Elisa Caballero

"What a ride"

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60+ questions with female tech influencers about their journey into STEM

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Elisa Caballero Global Head of Engineering Strategy and Ops-Glovo-App.Podcast-Queens-of-Tech

Elisa Caballero

Global Head of Engineering
Strategy and Ops

Elisa Caballero studied Computer Engineering in Madrid and technology project management at Harvard University. In July 2021, she was appointed Global Head of Engineering Strategy and Operations at Glovo. Elisa has extensive experience of more than 13 years in the tech sector, having worked for companies such as Banco Santander, Vrbo, and Expedia, and has been a huge advocate for Women in Tech since the beginning, participating as a board member of affiliate groups and collaborating with the community to embrace diversity and reduce the gender gap.

“I realized Glovo breathes diversity since the first day I joined. Even before I started I knew about the different communities that are built here to support gender, race, and sexual orientation. What I wasn’t aware of is the number of events and initiatives that each one of these groups was organizing and the number of people joining and supporting them. And not only that, even in the onboarding they work on raising awareness of unconscious bias that we all bring so that we start from the first day to become more inclusive. There are many allies within the group that will make sure everyone has a voice and avoid discrimination. It quickly becomes part of your day-to-day and also part of your DNA.”

People enjoyed the podcast very much. Especially the Comms team at Glovo, they loved it.

Elisa Caballero

Full transcription

Welcome my special guest tech queen, Elisa Caballero Global Head of Engineering Strategy and Ops at Glovo app.  Benvenida, Elisa thank you very much este muy feliz to have you joining us from Madrid Spain today. Como estas?
Very well, thank you.

Now let us dive into your journey into tech. Hope you’re ready for the Queens of Tech’s 60-plus questions.
I’m ready.

 

***FUN FACTS ***
  1. How would you describe your personality in three hashtags?
    I guess,  #morning coffee, #nodrama #easypcy.

  2. How would you describe your life in three sentences?
    Family first, find the right balance and the world is endless.

  3. What kind of music stimulates and motivates you the most?
    The one that you can sing in the car out loud.

  4. What’s your personal motto?
    Always give it a try!

  5. What is your favorite book?
    Definitely, definitely, “The Pillars of the Earth“.

  6. What is your favorite podcast?
    One that I’ve been listening to a lot lately is: “A bit of optimism by Simon Sinek“.
     
  7. Mac or PC?
    Mac.

  8. Say something interesting about yourself that most people don’t know.
    I lived abroad in Wisconsin.

  9. What is your hidden talent?
    Wouldn’t say it’s a talent, but I like to paint. I’m more or less average good at it.

  10. If you were going to write a book about your life what would the title be?
    What a ride.

***CHILDHOOD***
  1. Where did you grow up?
    I grew up in Madrid, Spain.

  2. What was your dream job as a child?
    I always wanted to dance.

  3. What was your favorite subject in school?
    Math definitely.

  4. What was your least favorite subject?
    History, which now I love but at the time I didn’t like it.

  5. What would you say is your earliest memory of technology and the arrival of the internet?
    My brother went to live abroad, and we got an intel pc with a modem 56 like 56 scary modems and that was our way of communicating with him through email, and it was magic.

  6. Which were then the three first technology gadgets you owned?
    I guess that a Walkman if is considered a gadget. Walkman and then I moved to Discman which was amazing and, oh, and my first cell phone which was like a brick. It was a Motorola.

  1. Who was your female role model and why?
    My mom probably because she had a job, and she was still able to take care of us, my brothers, and me. We were three, and I still don’t know up to this day how she managed to do that.

  2. How do you think where you grew up and the school you went to and the generation you come from influence your education and career choice?
    I guess that my generation has influenced me much more than any other. I don’t think that school has influenced me that much nor maybe the place that I lived apart from living in a city that has multiple opportunities, but my generation is a generation that has lived the huge transformation of technology and that has obviously called my attention.

***CAREER PATH***
  1. What did you study at university?
    I studied computer engineering.

  2. Who and what influenced you to get into your chosen field?
    Because the moment that that PC entered my house I knew I wanted to understand what was going on behind it. Because to me, it was magic to be able to communicate with my brother all across the world in such a short time and I wanted to understand what was going on behind it.

