the 23 young women who would lead the technological revolution.

You started working in Zaragoza with your end-of-degree project… how did you end up at Telefónica Madrid?

I studied computer engineering at UNIZAR in what used to be the CPS. When I finished, I started working in a small company in Zaragoza where I developed my final project, which was a telecare app for the elderly. We marketed the product and it was even in production at 112 Pamplona. Then I started my career at Telefónica and went to Madrid.

What does your job consist of?

I started as a process analyst. I was in a project to manage offers, products and services that were then seen on the Movistar website. Then I moved on to Big Data, to become a Data Engineer, a data engineer, I manage Big Data infrastructures. I have been in projects such as the Movistar+ search engine, the Movistar+ recommender and now I am in a project of data analysis of the network infrastructure, which is the network with which we talk through the landline and cell phone. We analyze the data to see errors that occur in the network.

Laura Lacarra trabaja en Telefónica en data engineering. (Foto: L. Lacarra)
Despite being far away, you profess an enormous love for Aragon.

Of course, it’s my land, where I grew up, where I enjoyed myself and where I want to return. During my confinement I saw an advertisement that showed Monte Perdido and I started to cry (laughs). In general, I think all Aragonese people have an enormous love for our land, we are very proud of it.

You say you want to come back here.

Yes, yes, I would love to. I know that my children would have a good quality of life and very good opportunities, because I think there are, the only thing is that you still have to look a little bit.

Lacarra during her impostor syndrome conference at Women Techmakers Zaragoza. (Photo: L. Lacarra)
In fact, despite the distance you are still very involved with Aragon through techie communities.

In 2012 I started to get involved in technical communities (people who are dedicated to development (programmers, computer scientists…). At first I was attending to learn and I got involved in organizing a community called Betabeers. We got a lot of things, like going from 15 to 80 people, we got a beer sponsor “very Aragonese” that even let us celebrate it in La Zaragozana, we got an affiliation in the sector that we enjoyed a lot. After 2 years there, I started to get involved in more communities like Pyton Zaragoza… When I moved to Madrid I tried to continue organizing Betabeers but I had to stop because it was monthly.

You are also part of Cachirulo Valley.

When I was still in Zaragoza, with Cachirulo Valley I started attending startup events and ended up organizing some with them. We wanted to organize an annual Startup Open Space event, which is a different kind of event because it doesn’t consist of one person telling you about their experience and having a microphone and that’s it. An open space is collaborative talks. We were six years with this format and they had national scope… one year we stayed at bowling because the creator of the Panoramio startup came, a photo company that was bought by Google. Carto also came, which in the end became a big company; Ticketea, which was bought by Eventbrite… and some other startup that came to stand out.

How did you stay involved in the communities?

Being in Madrid, I soaked up what was there. I remember giving a talk in Madrid and having a very bad experience. Many people came to the talk, an expert audience, I was asked many questions during the talk, I was interrupted… and I said that I was not giving another talk. A community of women from Madrid helped me to get through it, they helped me to see that it was not my fault. I thought that if this had happened to me in Madrid and that community had helped me, which was Mujeres Tech, something similar was needed in Zaragoza, so that if this happened to someone else, they would have the support.

Taking advantage of the support of Cachirulo Valley and contacts I started the idea of Mulleres Tech. I met a lot of women and together we confused the Women TechMmakers Zaragoza, is an annual event aimed at promoting women in technology, create community, visualize the role, empower … It was amazing because my experience with Cachirulo Valley is that our events were attended by 10% of women and this was 70%. It was to call the women and they showed up. We have organized for 3 years the Women TechMakers Zaragoza and everything we have done has been brutal: programming talks, marketing, inventions… and I have also organized events in Women Techmakers Madrid, where we were lucky enough to interview Anna Bosh.

Family photo of Women Teckmakers Zaragoza 2018 (Photo: L. Lacarra).
I know that you want to act as a lever for women to become speakers.

We want everyone to be able to contribute. It is open to all women who consider themselves technicians in Aragon and try to help women with a bad experience. During the pandemic we did online meetings and this year we will try to resume it in person since the pandemic.

You were selected in 2019 by Business Insider magazine as one of the 23 young women who would lead the technological revolution and by Generation Next among the 50 women under 40 who write the future. How are you leading the revolution in 2022?

There we are. The truth is that I didn’t know who to send a thank you ham to… I was surprised and quite happy. In the future I would like to do great things.

