Gemma Martín Repoller, CIO of Suardiaz Group
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Name: Gemma Martin Repoller
Position: CIO of suardiaz Group
Date of Birth: November 24, 1970 Sons: two
Hobbies: pilates, travel, gastronomy, music and sports
Studies: Computer Engineering, UPM.
Interview with Gemma Martín Repoller, CIO of Suardiaz Group
How did you get into the ICT world?
It was as a result of a talk they gave us at school to guide us on what types of studies and professional opportunities we could choose.
Until then I wanted to study Law because I wanted to be a lawyer and I was more adept at arts subjects than at science. But during that talk they showed us computers, they talked to us about what computer science was and I realized that I was also very attracted to the whole topic of keys and screens.
So I decided to reconvert and study Pure Sciences Baccalaureate. Computing was an engineering and at that time it could only be studied at the UPM.
I combined my university studies with jobs always related to ICT. My first job was at Yoplait. Although they had initially hired me as an Administrative Clerk, when they found out that I was studying Computer Science, they suggested that I change to a department that was beginning to be created: the Computer Science department.
Although it seems hard to believe, at that time (late 80’s-early 90’s) very few companies had IT departments.
Then I moved into the world of consulting, mainly ERP’s, for several years and it allowed me to get to know very different business processes in many different clients, performing functions as a senior consultant, project manager and coordinator of the functional consultants team.
Finally, I went back to the final client where I have been IT Director / CIO for the last 15 years. I consider myself very lucky to be able to say that I have always developed my working life in the ICT world.
What do you value most about your job?
What I value most is being able to work in what I like and having the opportunity to live and experience first-hand the changes and digital transformation that we are experiencing. In recent years technology is advancing faster and faster and it is exciting to be able to witness and be a part of it.
In your opinion, what is wrong so that women do not bet more on the study of STEM careers?
On the one hand, I think it is partly because we women ourselves tend to underestimate ourselves. Perhaps because of the cultural heritage that still surrounds us.
A few years ago there was a great tendency to think that certain careers, especially engineering and mathematics, could only be studied by men because they were more qualified than us to study and work in everything related to science and technology.
And, on the other hand, I think there is a lack of female role models who can serve as an example for many women and girls. Fortunately, I think that is already changing in recent generations. We are seeing more and more women studying STEM careers and more visibility is beginning to be given to female role models. I also think that the fact that our children are already “digital natives” is helping both boys and girls become familiar with technology and science from an early age and is helping to change that opinion.
Today it is no longer strange for anyone to see girls play video games, when in my time it was and a lot.
Do you think there is a “glass ceiling” in ICT companies? What should be the solution?
In some companies it still does, although I think that little by little it is disappearing. It is increasingly common to see women in senior management positions.
In my opinion, the solution to eliminate the “glass ceiling” must be approached from two levels:
And the first ones who have to learn to share them are us. We must stop thinking that it is only our responsibility and we must end the guilty conscience that it can generate if we do not do it ourselves.
At the labor level: Companies should carry out objective selection processes, that is, appoint or select people only based on their professional worth and their abilities for the position and avoid that the gender of a candidate or the fact of being a mother conditions an appointment or is a criterion for dismissal.
I also believe that companies must continue working on improving family reconciliation policies.
Can a quota policy solve the problem?
I do not think that this problem will be solved by a quota policy, but I believe that it can help positively if we understand it as a way of giving women the opportunity to occupy a position that would normally be occupied only by men. Of course, as long as all the candidates for the position are in equal curricular conditions. I do not agree that by complying with a quota policy a woman is hired if her profile does not meet the needs of the position.
What difficulties did you encounter to get to the position you currently have?
Fortunately, in most of the companies in which I have worked, I have always been valued for my experience and my professional worth without being conditioned by the fact of being a woman. In fact, there was a company that hired me knowing that I had just gotten pregnant right when they made me the job offer. It is a gesture that I will always appreciate and that showed me that my status as a woman and future mother was not an impediment to having a job opportunity like the one they gave me.