  3. What professional roles have you had before that led you to the current one?
    I started as a functional analyst, which was my first weird choice after six years of development, but I learned so much from taking a step back from coding and getting an understanding of business. And from there I move on to more of a project management role then I move into data and I started working with data teams and from there I move on to a technical product manager role which is more or less like the perfect balance between understanding the business and keeping in touch with the technology and keep on developing a new tool.  Now I’m coming to a point that in my current role I basically have that same role but in a bigger picture and bigger impact.

  4. What does your company do, and what is your title?
    Glovo
    it’s an app that you can get anything that you want in the city. Not only food from restaurants you can get anything that you can think of, but it’s a three-way marketplace, so it’s a much more complex business and a much more complex system. My role is Head of Strategy and Operations in Engineering.  Basically, how do we structure the engineering teams and how do we enable them on a day-to-day basis so that they can actually develop faster and deliver faster and better quality for those apps that we have within Glovo.

  5. How did you get the job, and what are your main responsibilities?
    I make sure that all the engineering teams are aligned on the strategic vision and the priorities and make sure that they have what they need to do in their day-to-day make sure that we grow and retain the talent of our teams. And how did I get it, it’s a funny story because my former manager when I was working in Expedia he moved to Glovo l as a CTO, and we worked very well together. We understand each other very well, and he told me like you need to join this company it’s a blast, so he offered me the position amazingly. 

  6. What does a typical work day look like for you?
    The real answer is full of meetings, but the reality is that it’s a matter of getting to understand people’s problems and basically solve them.

  7. What do you love about your job?
    I love solving problems. So when people come to me and ask for help, or how should I do this, how what is what approach should I do with this, and I’m able to provide the answers? That makes me feel super fulfilled.

  8. What is the best experience you’ve had in your role so far?
    I have to say that plenty, but the one that comes right to my head and might not be exactly related to my role but with the opportunities that Glovo has given me. I was able to write an article in Forbes about Women in Tech and STEM careers. I’m so proud of that article. I was able to like to pour all my thoughts and everything that I felt about the topic into that article. I shared it with the company and shared it with friends and family.  Everybody that read it gave me so good feedback that I feel super proud of that.

  9. What is the biggest challenge, you have encountered so far, and how did you tackle it?
    My role is very new to Glovo and I built that team of programmers, and it’s also a new role within Glovo. So having to navigate through ambiguity and uncertainty, because there’s nothing defined has been the biggest challenge. I have a mindset of test and learn, let’s take this path and let’s iterate over it, but not everybody feels comfortable with that type of approach so having to help my team and other people understand what this means what their role means and how we can help them have been the biggest challenge.

  10. What do you wish everybody understood about your role?
    That is not defined, and then we can iterate, and it’s a matter of testing and learning, being patient.

  11. What is one of the common myths about your professional field that you want to disprove that everybody?
    While working in tech, you need to be a developer, or you need to know how to code.

  1. What do you love about working in the tech industry?
    That it’s a world full of opportunities that you don’t necessarily need to be coding on an app. That you can be working on so many things, you can be working on systems that help healthcare do better diagnoses for example. People think of tech as apps on mobiles or like Microsoft and any other tech companies but take it slightly a bit like endless possibilities.

  2. What has by far been your biggest achievement in your career?
    Being part of Glovo in a world that allows me to have such a big impact on me is a bigger difference.

  3. What’s the biggest factor that has helped you be successful? Any success habits?
    Yeah, treating people as people and not as resources and treating people everybody as equal no matter if it’s people from your team reporting to you or peers or even like CEOs, CTOs everybody is equal, and you don’t need to put anybody on different levels.

  4. What is your biggest failure in your career, and what did you learn from it?
    Don’t recall a specific failure, but I do recall a past experience where we were part of the data team.  We were like 70 people in the area let’s say that the leader of that area at the time was not focused on people and in a matter of months we lost 30 people from the team. I don’t want to get into details, but I’ve learned a lot from that experience and that has taught me to actually focus on retaining the talent, keeping people motivated keeping people focused.

