Today, I have a special guest. She’s one of the models I have followed in my professional life. She breaks the paradigm of “Rich countries should help Poor countries” and makes me think that success in all areas (as woman, as mom, as wife and professional) is really possible! Some people even say that we look alike 🙂
She is Ana María Espinoza, an International Consultant, responsible for Software Implementation in the Health sector of Developing Countries. She’s here to share her experiences along the past 20 years.
Ok, without further introduction, here’s Ana María:
Highlighting the Talent of the Third World
By Ana María Espinoza
I was born in Santa Ana, a city in the North-West of El Salvador. As locals say: “The capital of the world and branch of the heaven”. Actually, there is nothing spectacular there, maybe there’s a kind of stubbornness and persistence in the locals, especially when they pursue their dreams. I grew up there, spending wonderful years of my life, but as soon as I realized that making my dreams come true -in that peaceful place- would be so hard, I moved to the capital city: San Salvador.
I got my degree as Engineer in one of the most excellent- but controversial- universities of the country. It was the eighties and El Salvador was in the middle of the civil war. That made it very hard to get a job. But I was lucky, I got a position as software trainer in a local computer store, right after my graduation. I didn´t work there for long, but it was enough to get me in touch with the profession that has given me great moments and incredible rewards. I´m not talking about teaching, I´m talking about being an International Consultant, the one who I am, and I hope, will be for the rest of my life.
My first steps in Consultancy were in 1994. I was part of the staff of a Local NGO and one of its donors’ agency requested my participation in a Health Informatics project taking place in La Paz, Bolivia. It was not a consultancy service per se, since I was not paid for it; the agency decided to call it “an exchange of experience” strategy among funds recipients. I worked there for two weeks, long time for me being away from home – I just got my second child. So, to avoid my anxiety I devoted my free hours at the hotel, going in depth in the tasks assigned.
The results were so good that the same agency requested me for a second intervention in Costa Rica, supporting a Local NGO, identifying vendors who could provide a surveillance information software for a Health Indicators’ project. All went good as well! Somehow, it was like working “at home”: same language, similar context…
Then, the third and most educative intervention was in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. Ending the nineties, when I was invited to provide a training about the similar topics to a group of midwives; different culture, different language, different context and different audience! What a challenge… but I made it!
More than twenty years have passed, and by the time I write this: I´ve worked in several projects funding by different international agencies. I´ve traveled to more than twenty countries in the five continents, interacting with so many diverse cultures, religions, languages and cuisines; sharing what I know, conducting behavior changes, helping others to help others, but mostly, learning from every experience, from every single human being with whom I´ve interacted throughout this long-journey around the world.
This learning doesn´t stop, it won´t and I don´t want to stop it neither!
So, motivated by Karina my niece – one of the most determined young woman I´ve ever met in my life- I´m writing a couple of things that might be helpful for those who want to enter to this exciting and demanding world of International Consultancy. No advises nor key points, perhaps experiences or lessons learned that have made me stronger and more valuable in this competitive world.
Being good at many things is good, but being remarkable at ONE, is better!
The day I was introduced to a large team in one of the most important health global initiatives, the Head of the project -a German guy- said about me: “She´s spent her entire life improving the process in health facilities, so, who else could do this better than she does?…” More than sixteen years on the field have paid off, I thought.
What you do, do it remarkable. You never know when it will be paid back.
Proud but sensible and down-to-earth – “con los pies en la tierra”
While it is true that words like those said by the German guy sound like music to anybody’s ears, is also a true that there´s nothing that cannot be improved and exceeded. Thus, studying and learning new ways, trends and techniques, to improve what you do is also important; as well as to listen to others, especially in a global context.
Brief and good, twice good
This is a kind of syllogism: Spanish language is rich in words and sayings. Latin women speak Spanish, so Latin women like to say and write many words!
The first time I prepared a report after a business trip to Barbados, it took me a week to do it. I wrote it so detailed, that the report contained more than forty pages! As you can imagine, no one read it completely. My supervisor sent me a very clear note about it. “Could you please summarize it in two or three pages?” I realized that I had to stop thinking as Latin woman when writing a report.
Results, not poetry neither prose!
From theory to practice. Be prepared!
Thirty years ago, when the globalization had not reached Latin American countries, speaking English was reserved for those who could afford a bilingual school – very expensive! When I finished the university, I decided to study an intensive English course. “Speaking will come later”, the teachers said. An undeniable true! But they never said that it won´t be easy to move from theory to practice.
The training I provided to midwives in Port of Spain was kind of my TOEFL :), and actually I didn´t pass it successfully. All those months of English grammar theory made me feel I was ready, but I wasn´t. Thing is, the only way to speak properly a foreign language is speaking it as much as possible, reading it, writing it, and listening it.
Is not where you come from, but where you go
I´ve learned a lot of things along these years, but one has been the key for me to reach the others’ respect, and is my self-confidence and determination. Or as Karina told me: The Mindset.
The Big ones help the Small ones… why?
Advanced technology comes from developed countries. They usually set the trends in music, transportation, medicine, etc, and they come to developing countries to transfer those new concepts and help to improve others’ lives.
They have the “HOW”, they have the resources. But we -the beneficiaries- have the “KNOW”, we have the experience and the context. The perfect couple for a marriage between two worlds, don’t you think?
I’ve worked for those more vulnerable in my country. I´ve experienced and have seen the lack of resources. The combination of that experience and a lot of preparation have made what I am now: A Latin American woman, helping other developing countries to improve their lives.
There is so much to share. I’d like to talk about Consultancy from a more professional perspective, such as:
- Are the consultants responsible for the decision making process?
- Global teamwork. Facing the competition.
- A multicultural experience. “In Rome, as the Romans do”… should we?
Ah! One more thing… is never too late to be on board! I´m fifty five btw 🙂
Till the next!…. AME
(Here’s Kaqui again)
Interesting eh?… Interaction in Multicultural Environments is one of my fascinations, but the idea of highlighting our (Latin American) talents to help others in the same -or even more difficult- conditions, should be our purpose and mission of life!
Please share this article with ANY potential talent capable to help others, via the buttons below.
Similar experience or any thoughts? just shoot in the field below.
Gracias tía y hasta la próxima!
Ah, didn’t I mention?… she’s my aunt 🙂
February 27, 2016 at 7:12 pm
Gracias tía indeed! What a fascinating read. Congratulations Ana María on your remarkable experience and career, and thank you so much for sharing this valuable advice with us. Un abrazo from Antwerp, and I hope you will come visit some day, it would be a great pleasure to meet you.
February 27, 2016 at 9:10 pm
Much thanks for your comment Lola. I read somewhere that “sharing is caring”. All of these years in this journey has shown me how true it is!
So, I´m happy to have this space in Karina´s blog not only for sharing, but motivating others to chase their dreams…
Hope to meet you someday dear!
March 28, 2016 at 12:26 pm
Amazing life story Ana Maria! It’s remarkable your way of helping others from your own experience. It’s clear that you and Karina share the same blood :))).
March 29, 2016 at 12:56 am
Thanks for your words Viviana!. Life always find the way to show us the path to help ourselves and to others. As Roberto Benigni said to his son: Life is beautiful.. and I could add: It is more if we find the way to share …