For Alejandra Zertuche, the journey to becoming a leader in STEM has been defined by patience, persistence
On her international and interdisciplinary background:
I suspect I am one of the few Mexican women leading a US-based tech company. This career trajectory reflects my international and interdisciplinary backgrounds, which afford me a unique perspective on identifying problems and finding creative ways to approach them—something I use daily to my advantage.
I consider myself very fortunate to have had a trans-border upbringing between Nuevo Laredo, Mexico
I worked full-time at a graduate-level pharmacy school as an Assessment and Information Systems Analyst while I completed six graduate statistics courses to advance my data-mining and machine-learning skills for conducting innovative research in the field of educational assessment.
The path to accomplishing each of those educational milestones has not always been easy. Nevertheless, what I learned through all of it was the importance of both patience and persistence. My journey to date has crafted my understanding of how to help schools leverage their data by transforming it into actionable information, which is why I am now leading
On pioneering a product that is revolutionizing the higher education industry:
We are providing “disruptive technology” when it comes to helping our clients execute their strategic plans, conduct program assessment, and comply with accreditation requirements. In non-technical terms, we are shaking up the industry. We are replacing established assessment processes at the university level with a groundbreaking high-tech product that completely automates a school’s programmatic assessment and accreditation
On passions in the world outside of technology:
My greatest passion in life is finding solutions to problems. This has fueled my lifelong love of learning, but also my love for sharing what I’m learning with others, in the hopes of helping them find creative ways to overcome their own hurdles. I love coaching, supporting and empowering other young entrepreneurs. I will never stop searching for more knowledge to improve my problem-solving abilities in the service of others. It is my way of making the world a better place.
Another passion of mine is the arts. Whether I am at a museum, at the symphony, opera, or ballet, I love it all. When I am immersed in art, no matter the form, I try to understand what the artist was thinking and feeling. For me, it is a meditation exercise that moves me beyond the everyday issues of life and into another realm.
I am also extremely passionate about volunteering. People often ask me how I find the time to give back to the community. In truth, I can’t imagine not finding ways to give back. Right now, I am mentoring aspiring leaders of high-tech start-ups through an accelerator program, volunteering whenever I can at a favorite local museum, helping pre-teen girls through STEM programs, and serving as an Advisory Board member for a community bank.
As I tell those I coach, I believe that when you volunteer, you are not only helping to make your community a better place, but you learn things along the way from encounters you could not have otherwise orchestrated or predicted. Your perspectives broaden by interacting with others outside of your area of expertise. Ultimately, this ends up helping improve strategies and sales within your own business. That has been my experience throughout my career.
On her personal female hero:
There is not a day that goes by that I do not gratefully acknowledge and appreciate the many female leaders who have challenged the status quo and worked hard to break barriers and stereotypes in support of female entrepreneurship. I have been privileged to meet many remarkable women who are making a difference in the world, and their legacy inspires and empowers me to work even harder. I owe a great deal to the women who fought for our rights
Some may learn career success from books, lectures, magazines or movies. But I learned it from watching my mom. In fact, I’ve learned more about leadership, perseverance, passion, and entrepreneurship from my mom than from all of my formal education courses combined. Mom didn’t display
Some of my earliest memories are of my mom and dad working as a team to start their first grocery store. My mother was 25 years old, had two young daughters, and worked day and night to ensure the business was a success. I loved helping out at the store—stocking shelves, sweeping, running errands and, as I got older, operating the cash register. Mom had an uncanny way of making working hard as a family fun. And she always ensured that my sister and I felt included as an important part of every business endeavor. In the late 1980s, mom started another business selling shirts and shoes—which she embellished by hand with artful beading—to luxury boutiques and department stores. The items were enormously popular and, as the business grew, she began hiring and training more and more workers to help. With each career success, I watched her and learned how to manage others.
Even through hard times, including being victims of the violence in Mexico many years ago, my mom—known for her sweet disposition and tender, generous heart—became a towering pillar of strength and support for the entire family. My mom’s saying during times of challenge has become my own personal credo, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger!” I channel her strength every single day. Her example has made me into the woman and leader I am today.
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Edited from an interview by Eleanora Morrison.