Ana Maria Gutierrez is Head of Marketing at SaaStock, where she’s recently led the marketing team through a successful whole-company pivot from in-person to online industry-leading conferences. She loves both the creative and strategic aspects of marketing, and is always ready to help her team come up with the next design concepts for upcoming campaigns. Originally from Colombia, Ana has lived in London, UK, for the last years and is the proud pet parent of Guinness & Mulata.
How did you break into leadership?
Before jumping into events, I tried different areas from different industries that, as I see it, shaped me into the integral multi-disciplinary team leader I am now.
From a degree in the science of communications to specializing in Audiovisual Media, I was always curious about human behaviour and how to get a message across. Not long after, I worked in TV on different production roles, which taught me a lot about resilience, performance under pressure, and organization skills. My experience in luxury retail sales gave me broader experience in negotiation and expectation management.
Overall, these experiences came together when I decided to shift my career, move to another country, and start a master’s degree in what since then has become my passion: international marketing.
I believe it’s the diversity of my background and the experience of starting from the bottom that makes me good as head of the marketing department. It’s easier to push boundaries and guide a team when you know exactly what your goals are, and how the work they are doing aligns with that. I try to keep my team curious and always learning, as inspiration can come from anywhere.
One of my favourite managers told me once “I’m not a great leader, I just use common sense and treat people like I would like them to treat me,” and since then I have made it my motto.
What unique obstacles or challenges have you faced as a woman in a tech leadership role?
The biggest challenge for me has been developing my career in a country that I didn’t grow up in and doesn’t share my first language. These two factors place me immediately in a minority group that made me feel at a disadvantage against my peers, not only about gender but also because of my ethnic background.
Don’t get me wrong, I know my value, and I am an ambitious woman, but when you come from a developing country and learn a second language later in life, the fear of not being up to professional standards does play tricks in your mind. It also means you wonder if people take advantage of your work (and sometimes they do), the pay gap is higher (and we know it is), and stepping up the ladder becomes more challenging (and it certainly is).
How do you face your fears?
The way to face your fears is to turn them into your power. I am a proud Latina and my accent has become my ally. My loud laugh, my charm, and caring about my team as if they were my family has made me a good human being and a strong leader.
If you could do it all again, what would you do differently?
I’d say that idea out loud, instead of keeping it to myself because I was afraid of using the wrong preposition, as the biggest regret will be never having tried it. And while I’m there, I’d stop feeling self-conscious if people don’t understand what I say at first. It’s difficult to understand native English speakers with strong accents despite speaking the same language and you don’t see them worry, do you?
What’s been the highlight of your career thus far?
Certainly, my latest venture with SaaStock has brought the majority of my rewards as a marketer. While the pandemic has been tough, particularly for companies like us in the events industry, it has also brought some of my proudest moments.
I have been able to witness the power of true resilience, creativity, and teamwork.
With a team of only 23 people (and a marketing crew established right before the crisis started), we were one of the first events companies to pivot from an in-person format to a brand new fully-online version of our conferences and put together a completely new event in less than 70 days.
Although I have big highlights from previous roles, nothing can surpass adapting a whole company to survive a pandemic.
Share something interesting or valuable with our community.
Shine with every opportunity you have! Be your true self without changing to fit in. Support other women, LGBT, different human races; We are in this world together. Be curious, audacious, and grateful.
Thanks to Jes Kirkwood who conducted this interview in September 2020.