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”Focus on what’s most important to you, and enjoy the ride!”

Uruguay – Finland – World

Open and social Marcia Villalba, 35, is a Developer Advocate in Amazon Web Services (AWS). She is originally from Uruguay, and currently lives in Finland with her husband and 2 year old daughter. Marcia had her first computer when she was 6, as her dad decided that coding was important, so she started to code very early on starting with different kinds of games. She was just playing and having fun without noticing how much she was actually learning. Her parents have always been really supportive, and they spent family moments playing games together. When the internet arrived, Marcia learned the basics of HTML and how to build a website – she had built her first website when she was 12. Marcia has always been good at English, so she translated lyrics of Backstreet Boys’ songs from English to Spanish for her first website for her friends who couldn’t understand the original lyrics. She also was one of the first people to have a personal domain with her name. Marcia has always felt very nerdy, and during the summers when other people went to the village riding bikes, she preferred to stay studying and developing her skills with a Visual Basic Course. She found her first job when she told her neighbour that she knew how to code; she built a Store Inventory System for her neighbour’s business. Marcia sold her first software when she was 16. During High School she fixed computers and websites, and later she studied Computer Science at university. As usual in Uruguay, she worked full time during the day and studied at night.

Marcia never had the possibility to travel until it was time for her to have her student exchange. Marcia wanted to see something different, and as mobile phones started to become popular and seemed to be the future of Computing, she paid attention to Nokia. Marcia applied only to Finnish universities keeping the goal to do her internship at Nokia in mind, and was accepted at her first choice: Aalto University (former Helsinki University of Technology). In January 2009, it was summer and therefore very hot in Uruguay when Marcia went on a plane for the first time ever to head to Finland. When she arrived in Helsinki, it was so dark, and her first thought was that there is so much sand in this country – just to realize that it was snow. There was a snow storm and so much snow everywhere – she had never seen so much snow before. There were not many people at the airport and Marcia didn’t have a mobile phone, so she didn’t have a way to get the key to the student apartment – she slept the first night at the airport. It was hard and sad that nobody was there to pick her up when she didn’t know where she was and where to go. Later, when Marcia was a tutor for exchange students, she picked all of them up from the airport because she didn’t want anyone to feel how she felt. Marcia studied the majority of her Master’s courses during her exchange, and she stayed in Finland to finish her Master’s Degree in Computing, writing her Master’s thesis while working at Nokia.

Marcia has worked for many years in the IT industry, in many different kinds of companies, as a Software Developer, Tester and Architect, among other things. She has worked at IBM as a Consultant – it was very fun to travel around the world and to work with interesting projects and with interesting people. Marcia has also worked for many years at Rovio, where she enjoyed working a lot on different projects and games. Marcia discovered that she liked teaching and mentoring, so she started to share information and videos on her website, and finally she started her YouTube channel. A few months later she started to get positive feedback and realized that people were actually watching her videos regularly – she had thought that only her mom was watching. Marcia is very collaborative and she likes to share her knowledge – one of her goals is to give free education to as many people as possible. She was also asked to apply to speak at a conference about a new technology in front of 400 architects. Marcia had spoken only in front of small groups before, and she was nervous to speak in front of so many people, so she tried to sabotage her chances to be accepted – yet she was chosen as a speaker anyway. So, she found herself in Texas, United States, in front of 400 people, being afraid of being judged, but it was all the opposite; when she finished, she felt like the happiest person on earth. Marcia got a lot of positive feedback and was encouraged to do it more often – this was the beginning of her public speaking. Marcia got pregnant and spent her maternity leave thinking about what she would like to do in the future. She traveled around Europe together with her husband and baby to participate in different conferences for one and a half years. Finally, she was asked to work with AWS, and she has been working there for approximately half a year now.

The right kind of work culture really makes a difference

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is Amazon’s cloud computing business that provides a very broad range of services from Storage Services and Networking Services to Machine Learning Services and Application Services, you name it! AWS aims to “put machine learning in the hands of every developer”. Marcia appreciates how AWS really listens to their customers and offers services for their exact needs. AWS Lambda offers a simple way to put code into the cloud and an access to manage amazing platforms and share ideas without extra knowledge – it’s extremely powerful that everybody can share their ideas in the cloud! You don’t have to be an expert or have a lot of money to take advantage of the future – it is accessible to everybody, everywhere, and only the cloud is the limit! AWS has many different regional and specialist advocates around the world. Marcia is a Nordic Developer Advocate, who listens and talks with local developers and AWS user groups to help them to grow to be successful. She also participates in a lot of conferences, events and workshops. Totally remote team works very well because everything happens online, and Marcia likes that AWS is full of different people from different cultures.

Marcia is a very social person and for her it is crucial to share the values with the company and the people she works with. She has learned from the experience that service is important, but the people you work with are just as important. Working with the wrong kind of people can make you feel sad and lonely, but working with the right kind of people can make you feel that you are in a safe place with people you can trust, and simply to be yourself, so you can focus on creating and innovating, having fun and relaxing. Marcia tends to ask to meet as many people as possible during the interview process to evaluate if the company fits for her – just like the company evaluates if she fits for them. You spend so much time choosing the right person next to you to share your life with, but when you think about it, you might spend more time with your colleagues than with that person – so why not choose them as carefully as well? Marcia has amazing colleagues, and she knew many of them beforehand because of her public speaking. AWS focuses on a cultural fit before an exact skill-set fit. You can utilize other databases, framework or cloud knowledge, and in a good team you can find a mentor to learn faster. Everything is learnable. A perfect candidate on paper is not always a perfect candidate in practice. Make sure that your values meet the values of the company because the nature of a work culture really makes a difference. Solving technical problems, keeping learning and sharing knowledge in an inspiring company that fits for you is perfect!

Marcia thinks that it’s impossible to have it all, but prioritizing things you can have is important. Marcia doesn’t need any hobbies because she has everything she needs – and more. She has a dream career, she travels a lot, and she has an amazing husband and daughter, to whom she is always there for when needed. When they are together, they are truly present creating unforgettable memories going to parks, baking cakes, drawing, playing and reading. You can be a mom and have a successful career – finding a balance is the key. Marcia appreciates her husband so much for having made this all possible by being a present husband and father and supporting her with her dreams. It has been a really interesting journey – and this is only the beginning. Embrace everything that you are and have, be happy about it, and enjoy the ride! Don’t compare yourself with others, but with yourself; only you know your whole story and path, and can see your personal development and achieve your future’s dreams! Marcia continues doing what she loves, but she doesn’t have a clue what kind of amazing opportunities the future has to offer – time will show. She is open to different opportunities, and as a disciplined person, she will put a lot of effort into learning. Marcia needs different challenges, perspectives, people, diversity – different people have different, inspiring stories to tell. Marcia has mentored many women to become public speakers and she always says: “You don’t have to be an expert to tell your story, but sharing your perspective might inspire the next experts!”

We interviewed

Marcia Villalba
Developer Advocate
Amazon Web Services

Please notice that the interview was conducted before the current coronavirus situation, so the descriptions of work, hobbies and other life involving social contacts concern the time before this exceptional situation. We remind you that everyone must follow current guidelines and regulations in this exceptional situation. We can all be spiritually together and for each other despite physical distances!

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