Gimena Peña Malcampo has founded three companies and is currently CEO of two of them. She was on the White House Business Council during the Obama Presidency and sits on the World Bank’s Panel of Experts.
Peña Malcampo took many of the first steps of her scientific career at Tecnológico de Monterrey, where she studied Industrial and Systems Engineering. Now, this Institute has recognized her with the Tec Graduate Career Award.
“It’s an honor to receive an award from the Tec because it’s my alma mater. The Tec was my launchpad to the rest of the world. It makes me proud because they’re comparing me to a very high standard. I hope my story inspires those kids who are on their way up to get where they want to go. It’s an honor and a beautiful responsibility. I’m very grateful,” she says.
The Silicon Valley Entrepreneur
After completing her education at Tec de Monterrey, Gimena was accepted to Stanford University and went from there to Silicon Valley.
Now, her name appears on many major lists in the United States and Mexico. For example, she’s been featured in the Top 100 Women-Owned Businesses in Silicon Valley.
She remembers that when she graduated, she had a lot of dreams. One of those dreams was to open her own company.
But Gimena began to work. She was comfortable and she had a good salary, but every now and then, she would take a break and look at where she was and at what she wanted for the future, “So, I never lost sight of my dreams. If only everyone could take a picture of their goals and dreams when they graduated, so as not to forget them,” she adds.
The Tec prizewinner has founded three companies. At present, she’s CEO of two communication and marketing platforms: HR flip and Pier2 Marketing. Her companies generate more than 10 million dollars in revenue.
“The entrepreneurial environment is one of the things I like that I’m most passionate about. I often continue to describe myself as an entrepreneur. There’s always room in my diary for mentoring and supporting entrepreneurs. Through organizations, (which she’s taken part in) I seek to promote an entrepreneurial environment in Mexico and other markets,” she says.
Gimena’s (winning) formula
As well as having founded companies, she’s a professor at Stanford University, a wife, and mother to a little girl. She says that what’s helped her the most is keeping her priorities very clear.
“There’ll never be enough time. It’s impossible to achieve a work-life balance. There’ll always be a small imbalance in life. There are a thousand things that you can’t plan for, but you must maintain priorities,” she says.
Gimena is known for making time for her husband, daughter, family, and friends. She says she’s even had great ideas for her businesses while doing handicrafts with her daughter.
Another component of Gimena’s formula is her academic training. “The most important asset is that it produces well-rounded people. There are thousands of opportunities to do anything you want. I was in associations, I played basketball, I got involved in everything. I did arts and theater. That’s the benefit the Tec gives us. It perfects us in more than one area.”
Gimena remembers that it was very similar when she applied for Stanford. “The questions weren’t, ‘What grades did you get in this subject?’ or ‘Were you the best in the class?’ They were, ‘What else did you learn at college?’ Fortunately, I learned a bit of everything.”
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Women in science and raising your hand
Peña Malcampo’s companies are known for having mostly female talent. She herself remembers that it was difficult to enter environments dominated by men.
“One of the things I’m passionate about is promoting the role of women and helping them, particularly in the area of technology. The company that my husband and I founded has tried to help women in bridging that gap. Within the company, the fact that more women have executive positions is important to me,” she says.
Gimena serves on Stanford University’s Board of Directors, and she founded the Women in Tech group to encourage support for and development of women leaders in technology companies.
“It gives me a sense of fulfillment to help women perform and achieve whatever they want. It’s about helping each other to get ahead.”
The entrepreneur also considers it important to recognize the men who are willing to support women. “It’s not necessary to search for just female mentors, there are also men who can help you to further your career.”
The Tec graduate recalls that as a woman, she’s had to raise her hand, sometimes up to 58 times, until she’s heard. She knows how difficult it is to make a space for yourself, which is why she recommends the following for female entrepreneurs:
- Identify the things that make us strong as women: We think differently. We are different. We have another leadership style. Diversity is where the wealth of an organization or a country is found.
- Don’t give in to the urge to be like men: We see many executives who are mostly men, and we think that we have to be stronger or tougher on certain things.
- Don’t be afraid of being told that you’re more sensitive or more delicate: I’ve listened to men and women with good ideas, but women have another perspective on things, and that’s where the strength and balance lies. If there’s no place at the table for women, make yourself a place, because you’re worth it and you should be there.
- Even if you’re just starting out your career, don’t forget to support others: We all need somebody. Learn to give and receive help.
Another component that’s important to Gimena is the environment. She even founded her companies based on sustainability. She’s part of the United Nations Global Compact, which deals with the areas of sustainability and development.
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Sometimes, you’ll feel thoroughly defeated
Gimena recalls that one of her most important challenges was creating the first company founded by her and her husband, because they invested all the money. They also had to learn how to balance their personal relationship as a couple with their professional relationship.
“It’s important to be persistent, tenacious, to know that things aren’t always going to go the way you want them to. Sometimes, you’ll feel thoroughly defeated, but you must get back up. You have to learn to ask for help because you won’t get there alone,” she says.
The first time she served on a board of directors was at Stanford. Gimena remembers that she was one of only two women and the rest were men over the age of 50.
“Of course it’s intimidating! I was sitting at the table and they started talking and saying smart things, but I realized that I also have good ideas, and if I was there, it was because I could contribute,” she says.
Another moment that defined Peña was when a friend invited her to join the White House Business Council. The position was so imposing that she believed she couldn’t do it, that she wasn’t good enough, and that she wasn’t up to the task. She was about to decline, but she took a moment.
“I considered a lot of things that I could bring to the table. If they had thought of me, it was for a reason. Sometimes, when you face a challenge, it’s scary to think about whether you’re up to the job, but you have to believe in yourself.”