Growing up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, María Celeste Medina watched her parents teach Informatics classes at her neighborhood schools. She recalls her mom using a bulletin-board system (BBS), long before the days of the Internet, to connect with people as far away as Antarctica over e-mail.
María Celeste herself dabbled in some web development as a youngster, building websites dedicated to her favorite hobbies: Japanese anime and Christmas. But she didn’t seriously consider a career in Informatics like her parents until the time came in college to choose a major.
“I wanted to work with computers and understand how to create systems, and also have the possibility to grow personally and economically,” she says. “The most exciting part of being a woman in technology is the analytical way of thinking which helps in every part of my life, from building applications to web platforms.”
Today, as she pursues her own education at the Universidad Tecnologica Nacional, María Celeste is actively working on initiatives that help attract more women and other diverse demographics to the world of computer science.
She’s the co-founder of Ada IT, a software development and testing startup which focuses on generating job opportunities for women. María Celeste won several rounds of seed capital funding through the IAE Universidad Austral Business School in Buenos Aires, which went towards starting Ada IT.
“When I won this seed capital, I had two choices: continue with my life as it was, or take the prize as a kickoff to start my entrepreneurial life,” María Celeste says. “The most inspiring thing is to be able to reduce the gender gap in technology by creating real-world jobs for women in the software industry.”
Through her position at Ada IT, María Celeste has become a visible and vocal proponent for making the tech community in Argentina more welcoming and inclusive for women. She has spoken at several public events and has been featured in the city’s most formidable newspapers, Clarin and La Nacion.
She says she was inspired to create her own technology startup to create value for society and create real labor opportunities for her community. She also cites her parents as strong influences.
“We were raised with the belief that with effort and work everything could be reached,” she says.
María Celeste is also actively involved in Programa tu Futuro, a coding initiative started by the government of Buenos Aires. In just one year, she has helped introduce more than 6,000 people to coding through mentorship programs and events around International Women’s Day, including kids, adults, teenagers and senior citizens — 30 percent of whom are women.
María Celeste is also helping to organize a hackathon as part of Girls in Tech Argentina, where she’s a board member.
“We’re going to teach high school girls how to code and create mobile applications with the MIT App Inventor, visit some technology companies and hold a competition where they will present their mobile apps to a jury,” María Celeste says.
María Celeste’s contributions to the Buenos Aires tech community have positioned her as a strong role model to young girls pursuing careers in computing. For these girls, she has this piece of advice:
“Don’t be afraid to do what you love in tech, especially if it’s very technical,” she says. “Be happy with your everyday work, and know that you can reach whatever you want.”