A career in technology with social impact

How Paola Jurado developed her career in systems within a development bank

Written by Joaquin Van Thienen

Paola Jurado

Paola grew up in Machala, the fourth largest city in Ecuador. When she began her university career, one of her dreams was to be an astronomer, but life presented her with other opportunities. She started studying Information Systems and Telecommunications, then obtained her master's degree at Johns Hopkins University and now manages technology projects and provides support to corporate systems, from the headquarters of the Inter-American Development Bank, in Washington, D.C.

The road that took her to where she is now, moving from her country, forming a family and growing in her career, was not always easy, but from the beginning she was driven by the desire to face challenges with high impact.

Growing as a team, like at home

"From the moment I arrived at the Bank, I felt at home," says Paola. The fact is that many accents in Spanish are heard in the corridors of the office, as well as French, English and Portuguese. People from all over the region work in the Department of Information Technology. There is a mixture of cultures where one can learn from the experiences of others. 

Paola faced different challenges in her professional life, for example, learning to present ideas and proposals in front of her team, through assertive communication; but that was not an impediment thanks to the support of mentors through the mentoring programs of the Bank, as well as the training plans addressed to Emerging Women Leaders. "Through all these programs and the people who helped me on my journey, I am in a place where I want to be, where I can continue to grow and work to generate efficiencies in Bank operations." Now she tries to share with her team, the same values with which they received her fifteen years ago.  

Learning from creativity

Her mission is to support the Bank's operations through technological solutions. During her last project, Paola led the implementation of the Bank's document and content system, a high-impact project, which involved deploying SharePoint Online to all Bank departments, coordinating the continuity of integration with other applications and managing the migration of approximately 9 million documents of the legacy system with the objective of promoting collaboration and helping the Bank to better execute its operations in all sectors. 

"The Bank generates a large number of documents, and these are essential to complete its functions and comply with its policies, so that a problem with the document management system can quickly become a critical problem. For this reason, our work can be challenging under a lot of pressure. But at the same time, it is gratifying to implement an improvement and see a tangible benefit in the business.” This type of work helped her grow, to learn to be creative and to understand the importance of teamwork to generate ideas and solutions. "In our team we are forced to constantly think about solutions and ways to optimize processes."  

Find the meaning

The moment in which everything made sense for Paola was when she began to work on improving systems by listening to the needs of her internal clients. These efforts brought her closer to the Bank's mission of improving lives in the region through economic development. "Now I understand the key role our department plays in facilitating the Bank's mission." 

Under the strategy of the department's new management, Paola's work goes beyond developing technological solutions. Now the intention is focused on the needs of customers. Paola was reunited with the ambition that she had pursued since she started university: to have a positive impact. "Now I understand the needs {of the client}, and I can develop more effective solutions and feel that in some way I contribute to the Bank's operations being handled more efficiently."  

Balancing responsibilities

At home she also handles projects, but of another kind: she organizes trips, she plans activities for her daughters, and she takes turns with her husband to cook breakfast and lunch every morning. In the morning she goes out to ride her bicycle with her eldest daughter before going to the office, and at night she reads stories to her daughters about explorer girls who dream of being astronauts. 

It is about balancing work with family life, and the moments that each deserves. "The Bank provides a lot of flexibility to achieve a balance between personal and work life. It allows you to work from home and participate in school events when necessary. In addition, we have the advantage of having a gym on the premises, which helps us to include physical activity in our day." When she chooses stories to read at night, she chooses them in Spanish, so that her daughters, like her, also stay connected with their Ecuadorian roots.  

The talent your team needs

In this context of department growth under new approaches, Paola tells us about the talent her team needs when it comes to expanding: "It is important that they have the attitude of teamwork, responsibility, commitment and initiative." 

After having gone through her career, starting as a developer, continuing as a systems analyst, and now leading teams, Paola believes that these are good times to join the industry. "It is a good time to be in the IT area, because we have several technologies such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality within reach of our hands that can totally transform the way in which we perform our work. The challenge we have in IT is to link these technologies with the Bank's particular needs."  

If she had studied astronomy and become an astronaut, Paola would have been able to see the planet from above. But, although life marked other paths, today she can still see the world from another lens, working to improve the lives of six hundred million people in an entire region. 

If you want to apply your technology skills, like Paola, for the benefit of all Latin America and the Caribbean click here.

IDB logo