  5. What is inspiring and motivating you the most in your role and career right now?
    Like I said before solving problems. When I finish the day and I feel like I’ve been able to clear paths for people and unblock things I feel super accomplished. Inspiring learning from people when I get to sit down with other people from work or other teams and learn from what they’re doing or learn from their past experiences fills me with energy.

***MENTORSHIP AND ROLE MODELS**
  1. Do you have a mentor today?
    Nope. I don’t think that I have had the opportunity. I mean throughout my career my managers have always been my mentors. I think I’ve been lucky enough to have really good managers that have played their goals in this culinary role. I would say my manager would still be my mentor I go to him for anything that I need, and I ask him for feedback, and he always looks out for me in my career. So he plays that role I would say.

  2. Who is the female role model you look up to in your field?
    I don’t have any female role models.  have not had any female role models in my career, unfortunately.

  3. How important do you think it is to have a role model mentor during one’s career?
    It is super important.  I have not found that because I had my mentors that were male. I didn’t find that gap of needing a female mentor but now that I’m mentoring females, and I’m mentoring girls I feel that connection with them is on another level that I wish I’d had. 

  4. What does leadership mean to you?
    Leadership is providing the right guidance to enable the team to move on and drive without you. 

  5. What do you consider a good versus a bad leader?
    A good leader empowers the team and a bad leader let’s say micromanages the team.

  6. Who would you say is your favorite female tech leader?
    Actually, it’s funny because Sheryl Sandberg is to me the point of reference. For sure her book “Lean In” changed completely the mindset that I was having up to that point in my career. She brought a lot of awareness of situations that I was living that I wasn’t even realizing were unfair. For example, I’ve not had any role female models and I feel like her being a mother in a tech world with such a high position gives me the hope of there’s that there’s always a right balance that you can achieve. You don’t need to sacrifice anything, and you can lead companies in big teams. 

  7. How would you describe yourself as a leader?
    I think I’m humble in terms of like I said I don’t put anybody at different levels. I am part of my team and the way that I lead them is to help them to clarify their paths to give them the tools that they need in order to be successful, and their success is my success.

  8. What values are most important for you as a leader?
    Teamwork collaboration definitely.

  9. What leadership lessons have you learned that have formed you into the leader you are today?
    You need to take care of the people because the people are the actual field. You don’t have anything else, no other resources. People are your fuel so if you don’t take care of the people if you don’t spend time to get to know them if you don’t know what moves them because everybody’s so different. You really need to spend time getting to each one of the people that you have it’s one of the people you have in your team and that can cause such a leak of talent. It is going to ruin the rest it’s going to ruin the business it’s going to ruin the work. So people are the main point I would say.

  10. What would you say are your three strengths and three weaknesses? It’s funny because this question I think you can actually answer the same way. For example, one of my strengths is I’m really good at simplifying things or making things simple, and I’ve had this feedback from I would say most of my managers, but at the same time when you make things so simple some personalities something some people don’t and cannot work with such simplicity, and they need much more details. So, at the same time that I think it’s a strength, I would say in some cases it might be a weakness. The same for empathy, I have a huge empathy that allows me to work very well with people and at the same time is a weakness because I bring people’s problems home, and I bring them to myself and I make them my own problems. So finding the right balance always on that is very complicated.

***DIVERSITY, EQUALITY, INCLUSION & BELONGING***
  1. What do diversity, equality, and inclusion mean to you personally?
    Personally, it means it’s a set of rules to build a fair workplace or a fair playground. Let’s say where everybody is equal and where everybody has a place.

  2. What do you consider to be three to five signs of good company culture if you were to join a company?
    That one is easy to explain because in this case, Glovo is super strong on diversity. We have a specific area and teams working on diversity. When a company invests in that having people dedicated full time to that is one of the really good signs. We also have community groups and support groups for different diversities not only women in tech but also many others.  The company dedicates budget for that a lot of budget in terms of yeah let’s make supporting events let’s make awareness. They are willing to dedicate a budget to that. Also, there’s an open culture around sharing feedback and everybody feels empowered to maybe call out behaviors or maybe call out biases that everybody has. Like unconscious bias in terms of you can be in a room and say “hey you’ve been referring to this as he, and maybe they want to refer as this” other term you know so those kinds of things I think that makes our company very diverse.