But it hasn’t always been that way. At first it was very hard. In a company where I worked at the beginning of my professional career, I was the only woman in the IT department and I had to constantly prove to my superior that my work was just as valid and good as that of my colleagues because he did not trust me. my. I thought that because I was a woman I was not as qualified as them. I have also had to experience that in a couple of selection processes they did not choose me for the position, despite being the most prepared candidate, just because I am a woman. But all this, far from demotivating me, has always given me more strength to continue fighting to try to get to where I am today.
What do you value most about your company regarding the integration of women?
Suardiaz Group is a close and family company that is committed to the talent and equality of all its employees. Since I joined the company I have always had the support of the General Management and I greatly appreciate that my opinions and decisions are respected. I feel very proud and happy to be part of the Suardiaz management team.
One thing to keep in mind, for example, is that in the IT area, 50% of the workforce are women and that proportion has been that way for more than 15 years, before I joined.
This shows that the Suardiaz Group has been working for equality and the integration of women for many years. In addition, all the initiatives and plans that are carried out are always aimed at guaranteeing equal opportunities.
35% of students do not manage to finish high school or the equivalent vocational training. Is education the problem of the lack of specialized profiles?
I think a big part of the problem is. Our educational system is not oriented to train specialized students. And that can sometimes lead to a lack of motivation. We must assume that technology is already part of our environment and our lives and, in the same way that there are compulsory subjects such as Language and Mathematics, more compulsory subjects related to technology should also be incorporated, for example, robotics, programming , cybersecurity, and other optional… I think that would help to acquire some basic concepts that could facilitate the creation of more modules and degrees related to ICTs and help generate more resources with ICT profiles that are so in demand.
Have the studies you did helped you to carry out your current work?
Of course yes. For my current work and for all the previous ones. They have provided me with a very important and useful knowledge base that I think is important to have because it facilitates decision-making when choosing a solution or defining a strategy for the company.
Solve the problem of education in Spain…
I wish I could have a magic wand, but I would start by trying to have a stable Education Law, with a minimum of consensus, that could not be modified so easily every time the government changes. We must continue to invest in infrastructure, in providing more technological means to educational centers, in retraining teachers so that they can rely on technology and turn it into another work tool. Perhaps the educational model should also be changed, make it more practical and not so theoretical.
And in the Primary and Secondary cycles, it would reinforce more reading, writing and presenting works in public. The new generations read less and write worse, and it is essential to have a good base of spoken and written communication for any job that will be carried out in the future.
If you had to advise a young person what to study in order to obtain a stable job future, where would you guide them?
Being from the ICT world and with the digital transformation demanding so many resources, I would advise you to study a technological career (degree / module): computer science, telecommunications, engineering, mathematics, statistics,…
Where do you think the ICT sector is going? In your opinion, what are the trends that are really going to transform society?
AI, data analysis, cybersecurity, application development,… are the areas where I think the ICT sector is going. The digitization of processes in any area, to a greater or lesser extent, is what is really already transforming society.
In a very short time, especially as a result of the pandemic, we have seen a very large transformation in the digitization of processes, for example, in medical areas, public administrations, education, which if it had not been for the need to continue providing services of remotely it would have been carried out at a much slower pace.
On the other hand, society is already changing its habits. It is going from doing many tasks in person to doing them remotely, for example, banking procedures, bureaucratic procedures, online purchases, videoconferences, … from the mobile phone or laptop. The way of working in companies is also changing. Hybrid teleworking is here to stay and this is allowing companies, for example, to be able to establish family reconciliation plans in an easier and more flexible way.
And social relationships are also changing. Social networks and applications are allowing us to be more interconnected with family and friends, but, on the contrary, physical interaction between people is also being lost and I think that should be taken care of more. Today’s young people, when they get together, talk to each other through the mobile instead of verbally.
AI, automation, robotics, do you really believe that the future passes through people?
Totally. All of these are still tools that are helping us to carry out repetitive tasks that do not provide us with added value and that help us improve our lives. But those who really detect new needs, define research and development strategies and apply the ethical and emotional part are and will continue to be people… At least until the human brain is cloned and it is verified that a machine is capable of acting and make decisions as a person would without looking like a robot.