You mean now, in the present, don’t you?

Yes, yes (laughs) but it almost looks better if you say in the future.

You were also the only Spanish nominee at the Women In IT Awards Ireland 2019.

I did apply there. I sent a paper telling why you should be selected and I sent it without expectations and they shortlisted me and invited me to the gala. I went on behalf of Telefónica to the gala in Ireland. I happened to be the only Spaniard nominated at the gala. The girl who won was the one who organizes Girls In Tech, and there I thought I even had options because I was organizing events of this type. It was a great experience. Recently I have also been nominated for the blog Mujeres a seguir, but for me the prize is already being nominated in all these things. Also in Telefónica I was considered among the 25 people of Gente de valor. It’s good to be postured, but it’s great that your own company values you as a person who works well and that I stand out for my work. I see it as very important to work.

All this has come after going through the process of not believing you were worth enough. You have talked about it before with that bad experience, but you have also given talks about the impostor syndrome, a process that many women go through and that you wanted to make visible.

From my point of view you always underestimate yourself because you have always seen that men have always been above you, since your career. And until you realize that you are good, you have to believe that they overtake you on the left. It makes me sad because I look back, since I left the race until now, and I think you have to be more confident and believe it.

Lacarra dedicates part of his free and even professional time to lectures and mentoring. (Photo: L. Lacarra)
Do you think that lack of confidence is part of the problem that women don’t make it?

The women who have gone far are because they are very good, because in the end someone has to promote them, and it is probably a man. Outside there are many barriers, and some of them are put up by us, but most of them are put up by us. What a woman says will be questioned or needs to be reaffirmed. In this ecosystem we have seen many things, from great partners to… everything. To draw some hope, I have the impression that it is more inclusive, and if a company does not think so … you have to leave that company.

Are you talking about your sector?

Yes, but it should be in all of them. I’ve always been alone in development teams, usually. And you see yourself alone, because you feel you are representing the female gender and you put that pressure on yourself. You think, “I’m not going to let them down,” and they certainly don’t have that pressure.

Is the representation of women in the stem sector improving?

I’m on my own now. The statistics say it’s not getting better. I analyzed Unizar data a while back and created a Twitter thread. In computer science women represent 10.72%. It’s surprising because today the companies doing the best in the stock market are tech and they happen to move billions of dollars a year. Where there’s more pie to share, they’re going to eat it all.

How do you help bring this to the attention of young girls?

I have contributed by organizing workshops with 11F and Fundación Telefónica for boys and girls to introduce them to programming. I found it curious because they saw me as a teacher, not as an engineer. I have also collaborated with Stem Talent Girl and with some workshops for high schools. In one of them it was very curious because they had to present an idea and sell it, and one girl did great and stood out from the others. I asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up and she told me that she wanted to be a social worker because she wanted to help people. I explained to her that I am a computer engineer and that I also help people, that I made a telecare app to help the elderly. They need to be able to see that, that stem professions can also help people.

And in addition to girls and young women, sometimes I mentor people on Twitter. They write to me and we give each other contact and I review talks. I think if there are no women speakers it’s because they don’t have confidence. I review their presentation and give them confidence. My first experience was so bad, I read several books and have given training on how to give talks within the company.

You are a speaking influencer.

Well, influencer… I had a time when I was and now I continue to give feedback to whoever asks me… I usually offer myself rather. At Women TechMakers, if someone asked for mentoring, we offered it, and not just talks! Every month I’m on the podcast CodeontheRocks where we talk about technology.

On Twitter you are a real influencer of the Aragonese territory. I know that your recommendations on Twitter move people, like your tweet about the Pyrenees, skiing or toy companies… 

Yes, yes, I spend my summers in Cetina and Jaca and I have yet to make the Cetina thread. Everybody thinks that I still live in Zaragoza, because in the end you are there but you are not. There are people who have gone to the Aragonese Pyrenees because of my recommendations.

What do you like most about Aragon?

What I like the most is Ordesa, the National Park is the best National Park in Spain, no doubt. And culturally I prefer the Contradanza de Cetina, it is amazing.

Do you have a special predilection for any restaurant in Aragon?

La Jamonería (Zaragoza), we started doing some community events there and we are very fond of the place and the food is very good.

Meet other Aragonese women referents in the stem sector such as Esther Borao or Marta Baselga.

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