  3. As a woman, what has been the most significant barrier in your career, and how have you overcome these challenges?
    I would say that throughout my career I’ve always been the only female in the room and I’ve never felt anything negatively. I’ve always been respected by my peers, and I’ve never felt like downsized or minor, but there are some biases that I’ve started to realize, like because you’re the only female in the room if anybody needs to take notes everybody looks at you. If somebody needs to present that’s going to be you. It is like there are some admin tasks that inconstantly everybody tends to look at the females in the room, and I’m starting to work through that in terms of when I see those kinds of behaviors I call them out loud.

  1. Why do you think it is important for more women to join the tech industry, especially as leaders?
    First, because we have a lack of references. As I said I didn’t have a female role model and I wish that future generations will have role models and mentors so that they can get support. Second because it’s proven that adding diversity to your teams is going to add quality to the outcomes of your business. It’s going to improve your business decisions because if you have a room full of the same type of people let’s say the possibilities of coming to the same decision or to the same options is going to be huge. If you make a room full of diverse people you have you’re going to have a bigger list of options that you can choose from.

  2. Do you, and how do you speak with your female colleagues and male colleagues about diversity quality and inclusion challenges, especially salary gaps?
    To be honest, I don’t talk that much about it. Especially now in Glovo, I would say that they make sure that there are not that many salary gaps. We have salary reviews every year or twice every year, and they are so aware of these kinds of gaps that they make sure that that doesn’t happen. So it’s been a while since I have not had that type of conversation.

  1. There are many public and internal discussions about the barriers women face from reaching higher positions in the tech industry. How do you feel it has affected and is affecting you, and what is your advice on how to best unlock these roadblocks?
    I would say that the glass ceiling has not affected me that much, and  I think that the reality is that I have not become a mum. So in my case, I would say that I’ve been lucky enough not to have gone through that phase and that’s why I think that my career has always gone through normal progress, but I have friends and colleagues that have stopped for x number of months because they are becoming a mom and that has changed their career. There are so many biases now around them about how they can progress, how they can take care of their careers versus their family and I think that is the unfairness that is happening. So I would say that the advice I would give to all of them which is what I’m hoping I can do in the future if I become a mom, it shouldn’t stop your career as Sheryl Sandberg said, it is s like nine months or x number of months, but you have so many years ahead that you can still work on your career.  You don’t need to sacrifice. You just pause your career for a bit, and then you can still work on it.

  1. As the tech industry finds it hard to attract and retain women what is your best advice on strategies for how companies can work to build a stronger corporate culture that engages gender diversity?
    I always say this, it’s about going back to the roots and this is something that I’m happy to see in Glovo we’re doing. We’re now launching boot camps to have young female future engineers interested in the tech world, and we’re going to teach and give them opportunities to join STEM careers. I would recommend that to any other company. The workforce is what it is, and the parity is not even in the workforce, so you’re not going to be able to find the parity in your company, so you need to go to school. We need to break the biases, and they’re around schools. We need to break the stigmas that young girls 14 years old and 15 years old feel around tech careers.

  2. What would you say then are the few challenges and possibilities of implementing diversity, equality, and inclusion in a workplace?
    Today the challenges are when you try to promote diversity and when you try to empower certain groups of minority groups the other groups that are now part of the minority to tend to feel rejected, or they tend to feel out.  Let’s say the challenge is how do we empower these minority groups without making the rest feel guilty about it or making the rest still less for it? It is about finding the right balance which I think is a real challenge.

  3. Why and how do you think companies would benefit from having workplace gender diversity especially better gender representation at C-level?
    I mentioned before when you have different opinions you have more quality in the decisions. When you have just one or two opinions because everybody thinks the same because they are the same, and they have the same background, you’re missing out.

  4. How much do you think the tech industry has changed regarding this subject since you joined?
    I would like to say that yeah it has changed because there’s more awareness, but the reality is that the numbers say that there are fewer females interested in joining STEM careers.

  5. Looking back on your own career what one thing would you have changed in your working environment to break the bias?
    I would have liked to call out from the beginning. I would have loved to be more aware of this difference or lack of diversity way earlier. I’m aware now and if I’m in a room full of men I would call it out and be like do you all realize that here the representation is minor? What can we do to change that? Now I’m able to point that out, but I wish I would have learned that way before and been able to call it out way earlier.

  6. Looking forward what will you do as a leader to improve the bias for the next generation of women in tech?
    I do everything that I can in terms of I’m mentoring, I’m part of the mentoring program that Glovo has for mentoring females. I also collaborated with the community and work with schools to break that bias. I also like to work with a female community within Glovo so that everybody feels that they can start a career in tech, and you don’t necessarily need to do any engineering to do tech.

**MENTAL HEALTH AND WORKPLACE BALANCE***
  1. I’m sure without a doubt you have a busy lifestyle, so how do you take care of yourself to maintain good mental health?
    Sports, sports are basic. I would say I do meditation and no I don’t do meditation. I kind of like my mind shot for one minute, but when you practice sports that’s the real mindfulness, that’s the real moment that your mind is actually blank because you’re dedicating your full attention to something else. So in my case for example I play paddle which is a very famous sports team in Spain, but I like to go for walks with my dog or hiking or go to the gym or run, and I make sure that I do that every day because it’s that moment that you kind of like de-stress from the rest of the day. You like to set the pause and then you can continue with the rest of the day and then do any other things like any other hobbies. I also like reading, painting, and cooking, but you’ve already like to reset your mind to do anything else.

  2. Have you ever experienced burnout?
    Early in my career when I was super invested. We need to get this done if I need to work 10 hours I’ll work 10 hours, but I was super young, so I didn’t feel like that was burning out yourself, but I realized as I was growing up that it was not worth it to spend so many hours. It is a matter of finding the right balance and discussing other timelines and discussing priorities within the teams and with my manager. I would say that since the beginning I’ve always tried to find that balance between work and life, and I’ve always made sure that I bring that throughout the rest of my career.

  3. What motivates you every day to get out of bed?
    The number of hours ahead that I have to do so many things.

  4. What is your advice on how companies can create a more mentally healthy workplace in the new now? Flexibility. We all need to be more flexible with people’s situations and people’s needs. Not everybody needs the same thing, not everybody needs to go back to the office, and not everybody needs 30 days of vacation. Everybody has their own needs and what motivates them, and it’s very difficult for a company to build policies, I understand that, but we need to be flexible about policies.  Everybody can build their own balance.

**WORDS OF WISDOM***
  1. What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given that has helped you during setbacks in your role and career?
    This is advice that I was given actually by my brother very early stage. He told me don’t expect anything from anyone, and I will be happier. That applies to everything in your personal life and your professional life. When you work based on expectations like I’m going to do this because I expect a promotion because I expect this that, you’re going to be frustrated in your life. You need to work because that is what moves you and that is aligned with your values. The rest will come.

  2. What is the worst advice you have ever been given, and how did you tackle that?
    To be honest, I don’t know because if it was bad advice I have probably just forgotten it.

  3. Is there something you wish you would have known or a skill you wish you had when starting out in the tech industry?
    Yes, and this is something I would always explain, something I would say in my mentorships;  “you don’t need to have all the answers you just need to find who actually has the answers.”

  4. If you have the ability to go back in time when you were just the beginning of your career what advice would you give to your younger self?
    Take it easy and don’t expect to do everything right up front. Things take time, and you cannot control everything, so chill.

  5. What advice would you give to young girls and women, wanting and trying to break into STEM fields today?
    Don’t get overwhelmed by the biases that are around the tech careers and by the environment. That they’re going to find out that tech careers can open multiple opportunities, and you will not necessarily just need to be sitting down with a laptop every day.

  1. What is next for you in your role and career in tech what are your career aspirations?
    I don’t know to be honest. I’m very happy right now with my current role and I feel fulfilled obviously what moves me is growing and learning. If I continue learning I’ll be happy. What motivates me is to actually build a more balanced workforce and be able to look back and see that we have built that very diverse team.